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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 08/13/2010

Data, testing, accountability: The wrong words for reform

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is educator and author Sam Chaltain. An organizational change consultant, he works with schools, school districts, and public and private sector companies to help them create healthy, high-functioning learning environments. Chaltain is the former director of the Forum for Education & Democracy, an education advocacy organization, and the founding director of the Five Freedoms Project, a national program that helps K-12 educators create democratic learning communities. This post first appeared on his blog, which you can find here.

By Sam Chaltain
On the radio one recent morning, I heard three different stories about public education reform. In each story, I heard the same three words — data, testing, and accountability.

Before I get any more depressed about how uninspiring this language makes me feel, I have a proposal to make: Let’s stop the madness and start identifying some new words that can more accurately describe the changes we seek for children.

Fittingly, the person who first made me aware of the power of language was none other than William Shakespeare, whose plays I used to teach in a variety of classrooms across the boroughs of New York City.

Hamlet was always my favorite. He is, like most teenagers, a searcher, occasionally brooding and introspective. He has visions of his future that don’t align with the visions the adults in his life have for him. He is an artist, an actor, and a dreamer – a person more comfortable in the world of words than the world of actions. And he is in love. But Hamlet is also the future king of Denmark, which means he is bound by custom to avenge his father’s murder – a duty that leads to his untimely death, in no small part because the act of killing goes against his very being.

No matter your age, then, to read the play is to watch a fellow human being struggle between staying true to his nature or accepting the role society has assigned him. Hamlet’s struggle also illuminates an essential question of human nature, not coincidentally posed by the first two words of the play – “Who’s there?”

This is not a question many of us choose to ask of ourselves. Instead, we keep busy with work and other distractions. We ignore the inherent, unarticulated contradictions between our internal passions and our external actions. And we wonder why we are left feeling unfulfilled.

Everything we do as individuals is determined by who we think we are — or, in the case of school reform, by what we define as our ultimate goals. And yet part of Hamlet’s challenge is that throughout his struggle, his only recourse for greater self-understanding is to “unpack [his] heart with words.”

This tension between thoughts, words and actions continues throughout the play. At one point, Hamlet finds himself standing directly behind the man who killed his father – the King’s brother, Claudius. All the young prince needs to do is unsheathe his sword and complete his duty. But Hamlet feels paralyzed, even as he struggles to talk himself into the act. He tries to “suit the action to the word, the word to the action” – but to no effect. Later, Hamlet bemoans the futility of “words, words, words” – at once his (and our) greatest resource and chief source of frustration.

Shakespeare’s exploration of the relationship between thoughts, words and actions illuminates a universal human tension, and a particular challenge I see reflected in our current efforts to create a more equitable school system: Before any of us can use our talents to make ourselves seen and heard, we must first understand how to “suit the action to the word, [and] the word to the action.”

And before we can ever hope to become the most effective teacher, parent, boss or school leader, we must be willing to do the internal, reflective work necessary to answer the question, “Who’s there?”

If I apply this question to the current reform landscape, it’s unquestionable that the words we use are somehow divorced from the essence of what schooling is all about — helping children unlock the mystery of who they are by acquiring the skills and self-confidence they need to be seen and heard (at college, in their careers, and as citizens in a democracy) in meaningful, responsible ways.

Why is the significance and power of this goal so absent from the most common vocabulary of the current reform movement?

The optimistic side of me says it’s simply because we haven’t thought about it enough. The pessimistic side wonders if it’s because we’re so blinded by the current charade of labeling schools (or reform efforts) as successful or unsuccessful based on a single measure of success that we’ve come of believe our own press clippings: If the scores go up, we really are closing the achievement gap. If the scores stay stagnant or go down, we’ve made no progress whatsoever.

As anyone who has studied Shakespeare knows, a worthy plot line is more complicated than that. And so is the work we have ahead of us.

To get us started in the right direction, I have three simple proposals:

*Every time you find yourself wanting to say data, say information instead. It’s a good thing, for example, that we’re more concerned now with acquiring relevant information about whether or not kids are learning, and how well or poorly our schools are creating healthy learning environments for kids.

But the fact that schools now talk about “Data Days” at their school suggests to me that we’ve gone a little too far in the direction of valuing the number and not the story behind the number. We need both, and information strikes me as a more neutral term.

*Every time you want to talk about testing, talk about learning instead. Tests will always be a component of our education system. But take a moment to reflect back on your most powerful personal learning experience, and I can guarantee you it did not involve a test.

