Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TEA Summary of education bills passed during the 2013 legislative session in Texas.

TEA Summary of education bills passed during the 2013 legislative session in Texas

Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Prep

Education scholars are critiquing their standards and methodology of this report--akin to "restaurant reviews," as one professor says. More of the same pattern of demonization of higher education, targeting colleges of education.

Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Prep

Only a small number of teacher education programs nationally are designed so that new teachers are adequately prepared, concludes a long-awaited and deeply contested independent review.
Released today by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report, the project grades programs on up to 18 standards on a scale of zero to four stars. Just four programs, all in secondary teacher preparation, earned a four-star overall rating—Furman University, in South Carolina; Lipscomb and Vanderbilt universities, in Tennessee; and Ohio State University. Earning at least three stars were 104 programs.
About 160 programs were deemed so weak that they were put on a “consumer alert” list by the council.

Read more here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A school rebellion against a culture of testing bubbles over

John Young has been a steadfast journalist in the area of testing. May his kind multiply.

A school rebellion against a culture of testing bubbles over

by John Young

We all know when a popular revolt succeeds. Someone gets overthrown. At what point, however, does a historic, full-scale rebellion take wing? Always hard to tell.

The revolt we discuss here involves bad policy and public schools. A climactic victory has yet to come. But let me fancy this notion:

What now simmers across the countryside took wing a few years ago when a certain overstressed Texas third-grader of whom I know threw up on her state test.

She wasn’t the first; nor will she be the last.

Let’s assume for narrative’s sake that this third-graders’ angry parents took note, however, and made sure their state representative knew, too.

Of such matters are movements made.

Policy makers finally are coming to understand the unnecessary pressure, the costliness, the nonexistent diagnostics, the false comparisons, the lost time, the expense, the whole of the nation’s pathological lap dance with standardized testing.

In recent weeks and months these things have happened:

• The Texas Legislature voted overwhelmingly to dramatically scale back a battery of high school end-of-course tests. Lawmakers also voted to exempt high-achieving students from certain state exams.

• In Seattle, a heroic teacher boycott of the Measure of Academic Progress — MAP — standardized exam influenced the district to drop it.

• Arizona, Nevada and Alabama lawmakers voted to do away with clunkily arbitrary high school exit tests and re-examine their function.

For Texas lawmakers to do what they did in this session is akin to communists taking sledge hammers to the Berlin wall. Texas is, of course, the “cradle of accountability,” from whose ideological loins sprang the unenforceable “one-size-fits-y’all” No Child Left Behind policy.

Oh, and by the way, 35 states including Texas have sought exemptions from NCLB requirements.
It is in the Lone Star State that former Education Commissioner Robert Scott said the overemphasis on testing had become a “perversion” of a system originally meant to give policymakers a quick read on basic skills statewide.

The result, said State Rep. Mark Strama in the Texas Tribune, is a “culture of testing rather than learning.”

A rudimentary system that began in 1979 with basic-skills tests for third-, fifth- and ninth-graders became a bovine stampede.

One of the most exciting things that Texas lawmakers did this session was vote to limit the number of benchmark tests — those given by school districts to see if lessons are linking up with state test criteria. One Texas grade-school teacher told me that adding these nuisances into the mix, she sacrificed 16 instructional days a year to testing ordered from above.

Credit parents with turning this tide. The grassroots Texans Advocating for Meaningful School Assessment — TAMSA — now offers a counterpoint to the big-money, pro-testing Texas Association of Business.

“We thought it was just Texas parents” alarmed and disgusted, TAMSA’s Susan Kellner, a Houston parent and school board member told NBC News. But “across the country a similar sentiment is starting to bubble up.”

Funny that she should say “bubble,” because that’s what it’s been all about — the quest to make the whole of education fit into those little testing bubbles, a whole booklet of bubbles spoiled when said overstressed third-grader lost her lunch.

