A Rising Parent Voice Gains Attention

In my last post, I shared an article about the parent voice not being listened to related to Summit Learning.  This led to what the article called a rebellion.  Since reading that article I have read three recent articles that, to me, feature the unheard parent voice.

The first of the three articles is ‘Stop the coverup.’ Wake County parents and students protest new MVP math curriculum.  Over time, I have heard people question this math program.  Wake Country is not the only place where parents are questioning and complaining about this program.  In this case, students are actively including their voice.

Parents and students stepped up their efforts to get the Wake County school system to drop a controversial new math curriculum by holding a protest Tuesday outside the school board meeting.

Wake has defended the program as being a valuable new way to teach math by switching the focus from memorizing formulas to learning by solving problems. But school officials have also acknowledged that some students are having problems with the new curriculum.

Speakers told the school board that the new curriculum isn’t doing a good job of teaching math, causing previously high-performing students to now fail their courses. They say that students are being forced to get help by turning to private tutors and online resources offered by other companies or risk getting poor grades.

The second article is A Testing Debacle in New York May Foreshadow a National Trend.  Parents have been protesting high-stakes standardized test for years now.  These protest have included opting kids out of state tests.  Little has changed other than some minor tweaks here and there related to the tests.  With an 80 % opt out rate, I would think decision makers would hear a clear message and do more than make minor tweaks.

Drama unfolding in New York state could foreshadow a tipping point in the ongoing national parent revolt against high-stakes standardized testing

The first round of this year’s grades 3-8 tests began last week in New York, amid fresh criticism of punitive new regulations and an official misinformation campaign designed to intimidate and confuse parents.

New York parents shared district letters they claim reveal threats, bribes, and false information on the part of local schools.

There, several well-regarded, high-performing elementary schools ended up on the list under a complicated new formula that treats opt-outs students as if they got the lowest score on the test. As much as 80 percent of students opted-out in 2018.

Rather than really addressing the issue, the state education department and local superintendents point the finger of blame at each other for the threats, bribes, and false information.  Certainly can’t have anyone take responsibility for their actions.  What kind of example would that set for our students?  And all of this after so much attention has been paid to bullying.  I guess bullying education has helped administrators and educrats learn how to bully, if they didn’t already know how.

The third article, Parents and children march against plans to test four-year-olds, comes from across the pond to assure us that the phenomenon of under listening or completely ignoring the parent voice is not unique to the education system in the United States.

Protesters cuddling teddy bears, eating crisps, wearing pink tutus and banging tambourines have delivered a petition with 68,000 signatures to No 10, calling on the government to scrap plans to introduce standardised assessment for children in reception class. (my emphasis)

They were protesting against government proposals to introduce baseline assessment in reception classes at schools in England, to test the communication, literacy and maths skills of four-year-olds.

Assessing the communication, literacy, and maths skills of four-year olds.  I would bet this protest and 68,000 signature petition is not the first time the parent voice has been raised on this issue.  More likely the result of the parent voice not being paid attention to before.

Summit Learning, MVP math, high stakes standardized tests, and assessing four-year old.  These are four seemingly unrelated issues.  There are some ways they relate to each other.  One way is they stem from education reform measures that do not seem to be something parents asked for or wanted to begin with.  Another way is that the parent voice is getting louder on these and other issues because expressed concerns have been ignored or given lip service by spewing out spoon-fed ideological bullet points.

I’m going to close with by repeating the last paragraph of the previous post.

This is a system that is supposed to work for parents and the community.  When will that system start listening to the parent voice?  What will have to happen to get the system to listen and act based on the parent voice?  And parents, are you willing to be a part of the parent voice?  Are you willing to take back control over your child’s education?  Are you willing to be a part of the rebellion it will take to regain local control?

Cross-post.

