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Marion Brady Strikes Again!

To foster the optimal development and success of every child districts must allow the option of a Personalized Graduation Plan reflecting the unique strengths, interests, talents, aptitudes, and prior experiences of the student. In this option, individualized graduation criteria would be collaboratively set by the student’s Learning Advisory Team, and these criteria would serve in lieu of any other standard graduation requirements. –Jim Strickland and Growing Greatness Network

Washington Post, “The Answer Sheet” blog by Valerie Strauss Posted April 7, 2015:

Why the conventional wisdom on schooling is all wrong

By Marion Brady

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint the root cause of poor school performance. Here’s a theory: Because education policy in America is made by non-educators in state legislatures and Congress, it’s shaped by the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom says schooling is primarily about “delivering information.” The conventional wisdom is wrong.

Delivering information isn’t the problem. Kids are drowning in information, and oceans more of it is at their fingertips ready to be downloaded. What they need that traditional schooling has never given them and isn’t giving them now isn’t information, but information processing skills. They need to know how to think—how to select, sort, organize, evaluate, relate, and integrate information to turn it into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom.

How do kids learn information processing skills? The same way they learn to walk, read, swim, write, catch a ball, keyboard, and ride a bicycle. They learn by doing—learn to process information by processing information.

Let me try to explain why the delivering-information model of educating makes it almost impossible for schools to pursue the most useful, legitimate, important, satisfying, philosophically defensible aim of schooling: improving learners’ ability to think for themselves.

Imagine a horizontal line representing a continuum of kinds of information. On the left-hand end of the line, insert the word, “Unmediated,” “Unprocessed,” or “Raw,” for information that goes directly to our brains by way of our senses—seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting. If a kid walks into a room and says, “It’s too hot in here,” she’s created firsthand, directly experienced information.

On the right-hand end of the line, insert the word, “Mediated,” “Processed,” or “Refined” for information that’s the product of others’ thought. If I say, “Einstein said space and time are relative to the position of the observer,” I’m passing along secondhand (or fifteenth-hand) information that was the product of complex thought processes in Einstein’s head.

The “too hot in here” information goes to the extreme left end of the information-type continuum, creating opportunities for speculation, investigation, and wide-ranging thought processes. Did she enter the room from a colder one? Is what she’s wearing affecting her perception? Is she sensing air temperature or radiated heat? Has she been exercising? What does her metabolism have to do with what she’s sensing? What does the thermometer say? What’s the best way to find answers?

The Einstein information goes to the extreme right end of the continuum. All the heavy-lift thinking has already been done, and relatively few people know enough to do anything with the information except assume—based on Einstein’s reputation—that he was right.

To help kids improve their ability to process information, they need information on or near the left-hand, raw end of the continuum, and the traditional curriculum isn’t giving it to them. Open typical textbooks to almost any page, listen for a few minutes to a lecture or teacher talk, check out the reference section of a library or seek information on the Internet, and it’s obvious that what’s being delivered is on the far right end of the continuum. Learners can’t process it—can’t improve their ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, integrate, and so on—because the information delivered has already been processed to levels beyond their ability to challenge or question.

As my brother and I say in one of our short PowerPoints designed to stimulate thinking about big issues in educating, what delivered information gives kids is about as interesting and intellectually challenging as crossword puzzles with all the squares filled in. They can’t do anything with the information except try to store it in memory. And, not having thought through for themselves the delivered information to a useful level of understanding, and having no immediate use for it, it goes into short-term memory, then disappears.

We’re kidding ourselves if we assume those “A” grades being hung on American schools based on scores on standardized tests mean that the students who attend them are being taught to think. We’re kidding ourselves if we assume the high test scores of students in Finland or Poland or South Korea mean they’re being taught to think. Standardized tests are sideshows on the periphery of effective schooling because they can’t evaluate original thought, without which humankind can’t adapt to continuous change and survive. What matters is our individual and collective ability to make sense of the world as it was, is, and could be, and the means to that end are far too varied and complex to be measured by machine-scored tests.

There’s a solution to the problem. Choose any idea in any school subject for which a solid case can be made that every kid in the country needs to understand it, and within the property boundaries of her or his school are the kinds of immediately accessible real-world prompts that allow that idea to be studied firsthand. The prompts just need to be identified and examined until they emerge from environments ignored because they’re too familiar.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for acceptance of the obvious fact that direct experience teaches best. It’s been 99 years since Alfred North Whitehead, in his Presidential
Address to the Mathematical Association of England, said, “The second-handedness of the learned world is the secret of its mediocrity.”

There are administrators and teachers not only willing but powerfully motivated to move beyond today’s emphasis on mere learner (temporary) recall of delivered information, but “the system” won’t let them. The system—district offices, boards of education, state legislatures, state bureaucracies, education publishers, chambers of commerce, colleges, universities, Congress, courts, philanthropic foundations, mainstream media—the system assumes that delivered information is what educating is all about, so that’s what gets taught and tested and scores treated as if they meant learning had taken place.

It’s gratifying to see the growing student, teacher, administrator, and parental resistance to the present misnamed “reform” effort. The rate at which testing is wasting the potential of kids’ minds that don’t work in standardized, text-centric ways, is inexcusable. But resistance would be far more effective if demands to stop high-stakes testing were accompanied by demands to get serious about improving thinking skills.

Given learner diversity, given the accelerating rate of social change, given an unknowable future, no one really knows what information needs to be delivered. Given the WorldWideWeb, delivering information isn’t a problem. Given abundant, daily evidence of humankind’s ability to create messes it doesn’t know how to clean up, helping learners improve their ability to think is Job One.

