Myron Tribus was my mentor and teacher and so when a mutual friend wrote this, I asked Marion for permission to republish this. I suggest that you look up Myron in Google and while you are at it, visit http://www.marionbrady.com.
By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.
By Marion Brady
If you fly, thank Myron Tribus for helping make your flight safer. He played a major role in the development of the equipment that keeps airliner wings free of ice.
Myron was a captain in the Army Air Force during World War II. Later, he was a gas turbine design engineer for General Electric, dean of Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering, senior vice president for research & engineering for Xerox, an author of scientific papers and books, director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and co-founder of Exergy, Inc.
What brought Myron from California to my house in Florida for three days many years ago was our shared concern about what kids were and weren’t being taught. We both believed that the traditional curriculum hadn’t adapted to the 20th Century — much less the 21st — and that the reforms being promoted by business interests and politicians weren’t just making the situation worse but blocking real reform.
Myron agreed with me that deciding what knowledge is most important, andusing systems theory to simplify the organization of that knowledge, were logical first steps in real education reform, and that’s what we talked about.
I’ve stopped thinking I’ll live to see those ideas being taken seriously. Today’s reformers take it for granted that what was taught in the past is fine for the future, and their ideas about the organization of knowledge begin and end with the simplistic, knowledge-fragmenting “Common Core State Standards.” The latest evidence is the just-released report from a committee chaired by Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein titled, “U.S. Education Reform and National Security.”
That said, I can’t bring myself to simply walk away from the educational catastrophe that’s been unfolding since the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and other rightwing groups took control of education policy in the 1980s and pulled the rest of the political spectrum with them. Concern for the educations of my nine great-grandchildren, for their children, and for their children’s children, won’t let me desert the field.
I’ve got a modest proposal. No Child Left Behind, and now Race to the Top, have made standardized tests the sole measure of educational quality. What makes those kinds of tests acceptable is the ridiculous notion that machines can measure brains, but the campaign to discredit teacher judgment of student performance has been so successful there’s no going back. Standardized tests are here to stay. Attacks on them are dismissed as lame efforts by teachers to avoid being held accountable.
Manufactured tests, then, must be accepted, but must be made to do good rather than harm. The practice of testing what’s taught is out the window. Now, what gets tested is what gets taught, so the simplest, most direct way to improve what’s taught is to improve the tests.
Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, says kids need to be taught “higher order” thinking skills. If teachers teach to tests, and standardized test items require the use of higher order thinking skills, those skills will be taught.
I propose that all standardized tests test higher order thinking skills.
What, exactly, are “thinking skills?” Asked, most professional educators will make lists something like the one below. They’ll also generally agree that every skill on the list except the first one—recalling—is a higher order thought process.
Science test question: “You’ve studied some of the ways that plants and animals have evolved to protect themselves from harm. Which of the following five ways is NOT a self-protection strategy?”
To answer, the test taker just has to remember something read or heard. That’s recalling, and it’s not a higher order thinking skill.
Science test question: “You’ve studied some of the ways that plants and animals have evolved to protect themselves from harm. Choose one of those self-protection strategies and explain how it could be adapted to protect convenience store clerks from harm.”
To answer, the test taker has to put an idea that’s been learned to practical use. That’s applying, and it’s a higher order thinking skill.
History test question: We’ve been studying big ideas called ‘shared assumptions’ that help hold human societies together. In the spaces provided, list four of those assumptions.”
To answer, the test taker just has to remember something read or heard. That’s recalling, and it’s not a higher order thinking skill.
History test question: “We’ve been studying big ideas called ‘shared assumptions’ that help hold human societies together. Below is a copy of a page from the 1777 New England Primer that uses two-line verses based on the Bible to teach the letters of the alphabet. Based on the verses, what assumption about basic human nature seems to have been shared by 18th Century Puritans?”
To answer, the test taker has to draw inferences from the verses. Inferring is a higher order thinking skill.
If higher order thinking skills are tested, teachers will teach them. Those who don’t know how will quickly learn.
Of course, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service, and other test manufacturers aren’t going to volunteer to test student-initiated higher order thinking skills. Neither are the politicians they help elect and re-elect going to make them even try to do so unless they think voters give them no alternative.
So voters should give them no alternative. Unless politicians and test manufacturers can make a convincing case for not teaching the young to think, they should be told what they’ve been telling teachers who say standardized tests are a waste of time and money: “No excuses!”
It’s likely that nothing short of binding agreements between states and test manufacturers will yield the new tests. To that end, in appropriate legal language, contracts should make clear that (a) every test question in every subject will evaluate a particular, named thinking skill, (b) every test will evaluate a balanced mix of all known thinking skills, and (c) a panel of experts not connected to test manufacturers or politicians will preview all test items to assure contract compliance. No excuses.