Educrats Ignoring the Parent Voice

Sunday night I read The New York Times’ article Silicon Valley Came to Kansas Schools.  That Started a Rebellion.  For some reason as I read this article a song kept coming to mind.  The song was The Devil Came From Kansas by Procol Harem from their album A Salty Dog.

There are many issues of concern about Summit Learning and about it being put in place in some schools in Kansas as well as other areas.  I do want to focus on one thing that seems to be popping up more and more these days.  I am not quite sure how best to refer to this focus but it has to do with parent voice.

The parent voice has too often not been raised in the past as parents put trust in the school system.  When the parent voice has been raised, it has often been marginalized or completely throttled with parents being told no one else has raised the issue or the school knows what’s best for their students.  With many of the education reform measures over the last decade or so, the parent voice has been raised and attempts to marginalize or throttle it have not always been successful.  Yet, the education system (and the powers/influencers behind it) do not pay attention to the parent voice and arrogantly don’t seem to care.  The powers/influencers will even go so far as to tell the public (and parents) what parents want without ever hearing the parents.

From the article:

In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform.

“Change rarely comes without some bumps in the road,” said Gordon Mohn, McPherson’s superintendent of schools. He added, “Students are becoming self-directed learners and are demonstrating greater ownership of their learning activities.”

77% of parents prefer “their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit.”  As a parent voice, that is a loud and strong message… and very clear.  It is loud enough that if the powers that be don’t pay attention to it, they are going to have problems on their hands.  Like rebellion in this case.  Yet the superintendent blows off the parent voice with his comments that may come back and bite (or byte, in this case) him in the employment contract.

“Students are becoming self-directed learners and are demonstrating greater ownership of their learning activities.”  I wonder where this came from.  Original thought based on evidence or spoon-fed ideology?

And Diane Tavenner, Summit’s chief executive, doesn’t seem to give credence to the parent voice.

Ms. Tavenner said the Kansas protests were largely about nostalgia.

This is a system that is supposed to work for parents and the community.  When will that system start listening to the parent voice?  What will have to happen to get the system to listen and act based on the parent voice?  And parents, are you willing to be a part of the parent voice?  Are you willing to take back control over your child’s education?  Are you willing to be a part of the rebellion it will take to regain local control?

And I wonder if the Devil really came from Kansas… or came to Kansas.

Cross-post.

US Education’s Dominant Research Method: Cherry Picking Evidence

We all know about gerrymandering—the process by which politicians in a majority party sit down with a map and carve out electoral boundaries to maximize their party’s electoral advantage. Gerrymandering upends the electoral process. Rather than allow voters to choose their representatives, incumbent politicians choose their voters. More than 90 percent of US congressional elections are now noncompetitive, largely due to gerrymandering.

Some scholars employ a similar process in their research. Rather than allow all of the research “literature”—the full expanse of all relevant evidence on a topic—to lead them to a research conclusion, they reference only that part that supports their preferred conclusions. 

I call these scholars “dismissive reviewers,” because they ignore or declare nonexistent (i.e., dismiss) relevant evidence. When a group of dismissive reviewers cooperate they form a “citation cartel”—citing only each other’s research and dismissing all the rest. 

Readers of this blog already know that much—perhaps most—mainstream US education research is cherry picked. In part, that is how easily disprovable education myths persist. Education journals publish study after study that purports to consider all the relevant evidence on a topic but, in fact, references only that part of the evidence supportive of the myth. That proportion may be tiny, but it is still “evidence.”

This is why I find little reassurance in the phrase “evidence-based research.” All research is “evidence-based.” But, some is based on only part of the evidence available. Moreover, some of that is fraudulent. Education hosts a gargantuan quantity of research evidence. But, much is of poor quality. And, much more than most people realize is simply dishonest, with fabricated or doctored data, surreptitiously altered definitions of terms, selective references, and dismissive literature reviews. 

Despite its reputation as the most trustworthy of US education research sub-fields, the research conducted in education testing, or “psychometrics,” is no different. Some of it is poorly done. Some is biased. And, some cherry-picks its evidence to reach preferred conclusions. 

