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Friday, December 20, 2013

Poverty matters Mr. Mayor, fighting poverty should be our nation's work.

My thinking about No Child Left Behind, and Race To The Top can be summed in one line: I see these Education Reform policies as attacks on the poor. They are sinful in my humble opinion. When do we start really looking closely at these Ed Reformers. This blog looks at one of those Education Reformers leading the charge.
Sonny Carroll wrote: "There comes a time in your life when you finally get it ... When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out "ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on." And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world from a new perspective  .........This is your awakening."

Mayor Bloomberg recently said when referring to a New York Times series on homelessness that featured an 11-year-old homeless girl named Dasani. "This kid was dealt a bad hand. I don't know quite why. That's just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not."

Billionaires never get it, I am perplexed why we keep electing people who think hunger, poverty and unemployment is God's work not a result of their greed. 
So brothers and sisters, this is our awakening we can let the powerful, the connected, the wealthy continue to blame God, or luck, or we can start pointing them to the nearest mirror. I am a man of a deep faith. I am an unworthy soul seeking grace. I know that those standing idly by, doing nothing to help those in need will not attain that grace. In James 4:17 it is written: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” 
No Mr. Mayor it is not God's work, but our work.
Silence and apathy are unacceptable,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you want to listen to what the Walking Man listened to on this beautiful Sun filled Connecticut day...its Old Crow Medicine Show's "I hear them all"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Is data a dirty word?

In Education Week on 12/18/13 Peter DeWitt ask the question: Why is data a dirty word? He goes on to write a good article around the idea that we are inudated with data in our schools. He points us to good sources to make this point: Lyn Sharratt and Michael Fullan's "Putting Faces on Data.  He uses their work to provide perfect questions about the data we are collecting in our schools.   
" Lyn Sharratt and Michael Fullan, they write that "It's not just the sheer volume of information that is daunting. It is the form in which data arrive-can you imagine a devoted teacher becoming excited about the latest eloctronic report that serves up scores of disaggregated statistics?" Sharratt and Fullan go on to quote their colleagues Any Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley by writing "Teachers are data driven to distraction."

In their book, Sharratt and Fullan ask educators to take a "deliberate pause" and ask the following questions:
  • How useful have your data been?
  • Of all the data available, which are most critical?
  • Which data are missing?
  • Instead of using data, do players at every level "hope for" exceptional instructional practice within the mysterious black box known as the classroom?
  • Give examples from your data that demonstrate you know that every child is learning at his or her maximum potential?"
These are crucial questions in any discussion of assessment. I highly recommend them in any discussion of assessment. The notion by Hargreaves and Shirley that Teachers are data driven to distraction deserves some immediate attention. I agree the amount of data teachers are required to collect under the current education reform policies are distracting them from good teaching. I feel the need to ask who is responsible for this? It is not teachers, not school adminstrators, or local schools. This insane focus on collecting data to the point, that it is distracting teachers is coming from the Federal Education policy of No Child Left Behind. This insanity is driven by Federal policies coming from the United States Department of Education. Keeping it simple in my humble opinion all distractions eminate from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top polices. 

Time for a little professional reflection on data from Dr. Jesse Patrick Turner 

In my assessment courses I begin every course with this line on the board: There is the data that counts, and the data that really counts.

Then we proceed to list the data that counts to policy makers on the board. The usual suspect always shows state mastery test scores, (proficiency type data) assessments.

First question:  How useful is this data to students and teachers at the classroom level? The mantra usually goes something like this data tells us where our schools compare to others. Getting back to students and teachers…. Is this data useful for guiding differential instruction for individual students? Eventually the discussion ends up with not really. Does this data tell us explain why schools perform at certain levels compare to others? In a very short time it comes down to NO. So why do we collect it again? The answer ends up to something like we have to collect it. Would learning shut down if for some reason this data were lost? Resounding NO. 

Second question: So my follow up is: How useful is this data in driving instruction for individual students. It eventually comes around to well it's not timely enough to be used for that purpose really. It's grade level driven, so while this data informs us about a student's grade level proficiency, it does not inform us about where a students is proficient if they are not able to grade level work. It assessment we refer to that as the ceiling level. Good assessment practice requires we go down until we come to an assessment level that demonstrates they perform on. We learn only one thing from ceiling levels, our students cannot perform at this level, and we need to move down.  Again how useful is any of this data to driving instruction for students who are below proficiency? Answer not very useful. Considering that policy makers love to throw numbers like more than more 40% of our students can’t read, write, or do math at their grade level. So the data that counts to policy makers is of little use to nearly half of our students. So this data counts, but not to individual students.

