No Thank You to Naviance

Reposted with permission from Feral Families.

feral families

The district has designed a scope and sequence of how to use Naviance with a focus on 11th and 12th grade but actual implementation will be left school to school. Once parents have forfeited their chance to opt out there will not be any other chances to give consent for certain portions. They told me it is an all in system with individual schools being left to make decisions about how they will accommodate students who opt out….

Through my daughter’s eighth grade year, I started to familiarize myself with how high school is organized nowadays in SPS. It’s been a long time since my Ingraham days of “tennis shoe registration” where we ran station to station with little index cards and golf pencils signing up for our courses manually. So with a few weeks until school let out when I received this email from Seattle Public Schools, my interest was peaked,

Dear families,

We are pleased to announce the district’s college and career planning tool, Naviance, will be available in the 2018-19 school year to support your student’s personalized journey through high school. This is a web-based, mobile-friendly tool that you and your student can use to explore interests and options, consider post-high school plans, and ensures all students can have access to post-high school planning supports.

The Naviance college and career planning tool will allow students to:

• Research careers and colleges: Learn about career fields linked to personal interests, compare data from college admissions offices, take personalized surveys to understand strengths and goals.

• Get involved in the planning process:Build a resume, manage timelines and deadlines for making decisions about colleges and careers; organize and track documents related to the college application process, such as requesting and submitting letters of recommendation and transcripts.

• High School and Beyond Plan: Schools will be using Naviance to deliver high school and beyond plan lessons in grades 8-12.  The high school and beyond plan is a graduation requirement, which helps students and counselors make sure graduation requirements are met and are aligned to identified goals.

• Scholarship search: Students can search a database of scholarships based on their interest and goals, and organize materials for scholarship applications in one place.

Student Data and Opt-out Information

The district thoroughly vetted Naviance’s policies and practices with respect to preserving data security and student privacy. Families can choose to opt their students out of using this tool.

For students to utilize the college application support tools in Naviance, some student demographic and academic records need to be shared.  This may include gender, ethnicity, and transcripts. Students will also have the opportunity to add information about themselves when developing their high school and beyond plan and using other college and career exploratory resources within the Naviance tool.

We will be importing student information beginning on July 1 so counselors can use their training days during the summer to prepare for supporting your student in the fall. The window to opt out will be June 4-22, and will open again at the start of school.

Read more about Naviance’s commitment to data security and student privacy and opt out instructions

Each of our students is on a unique educational journey. We are committed to ensuring every one of them receives the support needed to prepare them for college, career and life. High school and beyond planning is one way we are supporting this commitment.

Thank you,

The College and Career Readiness Team

Seattle Public Schools

To which I responded,

Dear Superintendent and Directors,

I received a letter about Naviance informing me that I could opt out but not how to opt out. I found the information on the district website and it says I have to change the preferences on my Source account but I do not participate in the Source. I consulted our upcoming high school principal and guidance counselor and neither of them know how to opt out without a Source account. I also tried replying to the College & Career team but the email was sent with “no reply” options or contact info.

Please advise. The opt out window ends on 6/22.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

I was surprised by a quick reply from the College & Career Readiness team offering to teach me how to set up a Source account. I said no thank you and let them know that for a variety of choice and access issues they need to offer families another way to opt out. Their department sent me a computerized form a day or two later which I remember finding funny because if you don’t have computer access to use The Source, how would you fill out a computer form? By this time I had talked to several friends who wanted to opt their children out of Naviance too, but the form stopped working. I contacted the College & Career Readiness team again and it turned out THEY HAD MADE THE FORM ONLY FOR MY USE! Now I do appreciate that I am a privileged outlier but I reminded them they need a simple way for ALL families to opt out; not just the well known agitators. They thanked me for the feedback and said that they would work on that for the next opt out window of 9/5-9/19. They asked me to check back at the beginning of the school year.

On the first day of my daughter’s high school experience I emailed the SPS Director of College & Career Readiness, Caleb Perkins to loop back about what kind of outreach they were doing for families about Naviance and how one might elect to have their child opt out of this new system. Many parents of middle school and high school students I had spoken with were wary of this new system over data sharing, privacy and tracking concerns. Mr. Perkins responded to my email requesting a phone meeting we scheduled one for the following day.

I knew what questions I wanted to ask and they mostly centered on how parents will learn about this system so they can make an informed choice whether they would like to participate. My friend and educational blogger, Carolyn Leith is much more knowledgeable about some of intricate details of the system and she sent me a list of questions to use for my meeting, they are as follows,

1. How is Naviance going to be used? What classes will be using the software and what surveys will students be expected to participate in. Will the district inform parents of what surveys their students will be expected to complete.

2. Some surveys used by Naviance were intended to be filled out by students under the supervision of a parent. Will parents have access to student accounts?

3. How will students who opt out of Naviance be accommodated? How will this work if Naviance is part of a planned curriculum? For families who object to their student’s participation with Naviance, will a counselor be made available to help students navigate the last two years of high school.

4. How will opting out be handled with courses such as career essentials?

5. Does answering/ using different surveys change the data sharing agreement signed between the district and Naviance? What data is being shared (or made available for access via API’s ) and with whom?

6. What platforms ( such as Google Suite, Clever ) have access to Naviance? Does Naviance also have access to the data collected in Google Suite, Clever, and other platforms?

7. Is Naviance interoperable with other platforms and software used by Seattle Public Schools? Will parents be informed of what data is being shared and with what programs?

8. Is Seattle Public Schools willing to put in writing that it holds student personality tests and other sensitive data collected by Naviance and does not share it and will be liable for any breaches or misuse?

9. Is Seattle Public Schools willing to make transparent what algorithms and weighted factors are used to put students on specific career tracts? Is Naviance willing to share this information?

I started the conversation casually, moved on to the questions, without recording their answers and then moved into a friendly discussion of the larger issues at stake. Mr. Perkins has committed to sending me written answers to these questions, but since the opt out window only runs until 9/19, I decided to write a blog post about our conversation now while it’s still fresh. Incidentally the College & Career Readiness team has set up five regional Naviance Information Sessions but to date they have been poorly publicized and offered only from 5:30-6:30, which is a tricky for many families.

A few things I learned at the beginning of my meeting on speaker phone with Caleb Perkins and Krista Rillo were that SPS paid a little over $600,000 total to Hobson for the use of Naviance for three years. The district paid for Naviance using a voter approved technology levy. The district believes their legal team has thoroughly vetted the contract and has stiff penalties in place for any future theoretical data breach.

The district has designed a scope and sequence of how to use Naviance with a focus on 11th and 12th grade but actual implementation will be left school to school. Once parents have forfeited their chance to opt out there will not be any other chances to give consent for certain portions. They told me it is an all in system with individual schools being left to make decisions about how they will accommodate students who opt out. In addition to The Source, families can also opt out by informing their school office. I gave strong feedback that these were not enough options. Not all families feel comfortable working with their school office and not all school office staff are going to welcome opt outs. I gave the example of how differently SBAC opt outs are handled school to school. At my daughters’ school, it was seen as no big deal with as many as 10% of our students opting out of standardized testing. But other schools are much more hostile to test refusers. At nearby Denny Middle School there was a school carnival that only students who had taken the SBAC could attend and other friends around the district reported having principals want to schedule parent conferences in response to their opt out emails. These parents were then strongly encouraged to have their students take the SBAC. I suggested publicizing a phone number that parents could call directly to opt out of Naviance.

Both Caleb and Krista talked about aspects of Naviance they are excited about. Students can apply directly to colleges, send transcripts and apply for scholarships. Mr. Perkins is especially excited about a set of videos featuring underrepresented groups in non traditional careers. I asked if parents would have access to this information. The answer was a little shocking. They said they were not building in parent access this year and that parents would potentially have “read only” account access next year. They also said that based on what types of searches and inquiries the student was making, they would receive more info in those areas. So if your student was surveyed to show interest in engineering, they would start receiving notices about STEM opportunities in the area. For me, this is a red flag for tracking, and between that, lack of parent access and the idea that my child may be sending my financial information to multiple parties through this system, I am alarmed.

The conversation then took a turn into the big picture and that’s when I really began to question what Seattle Public Schools has gotten themselves into trying to fulfill the legislature’s high school and beyond requirements. Mr. Perkins told me that there had been discussion by the School Board Directors, with some directors in opposition, to naming this new project “Seattle Ready” after the idea that in order to live in Seattle now one will need to have a high paying job. They argued that this idea is “economy driven” and I argued that the opposite is actually true. Not only is child care highly sought after in Seattle, as working class person, a child care provider making about $20, I took strong offense to this notion that students might be dissuaded from pursuing a meaningful career like mine, that gives me so much joy, and supports so many people, because it does not pay “Seattle Ready” wages. I pointed out to them that they were actually doing a disservice to their own workforce by promoting these classist and elitist ideas and I suggested they look to the example of our First Student bus drivers. A “Seattle Ready” system is never going to suggest that a student might enjoy a career as a bus driver and yet what vacancies have not been able to be filled this year and last? School bus drivers. The school bus driver shortage is wreaking havoc on our Seattle working families who’s school buses are frequently late and sometimes don’t show up at all.

Another example I gave, is the district’s own IA’s who often do not earn enough to afford housing in Seattle and have long commutes into the city. These are the same people that the district relies on to care for our most vulnerable students, a position I hold in high esteem and yet the district would deem this career not “Seattle Ready” viable.

I would rather that my student were taught the value of a day’s work and learn about social justice and organizing for better pay for all workers than be taught that some jobs are better than others. I don’t buy it. And what about my friends who ARE artists and musicians and writers but that is not the job they do for money. This early emphasis on what job we have and how it defines us is misguided at best and troubling for me as a parent of kids who dance to their own drum. My youngest has always said she will be an animal communicator and a fortune teller when she grows up and my oldest would like to write for sitcoms but is interested in retail while she starts working on her scripts. It seems highly unlikely these tracks are available in Naviance or any “economy driven” system but I want my children to be who they are, loving, kind and interesting people, who also will some day have jobs, and maybe many many different kinds of jobs; this is why I have chosen to opt out of Naviance.

-Shawna Murphy

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Competency Based Education (CBE) and ALEC Preparing Students for the Gig Economy

Reposted with permission from Educationalchemy.

job training office_3

If the history of public schools in America is the history of labor production and preparation (i.e. 19th c factory model schools for a factory society) it holds true that we are now trying to create gig-driven schools to prepare children for the new gig economy. Just as factory model schools prepared children for factory jobs, it’s no coincidence that the CBE framework is a “mini me” of the gig economy itself. And the CBE framework was developed and is funded by the same corporations and organizations like iNACOL and ALEC who are the profiteers of a new gig economy. Just think of how the gig-driven culture reflects the long awaited goals of ALEC model legislation which dismantle collective bargaining, living wages, and other labor rights.

Pearson, of course, was ahead of the pack as usual… developing a school- to -labor pipeline that suites the corporate masters.  As this blog explains, Competency Based Education becomes the framework for “badges” instead of credit hours and prepares students for career and college which is code for the new “gig” economy. According to Pearson: “Alternative learning credentials including college coursework, self-directed learning experiences, career training, and continuing education programs can play a powerful role in defining and articulating solo workers’ capabilities. Already badges that represent these credentials are serving an important purpose in fostering trust between solo workers, employers, and project teams because they convey skill transparency and deliver seamless verification of capabilities.”

I could -at this point -just say ’nuff said.

But I won’t.

CBE 101

First, a brief background: Competency based education (or CBE) has been a rapidly developing alternative to traditional public education. While proponents tout it as “disruptive innovation” critics examine how disruptive translates into “dismantle”, meaning that CBE is a system by which public schools can, and will be, dismantled. This is not ancillary. It was designed to create a new privately-run profiteering model by which education can be delivered to “the masses.” Think: Outsourcing.

CBE delivers curriculum, instruction and assessments through online programming owned by third-party (corporate) organizations that are paid for with your tax dollars. Proponents of CBE use catchy language like “personalized” and “individualized” learning. Translation? Children seated alone interfacing with a computer, which monitors and adjusts the materials according to the inputs keyed in by the child. See Newton’s Datapalooza here.