Fairtest, Parents Across America, United Opt Out National, and other state and local organizations have strategies in place to try to persuade. Petitions and referendums invite signers. Parents, grandparents — indeed, all who care about kids and country — should get on board.
No more multimillion dollar checks for tests that no one but manufacturers are allowed to see. No more tests the pass-fail cut scores of which can be raised and lowered to make political points. No more kids labeled and discarded, every one with a brain wired to do all sorts of amazing things. If storing trivia in short-term memory doesn’t happen to be one of those things, that shouldn’t put them out of school and on the street.
Postscript: Myron hasn’t been well for a long time, so we haven’t talked in years. I last saw him at his 80th birthday party. A documentary film crew from Russia was there. When I asked why, they said that in Russian scientific circles, Myron was a hero.
He’s also one of my heroes—a genuine genius who understood the absolutely critical role that school curricula play in promoting and maintaining societal well-being, and dedicated his pre-illness retirement years to trying to improve it.
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While cheating among students is recognized as part of the educational process, cheating by educators is neither expected nor accepted. Since the institution of high stakes testing, educators cheating has become an issue.
In El Paso, Texas, a third school district has acknowledge that there had been cheating in order to meet federal accountability measures. An outside audit of the San Elizario Independent School District revealed that several students’ credits were manipulated and students were reclassified inappropriately into different grade levels.
A former El Paso School Superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia is in federal prison for devising a similar scheme.
Teachers ‘dropout” at higher rates than students’ dropout. The teacher dropout rate is 46 percent over five years. Many believe that the reasons teachers leave is because of students or parents.
A new study published in the Elementary School Journal finds that the main reason new teachers leave the profession is not the insane workload or the lack of resources but, their principals.
Peter Youngs, an associate professor of education policy at Michigan State University, and Ben Pogodzinski of Wayne State University, surveyed 184 beginning teachers in Michigan and Indiana on the factors that might influence them to leave or stay in the profession. Topping the teachers’ list, the researchers found, was how well a school’s principal works with the staff.
The quality of the relationship with their principal was a stronger predictor of the teachers’ intent to remain in the profession than factors related to workloads, administrative duties, resource availability, or the frequency of professional-development opportunities.
“The focus,” he said, “would be on how principals could increase their knowledge of setting a healthy, productive school climate and understanding ways that their actions and leadership can impact new teachers’ attitudes and outcomes.”
Anyone who reads this regularly reads this blog knows that I have a friend by the name of Stephen Sroka. As you read this, you will learn more about Steve and his brilliance and willingness to share and help children. Feel free to contact him and tell him how much you have enjoyed reading this piece.
I dealt with school violence before it was fashionable and funded. To me, any child killed anywhere, anytime, is a huge tragedy. But decades ago, when children were killed in the inner city of Cleveland, you probably never heard about them. When the killings moved to suburbs such as Columbine, they became national news. The Newtown shootings shocked the U.S. like no other school violence. Now, school violence prevention is front-page news. Working with school safety for more than 30 years, I have tried to help schools and communities keep our youth safe and healthy so that they can learn more and live better. Here are several lessons that I have learned.
School violence can happen anywhere, but not here. After school shootings, I often heard “I cannot believe that it can happen here.” As we have learned, school violence can happen anywhere. But don’t be surprised after the next tragedy if someone says, “I cannot believe that it can happen here.” Denial is human.
Be prepared, not scared. Schools are not powerless. Awareness, education, and advocacy can help break down the attitude that it can’t happen here. Schools and districts need to have a school-community emergency plan of action in place for students, staff, and parents. It should be both practiced and proactive. Practice drills are crucial. Denial allows violence to grow unseen. Preparation allows violence to be dealt with as soon as it is seen.
Social media has changed how we communicate. Texts, tweets, and Facebook posts, which were not around at the time of the Columbine shootings, now offer instant information—and misinformation. Before problems occur, students need to be part of a dialogue with parents and educators about how schools can responsibly use social media to make schools safer. Social media may prove to be one of the best new tools to help keep our schools safe and parents informed, and to encourage students to take ownership of their schools and education.
Bullying is a symptom, and mental health is the issue. Bullying is a hot topic and often is blamed for many of the heinous actions that result in deaths. Bullying is serious and needs to be addressed. Some experts today do not see bullying as a cause, but rather as a symptom of a mental health problem. In fact, bullying is often mentioned as a cause for violence even when it is not, as with the Columbine shooting. Issues such as mental illness, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, anger, family violence, and substance abuse are often at the root of such destructive behaviors.
Treat the illness, not the symptom. Many professionals would like to provide a comprehensive mental health approach for the schools, families, and community. Perhaps depression screening for all students may prove to be more helpful in identifying those at risk of hurting themselves as well as others. Some experts are now suggesting that teachers be taught mental health first aid to assist those in crisis. As we often see, hurt people hurt people; and the use of mental health professionals, such as school counselors, school social workers, school nurses, school psychologists, and school resource officers may enable us to help people help people.