Know that the Texas Education Agency was alert to this prospect. Per procedure, her despoiled exam was bagged and shipped to the state capital like your standard crime implement.
I trust it is still in state custody.

Someday, like pieces of the Berlin wall, that little girl’s book of unfilled bubbles will be a souvenir of an oppressive and counterproductive educational past.

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

The Inside Story Of The Harvard Dissertation That Became Too Racist For Heritage

Definitely an interesting piece.  I personally would not have signed off on a dissertation like this but someone like him wouldn't have come to work with me either in the first place--which is part of the answer of how this racist, pseudo-scientific research came to be. -Angela

The Inside Story Of The Harvard Dissertation That Became Too Racist For Heritage

The idea that some racial groups are, on average, smarter than others is without a doubt among the most discussed (and debunked) “taboos” in American intellectual history. It is an argument that has been advanced since the days of slavery, one that helped push through the draconian Immigration Act of 1924, and one that set off a scientific firestorm in the late 60s that’s hardly flagged since.
Yet every time the race and IQ hypothesis reclaims the public spotlight, we are caught slackjaw, always returning to the same basic debates on the same basic concepts.

The recent fracas sparked by Dr. Jason Richwine’s doctoral dissertation is a case in point. The paper is a dry thing, written for an academic audience, yet its core claim, that Latino immigrants to the United States are and will likely remain less intelligent than “native whites,” has proved proper tinder for a public firestorm. The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst in Empirical Studies is now a former Senior Policy Analyst — Heritage could not risk further tainting an immigration report it hoped would be influential by outright defending its scholar’s meditations on the possibly genetic intellectual inferiority of immigrants from Latin America.

It might seem like the book is closed on l’affaire Richwine: he’s left his job, Heritage is left with a black eye, and not a single mind has been changed about the value of research into race and IQ. But there’s still one major unanswered question.

If the dissertation was bad enough to get him fired from the Heritage Foundation, how did it earn him a degree from Harvard?

A popular answer among Richwine’s defenders is that, quite simply, it was exemplary work. Richwine’s dissertation committee was made up, by all accounts, of three eminent scholars, each widely respected in their respective fields. And it is Harvard.

But dozens of interviews with subject matter experts, Harvard graduates in Richwine’s program who overlapped with him, and members of the committee itself paint a somewhat more textured picture. Richwine’s dissertation was sloppy scholarship, relying on statistical sophistication to hide some serious conceptual errors. Yet internal accounts of Richwine’s time at Harvard suggests the august university, for the most part, let serious problems in Richwine’s research  fall through the cracks.

Richwine Goes To Harvard

By his own account, Jason Richwine came to the Harvard Kennedy School deeply fascinated with the link between race and IQ. Richwine told The Washington Examiner’s Byron York that, as an undergraduate at American University, he fell in love with Charles Murray’s work on the topic. Murray, who will become an important player in Richwine’s story later on, is one of the authors of the infamous The Bell Curve, the 1994 book whose claims about the genetic roots of the black/white IQ gap set off the most famous public food fight over race and IQ. Richwine describes Murray as “my childhood hero.”

People that knew Richwine at Harvard describe him as an introverted, but kind, man. “He was a quiet and thoughtful person,” said Anh Ngoc Tran, a contemporary of Richwine’s at Harvard who now teaches at Indiana University. “[Richwine] was friendlier to international students,” Tran said.

Another contemporary of Richwine’s echoed Tran, saying Richwine was “not really all that outgoing. Always a really nice guy.”

Tran took pain to distance Richwine from accusations of racism. “I don’t think he is racist,” Tran told me. “His wife is an immigrant.”