Educators can solve this problem, but there’s no point in their even trying as long as the rich and/or powerful are on their stumps peddling the myth that what ails America’s schools are educators clinging to the status quo and kids with insufficient grit to do what they’re told to do.

The “reformers” are the ones stuck in the status quo. The Common Core State Standards are the status quo with the screws tightened. High-stakes tests are the status quo with life-destroying potential for those who can’t guess what the test-item writer was thinking. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are the status quo with performance bars raised high enough to produce failures “proving” public schools need to be handed off to charter chains or privatized.

Kids, teachers, and taxpayers are being taken for a very expensive ride to nowhere worth going.

Here, from my younger brother Howard, is a link to a pdf for those who may be interested in re-purposing schools—turning them into living laboratories that capitalize on the teaching and learning potential of immediate, here-and-now, firsthand experience:

http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/ExpandingCIR-RHRN.pdf

Alabama strikes a blow to understanding…

mYSTERYmEATmONDAY-7x6inches
Ah, my good ol’ home state shines again–not in the best way, of course…

Editorial by Anthony Dallmann-Jones, PhD

The Alabama Legislature gave final approval Wednesday (3/18/15) to a bill that would authorize charter schools in the state of Alabama, sending the bill to Gov. Robert Bentley.

It has been a beacon of shallow thinking for all to see…and that is a good thing. We need someone to bite the bullet and stand up and be an Idiot for Education to show us how to NOT think when it comes to what is best for our nation’s kids.

The first wrong turn…

The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would allow the establishment of up to 10 start-up charter schools a year for five years, and allow an unlimited number of conversion schools. Teachers working in charter schools would not be required to have certifications.
Hmmm, wonder why we have insisted on certifying teachers for so long? Could it be so they Knew How to Teach with Best Practices? Could it be so they understood child development and knew how to match curriculum to kids’ levels and needs? Could it be because they develop a versatile toolbox of teaching and assessment strategies? Could it be because they are trained on the effective way to encourage internal as well as external discipline in children? Being a trainer of teachers I would say yes to all of those most emphatically. So just WHO are they going to put in the teacher’s role in these Alabama schools? None of that was decided…or even discussed. Why? I guess because everyone knows teachers are not that important. Somebody needs to remember their years in school.

The second wrong turn…

Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, a former chairman of the Alabama House Ways and Means Education committee, said that the bill was the “most damaging piece of legislation” to public education. “Ultimately, the people who are going to have control of these charter schools are for-profit corporations rather than local boards of education,” he said. [Ah a voice of sanity…but wait…]

Here it comes: A lesson in shallow thinking by people who control our schools

Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, said many public schools already contract with for-profit companies for services, such as transportation. “When they sell them computers, all those companies make money,” he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Not the point, Representative Rich. You not only missed the bulls-eye on the target…you missed the field it sits in!

OF COURSE we have always had for-profit companies selling schools furniture and equipment, transportation and food services, etc. What IS new and damaging is for-profit companies controlling staff, curriculum and testing – FOR PROFIT. Selling computers and furniture does not alter children’ future for profit. Hiring unqualified teachers (cheaper), selling your own curriculum to the school (making money from what is taught), and mandating teaching to the tests – that will determine how much profit is made – by the uncertified staff, is less than conscientious to say the least.

Another way to say it: “Making money from kids as if they are ATM machines without giving a hoot about their future success after graduation.”

Here is the nucleus of WHY professional educators should be in charge of school and curriculum

Professional educators teach and assess for the improvement of learning. They care about kids and know them as individuals with diverse needs, strengths and interests. They are up on the latest trends, programs, materials, effective schools and the learning brain research. They are in touch with parents all the time. They UNDERSTAND how schools work (and don’t). Legislators are basing their decisions on the least amount of knowledge about the science of teaching and, just as importantly, they know little or nothing about how schools really function on the inside…the “informal organization” that truly runs most everything and is not what the public usually sees. Teachers see it every day and know how to maximize utilization of that environment for the benefit of kids – not profit figures. Basically, certified teachers base their decisions on what is best for EACH of the kids. For-profit companies do not.

So, thank you Alabama legislators for showing us how not to think progressively and compassionately about kids and their welfare. Just because you sat through 12-16 years of school does not mean you understand teaching and true education of our young.

I wonder, is anyone asking professional educators, including professors of higher education who know the research and effective practices, what is best for kids when making these decisions?

Probably not.

[NOTE: All comics were created for this column by Zak, Wisconsin graphic artist.]

Ignored Problems with Standardized Tests

Marion Brady is one of the most insightful and intelligent commentators I know on the educational landscape, and one reason he is long-time columnist for the Knight-Ridder Tribune. One of my favorite quotes (and I have a lot of them from Marion!) is this one from last October in the Washington Post:

“Common sense says that getting schooling right begins with getting the curriculum right, but that fact doesn’t seem to have occurred to the business leaders and politicians—educational amateurs all—now pulling the education policy strings. Instead of funding a rethinking of the blueprint, the map, the pattern, the model, they’ve spent billions locking a deeply flawed curriculum in rigid, permanent place with the Common Core State Standards.”

[Washington Post October 17, 2014. Valerie Strauss.]