I know this because I was part of a powerful data-collection campaign — I mean, information-gathering campaign — to uncover the core conditions of a powerful learning environment, based on people’s lived experiences. After hundreds of individual stories were collected, we made a word cloud of the most essential conditions, and, no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention in their life, the top five were challenging, engaging, relevant, supportive and experiential.

So let’s stop playing it safe and focusing on tests that can only skim the surface of what real learning looks like, and let’s start asking ourselves, relentlessly and collaboratively, How can we create more learning opportunities for kids that are challenging, engaging, relevant, supportive and experiential — and how will we know if we’ve succeeded?

*Every time you want to talk about accountability, talk about sustainability instead.

What we seek is not just a system that holds people accountable — after all, the most successful systems are the ones where people are intrinsically motivated to do that for themselves. No, what we seek is a system that can sustain its capacity to use meaningful information to improve the overall learning conditions for children.

And in case you think this is flowery progressivism at its worst, you should know that I’m partially basing this notion on the insights of renown business guru Jim Collins, who says the best organizations create environments where employees need no motivation, and leaders trip up when they destroy that drive.

So how do we create such a climate for change? Well, one way would be to start paying more attention to the “words, words, words” we use, and to stop using language that is more likely to de-motivate people than connect them to the core mission of a high-quality public education. The changes we seek, after all, are to bring about a system that can help every child not just learn about “who’s there,” but also acquire the knowledge and skills that will allow them, over the long haul, “to thine own self be true.”|

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By Valerie Strauss  | August 13, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Sam Chaltain  | Tags:  accountability and data, hamlet, sam chaltain, school climate, school reform  
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Comments

Remember the teaching field is mostly female. Therefore they are seen as easier prey than a profession that is mostly male.

They are prey for the politicians who want to use them to pretend they want to improve education. They are prey for journalists who want to use them as a whipping boy for society's problems.

Posted by: educationlover54 | August 13, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for this piece; I agree heartily with the first half of it! Hamlet has everything to do with language and integrity, and your comments on the play are inspiring.

Yet I question your suggestion that we exchange one set of words for another. I can see why you might prefer "information, learning, and sustainability" to "data, testing, and accountability," but the preferred words don't stir up anything in my mind. They are mild and colorless (except for "sustainability," which has a tinge of green). Perhaps the "-tion" and "-ability" suffixes get to me as well.

In education discussion, we do need a common language, and we need to choose and define our terms carefully. Yet any term can turn into jargon. How do we keep language alive and precise? Perhaps by turning to literature, as you have done, and keeping these terms in perspective. Perhaps by reminding ourselves and each other to use words well and be clear about what they mean.

P.S. Tests can be powerful learning experiences; sometimes people come up with ideas under pressure that might not have occurred to them otherwise. And tests can help students pull together and make sense of what they have learned.

Posted by: DianaSenechal | August 13, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Sam Chaltain, for this wonderful re-framing of the current education discussion.

There is a presiding rigidity that comes from desperation at how bad things have gotten. But we need to move forward to a more wholistic approach to our children and education if we are to truly serve them well.

And we need to ensure that efforts to particularly serve low-income communities are visibly "sustainable."

Posted by: 4kids | August 13, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Yes, we need to pay more attention to the words and the ideas behind them so we can create a climate for real change.

In this week's issue of Education Week, President Obama is quoted as saying,

"The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child's education from the moment they step into the classroom."

Did the president really say this or was he misquoted? I ask this because the research quite clearly states that the FAMILY is the single most important factor in a child's education. Mr. Obama himself has echoed this thought in many of his writings, giving credit for his mother, his "folks" and his family for the fact "that I was able to succeed." Mr. Obama actually stated that he would be "committing political malpractice" not to state the truth about what it takes to succeed: the critical support of the family (Essence magazine, March 2010). Does this surprise anyone?

So did President Obama really say that the teacher is the most critical factor in the EDUCATION of a child? If so, is Race to the Top based on a false premise?