So gone are the days of “credit hours” earned by spending a certain amount of hours in a classroom. Instead, children move at an individual pace detached from the larger group or collaborative learning experiences which CBE pimps try to warn us are ‘keeping certain kids back” from their “true potential.”

The immediate advantages of control and profits for the neoliberal privatizers is quite evident and well documented. See Talmage for more on CBE history and my own summary here.

Let’s summarize what the outcomes of the CBE paradigm of public schools will be:

  • Disenfranchises teachers who are replaced by computers and third party providers (now LEA’s with access to student private data). This erodes a unionized teacher workforce.
  • Eliminates collaborative interactive learning activities in favor of individualized one-on-one learning with a computer program
  • Course credit will no longer be counted by credit hour but by completion of a series of exercises, tasks or data driven curriculum which provides the student with a “badge of completion” (see Pearson).  The amount of time spent in a classroom experience is no longer a determining factor in evaluating success.

In their own words, The Business Round Table explained how Career and College ready objectives are designed in the likeness of their corporate sponsors. The Common Employability Skills paper states: “Educators and other learning providers will also have an industry-defined road map for what foundational skills to teach, providing individuals the added benefit of being able to evaluate educational programs to ensure they will in fact learn skills that employers value.”

Let me restate that again: “EDUCATORS WILL HAVE AN INDUSTRY-DEFINED ROAD MAP.”

The industry road map today in 2016 leads to a gig economy.

What’s a Gig?

Meet the gig economy. What exactly is a gig economy? It’s what CBE becomes when it’s all grown up and graduated. According to gig economy critic Stephen Hill: The gig economy is “….a weird yet historic mash-up of Silicon Valley technology and Wall Street greed”  which is being thrust  “upon us (as) the latest economic fraud: the so-called ‘sharing economy,’ with companies like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit allegedly ‘liberating workers’ ’to become ‘independent’ and ‘their own CEOs,’ hiring themselves out for ever-smaller jobs and wages while the companies profit”.

If the history of public schools in America is the history of labor production and preparation (i.e. 19th c factory model schools for a factory society) it holds true that we are now trying to create gig-driven schools to prepare children for the new gig economy. Just as factory model schools prepared children for factory jobs, it’s no coincidence that the CBE framework is a “mini me” of the gig economy itself. And the CBE framework was developed and is funded by the same corporations and organizations like iNACOL and ALEC who are the profiteers of a new gig economy. Just think of how the gig-driven culture reflects the long awaited goals of ALEC model legislation which dismantle collective bargaining, living wages, and other labor rights.

ALEC.png

In 2015 the ALEC Commerce Task Force “Celebrated the ‘Gig’ Economy” at an event in which they held workshops on the “Gig Economy” and “What’s Next for the ‘Sharing Economy’–A Discussion on Principles on Best Practices,” which will likely lay the groundwork for further efforts to undermine worker protections. Naturally, their model bills sponsored by the Education task force members directly intersect with the model bills put forth by the Labor task force as well.

In response to this 2015 event, ALEC bragged in their own website that, “With new policies ranging from reducing the income tax burden, to deregulating the ‘gig economy,’ to pension reform, good news in Arizona is plentiful.”

The National Network of Business and Industry Associations, calls itself “an innovative partnership that joins 25 organizations focused on better connecting learning and work.” Their goal is to develop tools that:

  • articulate the common employability skills required for workers across all career fields;
  • rethink how various professional organizations build credentials to help workers move easily between professions (think: Open Badges); and
  • increase the use of competency-based hiring practices across the entire economy (Pay for Success).

One can begin to see how easily CBE fits in with the BRT goal in their Common Employability Skills document where they write: “This model can take its place as the foundation for all industries to map skill requirements to credentials and to career paths.” They add that educational institutions will be EVALUATED based on their ability “to ensure students will in fact learn skills that employers value.”

So let’s summarize ….

In a gig economy, gone is the routine 9-5 work hours by which traditional salaries are determined. Instead gig jobs are paid by the completion of tasks regardless of the hours.

In a freelance world, where jobs are merely a series of gigs strung together, the new ESSA “pay for success”  framework fits right in.

Pay for Success is a gig framework for education.

So when jobs are free lanced there is little opportunity for a unionized workforce and there are no benefits (thanks ALEC). There is no collective work space or shared workforce experience. Most work can be done independently, online, and from home. After 12 years of schooling under this framework the future workers of America will be primed to fall right into their pre-ordained place in the gig economy, where they will now feel right at home.

Just as “manufacturing companies and Silicon Valley have begun increasingly to rely on private contractors to hire temps and freelancers” (Hill, 2016)  so have public schools, with the advent of the new ESSA bill, increasingly use private contractors to provide public education (temps being TFA and freelancers represented by Pearson, K12 Inc and the like).

Gig proponents might call it “independent” labor which “frees” workers from the messy attachment to brick and mortar workplaces and money tied to work hours. It’s the mirror image of CBE proponents advocating for students to be “freed” of credit hours tied to hours spent in brick and mortar classrooms.

The gig advocates mantra of “We don’t have to hold on to the model of the 40-hour workweek for a corporate employer” eerily reflects the CBE reform mantra of “students should not have to hold on to credit hours for a traditional model of education.”

Just as CBE has become the bastion of cost-effectiveness in education for profits to CBE delivery systems in a world of austerity (neoliberal capitalism on steroids), so the gig economy streamlines the costs to corporations- who can now eliminate messy expenses like your 401k, health insurance, unemployment insurance.

This project-to-project freelance society (as opposed to long term consistent employment within one organization) will not trouble a student who has freelanced their way through school, from Open badge to Open badge, with no sense of collaborative or collective sensibilities in their learning experiences, or familiarity with relationships between time and place representative of stability or community. In this freelance society and freelance education system, people cobble together a string of independent “gigs” in which they work independently at their own pace. Gig workers are never really “on the clock” because they are never “really off the clock” either–just as CBE students are never focused on time in learning, but are focused on pushing through each module of the CBE framework in order to accumulate “credits” as quickly as possible.

Another way of conceiving of Pay for Success is the “Learning is Earning” framework, which outlines how CBE and the gig economy work together.

According to Pearson:

“A decade from now, when solo workers comprise the majority of the American workforce, I think it will be common for all of us to point to digital credentials and badges as a better way to talk about our own expertise and the know-how of others. Trusted digital credentials will strengthen the new economy by removing some of the high-frequency friction and inefficiencies of project work. Digital, verifiable credentials owned by each worker will ease employer uncertainty while forming project teams. And at the same time, badges will help each of us to identify relevant new work projects and navigate toward just-in-time (aka “gig”) learning opportunities.

Also read about LinkedIn, CBE and gig economics here.

Gig employers and CBE policy makers tout this  as “freedom”—freedom from stability and security, for sure.

Nunberg, in his NPR commentary suggests, “If “gig” suggests the independence you get when you’re not tied down to a steady lifetime job, then just think of the freedom we’ll all enjoy when the traditional job is consigned to the scrap heap of history, and the economy is just gigs all the way down.”  I fear that public education, no longer tied down to time or place, like stable jobs, will too be consigned to the scrap heap of history.

Big Money, Career Connected Learning & Playing Partisan Politics in Washington State.

Monopoly

…And so, what can companies do together to create an environment where you can train and grow your talent pool instead of stealing talent from each other? Why not grow the pie instead of eating each other’s pieces of pie?”

In a simpler time, big time money bundlers in Presidential elections were satisfied with a plum ambassadorship.

Not anymore.

Meet Suzi LeVine, former Swiss Ambassador, local money bundler for the Democratic party, ex-Microsoft executive, and current thought leader and brand evangelical for career connected learning.

Ms. LeVine raised $500,000 for President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. In total, LeVine raised 1.3 million in support of Obama’s Presidential ambitions.

Suzi LeVine, Brand Evangelical for Career Connected Learning

In GeekWire, LeVine explains how her corporate background in tech helped her grasp the value of Switzerland’s apprenticeship program – an education system which helps companies train and grow their own human capital. LeVine sees this as a big plus because it keeps companies from competing – or poaching – each other’s talent.

“The work that I did at Microsoft around education and seeing education models around the globe gave me an appreciation for project-based learning and 21st-century skills,” LeVine said. “And seeing how in Switzerland apprenticeship is embraced, and 2/3 of young people go to apprenticeship and not high school, is amazing. But I can appreciate it in a way because of my tech background. What I can also appreciate is that these individuals have a path, not an end. They can go from their apprenticeship to university and beyond if they choose.”

In the U.S., LeVine believes we are at the beginning of an “apprenticeship renaissance,” where people realize that the path to success has many beginnings  that don’t all start with a college degree.

“I look at the tech industry here. And we are so hungry for software developers and so hungry for IT professionals,” LeVine said. “How many of those people who you know who are software developers today would have loved to have started younger because they knew exactly what they wanted to do, and really they would have preferred to go and start working and earning a paycheck and having this experience? And so, what can companies do together to create an environment where you can train and grow your talent pool instead of stealing talent from each other? Why not grow the pie instead of eating each other’s pieces of pie?”

Since returning to the United States, LeVine has been on a mission to introduce career connected learning in Washington State. Here’s notes from her presentation to the STEM Education Innovation Alliance meeting on March 1, 2017.

Youth Apprenticeships and Career Connected Learning

Learning from the Swiss about Apprenticeship

Suzi LeVine, Former United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Eric LeVine, CEO, CellarTracker

-Vision for 20 years of 100% lifelong career readiness

-Washington state and Switzerland are similar in size of population, gross domestic product, political structure – with slight differences in hydroelectric power energy mix and key industries

-Unemployment in Switzerland is 3% and is lower for youth, in part due to apprenticeships. Two-thirds of students go into apprenticeship training instead of 10th grade. Companies start apprenticeships with students after the 9th grade, and companies start recruiting while students are in the 7th grade.

  • 3-4 days in job and 1-2 days in academic setting
  • Apprenticeships are 3-4 years
  • Project-based learning with compensation
  • Students work with adults, get a paycheck, develop products and are part of the workforce

-Keys to success for the Swiss:

  • Diversity: Have 250 federally registered apprenticeships, from white to blue collar
  • Permeability: Can do vocational track or more academic – permeability – lots of on- and off-ramps
  • Certification for transferable “currency”
  • Prestige – many CEOs started as an apprentice – not “those kids” but “all kids”

-Business must lead on this – and business benefits greatly from it

  • Collaborate to reach critical mass; contribute majority; participate in associations
  • Receive portion of investment returns; evaluate trainees and gain skilled workers
  • Investing into each apprentice works as all businesses participate

-Currently 5.8 million jobs unfilled in the US

Several Swiss businesses with facilities in US started apprenticeship programs in collaboration with community colleges

Established Swiss-US agreements and partnered with 30 companies that committed to bringing this model to US

   -Typically post-high school in partnership with the community and technical colleges

   -Some are returnees or re-trainees to update skills

Colorado is first state with Swiss model

  • Started with a boot camp in June, 2015 that inspired a key US business leader.
  • Key business leaders put together a delegation to go to Switzerland in January 2016 (Colorado’s Governor, CEOs, heads of public schools, labor, and philanthropists)
  • Set up nonprofit organization CareerWise Colorado via public/private partnership.
  • LinkedIn Youth Apprenticeship Marketplace – launching a pilot project with 50 companies who will offer over 175 apprenticeships
  • Starts in 11th and 12th grade
  • Goal to grow to 20,000 apprenticeships by 2027 (10% of high school juniors and seniors in Colorado)
  • Gives Colorado a competitive advantage in its workforce development opportunities; China and Brazil looking at model

-How do we mobilize in Washington state?

  • If you suspend reality and apply the Swiss investment and savings metrics to Washington, because an apprentice in Switzerland is 40% cheaper than a high school student and because Swiss companies invest 1% of GDP into apprenticeship, Washington could save an estimated $668 million if two thirds of all high school students participated, with an investment of $4.2 billion (1% of GDP) in apprenticeships by companies in Washington state.