Building relationships is key. We may need more metal detectors, but we must have more student detectors. The Secret Service found that school shooters usually tell other kids, but not adults. Adults trusted by kids may be given life saving information. We need to put a human face on school safety. Teaching to the heart, as well as, to the head to reach the whole child, not only academically, but also to the social, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual dimensions, will help build a school and community of respect. Social emotional learning can help students learn in a safe environment. We often say to police officers that you have a more powerful weapon in your heart than in your holster to make your school safer. School safety needs to be built in, not tacked on. Students respond to people, not programs. You cannot mandate kindness, but you can nurture it by building relationships with communication, collaboration, cultural awareness, and caring. Words can kill, and words can give life. You choose.
When kindness fails, you need to be aggressive, forceful, and effective. An emergency plan of action needs to be in place, practiced and proactive. Teachers and students should be trained and allowed to practice lockdown drills. Parents need a low-tech and high-tech communication system for responding to school emergencies. Gone are the days of Columbine when police waited for hours to enter the school. Today police and community emergency response teams are trained for active shooter/rapid response, to take out the shooter ASAP.
Healing is personal. Schools need to be prepared to deal with the consequences of violence immediately and long after the incident. Individuals react to grief in a wide range of ways, and there is no best way to grieve. Where some people need to process the grief immediately, others need to be left alone. Grief has no specific timeline for everyone.
School safety has entered uncharted waters. When I started working in school safety decades ago, the weapon of choice for school violence was a box cutter or knife, now it is automatic weapons. What will be next? The unthinkable is now doable, and probably unpreventable. The Newtown shootings raise disturbing issues and questions. Controversial approaches, which once would have been considered ridiculous, are now being debated, such as arming teachers and having teachers and students take out the shooter by any means possible. Guns, metal detectors, mental health issues, zero tolerance, and other emotional issues make for complex and difficult decisions. A voice of reason is often lost in the heat of hysteria.
There are no guarantees, only intelligent alternatives. Today we are better prepared to deal with and prevent school violence than we were in the earlier days in Cleveland and Columbine. There still is no 100-percent guarantee that our schools will be free from violence. There are no easy solutions, but there are intelligent alternatives to reduce the risks. It’s time for all schools to explore these alternatives. For some,
Stephen Sroka, PhD, is an adjunct assistant professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and president of Health Education Consultants. He has worked on school violence issues worldwide for more than 30 years. Connect with Sroka on his website or by e-mail at email@example.com.
A number of state governors and legislatures are changing the way that public education is being funded. They are funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home.
This has already happened in Indiana, Alabama, New Jersey and Arizona. In Indiana, the Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program as constitutional. In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley signed tax-credit legislation that allowed families to take their children out of failing public schools and enroll them in private schools, or at least in better-performing public schools. And in New Jersey, Governor Chris Chrisite inserted $2 million into his budget so low-income children can obtain private school vouchers.
Proponents say tax-credit and voucher programs offer families a way to escape failing public schools. But critics warn that by drawing money away from public schools, such programs weaken a system left vulnerable after years of crippling state budget cuts — while showing little evidence that students actually benefit.
“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.”
Currently, 17 states offer 33 programs that allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit advocate for school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs that give individuals or corporations tax reductions if they donate to state-run scholarship funds.
The Arizona Legislature last May expanded the eligibility criteria for education savings accounts, which are private bank accounts into which the state deposits public money for certain students to use for private school tuition, books, tutoring and other educational services. Open only to special-needs students at first, the program has been expanded to include children in failing schools, those whose parents are in active military duty and those who are being adopted. One in five public school students — roughly 220,000 children — will be eligible in the coming school year.
Some parents of modest means are surprised to discover that the education savings accounts put private school within reach.
These state efforts come at a particularly challenging time for public schools. Their budgets suffered severely during the recession, and they are now facing pressure to conform to new curriculum standards and to evaluate teacher performance.In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that school vouchers did not violate the Constitution’s separation of church and state, even though many families use the public money to send their children to religious schools. Many states, however, still have constitutional clauses prohibiting the financing of religious institutions with public money, which is why some of the programs face legal challenges. Voucher opponents also have filed suits based on state constitutional guarantees of public education.
The Supreme Court in Louisiana heard an appeal by a group of parents who are currently using vouchers after a lower court upheld a challenge to the state’s voucher program. They argued that children enrolled in failing public schools had the right to a high-quality education.