Research tells us the teacher is the most important factor in a child's SCHOOLING. Important, yes, but hardly the same as a child's education, which takes place throughout his day and his entire life.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 13, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Diana, I'm particularly struck by your point about the danger of exchanging one set of words for another - amen. And of course my intention is less to say THESE ARE THE WORDS (after all, how excited can people get about "information" over "data"?), and more to say let's pay more attention to the "words, words, words" we use. This was the idea behind a national campaign I helped organize last fall that gathered people's personal stories (check http://rethinklearningnow.com) about their most powerful learning experiences -- whether they took place inside or outside of a traditional school setting. Our intention was to mine the stories for the core conditions of learning that emerged most often across an extremely diverse set of memories -- from 3rd grade classrooms to outdoor adventures to, in one case, a prison sentence. This February, Jossey-Bass will publish a book that gathers 50 of those stories, which are both inspirational and illustrative, and divides them into five sections, representing the five most prevalent conditions of optimal learning environments -- challenging, engaging, relevant, supportive and experiential. My hope is that as a result all of us (or at least more of us) can start asking a different question: not "Did test scores go up or down," but "In what ways are we creating learning environments for kids that are challenging, engaging, relevant, supportive and experiential -- and what sorts of metrics and assessments will help us monitor our own effectiveness and make mid-flight corrections when necessary?" That would be a significant shift, it seems to me. And the way we get there is through language, or, put another way, through a clarity about what it is we really want to see in our schools, and what we really want our schools to provide to our children. Because a mere jump in 3rd and 8th grade math and reading scores sure ain't it.

Posted by: schaltain | August 13, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

How might Race to the Top look if we DID pay careful attention to words and what they mean? Let's restate the premise to mirror what we know about education:

The whole premise of Race to the Top is that PARENTS are the single most important factor in a child's education from the moment of birth until he or she graduates from high school. Teachers are the most important SCHOOL factor.

How would this clarification of words change our goals and modify our strategies? If we based our educational strategies and policies on what we know about how children learn, I think we'd see the following:

A concentration on the first five years of life, including the entire prenatal period;

Healthcare for all children;

An intense effort at parent education;

Strict monitoring of early childhood development with appropriate interventions;

High-quality child development centers for infants and toddlers;

High-quality preschool;

Highly qualified, experienced and SUCCESSFUL teacher/specialists for our most challenging schools;

Ideal teacher-pupil ratio (two to three teachers for a class of twenty) for very disadvantaged children;

Community centers that are open year round in impoverished areas.

I believe we are capable of providing a high-quality education for each American child, but first we have to know what their needs are and decide if we have the political will to help our poorest children. Too many of our past efforts at "educational reform" failed precisely because they were based on false premises and unproven ideas of what might work. Are we doing this again?

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 13, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"the essence of what schooling is all about — helping children unlock the mystery of who they are by acquiring the skills and self-confidence they need to be seen and heard (at college, in their careers, and as citizens in a democracy) in meaningful, responsible ways."

No WONDER public schools are SO messed up. God, glad I worked overtime to make sure my kids never set foot in the public school system.

Posted by: illogicbuster | August 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"So let’s stop playing it safe and focusing on tests that can only skim the surface of what real learning looks like, and let’s start asking ourselves, relentlessly and collaboratively, How can we create more learning opportunities for kids that are challenging, engaging, relevant, supportive and experiential — and how will we know if we’ve succeeded?"
********

A breath of fresh air! Thank you, Sam Chaltain....so much of the current 'reform' going on in education feels so constricting, as if there is no room for breathing, let alone time for reflecting on the kinds of learning opportunities we want for generations to come.

And the focus on words is important - because they do carry power; the constant refrain of data,testing,accountability tied in with reform gives me chills - and a picture of children being imprisoned in a robotic atmosphere where their humanity and creative spirits wither.

Sam is right; we have to 'stop playing it safe' and have courage, or from the French meaning, a 'rage of the heart'.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | August 13, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

One more point:

The primary reason why the first five years is so critical is because "the focus on words" is so very important at that level too. Many people do not realize that the language development of the young child, closely related to cognition, is the precursor to later academic success. Every teacher knows that the achievement gap is already well established by kindergarten; it is represented by the vast differences in the vocabularies of advantaged children and their disadvantaged peers. This is where Race to the Top should be placing its emphasis.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 13, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

On election day the President at a school in Wisconsin “lectured teachers, students and parents on the need to “step up their games” if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110403864_2.html

...................................

The entire premise of President Obama is a falsehood and the children of America are not responsible for the economic well being of our nation.

Race To The top is simply a program of a President that will not step up to his own responsibilities and would rather pretend that others are at fault.

When President Eisenhower told the nation in the 1957 that it was important to have more scientists and engineers he did not formulate a program such as Race To The Top.