Some benefits:

  • Washingtonians being lifelong career ready
  • Washington state becomes first choice for business investment because of quality and quantity of labor workforce
  • Reduced recruitment costs to businesses because local talent is now homegrown
  • Decline in crime rates as people are skilled and employed

-Questions

*What are fixed costs and long-term return on investment? loyalty – one example 50-80% retention after apprentices leave (civil service requirement); going into system but not necessarily in one place – salary to apprentice; mentorship; training

*Colorado provided $11 M as seed funding (combo – national philanthropies, local philanthropies, State & DOD).

*In North Carolina group established “Apprenticeship 2000” – state just committed to fund community college aspect for registered apprenticeships

*LeVine suggests not about tax credits to companies but about education credits via funding to institutions – US Department of Labor has site with examples

*Regarding adult reengagement – can do apprenticeships through age 48 in Switzerland though emphasis is on youth apprenticeship – relevance in US for older apprentices is greater. Each state has career advising offices.

*Biggest hurdles are credential consistency; prestige; creating full ecosystem for permeability; critical mass; need more than one business to avoid poaching

Kids as Capital and School as a Workforce Development Pipeline

As mentioned in LeVine’s presentation above, the implementation of the Swiss Model is further along in Colorado. In the document Swiss Apprentice Model: An Employer Driven System of Education & Training – a title which is telling enough – one slide gushes about the many ways employers receive a return on their investment.

Colorado ROI on Swiss Model

I hope both of these examples make this point crystal clear: LeVine’s proposed rearrangement of our public education system prioritizes the needs of Corporate America over students.

In fact, students are almost an afterthought, a raw material to be sorted and developed based on how much future value they can create for their employer.

This isn’t about creating jobs and opportunities for kids – that’s the sales pitch.

What career connected learning is really about is catering to the needs of business, by creating “an employer driven system of education and training.”

Remember: “Business must lead on this – and business benefits greatly from it.”

Could this Be an End to the McCleary Debate?

The other critical detail of the Swiss Apprentice Model is the emphasis on the savings created when 2/3 of students choose an apprenticeship program over high school.

In LeVine’s talk she estimates a savings of $668 million if companies in Washington pitched in an initial investment of $4.2 billion.

…Washington could save an estimated $668 million if two thirds of all high school students participated, with an investment of $4.2 billion (1% of GDP) in apprenticeships by companies in Washington state.

Where are these savings coming from?

I’m guessing money will be freed-up by closing and/or consolidating public high schools – but I don’t know for sure.

Here’s my thinking: If 2/3 of eligible students aren’t attending traditional high schools, it will be very difficult to justify keeping them open.

Remember: LeVine’s plan only has kids spending 1-2 days a week in an academic setting – which doesn’t necessarily mean at school – it could be defined as visiting an off-site drop-in center run by a community partner or having kids log-in to software from home.

LeVine also loves the idea of project based-learning. So, maybe public high schools will be replaced with charter schools like the one operated by Big Picture Learning in partnership with the Highline School District.

In any of these scenarios, after kids, teachers will be the biggest losers.

I’m anticipating – once the downsizing begins – teachers: whose salaries are one of the bigger costs of running a school – will be laid off, replaced with non-certificated staff such as AmeriCorps or TFA, whose job will be to monitor kids’ progress on educational software.

If my hunch is correct, this would be two huge wins for the Legislature.

First, they don’t have to find any new revenue to finish the job on McCleary. Plus, laying off teachers can’t help but hurt the teacher’s union.

Win. Win.

Is Anyone Protecting the Interest of Students?

Given the major disruption career connected learning would bring to our public education system, who is looking out for the kids?

Initially, I had hoped one state agency – the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction – would stand up for students’ right to a high school education steeped in the liberal arts.

You know, the type of education the kids of rich people get – what Bill Gates and his kids experienced while going to Lakeside or what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s children were exposed to at the prestigious University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Schools where kids are taught to be leaders, not treated as cogs to be retrofitted to suite the corporate machine.

Unfortunately, my hope was quickly disproven.

In fact, Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction, was at the same STEM Education Innovation Alliance meeting as LeVine and had this to say about career connected learning:

What are incentives for districts and how do we reward besides on-time graduation – do we have the courage to reward for technical pathways?  The framework needs to land on a policy platform that will work

I take this to mean that Reykdal is already working on how to sell career connected pathways to school districts.

So much for looking out for students.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

24 Graduation Credits, OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal, and the Push for Competency-Based Learning

achieve

After an exhausting presidential election, those in power expect us to checkout and stop paying attention.

Here’s a few good reason to stay vigilant.

In Washington State, the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction was very close. Chris Reykdal ended up winning with a little less than 28,000 votes.

Why is this important?  

First, winning with 1% of the vote isn’t a mandate.

Second, there’s some evidence to suggest Reykdal may be interested in promoting or even strengthening competency-based learning in Washington State.

What’s competency-based learning?

Competency-based learning is a form of instruction where the curriculum is delivered by computer, rather than by a human teacher.

There’s different models for this type of instruction, depending on the amount of time students spend using a device to access their class work.

Blended learning mixes face-to-face instruction with student, self-paced learning on a computer or other electronic device.

Virtual schools deliver instruction exclusively online.

The Value of Competency-Based Learning Hasn’t Been Proven.

Here’s something to think about: there’s almost no evidence showing online or the classroom equivalent, competency-based learning, to be effective.

First, let’s look at some indirect evidence.

The Online Charter Study produced by CREDO and The Center for the Reinvention of Public Education found negative academic growth for students enrolled in online charter schools as compared to their peers in traditional public schools.

How bad was the negative impact?

For math, online charter students lost the equivalent of 180 days of learning. Reading faired somewhat better, with a lost equivalent of 72 days.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-7-05-51-pm

The NEPC Virtual Schools Report 2016 has more specific information on the performance of the blended instruction model.

Here’s a few of the highlights:

Traditional schools have the best overall performance. Blended schools the worst.

Multiple or expanded measures of school performance reveal that virtual school outcomes continued to lag significantly behind that of traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Blended schools tended to score even lower on performance measures than virtual schools, although this may be influenced by the fact that blended schools serve substantially more low-income students.

Blended schools’ on time graduation rates were half ( 37.4% ) the national average.

The evidence on graduation rates aligns with findings from school performance measures, contributing to the overall picture of school performance. Only 131 virtual schools and 26 blended schools had data specific to on-time graduation in 2013-14. The on-time graduation rate (or four-year graduation rate) for full-time virtual schools and blended schools was half the national average: 40.6% for virtual schools, 37.4% for blended schools, and 81.0% for the nation as a whole. The graduation rates for virtual schools have worsened by 3 percentage points over the past few years, even as graduation rates in the country have been improving about 1 percentage point each year.

This interesting bit was buried in the study’s conclusion.

The rapid expansion of virtual schools and blended schools is remarkable given the consistently negative findings regarding student and school performance. The advocates of full-time virtual schools and blended schools remain several years ahead of policymakers and researchers, and new opportunities are being defined and developed largely by for-profit entities accountable to stockholders rather than to any public constituency.

Jim Horn at Schools Matter found these damning studies.

Both came to the same conclusion: the tech behind competency-based learning has advanced, but the concept itself has not benefitted from these technical improvements and the educational outcome for students remain unimpressive.

From the study, Competence-Based Education and Educational Effectiveness:  A critical Review of the Research Literature on Outcome-Oriented Policy Making in Education.

The paper assesses the empirical evidence for outcomes of competence-based education which are envisaged by policy-makers, and gives some interpretations of how the topic is handled in the political processes. This is achieved by a review of the research literature as documented in bibliographical databases which cover academic publications and in more practical material. The searches were generic, and included not only specific competence- expressions, but also terms as ‘outcomes’ and ‘learning’. The staggering conclusion of this exercise is that there is hardly any evidence for the effectiveness of competence-based education despite the long period since the 1970s when the approach came up in the US. Whether this is an artefact of the operationalization of the outcomes of competence-based education or not, it seems that there is only very little attention to testing the policy- assumptions that competence-based education is a worthy educational innovation. As this is quite disturbing, it is recommended that more efforts are being made to prove (or falsify) the putative added value of competence-based education initiatives.

https://www.ihs.ac.at/fileadmin/public/soziologie/rs111.pdf

From the study, New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning.

The pace of technological advancement, combined with improvements technology has brought to other sectors, is leading policymakers and educators alike to take another look at computers in the classroom, and even at computers instead of classrooms. In particular, advances in computational power, memory storage, and artificial intelligence are breathing new life into the promise that instruction can be tailored to the needs of each individual student, much like a one-on-one tutor. The term most often used by advocates for this approach is “Personalized Instruction.” Despite the advances in both hardware and software, recent studies show little evidence for the effectiveness of this model of integrating technology into the learning process.

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/personalized-instruction

24-Credit Graduation Requirement: A Backdoor for Online Learning?

Chris Reykdal is very proud of Washington State’s 24-Credit Graduation Requirement.

As a legislator who voted for our state’s robust home-grown teacher-principal evaluation system and one of the authors of our state’s new rigorous 24-credit graduation framework, I am disappointed in the federal government’s decision to repeal our waiver.

Here’s my biggest concern: Achieve is also excited about the possibilities created by Washington’s 24 credit requirement.

Who’s Achieve?

Achieve is most famous for it’s work helping the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers create the common core standards. Achieve also acted as the project manager during the development of the PARCC Assessment. Fair warning, Achieve also oversaw the writing of the Next Generation of Science Standards.

Achieve is funded by Corporate America and chaired by Mark B. Grier, who also happens to be Vice Chairman of Prudential Financial, Inc.

Both Microsoft and Boeing are corporate funders of Achieve. If you live in Washington State, please note both companies have put tremendous effort into avoiding their fair share of state taxes. Taxes, which fund our public schools.

Since its formation, one of Achieve’s main purposes is to give corporations a direct route to state officials. This allows a push for business friendly education policies without the prying eyes of the public or local school boards.

It’s also important to remember that the common core standards were basically the specs for the education software that is now being rolled out with the competency-based education model.

Profit or Public Good?

Remember the part in the NEPC Virtual Schools Report about the expansion of virtual and blended schools being driven by profit seeking edutech companies rather than student need or the public good?

In a 2014 Report [ achievecbptheimperativeforstateleadership ], Achieve outlined how state leaders could leverage college and career readiness to shift away from traditional schools to competency-based learning.

In some states, leaders and educators have determined that to realize the promise of high expectations for all students that reflect a clear learning progression toward and beyond college and career readiness, students will need access to a far more personalized approach to learning. The traditional time-based system, they have concluded, has not served all students well – even when policy and practice were centered on a floor of minimal proficiency. The system holds little hope for helping all students reach, and have the opportunity to exceed, the level of preparation needed for college and career readiness. In these states, there is an increasing urgency to move away from the traditional system that has produced such inequitable results and toward a competency-based system in which students and their mastery of knowledge and skills – not time and the calendar – form the center.

One of the strategies suggested by Achieve to advance competency-based learning was the use of competency based credit accumulation or advancement.

For CBP to advance, states may need to do more than just allow districts and schools to use competency-based approaches for graduation and credit accumulation/advancement. Many states have learned that simply offering flexibility does not necessarily catalyze action and that they need to take actions that range from encouraging or supporting districts to strongly incentivizing use. States may need to take action to define competency-based graduation requirements or competency-based methods of awarding course credit – and to do so with an eye toward ensuring that determinations that students have completed required standards or otherwise reached competency reflect rigor and comparability across districts. States also can take more intermediate steps through policy or practice.

In March of 2016 [ 04cbl-1 ], The Washington State Board of Education met to discuss competency based learning. The key policy considerations were:

  • How could competency-based learning fit into a career and college-ready framework?
  • Are there gaps in state policy that need to be addressed to best support rigorous and aligned competency-based crediting?
  • What guidance would be useful for districts to implement competency-based crediting?

Guess who attended the meeting?

Alissa Peltzman, Vice President for State Policy and Implementation Support for Achieve.

Even more interesting, the guidelines [exhibitf_competency-basedcreditinghandbook ] created for districts to implement competency-based learning includes information pulled directly from Achieve’s white paper:  Advancing Competency-Based Pathways To College and Career Readiness Series. The Imperative of State Leadership.