One reason I wanted to feature this newest piece by Marion is because it is the first time I have seen such a list (33 items) detailing the unaddressed issues with standardized testing. The runaway train of awarding more and more weight and prestige to such a flawed system can spell nothing but eventual catastrophe. There are already casualties: Many teachers – good teachers – are leaving the field because they no longer can teach creatively. That has been replaced with teaching to, and prepping students for, fairly meaningless AND unreliable tests. Further, test results have achieved the rank of “The Hatchet” in decision-making about students, teachers, administrators, schools, and, yes, even states.

Yes, boiling all of anything down to a single test score IS convenient…no debate. Just because something is convenient does not make it worthwhile. Read Marion’s monograph and see more explicitly for yourselves. If you are an advocate for opting out this article will add a lot to your knowledge base of supporting information.

Anthony Dallmann-Jones, PhD, Editor

~..~

Constricting High Stakes Testing

Constricting High Stakes Testing

3/1/15

Standardized Tests: Ignored Problems

by Marion Brady

As my students were taking their seats, Myrna, sitting near my desk, said she’d just read a magazine article about secret societies in high school. What, she asked, did I know about them?

I knew nothing—had never even heard of them—but the matter was interesting enough to quickly engage my 11th Grade English class, so I let the conversation continue. Someone suggested making it a research project and I told them to have at it.

The school library wasn’t much help, but somebody figured out how to contact the student editor of the school newspaper in a town mentioned in the article and wrote her a letter. She answered, other contacts were made, and kid-to-kid communication began. How did the societies get started? Who joined them? Why? How? Did they create problems? If so, what kind? Were the societies more than just temporary cliques? How were teachers and administrators reacting?

Answers generated more questions. My students thought, wrote, took sides, argued, learned. I mostly watched.

That happened in a class in a semi-rural high school in northeastern Ohio. The participants—those still alive—are now almost eighty years old. I’d be willing to bet that if any of them remember anything at all about the class, that research project would be it.

I wasn’t smart enough to realize it at the time, but I was seeing a demonstration of something extremely important, that real learning is natural and inherently satisfying. Myrna’s question kicked off genuine learning—self-propelled and successful not because the work was rigorous and the kids had grit, but because it was driven by curiosity, because satisfaction was immediate, because it was real-world rather than theoretical, because it was concrete rather than abstract, because it required initiative and action, and because it was genuinely important, dealing as it did with complex social and psychological issues shaping human behavior.

Even if it leads to dead ends, research—at least for the learner pursuing it—is intellectually productive. It’s also, obviously, non-standard. The skills it develops and the insights it yields aren’t predictable, even to those engaged in it. That’s one of the reasons standardized tests assembled in the office cubicles of Pearson, McGraw-Hill and other test manufacturers can’t do the job that most needs doing. They can’t measure and attach a meaningful number to the quality of original thought.

Arthur Costa, Emeritus Professor, California State University, summed up the thrust of current test-based “reform’ madness: “What was educationally significant and hard to measure has been replaced by what is educationally insignificant and easy to measure. So now we measure how well we taught what isn’t worth learning.”

The truth of that isn’t acknowledged by Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Lou Gerstner, Arne Duncan and the other business leaders and politicians responsible for initiating and perpetuating the standardized, high-stakes testing craziness. They either can’t see or won’t admit the shallowness of their claim that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Challenged, they dismiss those who disagree with them as defenders of the status quo.

Using the scores on standardized tests to shape the life chances of kids, determine the pay and reputations of teachers, gauge the quality of school administrators, establish the worth of neighborhood schools, or as an excuse to hand public schools over to private, profit-taking corporations is, at the very least, irresponsible. If, as it appears, it’s a sneaky scheme to privatize America’s public schools without broad public dialogue, it’s unethical.

Figuring out how to measure original thought isn’t the only challenge test manufacturers need to address. Their tests:

– Provide minimal to no useful feedback to classroom teachers
– Are keyed to a deeply flawed curriculum adopted in 1893
– Lead to neglect of physical conditioning, music, art, and other, non-verbal ways of learning
– Unfairly advantage those who can afford test prep
– Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring
– Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (which the young frequently do)
– Radically limit teacher ability to adapt to learner differences
– Give control of the curriculum to test manufacturers
– Encourage use of threats, bribes, and other extrinsic motivators
– Use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores
– Produce scores which can be (and sometimes are) manipulated for political purposes
– Assume that what the young will need to know in the future is already known
– Emphasize minimum achievement to the neglect of maximum performance
– Create unreasonable pressures to cheat
– Reduce teacher creativity and the appeal of teaching as a profession
– Are unavoidably biased by social-class, ethnic, regional, and other cultural differences
– Lessen concern for and use of continuous evaluation
– Have no “success in life” predictive power
– Unfairly channel instructional resources to learners at or near the pass-fail “cut score”
– Are open to massive scoring errors with life-changing consequences
– Are at odds with deep-seated American values about individuality and worth
– Create unnecessary stress and negative attitudes toward learning
– Perpetuate the artificial compartmentalization of knowledge by field
– Channel increasing amounts of tax money into corporate coffers instead of classrooms
– Waste the vast, creative potential of human variability
– Block instructional innovations that can’t be evaluated by machine
– Unduly reward mere ability to retrieve secondhand information from memory
– Subtract from available instructional time
– Lend themselves to “gaming”—use of strategies to improve the success-rate of guessing
– Make time—a parameter largely unrelated to ability—a factor in scoring
– Create test fatigue, aversion, and an eventual refusal to take tests seriously
– Undermine the fact that those closest to the work are best-positioned to evaluate it
– Doesn’t work. The National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: The use of standardized tests “has not increased student achievement.”

