stephanie jones

Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Social class back in the Times

In American Dream, classism, justice, poverty, professional development resources, social class on June 19, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a gorgeous piece in the New York Times about “the economy” and its effects on the already-struggling-to-make-ends-meet-in-the-good-times people.

Jane Van Galen has it linked on her blog along with some excellent quotes and pointed commentary. (Thanks to Andrea N. for telling me about it on Jane’s blog!)

Ehrenreich’s piece is the first in a series – so let’s hope the next ones are just as straight forward and educational (at least to those who don’t know it already).

NYT often has great pieces on social class – one series ended up as a great little book I’ve used in courses, Class Matters.

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Cheating on State Tests? Are We Surprised?

In anti-bias teaching, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, Retention Policies, teacher education resources on June 19, 2009 at 2:36 pm

A friend in Dallas sent this article to me today:

All 8th graders in a Dallas school district must retake the state test because of “irregularities.”

And it reminded me of the probe in Atlanta this year as well as across at least four districts across Georgia:

Principal resigns and Assistant Principal is re-assigned during investigation into cheating on the state tests in Atlanta

State of Georgia says students didn’t cheat but were cheated by adults who did change answers in four districts

When any one “test” is valued higher than other measurements, you can guarantee that test will be corrupt and invalid from the beginning. The cheating by adults doing whatever it takes to save their jobs and their schools in this ridiculous historic moment we find ourselves in has been going on since the beginning of the No Child Left Behind Act:

And we thought cheating was bad in 2007?

And with my own daughter telling me that one of the reading passages was “just too long” so “I decided to guess the answers” – we see why teachers and other adults would WANT to cheat. They know what kids can do – they know kids are smart – they know that the stupid test with its insane rigidities, weirdly stated questions, strange reading selections, and “regularities” such as no talking, no vomiting, no looking around, no eye-balling, no gestures, no crying, no walking, no peeing, no eating, no drinking, and you must wait for everyone to finish before you move, create a context where most kids cannot, and do not, perform their best.

Can we just admit that we’ve made a huge mistake by tying these state test scores to federal rewards and punishments – and to children’s promotion or retention fate?

If you don’t know about Fair Test already – check it out. It’s one of dozens and dozens of organizations working against the misuse and abuse of testing instruments and test-takers.

Georgia’s Promotion/Retention Policies – Advocating for Parents, Students, Teachers, and Administrators

In family-school relations, high-stakes tests, justice, NCLB, Retention Policies, social action, Standing up for Kids, stephanie jones, teacher education, teacher education resources on June 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm

We all know how ridiculous it is to decide a student’s fate on one test score. It doesn’t make any sense at all from an academic, social, emotional, or policy perspective. Teachers, students, and parents know best about how a student has progressed across a year – and if a teacher doesn’t know that, then she is not doing her job. I can’t get to this issue though – because kids’ lives are being ruined by unthoughtful decision-making about whether they should be promoted or retained. Wanna know the odds that a kid will finish high school if she or he is retained one time in their educational career? Not good…check out the statistics for yourself.

I’ve heard numerous stories about students in all grades being spontaneously “retained” at the end of the school year because – and only because – of the CRCT scores. And kids are carrying home this news on the last day of school – crying on school buses. This is regardless of how well the student has done all year.

Here are some facts about the Georgia state policy on promotion/retention:

THERE IS ONLY A STATE POLICY FOR 3RD, 5TH, AND 8TH GRADE regarding CRCT scores –

THERE IS NOT A STATE POLICY FOR OTHER GRADES regarding the CRCT scores – DO NOT LET SOMEONE TELL YOU THERE IS (or ask for it in writing – I can’t find it anywhere). That means that any last minute decision to hold back a child in K,1,2,4,6 based on CRCT scores is not substantiated in state policy – and parents, teachers, students should fight this decision if it is not in the best interest of the child.

For 3rd (READING SCORES ONLY – DOES NOT REQUIRE MATH SCORES), 5th, and 8th graders (BOTH READING AND MATH):

1 – The school district should have a local policy about how the CRCT is “weighted” in decisions of promotion and retention.

2 – The school district should have a local policy about the other factors that will go into deciding whether a child is promoted or retained.

ASK ABOUT THESE TWO POLICIES. ASK FOR THEM IN WRITING.