It’s worth reading the whole document. Of particular interest is Table 1, which explains how credit can be earned in Washington State.  Here’s some highlights:

cbe_better

 

online_better

Remember how Randy Dorn used ALE’s to skirt the Supreme Court’s ruling against charter schools? They’re mentioned too.

ale_better

Where Does Reykdal Stand on Competency-Based Learning?

Here’s Reykdal’s response to a question about edutech from a state superintendent questionnaire on  Seattle Schools Community Forum:

How does “EduTech” – the increasing use of technology and learning-based instruction – fit into your view about the future of education?

As a former classroom teacher and an almost fourteen year executive in the community and technical college system, I’ve watched edutech evolve. Like so many industry-driven things it was not good as a stand-alone approach in the early years of online learning, competency-based assessments, and open-course materials. While still problematic in places and with some tools, we have learned that blended instruction is the strongest model – teacher led instruction infused with technology. To do this well at scale, it requires professional development. Our educators are growing their skills in the use of edutech but it requires constant investment in their knowledge, skills, and abilities. What we must never do is replace high touch with high tech, especially when the issue for many students is not academic struggle but rather social-emotional needs. There is no software for love, caring, and diagnosing emotional distress. Technology is a supplement to instruction; it should never be used as a parallel system of instruction. When we believe we can ignore income inequality, generational poverty, and racial inequities in our schools with canned software and dynamic standardized tests we are in trouble.

To sum up: Chris Reykdal appears to be OK with blended or competency-based learning which he defines as “teacher led instruction infused with technology” as long as it’s not used to create a “parallel system of instruction” -even though and here’s the kicker – his push for 24 credits, set the stage for the State Board of Education to go ahead and create that edutech reliant parallel system of instruction.

Here’s my concerns about competency-based learning. 

First, even though the value of competency-based learning is unproven, the cost in dollars for school districts to implement this experiment is far from neutral.

Second, if this technology is unproven, at best we are experimenting on children – at worst we are robbing a generation of kids a quality education.

Third, the architects of ed-reform see competency-based instruction as a way to finally be rid of those pesky teachers.

The edutech “thought leaders” want a classroom of peers taught by a human teacher to be a premium service for the rich. Our children will get ed-tech and even more data collection.

So much for public education as a social good or incubator for democracy.

Conclusion

So where does Chris Reykdal stand on competency-based education?

It’s anyone’s guess.

I would like to point out that WEA-PAC contributed $85,000 to the Forward With Education PAC which produced and ran TV ads in support of Reykdal’s campaign.

Many dues paying, rank and file teachers may not be pleased to learn their union helped elect a candidate who would, at best, like to see even more ed-tech in their classrooms and, at the very worst, may be opening the door for the demise of their profession.

-Carolyn Leith

Making Sense of the Student Debt Crisis: Education Reform is Robbing Us Blind and Helping No One

You are not a loan

 

It’s not just the tech industries, the testing and text book industries and the data crunchers and education reform managers and cheerleaders and edu-investors making billions of dollars. The U.S. student debt market is growing whereby student debt is packaged and sold to investors, like the mortgage backed securities that landed us into the 2009 financial crisis were. These investments are known as SLABS – Student Loan Asset Backed Securities. Sallie Mae is the biggest private provider of student loans AND they also sell SLABS, a $200 billion market.

Since 1983, the United States has supposedly been a Nation at Risk when a report (A Nation at Risk) was written comparing our students’ performance on international tests to the performance of students in other countries. In this report we were warned that we would fall behind economically if we couldn’t better prepare young people for the future. The report was promoted by President Reagan.

To remedy or otherwise “catch up” to the test scores of children in other countries and to make sure our economy remained strong, education reforms were enacted. Under President Bush we had No Child Left Behind and under President Obama we had Race to the Top, and now under President Trump, education reforms are in place, and we see cuts of billions of federal dollars to public education and hundreds of millions of dollars given to private schools, including charter schools

Education reforms include adherence to rigid standards, like Common Core (which one teacher characterized as having “misplaced rigor”), high stakes testing, judging schools by test scores, the push to online instruction and charter schools, and and the forever repeating mantra of making sure students graduate from high school “College and Career Ready” meaning that students are able to enter college without having to take remedial classes in math and/or English. However, despite the decades long clarion call to make sure our students graduate from high school ready for college level work, 40-50% of college students nationwide still have to take at least one remedial course today.

Whether or not we think about it consciously, parents, teachers and society in general expect children in school to learn basic bodies of knowledge like math, history, literature, sciences, the arts and writing. We have also always expected, consciously or not, that during their K-12 (Kindergarten to 12th grade) education, children get a sense of their own strengths and interests and then come to find a general direction in life.

The people behind education reform, largely corporate and wall street interests, have taken advantage of these expectations as well as fears we share, like wanting children to go to college, or fearing we won’t be a strong country if U.S. students can’t do better on international tests. They create products and processes of learning that they then sell back to us, and they have made billions of dollars for themselves in the process. However, despite education reforms, most young people in the U.S. are suffering more now than they had in 1983 and our test scores have not dramatically improved. I think that the “crisis of falling behind the rest of the world” was deliberately created in 1983 to create a system so that a segment of society, the investor class, could make billions of dollars. Why would I say that?

For one, why if we are a nation at risk of falling behind the rest of the world economically because of our education system, why have our states and federal government given high earning individuals and corporations tax breaks, which drains our coffers of money to pay for education? For example, in Washington State, we have among the lowest funded and most crowded schools and the most regressive tax structure in the nation (the poor and middle class paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rich). We have had well-funded schools until the 1990’s. What happened? Corporate tax breaks. They have risen from 18 billion dollars in 1996 to over 36 billion dollars today. 

Moreover, in 1989 Washington state paid 89% of students’ college tuition. However, in 2017 they cover only 34% of a students’ tuition.  This has resulted in today roughly 44 million Americans holding about $1.4 trillion in student loan debt with the average debt being $37,000. Here’s a breakdown of the average student loan debt by state. If our states and federal government really cared about kids‘ education, why the decrease in school funding when numerous studies have shown that low class size contributes greatly to student success? 

However, surprisingly (or not), many of the people behind ed-reform are also found on Wall Street and in fortune 500 companies clamoring for change in our education system. Take a look at this invitation to a venture capital conference entitled

Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education… How Breakdowns in Traditional Models & Applications of New Technologies Are Driving Change”

This conference is about how to invest in education products for public schools. The entrance fee to the conference? $1,500.

It’s not just the tech industries, the testing and text book industries and the data crunchers and education reform managers and cheerleaders and edu-investors making billions of dollars. The U.S. student debt market is growing. And student debt is packaged and sold to investors, like the mortgage backed securities that landed us into the 2009 financial crisis were. These investments are known as SLABS – Student Loan Asset Backed Securities. Sallie Mae is the biggest private provider of student loans AND they also sell SLABS, a $200 billion market.

Sallie Mae and Wall Street want kids to go to college. More kids in debt means more money for them. And students can’t easily release their debt. Instead, their wages are garnished, their tax refunds are garnished, their social security is garnished and even their co-signer’s money is garnished. The same class of people who benefit from tax breaks are also making money off of student debt. The balance of who benefits from education reform is not tilted towards students. 

Sallie Mae, again the largest private provider of student loans, started an ed-reform group in 2001 called the Lumina Foundation: “Our goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.” The Lumina Foundation’s goal is for 60% of Americans to earn a college degree or workplace credential by 2025. Incidentally, Lumina’s board chair is John Lintzenich, who was a former CEO of Sallie Mae. Both Lumina and Sallie Mae are heavy promoters of ed-reform and have made bedfellows with ALEC, which is a group of the investor class and state legislators who jointly write our laws. Here are  their ties to ALEC.  

Also, while ed reformers assure us that they care about the success of children and young people, they neglect to do anything about the economy which our young people are launched into. Why get young adults into massive student loan debt and then have a system whereby the chance of landing a living wage full-time job is only 50%? 

Education reformers and our state legislators also fail to tell us that the majority of jobs with the most job growth projected to 2024 don’t require a college education. And if you think it’s a sure pathway to success for kids to major in STEM, check out this 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau entitled Census Bureau Reports Majority of STEM College Graduates Do Not Work in STEM Occupations.

Indeed, I think our Legislators and leaders in Congress are wasting their time and our time pushing education reform when we have more pressing issues to deal with – Living wage jobs and well-funded schools. For example, just prior to the last recession in 2008, there were 26 million Americans on food stamps, and now we have 44 million

In closing, education reform is a con job whereby the investor class and their servile politicians are seeking to control our perceptions of education and the economy through feel good language and empty promises. Yet, the facts, if people care to look, speak for themselves. We are moving away from an economy that works for people and have instead allowed a top-down education system to be implemented from which the investor class extracts wealth and in the end 50% of kids will be left struggling to get by, like their parents are. Is it any coincidence that they want to control tightly how children are trained to think via common core? You’ll note if you look at the standards that there is very little in there about open-ended problem solving or creative thinking. “Uniformity as sucked the life out of teaching and learning.”

If ed-reform foundations, Wall Street and our legislators really cared about education, they’d be doing whatever they could to reduce class sizes, hire more teachers and build more schools. They’d put their minds together and figure out how to create more living wage jobs (maybe by building more schools). They would denounce regressive taxation and end tax breaks. They would trust teachers to teach instead of spending their money to demoralized the profession and promote charter schools.  We are pressuring kids in K-12 to pass tests that even our legislators couldn’t pass and to make life plans when they are 14 years old. For what? Crushing student debt and a lifetime of precarious work.

This is unacceptable.

Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder a term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.” – Thomas Jefferson

 

-Elizabeth Hansen

Elizabeth has been a teacher since 1985 and a college instructor since 1992. She co-authored the books “Anatomy and Physiology for English Language Learners and Weapons of Mass Deception, the Billionaire plan to destroy our public schools and what you can do to stop them. She is in favor of kids going to college. She lives in Washington State.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wants Seniors to Have a Plan for the Future in Order to Graduate. Chris Reykdal, Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Just Passed a Similar Requirement for 8th Graders.

follow the money

Thanks to the tireless effort of education activist, the general public is on to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

People know Emanuel is bad news when it comes to public education.

Of course, Mayor Emanuel worked hard to cement his reputation – by closing schools, refusing to fund wrap around services, and praising charter schools.

In a city with nearly 800 homicides and more than 4,000 shootings last year, Emanuel refuses to fund wraparound services for students living with this trauma. His Chicago Housing Authority is hoarding a $379 million surplus while we have more than 18,000 homeless students in the city’s school district, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Special education cuts in the public schools have left our most vulnerable students without the services and resources they so desperately need. Seventy-five percent of public schools in Chicago do not have libraries, according to the Chicago Teachers Union (which I serve as president).

Emanuel led the largest mass public school closing ever in one U.S. city—mostly in African-American and Latino communities—and has been accused of fostering educational “apartheid” by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He also is known for his Rolodex full of prominent businessmen and wealthy entrepreneurs who have funded charter school privatization, which set the stage for the aforementioned closures.

Not surprisingly, the only schools Emanuel celebrates in his opinion piece are charter schools. One of them is part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which named one of its campuses Rauner College Prep after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. The multimillionaire governor, who supports Trump’s nomination of DeVos as secretary of education, is also on record saying that half of Chicago’s public school teachers are “virtually illiterate” and that half of the city’s principals are “incompetent.”

When Mayor Emanuel announced his new graduation requirements: an acceptance letter to a university or community college, proof of an apprenticeship or internship, acceptable to a trade school, or enlistment in the armed services, even Gas Station TV covered the story.

What’s worst, Mayor Emanuel claims he got his latest punitive idea for public education from – you guessed it – charter schools.

Chicago would be the first city to implement such a requirement, although Emanuel said it’s an idea he borrowed from charter schools.

Good grief.

Chris Reykdal Has His Own Plan to Force Students into a Career Path

What’s interesting is right around the same time – when Chicago Mayor Emmanuel was taking heat for his coercive plan for high school students – State Superintendent Chris Reykdal was pushing a similar plan in the Washington State Legislature.

This isn’t surprising to anyone who bothered to read Superintendent Reykdal’s K-12 Education Vision & McCleary Framework.