He created legislation for more Federal scholarships and for providing more funds for schools to teach the sciences and engineering.

He did not tell teachers, children, and parents that they needed to step up their game.

A program such as Race To The Top in 1957 would have been laughed at and seen as a fraud.

President Eisenhower would have been laughed at if he told Congress there were mathematical formulas to evaluate teachers.

We will spend in two years 28 billion for worthless Afghan policemen and the total costs for Afghanistan for two years will be close to 200 billion dollars.

Where are the new hundreds of billions that the Federal government will spend on public education if children are so important for our economic future?

Time to recognize that this President in public education, as in so many area of government, is only concerned with pretense and shifting the blame to others.

The educators can argue as much as they like about the value of dubious parts of Race To The Top, but when Race To The Top will only spend 4 billion in two years while the United States will spend 28 billion for worthless Afghan policemen it is obvious that Race To The Top is only a fraud.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Data, testing, accountability

Data: body count.

Testing: Require severed ears from friendly Mountyard fighters.

Accountability: More severed ears more money.

How data, testing, and accountability aided the United States in winning the war in Vietnam.

Data, testing, and accountability are all that are needed to improve public education.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Data, testing, accountability

Data: Number of voters in room.

Testing: Electronic measurement of response of voters to phrases and ideas in speech of candidate.

Accountability: Fire political hacks who scored low on their suggested phrases and ideas, while bonuses to political hacks who scored high on their suggested phrases and ideas.

How data, testing, and accountability can be used to make you President of the United States.

Data, testing, and accountability are all that are needed to improve public education.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

New books to be shortly released.

Data, Testing, and Accountability to Improve You Sex Life

Data, Testing, and Accountability in Selecting a Divorce Lawyer

Data, Testing, and Accountability for Fighting Baldness

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Data, testing, and accountability for learning

Data: Test result.

Testing: Standard test.

Accountability: Electric shock to student with voltage and length of time of shock based upon test results.

Guaranteed to increase interests of students in school work.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Data, testing, and accountability

Data: American people.

Testing: Stupid ideas of American Presidents.

Accountability: None.

Americans are willing to accept invading Iraq because of fears of Bin Laden under their beds, and nation building in Afghanistan while their economy is crumbling. Americans are even willing to accept that children are solely responsible for their economic well being.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Linda regarding your concern about Obama's statement:

"The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child's education from the moment they step into the classroom."

Note the last phrase "from the moment they step into the classroom."

In other words, teachers are not a factor in education OUTSIDE of the classroom.

He may not realize himself what he's saying.

If not, someone needs to explain it to him quickly. If so, he needs to make it very clear what that means and also address children's educational needs outside the classroom - where they spend most of their time.

Posted by: efavorite | August 13, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"the essence of what schooling is all about — helping children unlock the mystery of who they are by acquiring the skills and self-confidence they need to be seen and heard (at college, in their careers, and as citizens in a democracy) in meaningful, responsible ways."

No WONDER public schools are SO messed up. God, glad I worked overtime to make sure my kids never set foot in the public school system.

Posted by: illogicbuster
..........................
How can you be so wrong and go against our wise president?

...teachers, students and parents need to “step up their games” if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy.

Our President knows the real responsibilities of children and should be followed in everything.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

In this week's issue of Education Week, President Obama is quoted as saying,

"The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child's education from the moment they step into the classroom."

So did President Obama really say that the teacher is the most critical factor in the EDUCATION of a child? If so, is Race to the Top based on a false premise?

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher
.......................................
School kids get lesson on education reform

He lectured teachers, students and parents on the need to "step up their games" if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy. It was Obama as scold in chief. page 2.

Obama also brought Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss the administration's "Race to the Top" grants, billions of dollars designed to encourage states to adopt reforms such as measuring teacher performance by student achievement. page 1.

The whole article is still available:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110403864.html

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Linda regarding your concern about Obama's statement:

He may not realize himself what he's saying.

Posted by: efavorite
.........................
efavorite the President has clearly stated that teachers, students and parents need to "step up their games" if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy.

There should be no seeking of alternative views of this President.

This is the premise that Race To The Top is based upon.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

How to save 4 to 5 billion dollars and reach the goals of the President in public education.

School kids get lesson on education reform

He lectured teachers, students and parents on the need to "step up their games" if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy. It was Obama as scold in chief.

American children in the future can be easily made able to compete with India.