After the first two years of coursework, PhD candidates in Public Policy at the Kennedy School move away from group classes toward individual research. That means taking comprehensive exams (“comps,” in grad student lingo) to show you’ve mastered the course material. After comps, you start work on a dissertation, a piece of original scholarship that’s supposed to demonstrate the candidate’s ability to produce research at the level expected of an expert in the field. Dissertation topics are determined in conjunction with a primary advisor, who goes on to become the “chair” of a three-person committee that determines the candidate’s fate. The topic is finalized in a formal “prospectus” outlining the research agenda.
Richwine’s chair, as listed in his dissertation, was Professor George Borjas, a prominent, if controversial, economist. A Cuban immigrant himself, Borjas was a natural fit for Richwine’s dour assessment of mass Latino immigration: he’s the nation’s leading academic immigration skeptic, famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for arguing that immigrants to the United States are likely to be unskilled drags on the US economy. One of his most influential articles, a 1987 paper called “Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants,” argued that countries with more income inequality than the United States are likely to send over “low quality” immigrants— meaning people lacking the skills to march up the economic ladder — as unskilled laborers lead a more prosperous life here than in their home countries.

However much Borjas emphasized the skills, or lack thereof, of Latino immigrants in his own work, he knew and cared little about their IQs. “I have never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ, so don’t really know what to think about the relation between IQ, immigration,” he told Slate’s Dave Weigel. “In fact, as I know I told Jason early on since I’ve long believed this, I don’t find the IQ academic work all that interesting.”

It’s then perhaps odd that Borjas put up little resistance to Richwine’s proposed line of inquiry. “Jason had the topic fully formed in his mind before he talked to me,” he wrote via email. “I played no role in topic selection or forming the research agenda.”

This line raised eyebrows among some scholars familiar with social science dissertations. Dan Drezner is a Professor of International Politics at Tufts’ Fletcher School, an institution that’s somewhat similar to Harvard’s Kennedy School in character, who’s been following the Richwine case closely. “If I’m an advisor, and I have a student that comes to me,” Drezner said, “the last thing I would do is say ‘write this.’” They key issue is “how well formed was Richwine’s argument when he came to Borjas?” Students should come up with their own dissertation topics, Drezner said, but if an advisor didn’t sufficiently challenge them on whether it was a good, well-thought out program, that could be a problem.

What’s a “Hispanic?”

Some experts in the fields Richwine’s dissertation covered, judging from the final product, had harsh answers to Drezner’s question. “The committee was wrong to approve [Richwine's dissertation] and to accept the prospectus,” wrote Diego A. von Vacano. Von Vacano is a professor at Texas A&M University whose research focuses on Hispanic identity. After he wrote a harsh review of Richwine’s work on the academic blog The Monkey Cage, I got in touch with him to see if he could clarify the nature of his objections.

Von Vacano’s basic critique centers on Richwine’s definitions, or lack thereof, of the terms “Hispanic,” “white,” and “race.” The most grevious of Richwine’s errors lies in his account of the first: the lack of a meaningful definition of “Hispanic” dooms the dissertation’s ability to draw rigorous conclusions about the people he’s chosen to study.

There’s enormous debate about just what “Hispanic” means and who counts as one in any meaningful sense. Richwine’s third chapter, titled “Hispanic IQ,” treats this debate in the most cursory of fashions. This is the chapter’s full definition of the term Hispanic and defense of its use:
Over 56% of immigrants living in the U.S. in 2006 were Hispanic — that is, born in either Mexico (32% of total immigrants), Central American [sic] and the Caribbean (17%), or South America (7%)…Hispanics are not a monolithic group either ethnically or culturally, but the category still has real meaning. Hispanics can be of any race, but they are most often “Mestizo” — a mixture of European and Amerindian background. Mexico, for example, is 60% Mestizo (LV 2006, 241). Hispanics also share ethno-cultural tendencies that are different from the majority Anglo-Protestant culture of the United States (Huntington 2004, 253-255). Most come from Spanish-speaking nations with cultures heavily influence by Catholicism. And many Hispanics choose to identify themselves as such, as the existence of groups like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of La Raza (“the race” or “the people”), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus readily demonstrates.
Von Vacano sees this as fatally inadequate. “Any serious work at the doctoral level on these issues (even if mainly quantitative or policy-oriented),” he told me, “requires a substantive component of analysis from the qualitative, historical, cultural, normative, and theoretical perspectives (at least one or two dissertation chapters).”

