Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Firestorm Next Time

Thanks to DZ for this mostly adept analysis of the coming storm in education reform. Take it with a heaping grain of salt, because libertarian Tierney and his muse for this topic, the always-hard-to-pin-down Diane Ravitch, are coming at the issue from a POV I do not share: That local education is always better than centralized education, which I think any child in any minority group can easily dispute; that teachers are professionals and always know what's right for their students, which anyone who doesn't expect to be paid for continuing education or anyone who's winced through a thoroughly wrong grammar lesson from the back of a room can dispute; and that standardization is a failed policy, which anyone who teaches visiting students from Asia or Scandinavia can dispute.

That being said, we are headed toward a maelstrom, as American parents discover that their children are failing even more tragically than before (thanks to more rigorous standards), and states continue to rely on old unreliable Pearson to manufacture their tests. Pearson and CTB hold a monopoly in this area thanks to years of consolidation (now there's an area where centralization IS a failed policy), but Pearson, at least, is just terrible, and apparently getting worse. Pearson's insane profits must be going somewhere, but they surely aren't going to the writers or hired hands who are expected to do the work, and you get what you pay for, in education as in the Real World.

The part Tierney gets right is the part that looks not at the quality of the schools or the tests or the teachers but rather at the quality of the students.

...The most important step we could take to deal with our education problems would be to address poverty in the United States.
Why can't our students compete with other first-world inhabitants in a global marketplace? They're too damn poor. Our inequities, growing by leaps and bounds each year, are killing our ability to measure up.

He and Ravitch are also correct about the potential damage of charter schools. In our county, it's costing public schools hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable a few students to drop out and attend the new charter school instead, yet no one has any say over what happens in that charter school, and the school is certainly not beholden to the taxpayers. I have no reason to think that students there are getting a better education than they would in their home schools and some reason to think that they're getting little education at all.

I actually like the Common Core State Standards; I think they're a legitimate attempt to delve more deeply into concepts and to backfill education from the endpoint of college and career expectations rather than trying to build upward from nothing to something. Hey, as John Dewey said, "Failure is instructive." When this doesn't pan out, in a few years, we'll be on to something completely different.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Round 1 in the ongoing battle involving funding vs. evaluation is Governor Cuomo's faceslap over Buffalo's side deal with teachers, which apparently went something like this: "If you unions sign off on this APPR plan, we'll send the paperwork to the state but toss our copies in the trash." The comments are interesting, too.

Why is it that the stress of evaluation seems to lead to cheating, whether it's teachers and administrators changing test answers in GA or entire school districts in NYS making secret deals with one hand while taking the cash with the other? O's not even allowed to take a water bottle into the SATs lest she inscribe formulas under the label. Maybe we should start by evaluating the culture that has led to this cheatin' state of mind.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Sorry to see him go. Here he is sometime close to the first time I saw/heard him play. Energy and joy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Martha for Congress

One of Dryden's own is running for Congress in the 23rd! Here is her website. It will be a wild two years!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Opting Out

The latest "we're not gonna take it" movement in America is the "Opt-Out" movement, a rapidly-organizing coalition of parents who want their kids removed from the world of standardized testing, preferably before the Next Generation Assessments hit in 2014. Truly, despite being in the corporate education world they so despise, I get where they're coming from. I can't help being pleased that O will age out and graduate before the new tests hit in earnest. However, New York remains a state in which opting out is not a legal option. Here is State Ed's response to the movement.

Since the parents in the movement tend to be well-educated themselves, it is likely that successful opting out will lead to significant drops in school scores. Add to that the NYSSBA's concern about the need for a certain percentage of the cohort to be tested in order to maintain AYP numbers (which affect Title I monies). And as the article makes clear, teachers are now being evaluated partly on their students' test scores, making it more important than ever for them to see to it that their best students sit for the test.

High-stakes testing is a messy, awful way to evaluate an educational system; it robs big chunks of time from the 180 days students are in school, causes agita for students and teachers, and costs a boatload of money. One of my favorite recent examples of how demoralizing the system is comes from a teacher who just resigned from an upstate district. I really do understand everything that's wrong with the current plan. I'd like to hear alternatives, though. All of the ones I've seen (on the Opt Out website, for example) just seem, frankly, stupid.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On the Boardwalk

This has been going up slowly next door to the Sears kit house on Irish Settlement that we took Mark and Y to see last year. It's very nice, although right now the trail ends abruptly. I watched a nesting pair of great blue herons hanging out in the swamp nearby.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Much to my surprise, at the last Executive Meeting of the County Democrats, I discovered that I'd been redistricted. I've lived in ED 10 since I moved to Dryden. Now we are in ED 2, with the village of Freeville. I live in fear that I won't be able to take advantage of the snacks at Reach Out for Christ Church on Election Day.