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Archive for April, 2007

Seed Newsvine

David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, both well respected educational researchers, claim that NCLB is causing substantial harm to children, to schools, to teachers and to administrators of those schools that has the chilling effect of placing the Nation at Risk.

Limiting their remarks to only the high-stakes testing requirements of NCLB, Berliner and Nichols said:

The stakes are high when students’ standardized-test performance results in grade retention or failure to graduate from high school. The stakes are high when teachers and administrators can lose their jobs or, conversely, receive large bonuses for student scores, or when humiliation or praise for teachers and schools occurs in the press as a result of test scores. This federal law requires such high-stakes testing in all states.

More than 30 years ago, the eminent social scientist Donald T. Campbell warned about the perils of measuring effectiveness via a single, highly consequential indicator: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking,” he said, “the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” High-stakes testing is exactly the kind of process Campbell worried about, since important judgments about student, teacher, and school effectiveness often are based on a single test score. This exaggerated reliance on scores for making judgments creates conditions that promote corruption and distortion. In fact, the overvaluation of this single indicator of school success often compromises the validity of the test scores themselves. Thus, the scores we end up praising and condemning in the press and our legislatures are actually untrustworthy, perhaps even worthless.

Campbell’s law is ubiquitous, and shows up in many human endeavors. Businesses, for example, regularly become corrupt as particular indicators are deemed important in judging success or failure. If stock prices are the indicator of a company’s success, for example, then companies like Enron, Qwest, Adelphia, and WorldCom manipulate that indicator to make sure they look good. Lives and companies are destroyed as a result. That particular indicator of business success became untrustworthy as both it and the people who worked with it were corrupted.

Similarly, when the number of criminal cases closed is the indicator chosen to judge the success of a police department, two things generally happen: More trials are brought against people who may be innocent or, with a promise of lighter sentences, deals are made with accused criminals to get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

When the indicators of success and failure in a profession take on too much value, they invariably are corrupted. Those of us in the academic world know that when researchers are judged primarily by their publication records, they have occasionally fabricated or manipulated data. This is just another instance of Campbell’s law in action.

We have documented hundreds of examples of the ways in which high-stakes testing corrupts American education in a new book, Collateral Damage. Using Campbell’s law as a framework, we found examples of administrators and teachers who have cheated on standardized tests. Educators, acting just like other humans do, manipulate the indicators used to judge their success or failure when their reputations, employment, or significant salary bonuses are related to those indicators.

clipped from www.edweek.org
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush claimed success for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. “Students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap,” he said
But, as with Iraq, a substantial body of evidence challenges his claim.
We believe that this federal law, now in its sixth year, puts American public school students in serious jeopardy. Extensive reviews of empirical and theoretical work, along with conversations with hundreds of educators across the country, have convinced us that if Congress does not act in this session to fundamentally transform the law’s accountability provision, young people and their educators will suffer serious and long-term consequences.
We note in passing that only people who have no contact with children could write legislation demanding that every child reach a high level of performance in three subjects, thereby denying that individual differences exist.

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Seed Newsvine

It is ironic that the root of extremist Islam took shape in Saudi Arabia under the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Hahhab (1703-1792) whose goal it was to bring the Arabian peninsula back to the strict teachings of the Prophet. It is just this form of Wahhabism that is taught in the madrases of Pakistan also reported to be funded by the Saudis. Wahhabism is the root of Islamic extremism in the world today.

Do the Saudis themselves feel threatened by the very form of Islam that was developed and is practiced on their soil? What is going on here?

Memri reported the following:

Dr. Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hadlaq, supervisor of the counseling committee, told Al-Watan that the amount of aid given to the families depended on their financial situation, and added that this support also “had a positive effect on the prisoners themselves, and on their attitude towards the ideological therapy [provided by] the counseling program.” He said that the financial incentives were meant to “demonstrate the humanitarian side of the security forces, [and to show] the prisoners’ families that the state empathizes [with their problems], cares about their needs, and truly wishes to rehabilitate their sons, who have fallen prey to a misguided group that [merely] wishes to exploit the [difficult] conditions in which they and their families live in order to recruit further members from their families.”

Ali Sa’d Al-Mussa, a lecturer at King Khaled University in Abha, criticized the financial support granted to extremists and their families. He wrote in Al-Watan: “The honorable Sheikh Muhammad Al-Najimi, member of the ideological counseling committee, said that the state has so far spent over 100 million riyals on presents, weddings, cars and monthly salaries for prisoners who had espoused a distorted ideology, and for their families. It was also stated that this [financial aid] was one of the factors that convinced some of [these prisoners] to renounce their previous views…

