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Cuomo, King, Pearson, and the Rotten Pineapple: An American Parable of Power

'Pineapple Wallpaper' photo (c) 2006, Ron Mader - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
On this year’s 8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) New Youk State exam, there was a story about a pineapple.

That’s all I knew before reading the papers, because teachers are prohibited from discussing test items:

“To minimize the number of testing irregularities, principals should conduct a review of the test administration procedures prior to each test administration with all faculty and staff that will be involved in the test administration and scoring. In addition, to preserve the integrity of the test materials, advise all staff that they are not to discuss test  questions or other specific test content with each other, with others online via e-mail or listserv, or through any other electronic means.” [Accessed 4/21/2012, on page 5 of the English Language Arts and Mathematics Tests School Administrator’s Manual 2012]

In other words, Pearson and the Department of Education collaborated to ensure that this pineapple story, and other controversial questions like it, would never see the light of day. Not only that, teachers were directed not to discuss the questions with each other, even casually.

Anyone who has ever taught or coached or done other forms of instruction knows that one of the best ways to become a better facilitator is to debrief on student responses to particular tasks and test items. But with secret test questions, engaging in this kind of professional development is criminalized!

Why would New York State criminalize professional development?

On March 20, 2012, Dr. John King announced that he was hiring “Tina Sciocchetti as Executive Director of Test Security and Educator Integrity.” [Accessed 4/21/2012 from the SED web site here.] Further down in this memo, we read, “In her new role, Sciocchetti will also be responsible for overseeing teacher and administrator discipline, including the Department’s enforcement of moral character regulatory provisions that are applied when certified educators are found to have engaged in misconduct, ranging from test integrity violations to inappropriate relationships with students” (emphasis added).

In other words, the person who leaked this exam to the press is being investigated right now and–without whistleblower protection–is in danger of losing his or her job.

This makes me more wary than ever about publicizing teacher results in newspapers and online for everyone to see and interpret. If these are the kinds of questions my students are expected to answer, how can I be confident that Pearson and the NYS Department of Education will be able to draw valid conclusions about my effectiveness as a teacher?

As I prepared to criticize Governor Cuomo for supporting the publication of teacher results in newspapers and online as recently as last month, I was shocked to learn that even he has changed his perspective on this issue.

Cuomo said, “I believe in the case of teachers, the parents’ right to know outweighs the teachers’ right to privacy,” the governor said. “After that, it’s less clear to me. And that’s why I think it warrants conversation.” He’s changed his view that teacher evaluations must be available for anyone and everyone to review and interpret. Now, he’s hedging his bets and leaving open the possibilty that he might be willing to give parents limited access to this data instead.

Anyone who has dealt with Governor Cuomo knows how shocking it is to hear him agree to a “conversation” about anything. He is an effective and ruthless negotiator, and he knows how to get his way.

Why would Cuomo, Arne Duncan, and Bill Gates all agree that it may not be best to make all teacher evaluations public?

Maybe it’s just that they’ve developed a compassionate, collective conscience. Maybe they can’t stomach the abuse leveled at teachers in LA and New York City after test scores were published.

But when there are tens of millions of dollars at stake, maybe there’s something else going on.

David Abrams was the director of assessment in New York for many years. He was released abruptly after releasing an “unauthorized memo” describing longer tests a few months ago. But these longer tests, 90 minutes each, for three days each in math and ELA, are now reality.

Why would Mr. Abrams, long-time director of testing in New York, be forced to resign for telling the truth? I suspect that he has access to information that many, many people in power don’t want going public.

I believe the preponderance of the evidence indicates that something at the (pineapple) root of our No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top’s testing system is rotten. If we can figure out the real reason that David Abrams was driven out, we’ll be closer to uncovering the source of the spoilage.

 

Categories: Education

Timothy’s Curriculum

Paul suggests that Timothy base his teaching upon the content of verses 1-5.

Who picks your curriculum, dear Reader? How do you decide what to study and learn?

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Elders and Deacons

Augusta, Georgia, United States.Image via Wikipedia

Paul writes that people who desire to take leadership in the church have an admirable goal.

This reminds me of a conversation I had once with a friend. We discussed volunteering, and I asked why anyone would ever subject themselves to school board service. It’s stressful and unpaid.

He replied that his brother had been a school board president, and that the goal was to help the schools improve and provide a top-notch education.

I imagine that this should be the motivation of church elders and deacons, too.

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Mentor

Bill HybelsImage via Wikipedia

Paul encourages Timothy‘s leadership in 4:12. Godliness is more important to effective service than age.

Do I hold myself back because of my age? Would I be more effective (at school, at church, and at home) if I actively sought a mentor?

Bill Hybels, in his book Axiom, suggests that people ask for mentoring which is tied to a specific area of need and growth. He also suggests seeking multiple mentors for multiple areas of growth. This allows the person seeking mentoring to ask for advice catered to each mentor’s strengths, and avoids the trouble caused when one person is completely dependent upon another.

Related links:
http://weblogg-ed.com/2009/personalizing-education-for-teachers-too/

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