Forth question: Can we talk about the data that really counts? We quickly discover the data that really counts is collected in the classroom on a daily basis. Are policy makers requesting this data? NO! Then are our policy makers using the data that really counts? Answer always ends up being NO. Can we afford to not look at this data? Again the answer ends up being NO. So the data that really counts does not count in Washington DC. Something is terribly wrong with a federal and state assessment systems that ignore the data that really counts, and Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium and PARCC cannot fix a broken policy.  

Peter DeWitt ends his piece rightly saying this about data. " We need to realize it's not the data's fault so we shouldn't hate it. It is what we, as educators or leaders, do with the data that matters."

I end with data becomes a dirty word when it does not inform instruction. When the main purpose of data collection is to compare, sort, and rate schools, and not improve learning for individual learners it become not a distraction, but harmful to students, teachers, and schools. It also begins to sound like eugenics. Eugenics is a dirty word in any discussions of race and class. Data becomes a dirty word when policy makers turn it in an abusive social shaping hammer. A hammer that continously degrades our children, their parents, and teachers. When policy makers refuse to stop using assessment as a hammer it becomes dirty. In simple terms it sure sounds like eugenics. 
I charge the United States Department of Education with abuse, and I plan on going to the July 28 National Badass Teachers protest outside the United States Department of Education's house of dirty data.
Silence and apathy are not acceptable,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you like to read Peter DeWitt's full article you can find it here

If you want to listen to what the walking man listened to on his walk snow shoe walk over the moutain today it Peter Tosh's Go Tell It On The Mountain

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fight the power Opt Out people & CT BAT "Love-in" Valentine's campaign

First the big lie
No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top advocates have pushed our nation into a unprecedented high-stakes testing frenzy. They have spent over a trillion dollars on education reforms rooted in testing and standards since 2002. Their mantra is higher standards and more rigorous standards will improve our schools. Fact number 1, we have seen this argument used in some form for over a hundred years, and it has failed every time. If it had worked we wouldn't be having this discussion.
I compare it to those claims of outlandish cancer cure all clinics that pop up continuously on the Internet. In the end, they leave families more devastated by false hopes, not cured, and broke. We should asked: If someone had the cure for cancer would they really be hard to find?
The world  of high-stakes testing"fixes it all" is not much different than those cancer cure all scams. When we follow these claims the only thing rising is the cost not the cures.
Getting back to our current love affair with high-stakes testing. Something policy makers don't want you to know, or conveniently neglect to mention when discussing high-stakes testing. In the field of psychometrics, for nearly 40 years now the study of standardized testing leads to this one warning: Campbell’s Law.
Campbell's Law says: "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor." (1976) You cannot study assessment without learning about Campbell's law, and the negative effects of using quantitative measures for decision making. However in my humble opinion, it appears you can be the United States Secretary of Education, and miss it altogether. Our current Secretary Arne Duncan, and his two predecessors Secretary Spellings, and Page have ignoring it while spending over a trillion dollars on it since 2002 without ever once thinking about Campbell's law. It their policies had worked we wouldn't be talking about new testing and new standards again via the common Core.

Parents are not helpless
What can parents do when the politically connected and the powerful create education policy that ignores Campbell's law? My advice parents is to fight the power, and Opt Out. Second tell the powers that be why you have decided to opt out your child publicly. Only a massive resistance by parents will end this current nightmare, before we spend another trillion dollars on the same old, same old "testing fixes it all" part 2. For more information on opting out:

Not ready to Opt Out.
Well here is something else parents might consider doing. Please consider joining our little Valentines Day Love-in protest.  I am inviting all parents, teachers, and students to join in a Connecticut BATs Valentines Day resistance protest against these policy makers who continue to reduce our children to test scores. It does not matter in what state you live in really. I am inviting parents every where to join our Valentines Love-In. The Valentine's message is I love learning, but hate your test. 
How can parents get involved? 
It's simple, it can be done at one family at a time, or in small community gatherings.
Required supplies
1. Valentines Day card, commercial, or better yet home made cards,
2. One envelope addressed to President Obama (1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500)
3. Another address to the governor of your state, (a simple google search will help you locate it.
4. Another for your school principal, (deliver this one to his/her mailbox at school yourself)
5. Crayons and papers,
6. Two stamps,
7. Selfie picture of you and your child addressing your cards. (if you are on Facebook consider sharing your selfie in your status.
8. Send the selfie to your principal with his/her card,
9. Talk to your child about the fact that 30 years from now no one will remember their test scores,
10. End with a conversation about how no one has ever come up with a standardized test to measure love. Share the love people, share the love, it's the only thing that really matters.  