These are not merely scholarly niceties: what Richwine means by “Hispanic” is critical to the success of both of his two core arguments. First, to prove that “from the perspective of Americans alive today, the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent,” he needs to show that one can speak meaningfully about“Hispanic” IQ. Richwine needs this claim to be true for the entire third section of his dissertation, the one that spells out the dangers of low IQ Hispanic immigration, to succeed. Establishing the negative consequences of Hispanic immigration means first establishing there’s such a thing as “Hispanic immigration” in a scientifically useful sense.

Because Hispanic identity is so hotly contested among scholars of race and ethnicity, that means both providing a clear account of why people from an arbitrary set of geographic locations are homogenous enough for generalizations about them are meaningful, controlled social science. Richwine fails to do so.

First, Richwine asserts Hispanics are mostly some “Mestizo” mix of Native American and European, making them genetically similar. But in the unnerving world of race and IQ research, what mix they are matters. Richwine believes that “socioeconomic hierarchies correlate consistently with race all across the world” because some races are biologically smarter; “there are no countries,” he writes, “in which ethnic Chinese are less successful than Amerindians.” It stands to reason, on his theory, that “mixed” Hispanics with more European or  Asian DNA will be concomitantly smarter, on average, than more heavily Amerindian or African ones. But Richwine doesn’t attempt to show that the mix of racial DNA inside any one “Hispanic” subgroup is consistent enough for generalization, let alone the category as a whole.
That’s because it’s not. Even a cursory examination of research on Latin American genetics uncovers an impossibly complex genetic admixture, one that varies widely from country to country or even region to region. To take one simple example, the average percentage of identifiably African, Native American, and European DNA among Brazilians varies widely by region (although some definitions of “Hispanic” would exclude Portuguese-speaking Brazil, Richwine’s includes it). Hispanic immigrants to the United States come from a bewildering array of countries, each with its own particular internal diversity. As von Vacano puts it, “there is no literature that can meaningfully support the idea that ‘Hispanic’ is a genetic category,” let alone one that can be equated with the colonially-superimposed “Mestizo” identifier.

Second, Richwine asserts that Hispanics share a similar culture that’s distinct from so-called “Anglo” culture. Richwine’s only support for this claim is a citation of Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We?, a book that warns of a wave of Hispanic immigration irrevocably altering American culture for the worse. Huntington’s claims about Hispanic inability to assimilate have been subjected to serious quantitative challenge, but more to the point, citing a polemic tract about immigration does not constitute explaining what the purportedly unified Hispanic culture is and why the fact that it involves a lot of Spanish-speaking and Catholicism might be seen as allowing one to make generalized claims about the group.

This is especially egregious when the scholarly consensus is that there is no obvious unified Hispanic or Latino culture. As the introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture puts it, “as all the chapters [in this book] reveal, any search for a communal ‘Latin American’ culture has remained an elusive, somewhat quixotic idea.” This, again, is because Latin American countries vary widely — compare Mexico to Brazil to Costa Rica to Argentina and find extraordinary differences in wealth, social norms, political systems, and ethnic backgrounds.  Indeed, the vast diversity among “Hispanic” societies should be obvious even to someone whose only experience of these cultures involves dining out: Mexican chile rellenos are not Cubano sandwiches, which definitely are not Argentine steak platters.

Finally, Richwine notes that Hispanic immigrants to the United States have a sense of shared identity, but, again, it’s not explained why that allows one to make generalizations about group IQ, let alone the genetic component thereof. It’s just simply asserted, without any explanation of who shares the shared identity — Cuban-Americans, for example, have a different view of their American experience than Salvadoreans — and why that’s relevant.

Continue reading here.