Most people—including many educators—don’t object to standardized tests, just think there are too many, or the stakes shouldn’t be so high, or that some items aren’t grade-level appropriate, etc.

I disagree. I think standardized tests are not just a monumental waste of money and time, but are destroying the institution and the profession in a myriad of unsuspected ways. Responsibility for evaluating learner performance—all of it—should be returned to those best positioned to do it: Classroom teachers. Period.

~..~

Marion Brady is a retired teacher and school administrator. He is a college professor, textbook and professional book author, and consultant to publishers and foundations, and a long-time newspaper columnist for Knight-Ridder/Tribune.

[Purchase your copy of the new book everyone is talking about, Fixing Public Education, on our Products page. Reduced price will not last much longer!]

Parents: Can you opt-out of the PARCC Test in your state?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday (2.26.2015) printed a very informative article on the Common core high-stakes testing debate going on across the nation. A teacher of the year in Ohio recently resigned rather than give the tests. The whole faculty of Nathan Hale in Seattle, Washington, says, ‘Hell, no, we won’t administer them!”
Do you know much about all that testing – called “high-stakes testing” – in your children’s schools? Well, do not feel badly, many of us could join you in that confusion. But there are efforts to make things more clear.
As mentioned the article by Patrick O’Donnell from the Plain Dealer is worth reading.

BACKGROUND
A brief history on the testing consortia In 2010, with the creation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the associated need to develop new assessments aligned to the new standards, two multi-state assessment consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) were created. Both consortia are working with states to create computer-based K-12 assessments in mathematics and English language arts/literacy. PARCC and Smarter Balanced conducted field testing of their assessments with states in the 2013-14 school year and anticipate being ready to administer their assessments during the 2014-15 school year. Due to the changing political climates, consortia membership has been anything but consistent since the consortia’s inception in 2010. During the past four years, more states have migrated out of participation in a consortium.
Some states have opted out. Some states allow parents to opt out. Some do not. Some are ambivalent. Here is a thumbnail of what is going on this year.

What is going on across the nation this year?
2014-15 school year assessments*
 12 states and Washington, D.C. are administering PARCC assessments in some capacity, with all 12 states testing students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 states testing in any of grades 9 through 12.
 18 states are administering Smarter Balanced assessments, with all 18 testing students in grades 3 through 8 and 15 states testing in any of grades 9 through 12.
 20 states either never joined or have left the consortia entirely and are choosing to use state-developed assessments.
 2 states (Massachusetts and Missouri) will administer a combination of consortium and state-developed assessments.
Interested in the whole landscape of which state is doing what? See this most summative chart” title=”State Chart of Testing”>Check and see what is going on in your state with regard to testing kids:

*Derived from the Education Commission of the States • 700 Broadway, Suite 810 • Denver, CO 80203-3460 • 303.299.3600 • www.ecs.org

What about parents’ rights to opt their children out of these tests?

Opting out in Colorado

Opting out in Colorado


A CASE STUDY: Colorado
One of the authors of the new book, Fixing Public Education, Angela Engel, has helped prepare a succinct set of guidelines for Colorado parents wanting to opt out of these tests. Perhaps you could do this for your state? It would be quite a service to do in your state what Angela and her band of Angel-Warriors have done in Colorado, a hotbed of the old Standards-Centered Reform Movement vs. the new Learner-Centered Reform Movement in education.
Opting Out in Colorado: A Simple Kit to Do It!

Hackschooling

Hackschooling…
by Anthony Dallmann-Jones, author-editor of Fixing Public Education from Peppertree Publishing

Logan -what a great name for a kid- could be the spokesperson for the January Education Model or Educating for Human Greaness.
I won’t say anymore…just spend a few minutes listening to this very well-spoken young man sharing from his heart what true education is all about…and what public education should be all about also: Growing Health and Happiness inside each child…

http://youtu.be/h11u3vtcpaY <===Click the link. You will be glad you did.

Teachers with guts…

This is the kind of news we need to go viral…so other districts’ teachers can see what Can Be Done!
Please click on this link and read this story about courage in educating our kids…

Teachers with Guts

Many teachers feel like Kathleen. I teach teachers working on their Master’s degrees and NOT ONE has anything positive to say about CC Testing!

It would be so wonderful to see Pearson put out of the testing business, rolling up huge profits from the children as if they were ATMs and offering them NOTHING back that is useful for their growth. This is all about “accountability”* – basically making teaching and learning a numbers game, i.e. just like a profit and loss business. Education is soooo much more — and Kathleen Jeskey just became one of my heroes. Teachers and wise educational administrators in collaboration with parents should be making decisions about what is best for our children, not for-profit commercial giants or federal mandates.

Tony Dallmann-Jones
www.FixingPublicEducation.com

*Accountability: My Definition – Boiling the measure of education – students, teachers, schools, administrators – down to one set of meaningless and questionable numbers – convenient for making very poor decisions about children’s educational welfare and professional careers.

Sincerely,

Anthony Dallmann-Jones

National At-Risk Education Network Annual Conference in April

This will be the 12th Annual Conference for the National At-Risk Education Network. This year it will be held in Baltimore April 22-24, 2015! If you are dedicated to at-risk education like we are, don’t miss it!

Anthony Dallmann-Jones will be there presenting on the new book, FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION, along with three other authors: Frank Kros, Steve Parese, and Ryan Champeau.

There are so many great things going on at this conference: Incredible presenters, kids’ groups, tours, experiential learning, and – of course – FOOD! Look at the online brochure and see for yourself: http://narentranzed.org/2015-12th-annual-conference/

The energy created by like-minded, dedicated professionals who believe that at-risk kids can make great contributions to society if they have supportive educators is incredible at these conferences. Come see and feel for yourself!