Lesson plans can easily be created to teach American children to accept 1/15 of American salaries when they leave school, and American companies will hire them instead of workers in India. There should also be handouts that can be mailed to parents so that parents can be of aid in teaching their children this lesson.

This at most will only cost a few million dollars and most of money for Race To The Top can be saved. Remember this program is not for improving education but our future economic well being.

Most of the millions of American lost jobs are going to India and only few American jobs are going to China, so this approach is very cost effective.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110403864.html

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Every teacher knows that the achievement gap is already well established by kindergarten; it is represented by the vast differences in the vocabularies of advantaged children and their disadvantaged peers. This is where Race to the Top should be placing its emphasis.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher
..............................
The achievement gap is irrelevant as so are so many other problems in education.

Only problems that affect the United States ability to compete with India and China in the global economy are important.

Remember that American companies will be forced to use the cheap labor of India to develop the standardized tests and computer software needed to evaluate teachers based upon these standardized tests that are requirements of Race To The Top.

The only concern of our public educational policy must be to correct such problems since our American children are responsible for our future economy.
......................
School kids get lesson on education reform

He (President Obama) lectured teachers, students and parents on the need to "step up their games" if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110403864.html

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"President has clearly stated that teachers, students and PARENTS....[caps added]

There, you see - he mentioned parents!

I'm not trying to get Obama off the hook - just pointing out that he's phrasing it in such a way, unless you read closely it sounds he doesn't understand the role of parents. He does -- he's just downplaying it. and THAT MUST STOP.

Posted by: efavorite | August 13, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Efavorite:

Yes, I know he's mentioned parents many times, so why does RttT only address school issues? Many people might say, "Well that's all we can do" but of course that's not true. We can't replace parents but we can certainly offer them and their children supports, as other countries do.

For a while I just thought Obama was too distracted to know what Duncan was doing but now I realize that RttT really is the president's policy. How disappointing!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 13, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"President has clearly stated that teachers, students and PARENTS....[caps added]
There, you see - he mentioned parents!

I'm not trying to get Obama off the hook - just pointing out that he's phrasing it in such a way, unless you read closely it sounds he doesn't understand the role of parents. He does -- he's just downplaying it. and THAT MUST STOP.

Posted by: efavorite
.................................
What does it matter?

Teachers are the fall guys.

I used to be angry at the policies of Obama because I thought he was intelligent. Now I understand that Obama is just a more polished version of Bush. Just mediocre intelligence. I have seen this before when a suit is able to become Chief Executive Officer.

Being concerned with the individual words in the speeches of Obama makes as much sense as being concerned with individual words in the speeches of Bush.

You can write your objection to the Obama website but I am sure this will be ignored. The tactic is to support Race To The Top, and Race To The Top is squarely on the idea that all of our problems are the fault of teachers.

No sense in blaming children or parents.

The only difference between Obama and Bush is the fact that Americans being afraid of Bin Laden being underneath their beds will not get Obama reelected as it did with Bush.

It took hurricane Katrina to show Americans the value of Bush in 2005. Obama has shown us his value in a year and a half.

Just glad I am not a teacher and no children in the public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Truly a love of learning requires that students focus on intrinsic rather than extrinsic sources of satisfaction. The comparisons to Hamlet's was interesting but new words for a poorly constructed reality don't really change that reality. Perhaps we need to call words what they really are in the current measure and punish reality:
data- Yes your child's education has been reduced to a number or score and no he or she will not likely receive enhanced curriculum just data driven decisions will be made on the child's behalf.
Testing-Companies making billions on standardized testing is more important that your child's education, get used to it.
Accountability=Punishment for teachers and children in low income communities.
Somehow we need a lot more than a change in terminology we need a CHANGE of HEART.

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | August 13, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post is an American icon. It's the newspaper that brought down a President of the United States in defense of the rule-of-law nearly forty years ago.

Since then though, the nation has seen the Reagan Revolution and the rise of the "neoliberals" whose mantra is privatize everything and "starve the beast" or render the government helpless in the face of corporate power.

In that post-Watergate era, The Washington Post made a deal with the devil, the parasitic Kaplan, a scion of the movement to privatize public education. That deal brought Bill Gates and Warren Buffet into influential positions with the newspaper. That deal led to mayoral control of the DCPS. That deal made the same Post that had vanquished Richard Nixon a lapdog of the little Chancellor Michelle Rhee. That deal prohibits any and all editorial criticism of Rhee.