Grouping Students by Ability Regains Favor in Classroom

Previous post refers to this growing trend that synchronous with state trends towards vocational education pathways. -Angela

The New York Times

June 9, 2013

Grouping Students by Ability Regains Favor in Classroom

It was once common for elementary-school teachers to arrange their classrooms by ability, placing the highest-achieving students in one cluster, the lowest in another. But ability grouping and its close cousin, tracking, in which children take different classes based on their proficiency levels, fell out of favor in the late 1980s and the 1990s as critics charged that they perpetuated inequality by trapping poor and minority students in low-level groups. 

Now ability grouping has re-emerged in classrooms all over the country — a trend that has surprised education experts who believed the outcry had all but ended its use. 

A new analysis of data collected by the government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. The analysis, by Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that in math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996. 

“These practices were essentially stigmatized,” said Mr. Loveless, who first noted the returning trend in a March report, and who has studied the grouping debate. “It’s kind of gone underground, it’s become less controversial.” 

The resurgence of ability grouping comes as New York City grapples with the state of its gifted and talented programs — a form of tracking in some public schools in which certain students, selected through testing, take accelerated classes together. 

These programs, which serve about 3 percent of the elementary school population, are dominated by white and Asian students. 

Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker who is running for mayor, has proposed expanding the number of gifted classes while broadening the criteria for admission in hopes of increasing diversity. (The city’s Education Department has opposed the proposal, saying that using criteria other than tests would dilute the classes.) 

Teachers and principals who use grouping say that the practice has become indispensable, helping them cope with widely varying levels of ability and achievement. 

When Jill Sears began teaching elementary school in New Hampshire 17 years ago, the second graders in her class showed up on the first day with a bewildering mix of strengths and weaknesses. Some children coasted through math worksheets in a few minutes, she said; others struggled to finish half a page. The swifter students, bored, would make mischief, while the slowest would become frustrated, give up and act out. 

“My instruction aimed at the middle of my class, and was leaving out approximately two-thirds of my learners,” said Ms. Sears, a fourth-grade teacher at Woodman Park Elementary in Dover, N.H. “I didn’t like those odds.” 

So she completely reorganized her classroom. About a decade ago, instead of teaching all her students as one group, she began ability grouping, teaching all groups the same material but tailoring activities and assignments to each group. 

“I just knew that for me to have any sanity at the end of the day, I could just make these changes,” she said. 

While acknowledging that wide variation in classrooms poses a challenge, critics of grouping — including education researchers and civil rights groups — argued in the 1980s and 1990s that the practice inevitably divided students according to traits corresponding with achievement, like race and class. Some states began recommending that schools end grouping in the 1990s, amid concerns that teachers’ expectations for students were shaped by the initial groupings, confining students to rigid tracks and leading teachers to devote fewer resources to low-achieving students. 

“The kids who are thought of as the least able end up with the fewest opportunities and resources and positive learning environments,” said Jeannie Oakes, author of “Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality,” a popular critique of grouping. “The potential benefit is so far outweighed by the very known and well-documented risks.” 

Though the issue is one of the most frequently studied by education scholars, there is little consensus about grouping’s effects. 

Some studies indicate that grouping can damage students’ self-esteem by consigning them to lower-tier groups; others suggest that it produces the opposite effect by ensuring that more advanced students do not make their less advanced peers feel inadequate. Some studies conclude that grouping improves test scores in students of all levels, others that it helps high-achieving students while harming low-achieving ones, and still others say that it has little effect. 

Proponents of grouping argue that without it, teachers are forced to teach to the middle, leaving out both struggling children and gifted learners. They also say there is a “peer effect,” in which high-achieving children do better if paired with other high-achieving students. Done judiciously and flexibly, they say, grouping can help all students. The reasons for the resurgence are unclear. Some experts attribute it to No Child Left Behind, the 2001 law that strengthened accountability standards for schools. By forcing teachers to focus on students who fell just below the proficiency cutoff, the law may have encouraged teachers to group struggling students together to prepare them for standardized tests. 