See you there!

"The Revolutionary January Education Model  of Educating Our Children for Human Greatness"

“The Revolutionary January Education Model of Educating Our Children for Human Greatness”

The GERM vs. Finnish vs. January Education Model (Learner-Centered Education) Controversy

Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) is currently what we have going in the United States public school system. It has also infected Australia, England, and oh – you name it.

To boil it down, it is test-based accountability. It is backed by a list of celebrities: Bill Gates, President Obama, Arne Duncan, Michele Rhee, millions of business leaders, and Congress. Who are we, authors of Fixing Public Education – the new book out last month – to fly in the face of all that backing for high-stakes testing, national standards, the force-feeding of content into children, and the firing of teachers who cannot, do not, or won’t go along with it?*

We are merely ten experienced, highly educated, teachers and administrators (active and retired in both categories), who say differently.

That is who we are.

Next, let us get a clear picture of what we are talking about. One of the authors, Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones, compiled a chart to specifically illustrate these differences. Included in the chart is the “Finnish Model” that has been held up as a taunting goal to improve our USA school system. All those “ed. reformers” saying we should be more like Finland education neglect to point out that Finnish schools do not have standardized testing, students attend school fewer hours a day/year, teachers are paid much higher salaries, and are sincerely respected (it is difficult to get IN as a teacher in Finland the system and its personnel are so respected). But Dallmann-Jones placed the Finnish Model in the middle so the viewer can get a crystal clear description of the January (Learner-Centered) Education Model.**

Please open the pdf chart here and run your eyes from left to right in the categories mentioned. Feel free to print it out and pass it around.

Finnish-GERM-JEM-EfHG Way

Yes, you are correct. We are a LONG way from having a public school system by the January Education Model. But it is not as far out as you may think. Many (not all) Montessori schools have been operating along these lines for some time. Many private schools (Summerhillian type schools, for example) have been doing so for many decades. But it has yet to reach the public sector. WHY?

It is a good question and this post is already too long, so let’s briefly look at two reasons:

Why are public schools not moving to genuine child-centered education?

1) Fear: Our public school system is fear-based. Especially now. Heads are rolling down classroom aisles – student heads, teacher heads, administrator heads. Teachers are not even helping one another in many districts because tightly held tips for better teaching may give another teacher an advantage at testing time. Sad, right? Race to the Top might just as well be called Heads Will Roll to the Bottom. It has now trickled into higher education in university systems of teacher education. “How can we prepare our teachers to teach the standards and get their students to better score on the tests which will be brought down on them like thunder???” seems to be the message one hears in the ivy-covered teacher education buildings. So “higher” education is not above the race for the cheese either. Actually, they are actively, fearfully, promoting it. Soon, we will all be aligned nicely. The government puts the screws to universities to put the screws to its teacher education students who will get jobs ahead of others because they can put the screws to the children better, and all will be happy. It is a sick system. It is a two-faced system. It says ‘This is good’ when the truth is it is toxic…and doomed to fail. The question is, ‘How many casualties must we suffer before we admit it?’

2) Another reason we do not change to a true learner-centered system: Habit. Conditioning. Call it what you will: Brain-washed? Most all those interested in ‘making education better’ sat through 12 – 18 years of education based on sit and git teaching and test results to determine who ‘got’ the most. They simply cannot see any other way. All the breaking news on how this school has done something wonderfully different or that new program is so super are justified as wonderful and super by increases in test scores! They are just painted a unique color but the vehicle is the same: HERE is the content you must learn. PUMP it into them. TEST to prove it was internalized – at least until the test was taken. Was it useful content? Was it the best content? Was it meaningful content? Who knows, who cares? We have a clear and evident indicator of “success” by this method: A SCORE! So the question is not is it useful, best, meaningful, but can it be measured by a score? We have all come to think this way. We cannot think differently very easily.

And that is why this chart, this blog, this website, this book and these ten people are speaking out. To help us consider a truly different and better and more humane way of educating our children.

Thank you for your time.

*And not counting those who have quit and the 45% of teachers who are thinking of quitting because of the pressure and stress to conform. [NEA poll: http://neatoday.org/2014/11/02/nea-survey-nearly-half-of-teachers-consider-leaving-profession-due-to-standardized-testing-2/]

**The “January Education Model” title chosen (invented) by the authors of Fixing Public Education conveys new beginnings – and it helps differentiate the specifics of learner-based education from all other models of reform. Most every reformer believes their model is “child-centered” but most are still imposing curriculum as a “for their own good” type of child-centered. One could say whipping a child is child-centered, couldn’t one?

Lengthen the school days? Really? Artichoke Law Strikes Again!

Anthony Dallmann-Jones PhD

Anthony Dallmann-Jones PhD

An Editorial by Anthony Dallmann-Jones, Editor of FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION and one originator of the January Education Model

When a KISS isn’t enough…

I love simple-minded thinking. No, no, I really do…it – well – “simplifies” things so well. Example: “My stomach is upset. Let’s see, what did I eat differently yesterday? Ahhh, artichokes! I had artichokes which I have never eaten so THAT is why my tummy hurts!” And then, of course, you avoid artichokes from now on explaining as if a fact, “Last time I ate those I got sick.” It becomes a fact just by repeating it enough.