That deal now threatens to destroy The Post. If you read this dispatch from Bloomberg

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2010-08-13/washington-post-short-bets-climb-to-19-year-high-as-bears-take-on-buffett.html

of today, you will discover the following...

...despite the fact that Washington Post stock has already declined 21% this year more market traders are "shorting", betting against The Washington Post today than at any time in two decades. The big money thinks The Post is down for the count.

Corporate management of The Washington Post never cared about the newspaper beyond the profits it might generate. But those who work for this once-great paper are another matter and should realize that as they participate in the dismantling of the DCPS, they are helping to dig their own graves.

Posted by: natturner | August 13, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: natturner | August 13, 2010 6:00 PM
................................
A very fitting comment on the Washington Post which last year in an Editorial made the original false claim that all of the teachers fired by the the failure of Ms. Rhee to manage a budget were incompetent.

Yes the Washington Post has gone a long way from discovering the truth regarding Watergate to manufacturing falsehoods.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 13, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

There's nothing wrong with data collection at all, nor testing and accountability where appropriate. I teach Autistic support and data drives our programming decisions for our children. I would expect this to be true in every classroom since it is the only way to know if interventions are effective.

Which brings us to the issue at hand: Where did we all go off-track that perfectly reasonable processes and goals, like using data, testing and accountability, are now (justifiably) viewed as wrong-headed? I would suggest that these elements of effective teaching and instruction have been misused and inapropriately appplied, often to political ends, which has no place in educational decision-making.

For example, I stated that I use data collection to drive my programming decisions for my students. This essential process, however, flows from the implimentaton of research-supported, effective teaching interventions for students with autism. I use Direct Instruction and Discrete Trial Inst. in my classrooom. I'm not using weak-evidence programs or watered-down general ed curriculum. My students are also not tested using the state standardized assessments. Progress can be seen using instruments that measure attainment of small chunks of observable skills.

The last component is acountability. We owe it to our students and communties to do our jobs effectively. But is it always in our control? I just attended an Autism workshop that specifically stated that the greatest student progress is seen in 40 hours/week of ABA-style programs. The format in these programs, btw, should be 1:1 or 1:2. I heard from other teachers and parents from CT and wealthy suburban suburbs discuss their districts offering 23-32 hours per week. In my poor, Philadelphia classroom, I have 1 teaching assistant for 8 students. 1:1 or even 1:2 instruction is very difficult because of a lack of resources. I want to be accountable for my job. Who is accountable for setting up a system with far fewer resources than are needed?

Posted by: Nikki1231 | August 14, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Nicki1231:

From your post, you seem misguided. Data systems, testing schemes, and accountability rhetoric are not professional practices. Hedge fund managers, politicians, profiteers and insiders are working to force professional educators into a factory model of teaching – a model designed to replace professional teachers with low-skilled paraprofessionals.

Data, testing, and accountability buzzwords are code words for pushing corporate one-size-fits-all scripted curriculum kits with matching for-profit scripted testing schemes into every classroom, pre-k through 12. The profiteers, insiders, lobbyists, charter operators, publishers, and hedge fund managers are behind the curtain. They are working to reap millions from taxpayers since minimum wage paraprofessionals will replace degreed teachers.

Chaltain’s words are powerful. Replace data with information, testing with learning, and accountability with sustainability. Replace standardized testing with classroom assessments and replace textbooks with resources. Do not replace professional practices used by degreed teachers with paraprofessionals who can be easily trained to deliver data, testing, and accountability.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | August 14, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Nikki1231

Time for special education teacher Nikki1231 to wake up and smell the reality.

D.C. public school teachers begin orientation ahead of start of academic year

"I hope I'm ready," said Alex Ussia, 22, an American University graduate and Teach for America recruit who will teach eighth-grade science to SPECIAL EDUCATION students at the Hamilton Center.

It is easy to pretend concern with public education but the reality is that behind this pretense is actuality the hiring of totally unprepared and cheap teachers.

The reality is that this President has simply adopted the ideas of Ms. Rhee, and the idea of Ms. Rhee is simply to replace expensive experienced teachers with totally inexperienced less expensive teachers.
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New books to be shortly released.

Data, Testing, and Accountability to Improve You Sex Life

Data, Testing, and Accountability in Selecting a Divorce Lawyer

Data, Testing, and Accountability for Fighting Baldness

Posted by: bsallamack | August 14, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

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