High School and Beyond Learning Plans for Every Student

The transition from middle school to high school is a substantial risk for students. The research shows that if a students fails even one core course ( math, science, or English ), in the 9th grade, they are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. Washington State will become a leader in adopting a robust universal High School and Beyond Plans (HSBP) for 8th graders on their way to high school. The middle school provides the plan to the student’s high school, which details the student’s strengths, areas of growth, initial career interests, and a road map of the courses required to graduate from high school successfully. The HSBP tool will be digital and accessible to parents, guardians, counselors, and students. It will also provide the framework for early warning messaging to parents via contemporary digital media tools. Authentic parent engagement needs to meet the needs of the 21st century. (bold mine)

First off, two side issues which need addressing:

Reykdal’s push as a legislator for a statewide requirement of 24 credits has made the issue of students not passing one core class and failing to graduate an even higher possibility.

Second, authentic parent engagement involves actual humans – like teachers- not a text message similar to the ones I get from the dentist reminding me to schedule my next cleaning.

Must Means Mandatory

Here’s the wording from HB 2224, which passed the House with a vote of  94 yeas and ZERO noes on June 27, 2017.

Requirement for High School and Beyond Plan

And this:

HSBP reassesment in 9th grade

“Must have” means mandatory in my book; if it’s a requirement for 8th grade or 12th grade is, frankly, irrelevant.

Instead of coercion, why isn’t our State Superintendent demanding every school in Washington State have full time counselors, nurses, social workers, and all of the other wrap around services kids need to be successful in school and life.

What’s so important about these plans?

Here’s a not so benevolent possibility to consider, from Wrench in the Gears:

Recent “philanthropic” interest in universal pre-kindergarten, early literacy interventions and post-graduation plans (college, career, military or certifications) does not stem from some benevolent impulse. Rather it is about creating opportunities to embed digital frameworks into our education systems that reduce children’s lives to datasets. Once education is simplified as 1s and 0s, global finance will be well-positioned to speculate (gamble) on the future prospects of any given child, school, or district.

That is what accounts for intrusive preschool assessments like TS Gold and the pressure for middle school students to complete Naviance strengths assessments.  Impact investors need baseline data, growth data and “value added” data to assess ROI (return on investment). There are opportunities for profit all along this human-capital value chain. That is why end-of-year testing had to go in favor of constant, formative assessments. That is why they needed to implement VAM (Value Added Measures) and SLOs (Student Learning Objectives). These speculative markets will demand a constant influx of dynamic data. Where is this student, this class, this district compared with where they were projected to be? We need to know. Our bottom line depends on it.

We must recognize that beneath the propaganda of expanding opportunities for our most vulnerable populations, what is happening with “Future Ready” education is predatory and vile. It demeans education, turning it into a pipeline for human capital management at the very moment more and more experts are conveying grave concerns about the future of work in a world increasingly governed by artificial intelligence and automation.

Hmm.

Washington State’s Backdoor Draft and More

This is where HB 2224 gets downright ugly.

Backdoor draft

Admission to university or community college – check.

Proof of an apprenticeship, internship, or acceptable to a trade school -check.

Enlistment in the armed services -check.

Forcing kids to enlist in the military because they can’t jump through all these state mandated requirements to graduate is coercion.

Remember, these extra requirements are in addition to high school students passing all of their classes and earning 24 credit.

I think it’s also important to point out that most adults reading this post never had to pass a standardized test to graduate or had to cope with the added pressure and stress ed-reform’s embrace of business discipline has added on today’s student academic experience.

In short, I will not accept the rationale that these “outs” to an already brutal system are somehow benevolent.

Don’t try explaining away this type of authoritarian pressure to me as a benign attempt by the state to step in and help kids living in poverty make plans for the future because they don’t get that help from their parents.

This excuse is downright insulting to parents trying to make ends meet in our society of ever widening economic inequity – not to mention our country’s continuing love affair with the lie that skin color is character.

Conclusion

How is Washington State’s plan not similar to Mayor Emmanuel’s plan? And if so, where’s the outrage?

It’s also not hard to see State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s mandatory high school and beyond plans evolving to require even more invasive character and academic assessments in the future – just give the legislature a few more sessions to get the job done.

The legislature already got a good head start when they rewrote the assessment requirements needed to graduate – as requested by Reykdal.

After all, the Washington Legislature doesn’t give a damn about funding our public schools, but they sure do like to pile on the requirements for graduation.

 

Reykdal - Wa Schools Largest Workforce Development

-Carolyn Leith

An Open Letter to the Mukilteo School Board: Sometimes Doing the Right Thing Means Breaking the Rules and Allowing Kids to Walk in Graduation with Their Peers.

graduation_cap

Dear Mukilteo School Board members,

Over the two weeks before our district graduations, I wrote and implored you to allow students who have not yet met standards via these tests to be allowed at graduation. This was not the first time this issue has been placed before you and as you have previously chosen to do, you neglected to do what was right by kids.

You used the last opportunity that you had to shame them. You should be ashamed of your inability to see beyond the board policy you quoted me. You should be ashamed that you failed the kids in this district that we have all worked to educate and to support.

You knew their stories: a young foster child who had been in nearly 30 homes in four years, or a recent immigrant with a GPA over 3.0. Students who have met every credit requirement, who have shown the ability to persevere, to grow, to engage in their school community, to become young adults ready to take the next step of their lives.

You have stolen their rite of passage.

We advocated for them. We explained to you that this would happen. We showed you the evidence of this impending legislation. We reminded you that you have done this before.

You choose to remain unmoved. You chose to be callous rather than to show compassion. You showed these young adults that, in the end, the education system does not care for them as people.

You should be ashamed.

But I know you’re not.

-Anonymous

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s Interview with Inside Olympia

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 9.16.34 PM

Editor’s Note: This is an important interview which slipped under the radar of many parents and educators.

In it, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal talks about McCleary and education funding, Plus, Reykdal explains parts of his plan to redesign K-12 education and the importance of technology to his vision.  

Please take the time to read the transcript and share your thoughts in the comment section. I think there’s a lot to talk about.  

The interview can be seen here. Below is a transcript of the interview. 

-Carolyn Leith

Well a couple things. On the political front I would say, look at our levy passage rate around the state, folks in our state love their schools, they trust their local schools, which is why as much of this has to be in local controls hands as possible. The the further you get from people on the ground the more skeptical they get. So they’ll tolerate a package in Olympia that supports schools but gives their districts the ability to have some flexibility. The further up you go the less they’re gonna trust that for one. The other thing is we’re doing things very differently in this state. I I mean I wish we could spend an hour on your show going through twenty years of education reform to talk about what we’re doing: more math, more science, more English language arts, more rigor in the curriculum, more expectation of teachers, a better evaluation system, a school rating system, our achievement index. All of that by the way is getting reimagined right now because we owe a consolidated accountability report if you will to the federal government by September. And we’re writing that plan now. You’re gonna see variables in that achievement index where we, where we look at schools way beyond test scores, which we oversimplified. You’re gonna see things like chronic absenteeism and whether or not they’re at this critical benchmark, 9th grade success…and whether they’re getting dual credit for courses in the 11th and 12th grade. We are doing things very differently in public schools. I would argue a little humorously, most of the cynics of reform have not stepped in a classroom. If you go into a classroom today and see what’s happening, from a, from a third grade teacher, all the way to a high school science teacher, you would see a very different experience than when you went to school.

-Chris Reykdal

Inside Olympia, April 27th 2017

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal with Austin Jenkins.

Jenkins:  As you complete your first 100 days, a former state lawmaker yourself, what are your, there’s a little bit of déjà vu no doubt going on, but what is your thought, as we begin this special session, and legislators find themselves kind of right back where they were two years ago, in a budget standoff.

Reykdal: Well I don’t think it’s surprising, given the magnitude of what they’re dealing with. The good news is, the court I think is still abundantly clear in their original order, that this is about making sure that the state fully funds basic education. The court did not say it has to be a levy reduction, that process, although I think there’s lots of reason why I think people want to implicate local school levies. They didn’t say there had to be some massively different structure in collective bargaining, even though that’s a political interest of some in the conversation. So, I’m not surprised that this fairly straightforward requirement meets politics. That’s just the nature of this place. Our house and senate are not just dealing with education funding. There are those preserving the social safety net, there are those who want a tax conversation, or a tax reform conversation, or tax reduction conversation. So in the context of all that, probably the biggest education session in our history, I’m not surprised it’s taken more than 105 days. But we, we certainly want to keep supporting them as they as they get to that inevitable place where they have to give up things in order to get compromise. And that is, that is a tough word in America right now, but it’s necessary here.

Jenkins: How concerned are you that whatever compromise they come to, ultimately will, will fall short of the court mandate, and creating a constitutional system.

Reykdal: Well based on the size of the proposals that have been put forward on both sides, and again, you know in your intro you point out that they take a pretty different approach on how to pay for it, but the size and the magnitude of those investments for the state’s contribution, again, not considering local levy opportunity, they’re relatively similar. You’re talking about adding a couple billion dollars. That’s gonna be remarkable progress that the court can see is evidence of completing the task by next year.  It may not be down to every penny, but I believe there will be such inertia in the final deal that you will, you will sit here and say that’s, that along with some economic growth and a few changes next year, will get us there. Part of that is do they lump all the money in the second year of the biennium so that (byways?) into something significant and fully funds McCleary, or do they kind of spread that out over two years and have quite a task next biennium. That’s, those small decisions seem kind of technical, but they matter a lot.

Jenkins: Yeah, your predecessor Randy Dorn often used a number, a dollar amount, that he was looking for that he considered full funding. And he was always on the high side, I mean, above the governor, above just about anybody else, rolling in a lot of things. But when you ask the, the lead plaintiff’s lawyer on the McCleary case, whether either the house plan or the senate plan are sufficient, he’s skeptical. Is there a number that you’re using, and a number that your office has identified as the right target number for increased funding at least over the next two years?

Reykdal: Yeah, but I’m gonna be clear that there’s the absolute minimum in order to meet a court interest, which I think is sort of the least common denominator in this debate. Just satisfying the court is not our real purpose. But that number to me and based on what we have to do to ensure that compensation is covered by the state…

Jenkins: Maybe I should stop you there and maybe just explain that the key thing left to do, that the court has identified is for the state to take over, paying the full freight, for teacher and staff and administrator salaries, and benefits, some of which right now are being handled by local levies.

Reykdal: Right, and I think, our analysis of that number and we’ve refreshed those numbers in the last week, we think that a minimum, that’s a billion and a half dollars a year, so three billion a biennium, just to comply with the technical direction of the court, which is to pick up basic ed costs with the state. I think the reason the number gets higher for folks, and it ought to, is that’s gonna be the technical definition, but won’t fundamentally change our level of investment for special education. So you might technically argue that that number covers basic ed, but we know we’re underfunding special education. We know we don’t have career and tech ed programs funded to where they need to be. You have a dropout rate that persistently hangs at 20 percent. That doesn’t change the intervention strategies per se. So if, if we’re here to fund an education system and get better, and help students and close gaps, and help our business community, that number begins to get to 2 ½ or 3 billion dollars a year, and the metric that I use to just say well, what would be an objective thing that democrats and republicans can’t really argue with, and that is the level of investment of our economy that we put back into our public schools. And the rest of the country it’s 3.6 percent of the economy, in our state it’s about 2.9 or 3 percent. It seems small, but if you moved another ½ percent of GPD in our state into education, you’d be looking at about 3 billion dollars a year, six billion a biennium, twice as much as the technical number, to meet the court interest. And I think they ought to be shooting for that over the next couple biennium.

Jenkins: So, I know, asking you again to put your former lawmaker hat on, what would you do if you were in the legislature? How would you fund, at that level you’re talking about, which to your way of thinking is the optimal and right level?

Reykdal: Well I do think the answer sort of sits in front of them. I think between the house and senate they have the right combination. There’s no scenario where you don’t utilize some property tax in there, because, and I and I say this with a little bit of crystal balling, you have to at some point adopt something in a bi-partisan way that, that then potentially the voters say, well we want our say through referendum. The one tax in the state constitutionally dedicated public schools that you can make an absolutely crystal clear statement to the voters, we’ve raised this tax and it will be spent on it, is the state property tax.