I call this the “Must Have Been The Artichokes Syndrome“! See how simple it explains the pain in your gut? Buuuuuut, what if it actually came from some tainted shrimp you had at the Asian buffet the same day? You will avoid artichokes but keep going back to the buffet…yes? Because of your misdiagnosis you will continue to risk food poisoning at the restaurant while avoiding perfectly good artichokes for the rest of your life. Which may not be very long.

So, there is this Senator from Ohio that is introducing a bill that will extend the school year by almost eight weeks. What is his artichoke?

Let’s quote Senator Kearney directly. I wouldn’t want to miss any pearl of wisdom here:
~..~
“My goal is to make Ohio students competitive in the global marketplace,” Kearney said. “In the world’s leading economies, students go to school substantially longer than students in Ohio.”

Kearney cited the following school day requirement stats: China 260, Japan 243, Germany 240, South Korea 220, Australia 220, Israel 216 and Russia 211.

“It is time to modernize our school calendar to fit today’s work environment,” he said.

Kearney also said, “The state would pay for the added cost of the additional school days – and that would include new contracts for teachers.” [Really? A 220 day school year would be a 20+% increase in the education budget (and also demand a similar increase in the levies that supplement state allocations) and last I heard Ohio could barely finance 182 days of school and salaries.]
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Where shall we start? Oh, keep it simple: Do you want your children’s school like Russia’s and China’s? How about Japan where student suicide rates are among the highest, second to guess who? South Korea.

I have a former graduate student who now works in China exporting high school students to Michigan for their junior and senior years in high school, and standing in line and paying huge amounts to do so because our schools are seen as so progressive.

I was in Moscow a few years ago and teachers had just received a pay bump to $12,000 a year, and the schools were stark, cold, and primitive. The Russian teachers are desperate (and VERY appreciative) for what American educators have to say about education. They WANT to be just like us.

One more point:
Why isn’t Senator Kearney quoting the Finland education system which leads the world in education? They have FEWER days and they pay their teachers MORE. Guess that would not pass the Artichoke Test, would it?

“Modernize our schools”? Increasing the year by over seven weeks will “modernize” things? How so? How is doing more of the same defined as “modernizing”?

Where does this idea come from, that ‘more of the same that does not work will work this time’? Answer: Simple-minded backwards logic which has become part of our psyche: If things are not working: A) Try harder! B) Try more harder!!

How about this instead? A) Try differently! B) Try more differently! “Modernizing” means ‘different’ not more of what we already have.

In a recent book I, along with nine other educational experts, said, “Let’s try differently!” The book is Fixing Public Education (at FixingPublicEducation.com) and offers a new model called the January Education Model which delivers this message: ‘Let us start by acknowledging that ‘What we focus on expands’! By continuing to focus on being behind and on our deficiencies they will just get bigger and bigger and doing MORE of the same looks like a simple logical explanation for a cure. The solution focus of Try Harder also expands right along with it.

What if we did this: Focus on student strengths and talents? Focus on those and expand what kids already have in talent and abilities. We do not need everyone to be the same. No matter how hard we try to force kids to each have equal amounts of math, or science or PE they will never be the same. Never. There is incredible success potential in affirming human diversities and building on kids’ strengths and abilities.

THAT is how you will keep that “international edge” American politicians seem so worried about.

Anthony Dallmann-Jones, Editor and Author, Fixing Public Education

PS – No artichokes were harmed during this editorial.

“Ohio senator’s proposed legislation could add 38 days to school year” – CH9 WCPO, Cincinnati. WCPO Staff 6:02 PM, Oct 27, 2014 http://tinyurl.com/KearneyCH9

FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION published after three years of work by ten authors!

Just Released by Educational Experts Offers Cure for Public Education’s Ills: Fixing Public Education, by various education experts including Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones http://omkt.co/AABlxN via @PRWeb Pass the word to those who care about learner-centered education. REAL learner-centered! Thank you! Dr. DJFix Public Ed_cover.inddYou may of course order the book on this site under Products.

I want to publicly thank my co-authors who I admire and am honored to have worked with. I hope we continue to do so.

Dr. Ryan Champeau

Angela Engel

Marcus Gentry – “Dr. Respect”

Frank Kros

Laura Lindberg

Dr. Steve Parese

Dr. William Spady

Lynn Stoddard

Dr. Sue Stoddard

 

Test scores are God in education! (Well there goes church & state separation!)

ZAK Comic Wizard of Oz in School

ZAK Comic
Wizard of Oz in School

More and more United States schools are having to import international teachers to fill faculty vacancies.

First of all, I have no objections to Filipino teachers coming to USA to teach in American schools. One of the best professors I know is my colleague Aida from the Philippines. She gives 120% of herself to her teaching and students. Smart, smart educator and with a law degree, too!

What I do have an objection to is that no one has listened enough to act on what the current high-stakes testing trends are doing to the profession of teaching. Superintendent of Casa Grande High School in Arizona had 19 teacher openings and not a single applicant. The state has 527 unfilled positions 25% into the year and is listed at ‘the crisis level’ officially. Superintendent Goodsell had to troll Skype to find teachers in the Phillipines, finally hiring 11 new teachers willing to move to the US on 3 year visas to help fill openings. Arizona is showing the strain because they pay their teachers like some states pay aides, yet expect more.

[Start: Quote from District Administrator periodical: Submitted by Ariana Fine Thursday, October 2, 2014, The Arizona Republic newspaper]

“Observers like Deb Duvall, executive director of the school administrators association, and Mari Koerner, dean of Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, say that because the economy has improved, many are leaving teaching for jobs that pay more and are less stressful.