To my observation, honest, objective scholars still run things in the more technical realms of education testing research. In the realm of education testing policy, however, cherry pickers have run the show for over three decades. Moreover, they have managed to “capture” the testing policy research function at the National Research Council, the National Academy of Education, the World Bank, and the National Council of Measurement in Education (NCME), the primary US professional association of testing and measurement scholars in education. 

Indeed, just recently, NCME announced the names of the scholars who will write the testing policy section—”Accountability in K-12 Assessment”—of the next edition of the organization’s primary reference publication, Educational Measurement. NCME appears to have chosen a group that will assure continuity with past versions that reliably use cherry-picked evidence to advantage authors’ citation cartel. Furthermore, all four current authors and “reviewer-collaborators” have participated in Common Core promotion efforts and done work for the Gates Foundation.

By avoiding mention of rival evidence, and profusely referencing each other, citation cartel members can boost their own professional profiles, at the expense of other scholars’.

I have long been a strong advocate for education testing in general and standardized testing in particular. Yet, I would agree with many readers of this blog that US education testing policy has been sub-optimal since 2001 and remains so today. I do not share the conclusion that testing itself is responsible, however. Rather, responsibility lies with our country’s policymakers, in both major parties, who continue to rely on the advice of a relatively small group of policy analysts who limit their perspective to a pinhole of the available research evidence. 

Un-Rig the Research!

Indoctrination in the SAT

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

Parents have been complaining about a question on the SAT their children took recently.

Two parents reported a question about a speech given by Bernie Sanders that was asked on the SAT. 

The first parent asked on social media: 

1) Why was there an Essay Question on my daughter’s SAT test asking her to explain why Bernie Sanders speech was effective?? 

Regardless of any political beliefs this is underhanded and just wrong.

2) The whole country takes mandatory SAT’s yesterday and my daughter was one of them….she told me that the last question was critiquing a speech that Bernie Sanders made on not privatizing the post offices. His arguments/opinions put out there without any opposing views. 

It’s a good time to remind you that David Coleman, one of the Chief Architects of the Common Core Standards, is now the President of the College Board. Since he was elevated to this position there has been much controversy surrounding the SAT/ACT and Advanced Placement Program. 

Coleman came under fire after the testing organization used the tragedy of the Parkland school shootings to promote the Advanced Placement Program

When Coleman spoke about redesigning the SAT he came under scrutiny when he quickly moved to align the SAT to the Common Core Standards.

The College Board moved to revise its AP U.S. History (APUSH) with an ideologically slanted framework. This moved resulted in calls to break the College Board’s testing monopoly. Politicizing U.S. History was not going to happen without controversy or a fight.

One of the ways to indoctrinate children with biased political views is, through standardized testing.  In New Hampshire, it is state law that the SAT must be used to test children in 11th grade.  This was signed into law after the Smarter Balanced Assessment created a whirlwind of controversy several years ago. As one wise parent pointed out this, when he looked at the question:

Notice how the question is couched. It’s sort of like asking, “Explain why Hillary Clinton isn’t President even though she deserved to win.” It’s an opinion framed as a fact. 

The problem isn’t that they included a speech from a political candidate. The problem is that they presented opinion as fact. It’s called a “mind virus.

When the College Board hired a political operative as their President, that brought with it the possibility of more politicization and indoctrination through the assessments and AP courses. It appears as if that’s where Coleman has taken this organization.

That might be why more and more colleges no longer consider the SAT in their admissions process.  According to fairtest.org “More than 1000 four-year colleges and universities do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor-degree applicants.”

This kind of political indoctrination does not help public education. Parents need to fight for quality education, not indoctrination.  Illiteracy is nothing to cheer about and the more this becomes acceptable, the more chances we have of dumbing down our public schools. 