3 – If a child in 3,5, or 8th grade does not pass the CRCT, the family must be notified BY FIRST CLASS MAIL WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THE SCHOOL’S RECEIPT OF THE SCORES WITH THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

a) The below-grade level score on the CRCT

b) The specific re-tests to be given and testing dates

c) The opportunity for accelerated, differentiated, or additional instruction (this can be like summer school – but this is NOT mandatory for students to attend prior to retaking the test. It is only mandatory for the school to offer it).

d) The POSSIBILITY that the student might be retained for next year

IF THE STUDENT RE-TAKES THE TEST AND STILL DOESN’T MEET GRADE LEVEL EXPECTATIONS:

a) The principal may choose to retain the student – and if so, the student’s family must be informed BY FIRST CLASS MAIL of this decision, AND of the option of the parent/guardian or teacher to APPEAL this decision.

IF A PARENT/GUARDIAN OR TEACHER APPEALS THE DECISION:

a) A “placement committee” must be formed and convened to discuss information about the child from across the school year that one might not know from looking at the CRCT scores. This committee would be: the principal OR a designee, the family/parents/guardians/ (I would add other advocates), and the teacher or teacher(s) who know the student best in the subject of the CRCT. If a child receives special education – THE IEP COMMITTEE IS THE PLACEMENT COMMITTEE).

b) In addition to other things, the placement committee must establish ongoing assessments for the child in the next year to monitor her/his progress.

c) The decision to promote to the next grade must be unanimous.

BUT – IF IT IS NOT – THERE IS A WAY TO APPEAL THIS DECISION THROUGH THE LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT. CALL THEM AND ASK FOR THE POLICY IN WRITING AND ASK FOR SOMEONE TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU IN PERSON OR OVER THE PHONE AS WELL.

Listen – the No Child Left Behind Act has created a machine that eats up children, families, teachers, and administrators. CRCT is part of the machine. Everyone is working over-time to cover their own butts – and you’ll find VERY FEW PEOPLE going out of their way to save a child who is dangling over the edge getting ready to plummet into the grinder.

If you don’t do it – no one else will.

STAND UP FOR KIDS.

(ALL INFORMATION PULLED DIRECTLY FROM PROMOTION/RETENTION POLICY DOCUMENT “STATE BOARD RULE” 160-4-2-.11.PDF ON THE GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WEBSITE. I have paraphrased most of this given the complex language of the original document – but I have also pulled some direct quotes. I have the full pdf if someone wants to contact me about getting it)

Hayden gets a response from the governor

In high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, social action on June 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm

After a long wait, Hayden finally received a response to the governor about her letter regarding the state tests. After reading it with me she asked, “what does that mean?” and I replied, “he’s defending the tests and probably won’t work to change them.” But we are both happy that someone did read and respond to her!
STATE OF GEORGIA

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

ATLANTA 30334-0900

Sonny Perdue
GOVERNOR

Dear Hayden:

Thank you for writing me regarding our state’s efforts to provide a quality education for students and better prepare them for future success. I understand the concerns you have shared about Georgia’s testing program and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you.

Georgia’s testing program measures the level of student mastery of the Georgia Performance Standards, identifiesstudents failing to master content and assists school systems in identifying strengths and weaknesses in order to implement more effective programs.

I believe we must provide the best possible learning environment for children to achieve in school. Experience has shown that a carefully prepared testing program can be a valuable tool to help evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and the progress of students. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and suggestions on this matter.

Reinventing Summer Camp and Schools…

In classism, creativity, high-stakes tests, justice, teacher education resources on June 4, 2009 at 3:16 am

Here’s a great piece about a super summer program offered at UGA and other places around the country that was published in the Athens Banner-Herald

And my response to the editor (let’s hope it gets published!):

“Reinventing Summer Camp – Reinventing Schools”

Yesterday I walked through crowds of children at Camp Invention held at UGA who were smiling, pondering, laughing, and talking as they worked at difficult challenges and pushed themselves and others to perform beyond what they could do alone.

In stark contrast, I had a conversation with a first grader today who is attending summer school because of low CRCT scores. His chin quivered and tears welled up in his eyes – he doesn’t want to go tomorrow; they’re doing stuff he already knows; he’s tired of school; he wishes school was at a park where he could learn fun stuff. I could only listen and say I was sorry, but I’m more than sorry. I’m angry about the disparities of educational opportunities offered to students who are assumed to be “creative” and those assumed to need “remediation.”

What if all summer school programs could build on decades of research that inform the premise of Camp Invention? How might this child feel different about attending school? Would he be smiling, pondering, laughing, talking, and working at difficult challenges with others that he couldn’t do alone?

I imagine he would.

Thankfully Clarke County is opening J.J. Harris Elementary School in the fall – a school promising to immerse all students in instruction typically reserved for those labeled  “gifted.” I hope, for the sake of this one child and thousands of others, that surrounding schools will take notice and reconsider their summer and academic year programs.

Let’s start reinventing schools too.

Stephanie Jones
Education Professor
University of Georgia

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