Technology might have also played a role, Mr. Loveless said, with teachers becoming more comfortable using computers to allow children to learn at different speeds. 

In interviews, several teachers said they believed modern-day grouping was not discriminatory because the groups were constantly in flux. But they acknowledged the additional challenge of tailoring instruction to different groups, as they must produce multiple lesson plans and keep closer track of students’ progress. 

At Public School 156 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which enrolls mostly African-American and Hispanic children, many living in homeless shelters, Cathy Vail randomly sorts her fifth graders at the beginning of the year using lettered sticks. After six weeks of testing and observing them, she shifts them into “teams” of seven or eight. 

Children may be assigned to different groups for reading and math, and can switch groups if they have shown progress, struggle to get along with other students in a group or need extra help with a particular lesson. Ms. Vail uses thrice-yearly reading assessments and a test before each math unit to make sure children do not remain in groups that are too advanced or too slow for them, she said; one student this year, for instance, has moved up two groups in both reading and math. 

Ms. Vail teaches the same lesson, whether it is a math concept or a book, to the entire class, but gives each group a different assignment. Working on each week’s set of new vocabulary words, all four groups draw illustrations and write captions using the assigned words, but she encourages team C, her highest-achieving group, to write more complex sentences, perhaps using two new vocabulary words in the same sentence. She also asks children in team C to peer-teach students in the other groups.
“At the end of the day, they’re learning the same words, but just with different levels of complexity and nuance,” she said. 

When she moves students to new groups, she tells them it is because she can best help them there, and she believes they see the grouping positively, she said. 

“It has to be done properly — you can’t make a kid feel small because they’re in group A,” her lowest-achieving group, she said. “If you don’t have a stigma attached to the group, then I don’t see the problem.” 

In Ms. Sears’s classroom at Woodman Elementary in Dover, the three or four groups of students rotate throughout the day, some being taught on the rug while others work in desk clusters. Before each unit, she groups the 26 children based on initial assessments, takes a few days to observe them in the smaller groups and revises the groups again, sometimes as often as every day.
In the decimal unit, one group might learn to add decimals using blocks they can manipulate with their hands, while another might be able to draw the models on their own. Yet another might practice using the algorithm for adding. The last group might be asked to analyze a word problem and apply the calculation. 

“I can really hone in on their performance and see if they need to move up to a group that will help them access the same content in a way that works for them,” said Ms. Sears, who refers to the technique as dynamic grouping. “Are they an abstract learner, are they someone who needs to draw a picture, are they someone who needs to move their body, are they someone that likes to work alone?”
She said the minority children in her class were more or less evenly distributed among the groups.
African-American and Hispanic children make up about 15 percent of Woodman’s population, its principal, Patrick Boodey, said. More than half of the school’s students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Socioeconomic factors are a stronger indicator of where a student will end up than race, he said, with minorities spread among groups but with many poorer children congregating in lower-tier groups and remedial programs. 

Ability grouping in reading has been a common practice at the school for at least a decade, and more teachers are beginning to group children in math as well, he said. The school has so embraced the practice that Ms. Sears will go to Maine this summer to train teachers in two districts in grouping.
“Dynamic grouping is the norm, and it’s going to continue to be,” Mr. Boodey said. 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 12, 2013
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to an analysis of government statistics, and to the statistics themselves. The statistics on grouping, which came from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, were analyzed by Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as was stated elsewhere in the article; NAEP did not analyze them. NAEP is run by the National Center for Education Statistics, a census-like agency for school statistics; NAEP itself is not a census-like agency.

Perry signs bill to reduce high-stakes testing

This happened this week. We still have a way to go to eliminate high-stakes testing, but at least Texas is trending in the right direction. This is not good news for Pearson although we're still left with one more high-stakes test than we had previously. 

The terrain has also shifted with the signing of HB 5 and tracking and the making of sound educational pathways for ALL students will have to be addressed alongside high-stakes testing in future legislative sessions. To be done soundly, this will require a massive and thoughtful infusion of resources.