“You can do almost anything else for $30,000,” Koerner said. “Your salary is a sign of how much you are valued. A low salary means you are not valued, that you are easily replaceable.”

In 2012, the most-recent year for which numbers were available, the average starting salary for an Arizona public-school teacher was $31,874, according to the Arizona Education Association, the state’s branch of the National Education Association.

Duvall said increasing pressure on teachers to spend time collecting student-performance data and drilling students to perform well on standardized tests also is driving some from the profession.

“Many people go into teaching because they want to interact with students,” she said. “But there is less time for that.””

[End quote.]

A graduate student of mine, an active teacher, recently told me that in her Wisconsin school they spend six-weeks drilling for state tests. “Plus every teacher’s professional day is about increasing test scores. Every parent-teacher conference is about increasing test scores,” she states.

Test scores are becoming God in education.

Ever wonder if it is all worthwhile? Ever wonder if a single test score truly measures learning about how to be successful at life – the real purpose of education? How did this happen? Do you think it was astute, intelligent educators who decided for our kids that testing on common core standards was the answer to low school performance? No, it was not. It was politicians’ anxious posturing and corporate America’s greed – seeing education as the last cash cow in the USA – that has driven us to this supposed “accountability movement” in our country.  A LOT of money is being made by setting up education as a game to be won.

So, what is wrong with that? Some cramming and testing and we find out who the crappy teachers are and weed them out! Right? Let us examine this for a moment.

Tell me: What makes up a race? How do you define a race, whether a 1000 meter foot race in track or a 500 mile car race on a track, or any competitive sport like that? What is a race composed of? Correct! A winner and a bunch of losers. Those are the components of a race. One winner, but mostly losers. When Arne Duncan announced that instead of No Child Left Behind we would have ‘A Race to the Top’ my heart dropped. He had just created a playing field REQUIRING a bunch of losers. The game was a set up to make more losers than winners. Nice thoughtless move, Mr. Duncan.

To make it worse, any ed. researcher will tell you that all that work to crank out a minority of winners is worth – well, not much even if it is valid (measuring what you want it to measure) and reliable (consistent in that measurement). While you are struggling to get a high mark on a standardized test, whose value is highly questionable, what else are you missing out on? What could you be learning that would support you in having a successful life?

And think on this: All statistics in anything, including education, rests on distance from the average. We measure to see if things are better, worse or stayed the same and by how much compared to the average score. Now, assuming that a test score contributes anything towards a student’s life of possible success, we average the scores and measure how far junior is from the average. Stop right there: As soon as you designate the “average score” know that 50% of the scores (representing people) MUST be designated as “below average”. That is what the average is. The average IQ is 100: Half of the population has an IQ below average. Half of anything is below average. Half the drivers are below average. Half the lovers are below average. Half the population is shorter than average. We set the playing field to deliberately create that shockingly (yet highly predictable) inferior group labeled “below average.” Shudder, shame, shudder.

We are not THINKING! Education is supposed to make us better THINKERS.

Oh, but I forgot for a second: Half of us are below average thinkers…don’t expect anything from us until we put on those thinking caps we crammed for!

Anthony Dallmann-Jones – Editor

*Arizona starts teachers with a take home pay of about $26,000 a year. How do you live, as a college graduate professional, on $500 a week – usually with college loans to pay on, car payments, rent and living expenses? Not very well. After about 15 years of teaching you reach the average top level in Arizona teacher pay: About $100 a week higher from your take home pay as a starting teacher a decade and a half earlier. Meanwhile, the cost of living has gone up 10 – 15%. It is not difficult to understand why many smart teachers are flocking away from the educational profession, is it? No respect, low pay, and lots of drilling with discouraged, bored students for tests no one enjoys preparing for or taking and whose results are fairly useless.

NOTE: Special Recognition goes out to ZAK, popular comic/cartoonist, for his contribution in this months Editorial to this website’s cause to bring sanity to education.

Can Schools Sue the State Legislature? YEP!

An Editorial by Anthony Dallmann-Jones, Editor of, and contributor to, Fixing Public Education [See image below]

This story just broke in District Administration magazine, a periodical that goes to 65,000 educational administrators in the USA. Read it then think on the implications. My thoughts are below the encapsulated piece from DA.

Arizona schools win $1.6 billion in court fight with state
by Matthew Zalaznick on Fri, 07/11/2014 – 2:26pm
Monday, July 14, 2014 azcentral.com

Arizona’s public schools are due an additional $317 million in funding for the coming budget year, a court ruled Friday,
a decision that could cost the state an extra $1.6 billion over the next five years.

But the court left undecided Friday the fate of $1.3 billion in back payments that schools argue they’re due for unpaid costs related to inflation.

The ruling comes after the state Supreme Court last year ruled the Legislature failed to honor the direction voters gave in 2000, when they approved a ballot measure calling for annual inflation adjustments to the school-funding formula.