Review: DIVE Online Math and Science Program

This article is in response to a question about DIVE, an online mathematics and science program for homeschool and/or private school students. Its focus has been on using Saxon Math but the program creator and director, Dr. David Shormann, has now written his own online mathematics program called Shormann Math. It is based in part on the Saxon methodology of incremental learning and continual review but now has integrated material that he feels is necessary for today’s students to be successful in math and science programs. This includes technology applications, computer math, real-world problems, and non-standard solutions. See more at https://diveintomath.com/shormann-math.

Dr. Shormannearned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in marine chemistry from the University of Texas. His doctorate in limnology (a study of inland waters) is from Texas A&M University. He has an extensive background working with mathematics and science from aerospace engineering to oceanography. Presently living in Hawaii, Dr. Shormann said he is currently working on a patent-pending design. “It is a biomimetic airfoil based off a humpback whale’s pectoral fins. LOTS of math application going on with that. It’s got everything from Fibonacci ratios to computational fluid dynamics!”  

I contacted him because I had heard he was changing some of the methods used in Saxon Math. This seemed unacceptable to me since Saxon Math is successful when users follow Saxon methods with little to no exception.

We talked by telephone on Thursday, March 14. This is a summary of that 70-minute conversation:

Saxon Math unchanged:

Saxon Math is still being offered with no changes to its requirement of 30 homework problems and its methodology. Video lectures to accompany Saxon Math are still available in grades 4-12.

On homework:

However, his own Shormann Math materials presently cover Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Advanced Math. These have 100 video lectures and lessons in each subject with 20 homework problems, as compared to Saxon Math with its 125 lessons/30 homework problems per lesson in Algebra 1; 129 lessons/30 homework in Algebra 2; and 125 lessons/30 homework in Advanced Mathematics. 

With 20 homework problems which MUST be worked in each of the 100 lessons, that equals 2,000 homework problems for each course. Dr. Shormann believes this is adequate homework practice. (All homework problems in Saxon Math MUST also be worked.) 

Considering how many schools are limiting or eliminating homework today, and one of the reasons public schools in particular avoid Saxon Math with its demand that all 30 homework problems be solved, I find Dr. Shormann is remaining true to the Saxon philosophy that completion of all homework problems supports a student’s retention and learning of information in daily lessons.

Struggling by students:

I was concerned that students are not being allowed to see the solutions manual until after they had made several efforts to work out a problem. I interpreted that to reflect the progressive philosophy that students learn best by “struggling” through a lesson. Dr. Shormann explained that with online coursework, the easy answer for students is often simply to look at the solutions manual. He wants to be sure they have made good-faith efforts to work the problems; he doesn’t want students to “struggle,” but he does want them to put in the time to try and reach the correct solution. That made sense to me.

Non-standard solutions:

We discussed the issue of “non-standard solutions,” which is a particularly egregious topic with me for elementary and middle school students. Dr. Shormann said these solution processes are now required on the SAT and ACT. That is, a traditional procedure for finding an answer may need to be supported with alternative procedures to prove the student understands the concept within the SAT question. 

I accepted, therefore, that non-standard solutions may need to be taught now at the high school level, but I explained those are being required, as interpreted with Common Core standards by publishers and teachers, in grades 1-8. I believe it is unacceptable to require these unfamiliar, non-standard methods in such early grade levels. For one thing, too many parents cannot help their children with lesson assignments that use such unfamiliar methods. (There are many other reasons against supplanting traditional procedures with these non-standard methods at the K-8 level.)

Real world problems:

I asked about the use of “real world” problems that Dr. Shormann promotes on his website.  John Saxon hated that progressives used the term “real world” problems simply to promote politically correct ideas within their curriculum. Dr. Shormann’s problems are from “real world”, however, as related to specific occupations, personal interests, math history, etc. That satisfied me.

