Friday, May 18, 2012

Graduation or Masquerading?

Many things change in education as times goes on, but some things always remain a constant. One in particular is the idea of graduation, the proverbial ceremony when academic degrees and diplomas are symbolically given to students that have passed the tests, ran the obstacle course of programs and studies, and have successfully made it across the finish line of knowledge.

There was a time when this honored ceremony was a sacred moment in the lives of students and parents, as well as the faculty and trustees of the academic community bestowing the diploma. The official donning of academic robes may just be a vestige of medieval characteristics and circumstances but it did stand for something at one time, and for some people it still stands for something time-honored, serious, and special.

Unfortunately, colleges and high schools have let this tradition wallow in despair and disgrace when standards are cheapened. For instance, allowing students to walk through the ceremony even though they failed the program. Or, allowing students to denigrate and deface their academic attire to display their personal mockery of the ceremony and it's traditions.

For some of us that have accrued the robes and adornments of advanced college degrees it is insulting to witness this aberration and abomination of something that is held so highly esteemed as a graduation ceremony. It would be better to have people opt out of attending if that is how they truly feel about the process.

To graduate is to move on. I can only hope moving on is worth more to people then tuning out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stop Changing the Rules

I had a friend growing up that cheated at everything he did in order to gain the advantage over others. He loved to make up some new rule or scoring procedure for every game we played, including baseball, football, poker, and monopoly. Unfortunately, he found out the hard way that life does not allow people to take such liberties and he is now serving time for just such behavior in his adult life, if you know what I mean!

In many respects, I think there are parallels to my friend's story and the debacle of public school testing and assessment. For awhile, I have disparaged the concept of assessment in our schools, and I loathe at the macho, political verbosity of our elected leaders- and others- that cry for more of it to satisfy some inner ambition to foster competition in our schools, our children, and our "way of life"!

This morning in Florida, the state is reeling from the release of the state's FCAT writing scores. The revised grading system was more rigorous than previous years and the results were a blow to the schools, the administrators, teachers, students, and parents of Florida as many below-acceptable scores were released. Schools that have been struggling to improve under the former scoring systems and beginning to make progress were thrown for a huge blow to their progress. All in the name of "Every Child Left Behind" and Racing to the Bottom.

The same thing happened in New York State last year, when the gurus of state testing, under the continual cattle prod of a maniacal governor- were told to make the assessments more critical and more rigorous in scoring, under the false premise to make it harder for people to pass, only to throw the state's testing model into a tailspin. Cries of "foul", and "revert to the other model", or "throw the tests away" were raised there as well, as they are throughout the state of Florida this morning.

And still, I think about the lonely classroom teacher that is struggling to help and excite a handful of struggling readers and doing everything she can to inspire them to keep trying, only to to realize she is a pawn in a greater chess game than we will ever know.

Someone keeps changing the rules to the game. And what we learn from my friend, who did that throughout his life, people are held accountable for that kind of behavior.

By the way, it's time to send him another birthday card since he will be spending another anniversary away from his family in a jail cell out west!

Friday, May 4, 2012

ECLB: Every Child Left behinds

Common Core Standards...Issue of Control?

As part of the ever tightening desire of political power players to control public education, in recent years we have been given the mandate of the Common Core Standards for Schools. Alfie Kohn describes this movement as another attempt to tighten the noose around accountability and assessment, ensuring that one size, indeed, fits all.

It's frustrating to witness this debacle in motion, for in the past forty years we have all lived through this movement of politically mandated- dare I say_ corporate driven- attempts to jam every human being into some kind of a die-cast mold of achievement and accountability. As I have pointed out in a recent post, the big winners here are not the students but the corporations such as Pearson and others that are demonstrating their ability to achieve and reap big profits in the name of global competition.

"It's rather like the effort to reframe vouchers as "choice." They've also been very shrewd this time about co-opting the education organizations by soliciting their counsel. These groups are so desperate for a "seat at the table" of power that they've agreed to confine the discussion to the content of the standards rather than asking whether the whole idea makes sense for children."

The "one size fits all" model of education has been around for a long time, but the requirement for differentiated learning will never go away. How do the Core Standards equalize differentiation? Do we then begin developing an individualized stat such as a golfing handicap to balance the players in a future endeavor? Let's bring back the old SRA reading groups when to be assigned to the PEWTER group means you have been cast in the debtors prison of a Charles Dickens novel, with no way to get out of jail and be with your friends in the GOLD reading group.

Somethings don't change, but children and their learning styles do change,and until the government get that straight, the boondoggle of Core Standards and other things will certainly leave all of us behind.

End of Week Tweet

Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn)
Posted at 9:37 AM May 4, 2012 on Twitter
"If kids were forced to memorize the phone bk, wkshops would pop up: “Best Practices for implementing the new 21st century PB assessments”"
(Sent from Flipboard)