Read more » http://www.districtadministration.com/news/arizona-schools-win-16-billion-court-fight-state [You will have to sign up, but no cost and if you subscribe you will stay current about the national scene in education. It is a good professional mag.

~~~~

An Editorial Opinion from Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones of the JEM Group:

Arizona has landmarked a big one! The schools of the state have unified in not only instituting a suit against the state legislature but also WINNING one. This is a huge precedent! Think on this a minute: Has Arizona succeeded in accomplishing a valuable example for other concerned state school groups? Can state schools unite on other causes, say, ones that would eliminate the legislature’s hold on dictating curriculum? Or standards? Or high-stakes testing? Or restoring bargaining rights?

There has been a lot of complaining across the country of how the states – those with Republican governors in particular, have decimated the power base of educators to hold the state accountable for making deleterious decisions about something they know little about: Classrooms.

I encourage state school organizations to begin investigating the possibilities of bringing suit to prevent legislatures from meddling in curriculum and teachers’ rights…a power they never should have had in the first place. It has been a slippery slope, a creeping menace – this invasion of classrooms by politicians…particularly those politicians who have corporate connections with big businesses who not only have a vested commercial – and sometimes exploitative – interest, regardless of what is best for students.

In the same vein, and as a supplementary investigation, links between these politicians and corporations who invest heavily in their “re-election campaigns” should be researched. Might be interesting to see what really drives some educational decisions by state legislators.

Teachers know what is best for kids much better than congressional representatives. As Lynn Stoddard, one of the authors of FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION, stated, “Sitting in a seat for 12 years does not make you an expert on education.”
Thanks for reading,

Anthony Dallmann-Jones, PhD, Editor and Contributor

"The Revolutionary January Education Model  of Educating Our Children for Human Greatness"

“The Revolutionary January Education Model of Educating Our Children for Human Greatness”

FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION – After 20+ Years of Corporate Interference, Standardization and High-Stakes Testing [Which can be pre-ordered on this site under Products]

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Individualizing Instruction – Simple (not easy)

111Alaska Perfect Mood Food 2I was just teaching a unit on working with discouraged learners and discussing tailoring teaching…whereas I heard: “I don’t have time to do that many lesson plans!” Ummm, who said you had to have 28 lesson plans for 28 students? But that is a common ‘reason’ to avoid doing it. Could it be an excuse? Or maybe simply people do not KNOW HOW…and as we are in education, it is okay not to know something – even if you are a teacher. But the best learner in the room should be the teacher or they are not a true educator. So, let’s at least remove ignorance of what can be done…

I have been an ardent fan of “tailoring instruction” since 1969 when I was suddenly by right of being a graduate student at FSU involved in the Elementary Teacher Preparation Project where we trained every single student in teacher ed. to individualize and then in the school where we were filming these “kids” doing their clinicals (with smaller kids ;-) the teachers on staff got so excited they asked us to train them! So we had an add-on grant and trained every K-3 teacher at Walter T. Moore School to be able to individualize. We explained to them a good teacher accommodates learners recognizing that each is different, i.e., AFFIRMING diversity. One way a school has done individualized instruction is not the same as another…so let’s talk about that.

I reckon there are – as my nine-year old buddy, Ira, used to say – “lebbenty-lebben ways”* to individualize instruction. You can do IPI – Individually Prescribed Instruction – where you look at what is “wrong” or “deficient” in a kid and then “build bridges” of curriculum to where he or she is supposed to be (according to some charts somewhere, or common core standards, or the state standards, or scope & sequence of the content provided by curriculum publishers). Delivery systems are boring workbooks (like Wisconsin’s famous DPI Bluebooks – Yawn!); or, buying content provider’s work kits, like the SRA Reading Kits, or make up your own. I prefer an online delivery system for at least some of it because there is so much content on the Internet now…but you have to screen kids as not many kids have the self-discipline until they are 30 or so.

Those are “deficiency-based” models…or “pothole pedagogy”…filling in what is missing or what the kid is “behind on” and not very motivating or positive in nature. And boring, to boot!

Then there is my preference, the strengths-based model, like the January Education Model** that is also learner-centered but where we begin with building curriculum around students’ natural interests, talents and abilities…THEY help by proposing projects at some age….later they can file a “green sheet” which is a template for a self-designed project…it can be with other students also, such as I used to do with gifted kids…they had to have an individual project and a group project everyone in the room worked on.

Learning or Interest Centers work well, too, where you have “Stations” set up for, say, Science, Math, Reading, History, Art, etc. and kids can choose from a list or learning activities and do their own record keeping.

There are a lot of options that allows teachers who MUST teach CERTAIN content do it in their way. No one says it MUST be Sit’nGit or SageontheStage, i.e. lecture. One can work in small areas in any course where students get a choice to tailor the course to THEIR ideal way of learning. Look below in the PS at one of my graduate students said.

Think on it.

Let me know if you can add anything to this list of possibilities for individualizing instruction.

Dr. DJ

PS – A teacher a year or so ago listed how she individualized instruction. Pretty creative: [This will all be a quote from that teacher, but note she says “a FEW I have used”]:

Individualization can be accomplished in an almost infinite number of ways. A few I have used are listed below:

    1. Using a pretest to determine prior knowledge
    2. Allowing proficient students to design their own exploration.
    3. Modifying delivery of content based on student needs, learning styles, etc.
    4. Providing choice in student demonstration of mastery. (test, project, verbal answers, etc.)
    5. Changing the environment to promote success (standing desks, preferential seating, lighting, etc.)
    6. Providing choices in daily academic tasks (ex. leveled assignments, number of problems)
    7. Modifying tasks (length, size, format, font, etc.)
    8. Creating learning contracts.
    9. Changing location to promote success. (ex. quieter room)
    10. Use of supplemental tools (ex. iPad, calculator, times table)
    11. Collaboration (small group, pairs, peer tutor, etc.)

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*CRABAPPLE – A True Story of Hope & Miracles – The magical ninth year in boys by Anthony Dallmann-Jones – soon to be an eBook!

**FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION by Anthony Dallmann-Jones and Nine Extraordinary Educators