Integrated math:

I said the description of “integrated” mathematics is a loaded term used by progressives and resisted by many traditionalists. Based on European and Asian math programs that are not separated into distinct subjects such as algebra and geometry, and thus are “integrated” materials, Dr. Shormann believed that Saxon pioneered integrated math in America by integrating geometry throughout the Saxon algebra books and advanced math. 

I explained Saxon did that for only one reason: He said geometry is used here as a “wedge” course to weed out students from advanced math classes. That is, when students take a sequence of Algebra 1, Geometry, and then Algebra 2, the year between the algebra courses causes weaker students to struggle in Algebra 2. He believed that was eliminating many students who could have worked Algebra 2 successfully if they had had continuity with their learning in the subject. By spacing geometry over three courses, Saxon’s goal was simply to provide an uninterrupted access for more students entering higher mathematics and science.

I’m still concerned that use of the word “integrated” in math education conjures up the weak progressive materials that are not written on the level of European or Asian courses. They are, instead, at fault for much of the failure of math education programs in America. John Saxon’s precise use of “incremental learning” and “continual review” offers more clarity in describing his sometimes-called “blended” or “scaffolding” methods. 

Summary:

Dr. Shormann and I discussed many other topics. At this point I will say that I believe his online program is an excellent one and his heart truly is in the right place for students’ learning. The traditional Saxon Math can be taken or his new Shormann Math with its integrated materials is available. 

While my heart will always be with the pure and proven Saxon Math at all levels, I appreciate Christian values that support mathematics, or vice-versa, being available in lessons to non-public school students. Because I had a semester course in the history of mathematics years ago that hooked me on the subject, I am also pleased that he’s incorporating people and topics from that rich history into his lessons. This can help explain how greatly the world of mathematics has always transcended throughout, and thus supported, other subject areas. 

I hope this information is helpful regarding the DIVE mathematics education program.

Five Problems With Standards-Based Grading

A SBG report card sample from Sahuarita Unified School District in Sahuarita, Ariz.

Standards-based Grading (SBG) is the solution to a problem that most parents and teachers never knew they had.  It is a solution to a problem the educational-technology companies have created. Ed tech wants to know: How do we make children learn “stuff” and evaluate exactly what they have learned and predict what they are able to learn in the future?  

SBG is helping to turn the art of teaching into a science.  In the process, it’s getting so education is no longer inherently valuable, a benefit for each, individual child, but rather just a data point for outcomes and predictability.  

SBG turns your child into nothing more than a widget.

1. SBG Limits Education

SBG completely removes the incentive for teaching anything other than those standards that are graded.  “That which is measured, improves” is seen in stark and concerning reality with SBG.  

When teachers had the autonomy to decide what and how they would teach certain subjects, there was a phenomenal, widely varied range of things that were taught throughout this country.  In my fifth-grade class, we spent a month learning about logic during our math instruction.  We ended up getting around to all the standard math “stuff”, fractions and whatnot, but taking the time to learn about logic was invaluable and my teacher’s freedom to take that detour was a blessing to all her students.  

If a teacher has a great passion and presentation for the Holocaust or the Civil War, for example, he can enrich his students’ understanding and love for learning by sharing it with them. But with SBG in place, an enriching detour that doesn’t fit into the standards goes unaccounted for in the grading structure because it doesn’t recognize teaching more than what’s in the standards. Instead of supporting education as a broadening of experiences, it will ensure that each student is taught no more and no less than every other student.  

The question then is, what will be lost?

2. SBG Facilitates Data-mining

SBG allows for data gathering on children to be linked directly to the standards. During the 2012 Datapalooza, the CEO of Knewton, Jose Ferreira, talked about his company’s software being able to predict a child’s grade – as long as teachers were consistent graders. SBG is the solution to that irksome old problem of unpredictability!  

The bottom line is: SBG is the next level of data mining on our kids. You don’t have to compare end of year assessments across schools or states. SBG can be linked nicely to ed tech programs that will pump out a 1-4 grade per standard, presented in real time.  Johnny’s parents may someday know that he is ranked 111,114 in the nation in math,and then, be able to predict whether or not he’ll be accepted to Stanford at the age of 8. Talk about a brave new world of potential-limiting prophecy!