Critics say schools that accept vouchers or tax credit scholarships often filter out students with special needs, and that families already sending their children to private school use the public programs to subsidize their tuition. It is also not clear that students who attend private schools using vouchers get better educations, as many do not have to take the annual standardized tests that public school students do. Research tracking students in voucher programs has also not shown clear improvements in performance.In Arizona — which, over the past five years, cut more of its K-12 budget than any other state. The savings accounts have many powerful supporters, including Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer. Unlike vouchers, these accounts allow the money to follow the child from one school year to the next. (Scholarships total roughly $3,500 a year, or the state’s portion of school per-pupil funding.)
The school boards association and the state’s teachers union, among others, have challenged the savings accounts in court on the grounds that they violate a constitutional amendment banning spending public money on private schools. (Direct vouchers, begun in 2006, were deemed unconstitutional in 2009 for that reason.)
Anthony Elementary School’s 420 students come from low-income, Spanish speaking families. Yet for the 2011-2012 school year, 70 percent of Anthony Elementary school’s students test proficient in math; while 62.4 percent tested as proficient in reading. Comparing that to New Mexico’s statewide averages where 51 percent were proficient in reading and 43 percent were proficient in math.
Anthony is the only school in the Gadsden district to get an “A” from the state Department of Public Education.
How was the school able to achieve these results? If you walk through the halls of the school, you cannot help but notice that the walls are lined with college pennants. The school motto is “No Excuses! We’re a college-Bound Campus!.” The faculty has set a goal to improve test scores by 10 percent each year. Students are tested each quarter so that teachers know where they are, what gaps exist and where the instructional focus needs to be.
Sounds like a winning focus to me.
Since 2000, Catholic school attendance has fallen23.4 percent or a loss of 621,583 students Catholic schools used to educate one out of every eight children in the U.S.
The obvious question is why enrollment has fallen if Catholic schools have done as admirable a job educating disadvantaged students as they claim? The answer is not the result of lack of demand but of the inability of poor parents to pay tuition, which has risen because of the growth of tuition-free charter schools and mounting personnel costs. Until the 1960s, most teachers in Catholic schools were nuns who never took a cent in salary. Today, nearly 96 percent of the faculty are lay teachers. As a result, Catholic schools have been forced to increase tuition to stay operational.
Graduation rates and standardized test scores in Catholic schools outpace those in traditional public schools. But it’s important to remember that Catholic schools can enroll and expel at will, are not required by law to accept special education students, and can alter the curriculum as they alone see fit. Public schools have no such freedom in any of these areas. These advantages notwithstanding, the greatest appeal of Catholic schools to parents of all faiths is the discipline and values-based approach to learning. Parents want the structure that Catholic schools offer and that many public schools do not.
The US News & World Report reported that “many of today’s college graduates” move back home after graduation in an effort to save money, “as nearly 80 percent of those currently living at home say they don’t have enough money put away to lead the kind of independent life they want.” The piece notes that “the high cost of education is partly to blame,” and “sparse jobs and low starting salaries make it virtually impossible to support themselves.” Meanwhile, “moving back home can lead to arguments between kids and their parents and can potentially damage their relationship in the long term,” but “parents who prepare for these challenges before greeting their kids at the front door have a better chance of avoiding these hardships.”
The following comes from Diane Ravitch blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/04/12/tennessee-starvation-bill-deferred-for-now/:
Good news from Tennessee: The State Legislature will not consider a bill to cut the welfare benefits of families whose children do poorly in school. At least not this year.
Senator Stacey Campfield took note of the fact that several prominent Republican senators planned to oppose the bill, as did the governor.
And Senator Campfield said “we all have true passion to get parents involved.”
So, now we understand his motive. He actually believes that starving the family would encourage parental involvement!
One of the opponents of the bill worried that if the family lost income, the children might be blamed and beaten.
This may be another heartening example of the power of public outrage, the letters, phone calls, and outreach that convinced legislators in Tennessee not to make themselves a national laughing stock.
Getting Jon Stewart’s attention may have turned the tide on this dreadful proposal.
Please do not try to convince me that politicians are intelligent. Imagine taking away food from families in order to convince parents to get involved in their child’s education.
It was true. According to the story, a woman named Judy Harris who owns an Orlando care facility for children the Russell House, said Michael came to her shortly after he was born, blind and missing most of his brain, and has been there ever since. The story says in part:
A teacher works with him twice a week for an hour, but Harris wouldn’t call it schooling.
“Michael loves music, he loves to hear, and he loves for you to talk to him and things like that, but as far as testing him, or questioning him on what is an apple and a peach, what is the difference? Michael wouldn’t know what that is,” explained Harris.
Imagine the shock from Harris when she was told two months ago Michael would have to take a standardized assessment test, similar to the FCAT.
Florida law requires that all students take a version of the FCAT, though Stewart is trying to get that changed legislatively.
You can watch a News 13 video about Michael and Harris, with footage of them together, along with Roach and Stewart, by clicking here.”
Yes, you read it correctly, a boy with a partial brain was forced to take a high stakes, standardized test.
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