This blog name indicates it all " Children Are More Than Test Scores.
Still walking,
Still speaking up,
Still advocating for children,
Still agitating for change,
Still walking,
Still advocating for a more humane public schools,
Fight the power,
Jesse The Walking Turner

If you are wondering what I am listening to on my walk today in the snow, it's Barry Lane's "More Than A Number"
If you want to know what I read to inspire today's blog It's Alfie Kohn's Education Week article.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tell it on every moutain top: The Walking Man is going to Selma

 I have always loved that George Bernard Shaw quote: “You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?” I have always lived by it, and decided long ago that silence and apathy are not acceptable. I have always loved that George Bernard Shaw quote: “You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?” I have always lived by it, and decided long ago that silence and apathy are not acceptable.

I have always loved that George Bernard Shaw quote: “You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?” I have always lived by it, and decided long ago that silence and apathy are not acceptable. 

In 2001 America allocated 1.2 trillion dollars to No Child Left Behind. All but a handful of legislators in both parties opposed it's passage. It promised every child would be reading, writing, and doing math procinetly at grade level by 2013.
The promise is broken, it's has done more harm than good, it has demoralized children, parents, teachers, and undermined our public school system in America. I charge the United States Department of Education with the failure to serve our children, our parents, our teachers, and our public schools. NCLB legislation runs out on December 31, 2013, we must not let them renew this legislation, this madenss that reduces our children to test scores.
During NCLB the economic gap between our schools has grown. NCLB policies have done little or nothing to improve school equity in America. The challenge to make America first in inequity of course mark appears more and more to be the bottom line of school reform in America. I quote
Andreas Schleicher, (PISA assessments person), said "The bottom line is that the vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite."

From my view NCLB Education reforms, are an attack upon our poor, our working class, their children, their teachers, and their local schools.
Can't wait to occupy Arne Duncan's house of shame and pain DC this July with those BATS,
Jesse The Walking Man Jesse

Agreat new Blog to follow is Jan Resssger's :

In the meantine if you like to know the song that I listended to on my walk this morning it's: Leela James singing that old Sam Cook song "A change is gonna come"

Friday, December 6, 2013

The people give thanks and praise to Mandela

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at age 95. He was Xhosa born to the royal family. He studied the law, and as a lawyer he was repeatedly arrested fighting against the evils of apartheid. Charge over and over again with committing seditious activities, and even with treason. In 1962 the South African government would place our freedom fighter in prison for the next 27 years. His only real crime was he fought to bring justice to the people he loved. The only seditious acts and treason committed was comitted by the White leadership of an aparthied government. A government that brutaly inprisoned and murder it's own people. Even in prison he continued the struggle, and became the face of hope for Black South Africans, and peoples all over the world. His life was one lived with dignity, honor, and nobleness.

We lost a giant this week, a freedom fighter, a voice of social justice, and a nation healer. He brought truth and reconciliation to South Africa a nation deeply rooted in the evils and brutality of Apartheid. He never stopped fighting against injustice. The anti-apartheid leader and Nobel laureate became one of the most dearly loved international figures of hope, peace and justice. In 1994, in a historic election, he became the nation's first black leader. Mandela stepped down in after serving only one single term and retired from political and public life. He had no desire to hold political power his only real desire was to bring justice and peace to his beloved South African people. 

Today you walk with Stephen Biko your dear friend and fellow freedom fighter in the glorious house of God. Bravo Mandela, three cheers brother, and thanks and praise for being our role model of justice. 
We honor Mandela not with words, but with actions. Silence and apathy are the enemies of justice, hope, and peace. Silence and apathy are not acceptable actions. 
Nelson Mandela's wish is for us to fight them at every step, seek the truth, and fight for it.
Love, love, love,
Jesse The Walking Man

If you are wondering what the Walking Man listened to on his walk over the moutain was the "People want Mandela"