3. SBG Is Overwhelming

Parents and teachers hate SBG because the sheer volume of grades is overwhelming. 

Rather than getting an A in English and a B in math, a child receives a grade of 1-4 (or similar) for every single standard in English and the same for math, etc. Looking at one grade level for a rough measure we find there are roughly 80 English/Language Arts standards alone! 

The argument is made by proponents of SBG that then parents will know if their kid knows quadratic equations but doesn’t understand exponential equations.  But parents will have to be able to decipher the jargon used in the standards.  For example: Use tiling to show in a concrete case that the area of a rectangle with whole-number side lengths a and b + c is the sum of a × b and a × c. Use area models to represent the distributive property in mathematical reasoning.(CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.C.7.C)  

Now, how many people can understand that?

In the case of the frustration and burden placed on teachers, they often must show evidence of each student’s mastery of each concept.  And if a test question covers three standards and another question covers two different standards, then they have to track all of that information for every student in their class.  25 math standards times 25 students times 10 tests….  Well, you get the picture.  

Of course, the ed tech companies are poised and ready to solve that problem! Teachers, just turn your teaching over to the ed tech companies! They can provide you – for a few taxpayers’ dollars – with nice computer-based programs that even produce gradebook reports to track all of the standards, with each student’s proficiency included.  Phew!  Now teachers won’t have to teach anything above and beyond the basic common standards. Where would be the motivation to do so?

4. SBG Limits Students’ Desires to Achieve

Proponents of SBG claim it will incentivize students to try harder and put them in charge of their education.  The reality is that in many situations, parents are finding their students less inclined to try past the “proficiency,” or level 3, mark.  

Some of this comes from no one defining what it takes to go “beyond” proficiency.  If a student writes a decent research paper that meets all the expectations, she gets a 3, a proficient score. But trying to relate the SBG grading with A-F grading usually equates a 3 as a ‘B’.  So, what does it take to get an ‘A’? Often no one knows, because, again, we are only measuring the standards.  SBG doesn’t define what it means to go “higher” than the standard.  

When students are unsure, they stop trying.  And if you tell them they’ve met expectations, well, why should they go any further?  Even worse, when something is actually defined as “exceeding expectations.” the requirement is set so high that the pay-off for going above and beyond just isn’t there.  Students are learning to do just enough but no more.

5. SBG Will Remove Societal Knowledge

The worst part of the adoption of SBG for society as a whole is the loss of knowledge which it will facilitate over time. In the course of a single generation, we could very well lose knowledge of anything that isn’t contained in the standards. How do we teach future generations what we, ourselves, do not know?  

Currently, many states have adopted or will be adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  As Fordham Foundation noted in its review of NGSS, “In reality, there is virtually no mathematics, even at the high school level, where it is essential to the learning of physics and chemistry. Rather, the standards seem to assiduously dodge the mathematical demands inherent in the subjects covered.” Using SBG for the Next Generation Science Standards, the nation’s loss could be large portions of chemistry and physics and the actual math that is associated with those two disciplines.  

Are we sure Standards-based Grading is our best option?

The A-F grading system is not standardized. It leaves room for subjectivity on the part of a teacher.  But in America, standardization is rarely a virtue.  The beauty of what our Founders gave us was the freedom to be individuals. Education that limits knowledge to a discrete set of standards, applied nationally, will limit freedom. 

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), a former high-school teacher, said of education, “Ever since…the mid-sixties, …we’ve been consistently fighting that battle over standardization versus freedom. Freedom should be our goal.” 

Standards-based grading will lead us further away from freedom and individuality and could, sadly, lead to a complete loss of selected types of knowledge in America. Even worse, it could lead to generations that lack the will or desire to reach higher and to do more.