Jenkins: And point in fact, the republican plan does create a new state property tax levy for this purpose.

Reykdal: It does indeed and so I think that’s part of the solution. But unfortunately, on balance it’s a significant tax shift and so to my earlier comments, if you’re here to do multiple things, not just fund schools, but tax fairness and all the rest of the the ambition, you can’t just lower taxes in some communities and raise them in others and say we’re good to go. So I think the house democrats have big concepts that should win out in the end. We should be collecting all of our sales tax in this state, tax fairness, and if somebody is being exempted for reasons we can’t quite justify anymore, internet sales, people in Oregon and Idaho purchasing, we ought to be doing that as well. So I think there’s a compromise here that really works.

Jenkins: And that is one of the proposals on the table that house democrats have come up with, a pretty significant tax package, including a new capital gains tax, changes to the B and O tax, but there is also talk of, I think they call it the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was thought to have, to be something that the feds would do, or congress would do, to capture internet sales. But now there’s some thought that the state could do it. So, one of the criticisms of the senate republican plan is that while they create this new property tax levy, they eliminate local levies. And then a question, the question becomes how much, what’s the net new dollars to my system, or is it just a a shift? How concerned are you about the elimination of the local levies?

Reykdal: Yeah, I’m I’m actually very concerned about that. Because again, you can meet the technical interest of the court and not add much new resource, and then we’re not actually changing results for kids and we’re not being more effective in public education. So, the court never said you had to lower local levies. That is a political desire, if you raise state property tax to fully fund, it’s a political interest to then say, and we’re gonna offer you tax relief over here, completely understandable. Again, I think there can be some of that. We probably don’t need 24 and 28% levies if you’re gonna add a billion and a half or two billion dollars to the state side. But I think 10% is too low, and that was their number. I would suspect in the end they might get awfully close in satisfying the court and leave the debate open to the final days and weeks of some special session on how much local levy they’re gonna allow. I would leave that number quite high actually. I don’t think it’s appropriate to ever tell a local community that you cannot, through a vote of the people, support your kids more. I think that’s a strange and artificial Olympia constraint that we ought not put on local communities.

Jenkins: Of course you occupy a non-partisan office today. You were, you are a former democratic state lawmaker. What do you say to your, to to democrats about the idea…’cause you mention this this notion that whatever they pass might be subject to a referendum. Either, I mean the senate republican plan actually calls for a a referendum clause, and voter approval on this property tax approach. It’s possible that voters who don’t like what they see could also force a referendum, on whatever comes out of this this legislature. What, what’s your message to democrats with respect to this idea, like a new tax, something like the capital gains tax which has been criticized as volatile, not necessarily reliable, perhaps doesn’t meet the test that the Supreme Court has set, which is amply fund, with a reliable source of funds?

Reykdal: Well it certainly can be volatile. I think they’ve got a notion that helps it out a lot. They only presume a certain percentage of that in the base, and then there’s some, some dedication of that volatility over time. That’s exactly the kind of resource though that if this state’s really serious about tax fairness, and and not sort of the President’s one pager he put out yesterday, but real substantive change in Washington, you gotta start walking down that path given that virtually all other states have something like that, it makes sense. It will be hard. It’s part of that compromise process. And I don’t worry about the voters rejecting something if it’s gone through really rigorous debate. In particularly if you get a bipartisan deal in the end. And there’s democrats and republicans and labor and business supporting the final package. That will carry the day. They will, they will make clear through their channels, the importance of this in the larger scheme of Washington’s tax code, not just supporting schools. So I, my advice to both sides is be courageous and be bold and stay at the table, and take risk, and listen to each other, and get a deal that you can both support, so that universally, you know, from the Idaho border to the Pacific Ocean, we can tell voters, this is really good for kids.

Jenkins: Let me ask you about the skepticism I sometimes hear among members of the public. And it just happened last week. I was talking with somebody who was here in Olympia, lives up in Seattle. And, and just made an off-hand comment about, oh, they’re gonna put a bunch more money into education and we’re not gonna get, essentially we’re not gonna get much for that, for those dollars. It’s this notion that we pay for inputs but not outputs. You were starting to get to this a little bit in terms of what you think the system needs to elevate all students. But but stepping back from that even. There is a skepticism out there among some people that we are investing in a system that produces results. How do you respond to that?

Reykdal: Well a couple things. On the political front I would say, look at our levy passage rate around the state, folks in our state love their schools, they trust their local schools, which is why as much of this has to be in local controls hands as possible. The the further you get from people on the ground the more skeptical they get. So they’ll tolerate a package in Olympia that supports schools but gives their districts the ability to have some flexibility. The further up you go the less they’re gonna trust that for one. The other thing is we’re doing things very differently in this state. I I mean I wish we could spend an hour on your show going through twenty years of education reform to talk about what we’re doing: more math, more science, more English language arts, more rigor in the curriculum, more expectation of teachers, a better evaluation system, a school rating system, our achievement index. All of that by the way is getting reimagined right now because we owe a consolidated accountability report if you will to the federal government by September. And we’re writing that plan now. You’re gonna see variables in that achievement index where we, where we look at schools way beyond test scores, which we oversimplified. You’re gonna see things like chronic absenteeism and whether or not they’re at this critical benchmark, 9th grade success…and whether they’re getting dual credit for courses in the 11th and 12th grade. We are doing things very differently in public schools. I would argue a little humorously, most of the cynics of reform have not stepped in a classroom. If you go into a classroom today and see what’s happening, from a, from a third grade teacher, all the way to a high school science teacher, you would see a very different experience than when you went to school.

Jenkins: But it sounds like one of the areas that you are very concerned about is that you don’t think the supports are sufficient.

Reykdal: That’s exactly right. We’re we’re running the numbers now again and and the good news stories, our students are taking more core credits than they ever have, and why wouldn’t they? The new high school diploma requires that. Even our high school drop-outs are taking more math, science, and English language arts. The system is responding as policy makers have wanted, and we still have a 20 percent or so drop-out rate, and now we’re learning that two-thirds of those drop-outs are in the senior year. We keep them longer than we ever have, they take more of the classes that folks have asked them to take, and we still lose them in their senior year. That’s not because they’re cognitively struggling per se. They get to this place where they say, I’m not sure the relevancy of this. Or I gotta get to work because my family cannot afford to not have me doing that. There are wraparound services for kids that are the difference in their lives. Which is why I’m so sympathetic to the house democrats who say, yes this is hard work, but it shouldn’t just be revenue neutral, and it shouldn’t be cut everything else in state government just to fund K-12. It’s a move all of this together to support students.

Jenkins:  Well, let me ask you about that though because it, you’ve led to the next question that was in my mind. And I know the resistance, especially among many state lawmakers, to writing a state budget in comparisons to a home budget. But everybody gets the idea that every month, if you own a house, the first and foremost thing you have to do is pay your mortgage. And then after that, you kind of go from there, right? And if you have kids, sort of at that bottom of that list is there anything leftover for some summer camp, or for some, you know, music lessons, or for some extras, right? But you’ve gotta carry, you’ve gotta deal with the fundamentals first. The the state constitution, and the McCleary decision, in no uncertain terms say, the state’s paramount duty is to fund, amply fund basic education. Why can’t the approach be as, for budgeting, to do that first? And then, have a conversation about what else state government should do, and how we’re gonna pay for that, and perhaps ask tax payers what they’re willing to pony up in addition. It seems like that’s a logical approach and conversation, and yet when you ask that question, especially of democrats, no no no no no, we can’t do it that way. Why not?

Reykdal: Mmmmhm. Well actually I’d argue that the first obligation’s debt (laughing). There’s big consequences if you don’t pay debt service in this state…

Jenkins: Which I guess is sort of like paying your mortgage…

Reykdal: Right. Like paying your mortgage.  And then what do you do, you feed your family,right?

Jenkins: Right.

Reykdal: You do those basic essentials at home. So there is some appropriate comparison here. And education is the paramount duty. I mean, you’re not gonna get an argument here from me as state school superintendent. But it’s just naïve to believe that that the future of our state is to continue to grow that bucket at the expense of everything else, when we’re reaching record economic growth in our state.

Jenkins: But if, but if, as a former democratic office holder, again, now residing in a non-partisan role, when you think about talking to voters, why do democrats not wanna, or why are democrats so resistant to talking to voters about raising taxes for non-education items? Which actually if you think about it, at the local level, is usually the conversation. Were gonna pay for police and fire. If you want mental health, if you want to help the homeless, we’re gonna ask you to pay a little bit more. If you want mass transit…

Reykdal: Yeah.

Jenkins: …we’re gonna ask…right? But at the state level, if we’re gonna raise taxes, it’s always to pay for education.

Reykdal: I won’t speak for all democrats who want to raise taxes for some reason, nor will I speak for all republicans who wanna cut taxes in the middle of economic boom. I will say that there are communities all around the state who go directly to their voters and say, help us raise resources for homelessness or food programs, or supports, and the voters willingly do that. I would say it’s more an argument about the era of media, and maybe, and maybe this is a little bit on on you all, about the level of mistrust that accumulates in a voter, the further that decision gets away from them. They’ll support this stuff at the local level, they get more cynical in Olympia, and they’re absolutely cynical about the feds being able to solve problems. So you know, that’s, that’s for the politics of today to figure out, and and maybe there’s an appetite for it in a different way in the future. It’s also part of positioning. And that’s what democrats and republicans do, they they represent their base, and they come with their best argument. And right now this is I suppose where we are.

Jenkins: Let’s hit a few more issues here. One thing that the senate republicans do in their plan is they propose to move away with, from what’s been called the prototypical school model, where you fund the prototypical school. We won’t get into details about how you define that. They want to move to a per student funded model. I think ala Massachusetts. You get a base amount per student, and then students who have extra needs, special needs, homeless, would get additional dollars, based on those needs. Again, it seems like something that people can get. If you, if you tell the average member of the public, prototypical school model, or your kid gets this amount of money plus extras for their extra needs. Which one do they understand best? That one. Yet I’ve heard a lot of resistance to it. What, what are your thoughts on the, on the best approach?

Reykdal: Yeah, sometimes the simple message is the right one for politics, but probably not the right one for good policy. It is simple to say, hey every kid gets the same amount of money. The truth is it’s not even close to the Massachusetts model. In Massachusetts they start with the ability of the locals to raise money, so in Boston, in some of the urban areas with high values, the entire budget’s born by local voters. And then in the rest of the communities, the state’s picking that up, which is also a tax on those local or urban voters. And so the challenge in Massachusetts and this idea that, oh we love how simple it is because everyone knows their dollar amount, is is actually born back in that tax conversation. It’s because urban livers in Massachusetts are massively subsidizing folks in rural communities out there. And that might be the approach that some folks want. I mean the senate gets closer to that concept. I don’t think that’s the Washington way. I think our court has a very different expectation, our constitution does as well. It says it’s the state’s responsibility to amply and fully fund our paramount duty which is public education. So right or wrong we we have to work on solutions that the state picks up. And in that regard, the protypical school model kinda works. If you think about it. It does tell you how much money you’re getting in your school. And we are able to translate that down to per student. Now I think where the senate has a really important angle they’ve taken here is there’s so much conversation around English Language Learners, or special education students, or career and tech ed, or homeless youth, these things that we want to do, that are very targeted, where we wanna see a result and better accountability for the money. Having that be a factor, some percentage of basic ed, is not common sense. Telling students, if you are in this camp, your school’s gonna get an extra 500 dollars or thousand, or five thousand. People do, do understand that for that targeted reason, and I think that’s the compromise that’s coming.

Jenkins: Okay. We do have a teacher shortage in this state, and the governor just signed a bill aimed at addressing that. And it it deals with creating new, alternate pathways for someone to become certified to teach. As I understand it a board will actually be working on what those paths should be. But what optimism or confidence do you have that this, this new law will allow the state to start to address this shortage.

