Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creativity Contest

This is a committee I worked on to help promote and assess creativity in schools. It is the one thing we need more of in education and the one thing that gets squeezed out by shrinking budgets and growing standardization. Please check it out and spread the word!

Announcing the EdSteps Student Work Contest!

The EdSteps Student Work Contest has officially launched. To win, submit work from March 14- May 14th 2011 in the areas of Creativity or Problem Solving. For a chance at one of two $1,000 gift cards, all you must do is submit student work in the areas of Creativity or Problem Solving at www.edsteps.org. For each piece of student work that you submit, you will receive one entry for the contest. For example, if you submit 500 pieces of student work, you will receive 500 entries to the contest. There are no limits on the number of entries that one may have. Winners will be contacted on May 15, 2011. If you have any questions, please feel free to email info@edsteps.org.

To find out more information about the contest visit www.edsteps.org.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is Cheating Becoming Standard?

Interesting article in USA Today Yesterday about teachers and administrators who have been caught cheating on high stakes standardized tests. The crib notes version is that after a particular set of students' tests get flagged for showing an unusually big increase from one year to the next followed by an equally suspicious drop to normal the following year, an investigation is conducted. The uptick frequently turns out to be a teacher who gave students the answers ahead of time. Another way a set of tests can get flagged is by a software program that keeps track of erasures and blows the whistle when there are a lot of erasures that have been changed from incorrect to correct answers. The culprit there can be a teacher or an administrator with a number two pencil post-test.

This is inevitable right? The problem with standardized testing is not with the tests. Nor is it with wanting to hold schools and teachers accountable for making sure their students are able to meet certain standards. The problem is when the stakes that are tied to the tests impact the financial bottom line--whether that's someone's personal bank account or a school's ability to get government money. Doping came into sports when big money came into sports. People who are in the upper echelons of the tax bracket seek loopholes. White collar crime is rarely for chump change. Cheaters do prosper provided they don't get caught.

We need a less fiscally pressured approach to accountability in schools. It's a corruption of the learning process to tie its outcomes to dollar signs. That corruption in turn corrupts people who probably did not get into education to cheat their students out of a realistic assessment of their progress.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Double Dipping "Double Dipping"

A few more thoughts on yesterday's blog about Timmy's teacher taxing parents to tutor her own students in test taking for upcoming standardized tests. Besides collecting "overtime" for work that a teacher should be doing as part of her regular education program, consider:

What happens to those students from low income families who, perhaps struggling the most, are least able to afford the cost of extra help. Why is such an offering acceptable within a public system?

Do you recall the part of the teacher's email that offered to help students learn to "reduce anxiety" when taking a test? Where does that anxiety come from? Might the teacher herself be a source of it? I am going to overstate it to make a point, but: "Ok, boys and girls, this test that is coming up is really important. Whether or not our school is successful or not depends a lot on how well you do on this test. We are all going to have to work very hard because if we don't our principal will get in trouble. Oh and be sure to remind your parents that if they want you to come to my extra help session on how to reduce stress when you take a test, that the money is due tomorrow."

Finally, how authentic is an assessment that can be meaningfully affected by test taking tips? Do these tests measure what students have actually learned or do they measure how well students take tests? I think we all know the answer is the latter, which makes charging extra for improving the skills that actually get measured even more questionable.