“I am afraid that, [in this way], holding [extremist] views leads to earning a prize, or worse – a steady income. What extraordinary thing have these [extremists] done that we give them a free car only for renouncing their [extremist] views, while thousands of honest young people can only dream of [owning] a car? What extraordinary thing have these [prisoners] done that we [finance] their weddings, when thousands of honest young people can only dream – not of the scent of a woman but even of a bottle of perfume? What extraordinary thing have they done that we grant them and their families a monthly salary, while thousands of honest men cannot even dream of a job as security guards? People should be rewarded for their actions, but it seems that we have turned this concept upon its head…

clipped from www.memri.org
As part of its fight against terrorism, the Saudi Interior Ministry has been operating an ideological counseling program for security prisoners in the Saudi jails aimed at encouraging them to renounce their extremist beliefs. The program, which has been running for several years, is implemented by a counseling committee composed of ulema, psychiatrists and psychologists who hold counseling sessions with the prisoners and gives them lessons in Islam. When the counselors become convinced that a prisoner is reformed, they recommend his release from jail. [1]
It has recently been reported that, in addition to counseling, prisoners receive financial incentives to renounce their extremist views.

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Seed Newsvine

The Chicago Tribune finally addressed the issue of the Cary-Grove High School response to Allan Lee’s response to a senior English writing assignment. I add some additional quotes from the article below:

Involving the police struck Jim Barnabee as overkill. He is a creative-writing instructor at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and, like most teachers, has been trained to alert counselors or administrators if he thinks students might harm themselves or others.

He referred a student to a school social worker this year after she turned in a poem about suicide. It was a poorly written “emotional spew” that paid little heed to the assignment—all hallmarks of potential trouble, he said.

He added that Lee’s essay, by contrast, seemed more like the product of an annoyed senior, deserving perhaps of school discipline but not police intervention.

“If you refer someone to the police, all you’re going to do is teach kids to hide their feelings, to shove it down and not let it out there,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s what we want to teach young writers.”

The point here is that the CGHS teacher and administrators over reacted rather than practice appropriate measures.

Mary Kay Albamonte, a 22 year veteran teacher said:

“There are some rights that stop at the schoolhouse door,” she said. “Kids can’t just say or do anything. We’re responsible for them, and we have to be vigilant about it. When it’s staring you in the face you have to take it seriously.”

She and other teachers talk about limits with their students at the beginning of their courses. But some say that with violence and sex pervading American pop culture, teens don’t always understand what’s appropriate.

The issue is not one of rights or the lack of rights. It is one of the appropriateness of adult behavior when faced with perhaps inappropriate behavior on the part of one or more students.

If a student is engaged in a criminal act it is fully appropriate to arrest that student and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. When did completing a school assignment become criminal. My goodness, would that we could get more students to complete their assignments. What may have been inappropriate was the content of Lee’s essay which you can read for yourself by clicking on the link. The language of the essay is not, even in the wildest stretch of ones overactive imagination, criminal. Disturbing, perhaps, but criminal, not in a million years.

As an English teacher, I read the essay in the context of the assignment, and through the lens of adolescent pop-culture. I read the words of a senior about to graduate and get on with his life. I read words that reference music, events, and even conditions in the classroom. I read the words of a very typical free writing exercise, one that is neither intended to be finished work nor coherent and cohesive in form.

Lighten-up CGHS. Give this kid some rope.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
A high school writing exercise that ended with the arrest of a McHenry County student last week was a dramatic illustration of a dilemma faced by young authors and their teachers: Where is the line that separates provocative from alarming?
The answer, many say, depends on far more than the words on the page.
A student’s demeanor, disciplinary record and relationship with the teacher all relate to whether a bloody piece of work is viewed as a bold, boundary-pushing statement or a thinly veiled threat.
“Judgment calls are required on all of this,” said Chris Meade, an English teacher at Glenbard North with 30 years of experience. “Nothing happens outside of a context.”
Allen Lee, 18, a straight-A senior at Cary-Grove High in Cary, was charged with disorderly conduct after he turned in an assignment that had called for him to write continuously for 30 minutes without making corrections, and without judging or censoring what he produced.

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Another Peace Poster

Seed Newsvine

Here is another peace poster. This one I find even more ironic. Here we have the education president bombing Iraq back to the stone age while the DoED is engaged in the Reading First scandal and NCLB is under significant attack from independent researchers across the country. Time to stand up and be counted.

clipped from www.brushstroke.tv

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Seed Newsvine

This poster was entered in a Peace Poster contest. Dripping with sarcasm, I just had to giggle. Worth a clip and a share as well.

clipped from www.brushstroke.tv

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Seed Newsvine

This page presents a powerful video that raises questions for all of us to think about. I found some of the piece disturbing not because of anything other than the fact that it rang true and reminded me that I do not do everything I could to end the war in Iraq. The video presents a powerful case for action. It calls on each of us to step up and be counted. Watch and be disturbed also.

To view the video click on www.djpauledge.com

clipped from www.djpauledge.com

 
 
 
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Seed Newsvine

Clipped this interesting photo.

clipped from www.fecalface.com

The image “http://www.fecalface.com/POTD/upload/2007/03/post_222/3-25-07.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

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