Reykdal: It’s part of the solution. And there’s no question we want really talented folks to come to the classroom. I I stand with lots of people on both sides of the aisle, that you still have to have a lot of rigor in that process and really competent folks, and the ability to evaluate them out if it doesn’t work out. Just because you’re a great software engineer, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna come to public school and be a great math teacher. Those are different skill sets so… But opening up the pipeline, and considering this, particularly people who are already working in schools, they’re support staff, they’re paraeducators, I think they demonstrate the passion and the want, and they see excellent teaching and so it’s a good pathway. The truth is, the market is broken. And if it were a private sector business, back to the private analogy, and you couldn’t keep employees, you’d say, I have a market problem, and the first place you’d look is compensation. So getting the state to solve McCleary and pick up the bill, is a big step, but if it’s just neutral, it doesn’t change that market reality for the teachers. So we have to go beyond that. Starting pay has to go up a lot, and we have to continue to create financial incentives for educators, particularly with the booming economy of the Puget Sound. Yes people leave high school today, it is not top of mind the way it was twenty years ago to become a teacher. And we have to change that through market.

Jenkins: So, that gets back to this house and senate plan. Both of which, which would raise pay, but they approach pay for more experienced teachers very differently. I think senate republicans have said they don’t feel like the salary schedule is broken. They say that they haven’t seen evidence that overall we’re not paying enough. What are you looking for in a final plan in terms of compensation and and, a a salary structure and model?

Reykdal: I’m looking for them to first and foremost define basic ed compensation. They have a definition of basic ed for lots of other things the court was able to point to. This was an area where the court looked and said, we’re not sure what basic ed compensation means. Which is why they essentially said every dime being paid by local levies must be basic ed. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. So they need to define basic ed very clearly. They need to amply fund it. Which means have the entire cost of basic ed compensation born by the state. And then they need to recognize though hat there are reasons for local communities to want to pay more, or add more. And the analogy I always use is that the formulas are driving five kindergarten teachers in your community, but your voters and your school board want to lower class size even further, we should absolutely allow you to raise local levies to hire a sixth kindergarten teacher.  Is that kindergarten teacher basic ed? Probably not. Because the formula’s told us what basic ed was. But we shouldn’t get in the way of local communities. And I believe this is what’s coming. Is the definition of basic ed compensation that’s much clearer for the court, I believe they will amply fund that, and in the end they’re gonna have a long political debate about how much resource to leave local communities, and I think they should leave them a lot of local levy authority. And make clear that if you’re gonna pay additional compensation, or you’re gonna hire additional staff with that money, that’s outside of basic ed.

Jenkins: But on the flip side, the court has also been very clear, that one thing that the that the legislature in the state needs to do, is to to pick up the cost of salaries and compensation, and to fund those salaries at a level that allows you to recruit and retain competent educators. So what does, what does that look like? Aside from what the local levies might be…

Reykdal: Yeah. I think it’s…

Jenkins: Do they need to blow up the salary schedule?

Reykdal: Well I don’t think they need to blow it up. In fact I think they need some salary schedule. Because local collective bargaining is a right of workers, and I support that. I think it’s gotta be simpler, lots of those schedules locally that are bargained, are driven by this complex 16 by 12 schedule or whatever it is at the state. I think the governor had the right idea here to really skinny that down, have four or five simple steps. The bottom line is, is you gotta have a higher starting salary, and from there you’ve gotta have slightly higher tiers to create that incentive for folks to come in. The other benefit of having higher salaries early in career, besides recruitment, is that it’s a significant benefit to Plan 3 retirees, those younger folks who come in and pick a market based retirement plan. They…

Jenkins: As opposed to a traditional pension?

Reykdal: Right, they want their resources early in their career for lifetime earnings. And so there’s a lot…

Jenkins: Well…

Reykdal: …a lot of wins here.

Jenkins: Is 45,000 dollars a year for a base starting salary, which I think both sides are proposing…

Reykdal: Yeah…

Jenkins: …sufficient?

Reykdal: I think they’re in the right ballpark, again for that state defined basic ed. And then you’ll have communities who say, that’s not quite enough for us, they should have the authority to go higher.

Jenkins: Except for those districts who could still be starting at 60, or 55, right?

Reykdal: Right.

Jenkins: With those add-ons. Okay. You had briefly touched on a moment ago, the chronically absent students, and how that can lead to lots of troubles, including dropouts. But a statistic that came out in April, that really surprised a lot of people, is that Washington was recently ranked 2nd worst in the nation for its number of chronically absent students. Washington State? How is this possible? How did that happen?

Reykdal: (laughs) Two things: A, we think there is a big problem and the research is really clear. So we’re building an achievement index, and an accountability data system that every voter, every person in the state can go look at their school district, and hopefully eventually their school, and drill in on those things that really matter. Kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, and ninth grade failure, chronic absentee, we’re gonna give them the best thinking in education, so right down to their school they can see how they’re doing. Specifically to that issue, the one thing I would caution about is there is fifty different state definitions of what absent is, and even in our state there’s some big differences. So if, if in your school you’re ten minutes late, we say, hey, you’re absent from that class. In another school we go, ahh, our policy is fifteen minutes, you’re on time. We have a lot of definitional alignment to do in the next couple of years, and and we know there are states who say, if you’re on a school-sanctioned field trip, if you’re, if you’re at the Science Center on a school field trip, that’s not an absence. And in our state, we count that as an absence, for reporting. So, so I’d be careful of the ranking, but do not walk away from the importance of that data metric, and I think the legislature’s all over this. I think they’re gonna help us attack this problem. And you’re gonna see us keep putting resources into getting students there. And I know it sounds simple, but the old adage is, half the battle’s showin’ up.

Jenkins: Yeah. Well, so, in some places I think, you know a truancy officer will show up at your door. You come up with a slightly different approach. A call from one of your favorite Seahawks players. Let’s listen to, what some students who are missing school, are missing class, are hearing on their telephones. (plays audio clip)

    “Wake up, it’s Jermaine Kearse from the Seattle Seahawks. Get up and get to school. Don’t be left on   

     the sidelines. The future is all yours. All you have to do is show up. “

 

So this is a voicemail call that’s a robo-call, that you can send out. What’s the thinking here?

Reykdal: Well our schools, once again, have used technology in innovative ways to reach parents, almost real-time, when their student isn’t showing up. So that we don’t have that long gap. Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t show up, maybe your parents knew and maybe they didn’t? Maybe they got home at the end of the day and listened to a message. We have these real time systems now that are really powerful, that connect parents to school. And in this case, you know, we find somebody who’s got name recognition and and Jermaine’s really passionate about this. He’s a Washington kid, went to Lakes High School, Seahawk. And he’s helping us be one of many systems that say to kids, this is a big deal. They may not think it’s a big deal if it’s just the vice principal recording the message, but when a Seattle Seahawk calls you and says, you know, get to school, it matters, we think it has impact and we’re gonna keep doing more of that.

Jenkins: Okay, I know that, kind of, you are completing, like a lot of new elected office holders, your first hundred days. And you spent a lot of time on the campaign talking about career technical education, and a a need to give students avenues and pathways that may not entail a four-year degree. What have you been able to accomplish, in your first hundred days toward that goal.

Reykdal: Yeah, so one of the exciting things at OSPI is we we have new leadership in our CTE team and we’re actually merging that and our teaching and learning team, or learning and teaching team, depending on who you ask. Because we think CTE has this pathway of huge importance that needs to be elevated but it also has to be integrated well. We can’t see it as this separate thing, or this lesser thing. So we’re merging it with the team that’s really focused on high math standards and English standards and other standards. And so we think we’ve gotta get our house in order a little bit. We’re also partnering a course with the public and private sector on core plus and these other things where we are building certifications for students while they’re in high school that tells the employer community, and the higher ed community, this student is ready with a different set of skills than they’ve ever had and it’s industry and standards based. So that’s happening on the private sector side. And then in the legislature we’re continuing to say to them, you you you do have a test problem in this state. (laughs) We can have lots of debates on the weight of tests. It’s too much, quite frankly. We’re one of only a couple states with a comprehensive, high stakes exit exam. And the biggest problem isn’t that it drives students away in the end, which it does. Its biggest problem is that much earlier in their in their school career, they all believe that they are one-size-fits-all, and they must follow the same math pathway, the same ELA pathway, the same science pathway. And you’re losing students who’d say, I’d stay in school if you’d put me in a consruction trades program. I still wanna take math, but I want it applied to my job. That’s really not a viable pathway for kids. So we still have a legislative effort to get this straightened out.

Jenkins: Okay, and just in the last minute we have, what is the biggest surprise or lesson you have learned, as a candidate for office, you sort of had these visions of what it might be, but now that you’ve actually occupied the office for 100 days, what surprised you, or struck you.

Reykdal: Well what hasn’t, the good news is that I was in higher education for a long time in a state agency, so I understand a little bit of that culture. And then being a legislator, I get their world. So that’s been a really nice marriage to put to work right away. The surprise honestly is how receptive folks are to change that matters. They don’t just want you to spin the wheels because someone’s new in the seat. They want to see evidence, and and the employees at OSPI are so good at what they do, but they have high expectations that we connect this to better outcomes for kids. And that’s where the pressure is on me everyday, and I love that. They are really a remarkable group and I think we’re making big change fast.

Jenkins: Have you hit any barriers?

Reykdal: Well you do in a legislature, because you want the resources to flow. You want flexibility. And you wanna go up there with data and say this is the answer. But politics doesn’t always use empirical answers. Sometimes they use very political answers and so, it’s a barrier but it’s one I understand because maybe I was guilty of that myself at one point in time. So it’s, it’s okay though.

The Shock Doctrine, McCleary, De-linking Graduation from State Mandated Tests, and State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s Education Vision

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If you don’t have to see or live with the consequences of your decisions, it becomes very easy to do bad things.

In Olympia, this is especially true as the lure of money, power, and personal political ambition continually cloud the judgement of the peoples’ representatives.

Add to this dysfunctional system an insulating layer of well funded non-profits, think tanks and NGOs; all vying to create our state’s education policies and claiming to know what’s best for our students.

These groups woo hand-picked politicians and hight level bureaucrats to become their “thought leaders”.

Perks include personal invitations to corporate underwritten conferences and retreats — with the built-in opportunity to meet all the right sort of people.

What’s the catch?

Once they’re back in Olympia, these members of the political class must be willing to prioritize the political agendas of these non-profits, think tanks, and NGOs, while throwing their constituents under the bus.

The Unravelling.

The comforting facade of democracy in Olympia is already slipping as the clock winds down on the McCleary crisis AND YET the legislature continues to stubbornly refuse to do their Constitutionally mandated job to amply fund public education.

Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, explains how neoliberalism has made an art of using a political crisis to push through destructive policies while the general population is either too distracted or exhausted to cope with or push back against the political wrecking ball.

It appears Chris Reykdal, our newly elected State Superintendent, just can’t resist co-opting the McCleary crisis to push his own agenda outlined in his Education Vision.

Delinking High School Graduation from State Mandated Tests.

The first battle in Reykdal’s shock doctrine like maneuver came in the clash over delinking high school graduation from mandated state tests.

On the campaign trail, Reykdal claimed to be against using end of course exams or EOC’s to determine graduation.

Next came the Reykdal lecture about compromise and the promise of removing these tests sometime in the future.

Then came the push in the press for Reykdal’s Education Vision, which shifts all EOC’s down to 10th grade in order to make way for personalized career pathways and his mandatory high school and beyond learning plans.

During last year’s battle over EOC’s and mandatory high school and beyond plans, one of the suggested compromises was the state removing the current biology EOC as a graduation requirement.

Of course, this wasn’t much of a compromise, since the biology EOC was slatted to be replaced by another test  – which would be tied to the next generation science standards.

This shows just how sneaky all of the political maneuvering in Olympia has become.

The Betrayal

Then Senators Rolfes and Rivers – as requested by the Superintendent of Instruction, Chris Reykdal -dropped Senate Bill 5951, which requires EOCs for graduation and mandates high school and beyond learning plans for every student.

That’s when parents and teachers knew the fix was in.

Hey, at least the Business Roundtable is happy.

This skirmish illustrates one of the big problems with our current political system: Reykdal and his co-conspirators in the legislature don’t have to be personally involved in the soul crushing denial of diplomas to the seniors who get nailed by a high stakes standardized test.

How about this: if these politicians truly believe denying kids diplomas is the right thing to do, they should have to walk their talk.