 Should not therefore be a coincidence that we're seeing a rise in ability grouping that so much research has discredited. Check out this recent piece in the NYTimes along these lines.

Data Reveal aRise in CollegeDegrees AmongAmericans


 Perry signs bill to reduce high-stakes testing

Joined by jubilant students, happy lawmakers and officials who oversee the workforce and education in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry signed into law Monday a high-profile public education measure to overhaul graduation requirements and reduce high-stakes testing.
Perhaps sensitive to concerns over changes for schools in House Bill 5, Perry emphasized the concerns he initially shared with employers and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, over the potential impact. He said they worked to ensure rigor was maintained, and Van de Putte was among those at the signing ceremony.
“If there’s one thing to remember today, it’s that Texas refuses to dilute our academic standards in any way, because our standards are working,” Perry said.
Perry said, however, that HB5 by House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, along with five other education measures he signed into law at the ceremony strike the “appropriate balance between our need for rigorous academic standards and the students’ need for flexibility.”
The new law will reduce the number of high-stakes tests that students must pass to graduate from 15 to five, and it will give students more flexibility to pursue career and vocational courses.
Sixteen-year-old Cristina Salais, of San Antonio, introduced Perry at the ceremony as “the man who is leading the charge in Austin to ensure that Texas students, like myself, are better prepared to succeed in college and our careers.”
Salais is a student at the Phoenix Middle College program in San Antonio and is enrolled in the Information Technology Security Academy, one of four academies associated with Alamo Colleges. She missed her first day of an internship with the city of San Antonio to introduce Perry, and her course was held up as an example of the type of work that students will more easily be able to do under the legislation.
Perry said he had a chance to chat with her before the ceremony, and he asked her what she wants to do when she grows up.
“She said she wanted to be a systems security expert. That’s kind of an appropriate thing right now, isn’t it?” Perry said.
Also on hand was Macala Carroll, 16, who attends school in Spring Branch Independent School District and testified about her concerns over testing earlier this year before the Senate Education Committee.
“I feel that the test shouldn’t judge or break our future,” Carroll said Monday. “All the hard work that I’ve put in this school year … shouldn’t be destroyed by a few questions that aren’t even written properly.”
She said it was satisfying to see the culmination of the effort: “I feel like they truly listened.”
Van de Putte said in a statement, “While high-stakes testing seemed like the right thing to do when it was introduced, parents and educators made it clear to us that 15 end-of-course exams are too many, and that the classroom balance had shifted too much toward testing and too far from teaching.”
Van de Putte’s niece, 16-year-old Yvonne Valenzuela, of San Antonio, came to the ceremony and said afterward, “Thank God we’re not taking 15 tests.”
Also Monday, Perry signed into law Senate Bill 441 and House Bills 809, 842, 2201 and 3662, which relate in various ways to workforce or career and technology education or dissemination of information regarding employment opportunities to students.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Monochromatic Butterfly: The Problem With High-Stakes Testing in Schools

Monochromatic Butterfly: The Problem With High-Stakes Testing in Schools
by Published on  
Before relocating to Austin, I had spent eight years teaching math and/or science in Egypt, Mexico and Honduras at elite private schools that used American textbooks, American curriculum and were accredited by American institutions.  The majority of my students were not Americans, but graduated with a combination of diplomas: local, American and/or IB (International Baccalaureate). After graduation, nearly all attended college, mostly in the US, Canada and England, and a few remained in their own country for higher education.
I proudly returned to the US, toting my international bag of creative, engaging teaching tricks, especially curriculum-based projects that I had created, ready to dazzle my American students. So, imagine my utter shock when resettling into American life, teaching at an Austin public high school, and discovering that the standards were actually lower. Moreover, my teaching creativity was all but stifled for the sake of “standardization” in the most controlling environment I had ever taught. 

Continue reading here.