Instead of creating mandates in Olympia which will be carried out by others, these politicians should have to personally meet with these kids, look them in the eye, and deliver the bad news.

Reykdal’s Education Vision

It should come as no surprise that Reykdal’s Education Vision has ed-reform written all over it. Complete with the co-opted double speak used to push personalized learning.

Remember, the McCleary decision is about the state’s neglect of its Constitutionally mandated job to amply fund basic education. It has NOTHING to do with making a comprehensive redesign to K-12 education, and yet, that’s exactly what Reykdal is proposing.

Here’s some of the troubling parts:

High School and Beyond Learning Plans for Every Student

The transition from middle school to high school is a substantial risk for students. The research shows that if a student fails even one core course (math, science, or English) in the 9th grade, they are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. Washington state will become a leader in adopting a robust universal High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP) for 8 th graders on their way to high school. The middle school provides the plan to the student’s high school, which details the student’s strengths, areas of growth, initial career interests, and a road map of the courses required to graduate from high school successfully. The HSBP tool will be digital and accessible to parents, guardians, counselors, and students. It will also provide the framework for early warning messaging to parents via contemporary digital media tools. Authentic parent engagement needs to meet the needs of the 21st century.

 

Forcing kids to choose a career in 8th grade is bad enough. Using 10th grade exams plus student career interest to build a graduation pathway is ludicrous.

Will Bill Gate’s alma mater, Lakeside, be implementing high school and beyond plans for every student and ditching their well rounded liberal arts curriculum in favor of graduation pathways?

I don’t think so.

I also can’t let pass the idea that authentic parent engagement is somehow equivalent to using digital messaging tools.

21st Century Tools to Engage Parents and Guardians

Parent or guardian involvement is a foundational piece to a child’s success in school. Many Washington school districts are already using software systems specifically designed for parent or guardian access. On these tools, a parent or guardian can view their child’s grades, class schedule, attendance, missing assignments, and more. Some tools also have a built-in translator for our families whose primary language is not English. As it stands now, parents and guardians must register themselves to these tools, because they are not automatically registered with their student’s enrollment. They also must register for alerts to tell them if their child was absent, if they have a late assignment, or others. To foster more open communication between schools and families and to reduce student absenteeism, parents and guardians should be automatically registered within these software systems for automatic notifications of their child’s progress in school. This will require a substantial redesign and scalability of these tools so they are powered effectively on mobile devices and in more platforms.

We should be using 21st century tools to better connect students, parents and guardians, and schools to ensure students are attending class and are on track to meeting their individual plan.

Sorry, this is student surveillance being sold as parental engagement. Automatic registration of parents for various software systems run by the state also reeks of big brother.

$14.7 million to overhaul K-12 accounting and data systems

And, of course, OSPI is going to need a whole bunch of money to build a new data system.

Provide $14.7 million to overhaul K-12 accounting and data systems to ensure compliance with new basic education funding frameworks and local levy restrictions, state and federal accountability standards, and the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards. Funds will also be used for continued sharing of educational resources across districts, increased protection of OSPI’s student and educator data, and additional performance monitoring to better manage grant funding.

Conclusion

Sorry for all of the bad news.

We may not be able to stop all of the dirty dealings happening around McCleary, but we should vow never to forget them either.

-Carolyn Leith

Update:

On a positive note, you can support Sen Chase’s bill to fully fund education. Visit this link to learn more.

Questions We Should Be Asking About “Future Ready” Schools

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How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays?

Editor’s note: Original post written for Wrench in the Gears and re-published with permission. Visit Wrench in the Gears for more information on the danger of “learning eco-systems.” -Carolyn Leith 

Questions we should be asking about “Future Ready” schools

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How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays? How much time do we have before certified human teachers are replaced by “Task Rabbit” pathway designers and AI personal “tutors?” Before we lose all expectations for privacy surrounding how and when we access our educations? Before the entirety of our educational lives becomes consolidated under a unique ID number and its associated digital shadow?

Online learning is claiming ever-larger blocks of instructional time in bricks and mortar schools. Budgets prioritize technology purchases over investments in human staff and facilities. Increasingly responsibility for assessment is being taken away from teachers and placed under the purview of data dashboards and black boxes that monitor in minute detail our children’s academic and social-emotional “progress” towards standards we had no part in setting.

For all of these reasons, we need to take a critical look at school redesign programs that are showing up in communities across the nation. Our government is rolling these initiatives out right now in coordination with think tanks, philanthropies, and the education technology sector. If thousands of superintendents nationwide are signing on to “Future Ready Schools” it is imperative that as citizens we start considering the far reaching consequences a data-driven, technology-mediated system of public education will have for the health and wellbeing of our children and our democracy.

As we move into the era of the quantified self. I find myself worrying. I worry a lot. I worry that we should be asking questions, a lot of questions, and that our window for questioning is shrinking by the day.

Many who spend their days in our nation’s schools have been put into positions where they are almost compelled to welcome the concept of “school redesign.” They have been living for years in the test-and-punish nightmare that No Child Left Behind created. They’ve been coping with austerity budgets, toxic buildings, staff shortages, lack of respect, frozen wages, and the ongoing challenge of meeting the needs of students living in poverty with far too few resources at their disposal.

Current conditions in many of our nation’s schools are appalling, and that is by design. It is through this dissatisfaction with our current situation that they hope to accomplish a shift away from a “standardized” education based on a single high-stakes test given at the end of the year to a “personalized” digital education that employs ongoing online data collection as children progress through the curriculum year round.

So with that in mind, I invite you to consider the questions below. Hopefully they will give you some ideas you can use to start your own conversations with parents, teachers, and school board members in your own community. In my heart I believe the 21st century schools parents and human teachers desire for their children are very different from the version being pushed, behind closed doors, by the educational technology sector.

Questions we should be asking about school redesign and “Future Ready Schools:”

Technology-mediated education is considered to be a disruptive force. Many “innovative” 21st century education approaches seek to undermine traditional concepts like “seat time,” the Carnegie Unit, age-based grade levels, the centrality of teachers in classrooms, report cards, diplomas and to extend credit-based learning beyond the school building itself. Before moving forward with these ideas, shouldn’t there be a wider public discussion about which aspects of traditional schooling we want to retain moving forward? Disruption for the sake of creating new markets for businesses is an insufficient reason to dismantle neighborhood schools.

Why should we allow our children to be human subjects in this grand data science experiment? This is particularly troublesome given the fact that ethics codes for data scientists are not nearly as well developed as codes of conduct for bio-medical research.

What are the implications of expanded 1:1 device use and screen time on children’s health and emotional states?

How does the use of embedded “stealth” assessments contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society in the United States?

What overlap exists between data analysis used to monitor national security interests and data analysis used to assess educational content and activities in our nation’s schools? How does the Office of Educational Technology interface with the Department of Defense and how comfortable are the American people with those relationships? See xAPI or Tin Can or Douglas Noble’s 1991 extensively-researched book “Classroom Arsenal: Military Research, Information Technology, and Public Education” for additional background information.

As nano-technology advances make wearable devices more commonplace, shouldn’t parents have the right to refuse the collection of live data streams on behalf of their children? What types of monitoring (bio-metric and otherwise) have been enabled through the expanded presence of devices in our schools? Cameras, microphones, touch screens, and fit bits for example?

While personalized learning platforms tout their “individualization,” to what extent do these programs recognize our children’s humanity? As systems thinking becomes embedded within public education policy, are our children being valued as unique human beings possessed of free will, or merely as data points to be controlled and managed?

Feedback loops influence human behavior. In what ways could large-scale implementation of adaptive education programs and online educational gaming platforms contribute to the collective brainwashing of our children?

Personalized education means that algorithms decide what educational content your child CAN see, and what content they won’t see. Is it the duty of education to expose children to a wide range of content that will broaden their view of the world? Or is it the role of an adaptive learning program to feed the child information for which they have already expressed a preference? Consider the implications of a “Facebook” model of education.

How much data is too much? Data is never neutral. Who is collecting the data and to what end? Data is always a reflection of the ideology in which it is collected. Why should we trust data more than the professional expertise of human teachers?

We caution children about their online presence, but through the imposition of digital curriculum we are forcing them to create virtual educational identities at very young ages. Should that worry us? What are the implications of our children having digital surrogates/avatars that are linked to comprehensive data sets of academic and social-emotional information? Do we really understand the risks?

Who owns the intellectual property that students create on school-managed cloud-based servers? Do they have the right to extract their work at will?

What roles do teacher education programs and certification policies play in furthering a technology-mediated approach to public education?

Will students enrolled in private schools have their data collected at the same level as public school students? Is privacy something that will become ultimately be available only to the rich and elite? Will we allow that to happen?

Should it be the basic human right of all children to have access, if they choose, to a public education model in which humans teach one another in (non-digital) community in an actual school building?

-Wrench in the Gears

ACT study: Common Core, not ready for prime time

Reposted from Truth in American Education:

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ACT: Common Core Does Not Reflect College Readiness in Some Aspects

ACT released a study called the ACT National Curriculum Study that demonstrates, once again, that Common Core does not prepare students for college the way that advocates have claimed that it does.

ACT first explained they have their own college readiness standards.

Over the past several years, much conversation has taken place about college and career readiness standards. Most of this has emanated from the creation, adoption, and implementation—as well as the politicization—of the Common Core State Standards. ACT was pleased to offer information about readiness to the Common Core development effort, but we should be clear that ACT’s college and career readiness assessments have always been based on its own empirical research and longitudinal data.

The ACT College and Career Readiness Standards describe the skills and knowledge that matter most to success beyond high school. Because of ACT’s extensive research and validation efforts, its College and Career Readiness Standards capture what is a priority for success in different content areas for college and career. ACT college and career readiness assessments provide reporting categories that align directly with ACT’s College and Career Readiness Standards strands to help with score interpretation and to provide actionable insights for improvement.

In their conclusion they found discrepancies with Common Core and what some educators consider to be college readiness.

Although standards are developed to help ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and career in English language arts and mathematics, some results of the ACT National Curriculum Survey suggest that some state standards may not reflect college readiness in some aspects.

In English Language Arts nding 2, high school teachers and perhaps some middle school teachers may be emphasizing certain approaches to writing over others due to a concern for source-based writing in response to the Common Core State Standards. But if so, college instructors appear to value some key features of source-based writing (the ability to analyze source texts and summarize other authors’ ideas) much less than the ability to generate sound ideas—a skill applicable across much broader contexts.

In Mathematics nding 1, some early elementary school teachers report that they are still teaching some of the topics omitted from the Common Core State Standards at certain early grade levels, perhaps in part because the teachers perceive that students are entering their classrooms unprepared for the demands that later mathematics courses will make of them.

Also in finding 1, less than half of middle school and high school teachers believe that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics are aligned “a great deal” or “completely” with college instructors’ expectations for college readiness.

To read the study, go to Truth in American Education.

Related article:

Study shows the Common Core PARCC test does not determine college readiness

What’s the big secret about the SBAC and PARCC test questions?

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Back in the day, after I took a test and it was graded, I got my test paper back to see what questions I got wrong. It was part of the learning process.

It seems these days that Pearson doesn’t want the students or teachers to know what the questions are, therefore what questions each student needs to review and focus on to further educate themselves.

It has now gotten to the point where if ANYONE shares one question on the PARCC or SBAC tests, they are to be censored and threatened with legal action.

This is education?

An article was written by a teacher about the Common Core Standards PARCC test (the equivalent of the SBAC used in Washington State) and posted on the blog Outrage on the Page. It described the type of questions given, with examples of specific questions and critiqued each one superbly.

The people at PARCC/Pearson, weren’t happy about this and threatened the publisher of the article with legal action.

Because of the threats, the questions were deleted from the article.

Tweets about the article were taken down and Diane Ravitch’s post on the article disappeared off of her blog overnight. Because of these actions, I and other education journalists are reposting the original article that was written by the teacher and sharing it broadly on our websites as well as twitter and Facebook.

Please share widely the following thoughtful article written by an educator about the PARRC test.

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according toScholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. EvenCCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says:“Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

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Post script by the editor:

I just came across this cartoon on Facebook and wanted to share it.

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A related article:

NJ Teachers Union President: PARCC Is a Flawed Assessment