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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Education Reform a world without humanity

About our Policymakers, Mainstream Media, and Legislators.
They have no idea any norm reference assessment will always indicate half fall above the mean, and half fall below. They become like deer in the highlights as soon as some mentions test scores.
With the two major types of assessments used in education are one Norm Reference and Criterion Reference Tests.

1. They have no idea any norm reference assessment will always indicate half fall above the mean, and half fall below. Thus no matter who you test half will always look like they fall below the mean. If it shows anything else then the assessment is invalid. This type of test Mainstream Media love to report that half of the population are can fill in the blank ______________.

2. Criterion Reference Tests are performance-based mastery assessments, depending on what you call mastery 70%, 75%, 80%, most people choose 75%. By the way, these cut off scores are judgment calls, not objective calls at all. Policymakers determine proficiency levels and passing scores on criterion-referenced tests in my professional opinion are highly subjective or misleading. The potential consequences are particularly significant, with tests used to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, and schools.

If I wanted to make it look like our schools are failing I would raise the proficiency level, and keep teachers out of any decision defining cut off scores or defining what it means. In other words, this is what we have now. Assessments made to make children, teachers, and public schools look like they are doing poorly. Of course, this is just my professional opinion, other professionals may disagree with me.  The way Criterion Reference Assessments are being used today show even higher rates of failure than Norm Reference tests. More importantly, they are far far more expensive to develop and create. If I wanted to make a whole lot of money on testing children, these would be my go-to assessments. Over time, I could charge states hundreds of millions, even billions with these.

Regardless of the standardized assessment, our policymakers have ignored the history of racial, linguistic, gender biases, and a hundred years of Eugenics history.  Eugenic scientists went as far as sterilizing 70,000 women because they knew better than the women they sterilized. These women had no court of appeal.

Any standardized test that is determined to be more reliable or valid than the voices of those closest to the child? Is an assessment system void of any sense of humanity. Why? Why? Why? Our children have become monetized into a system that reduces them to test scores that feed profits driven by convincing American our public schools are failing. Why? I can think of only one reason for sustaining an assessment where children, parents, and teachers have no voice. Only "MONEY" can drive this kind of inhumanity. If you like to hear the song that inspired my walk this morning its the Ojays Money Money Money

"Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me why'all, do things, do things, do bad things with it
You want to do things, do things, do things, good things with it
Talk about cash money, money
Talk about cash money- dollar bills, why'all
For the love of money
People will steal from their mother
For the love of money
People will rob their own brother"

Thursday, August 22, 2019

170 years of Fix the teachers, Fix the kids, Fix the tests, but never ever fix inequity

Winston Churchill said: "The farther back, you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." On my journey into the mountains this August, I found a gem in an antique store in Peterboro New Hampshire. It wasn't for sale. It was just a part of a display. I explained that I am a teacher educator and love finding these kinds of gems. The store owner said I don't know how to price this kind of thing. I said it is for a good cause. Teachers of today need to know what it was like for those of yesterday. Five dollars sealed the deal.

It's time to share my 5.00 find in the mountains, and how it informs my thinking and wandering on education. America's Public School reforms have are rooted in three concepts for more than 170 years. I have spent considerable time searching through old public documents over the last decade.
I have found three common threads.
1. Public schools need more rigorous standards in our schools,
2. We need better teachers. To get them we need higher standards for teachers,
3. We need more stringent assessments to improve our public schools.
These three are the revolving door of education reform to fix the standards, fix the teachers, and fix the tests. Occasionally someone like John Dewey comes along and offers a more child-centered approach, or inquiry-based learning, or community school movement. All of these are positive, but when the measure of success becomes some high-stake testing standard. Everyone always falls under these standards, and without equity, it becomes an immoral failure.

Some cheer on the idea that American Public Education is about community schools. Each community is responsible for its public schools. The concept of every child walking to his/her local school embedded in local control.  I love this concept, as well. But, when many of those local schools are underfunded and under-resourced that harms children in those community schools. Then your public school system because a system of the haves and the have nots. When those schools have been in this state for 170 years, then something about the public school system is immoral.
Do we send rockets to the moon?
Do we spend more money on prisons than on public schools?
Do we fight wars in every corner of the world?
Do we give trillions and trillions in tax breaks to the wealthy?
My list could on and on, but when you can do these things, and we don't give equity in our public schools to all children. What do we call it?
Honestly, America's public school system is in a state of Structural Racism.  Racism driven by fear,  fear that Black, Brown, Immigrant, Jewish, and Muslim children might rise above their children. Something that happens time and time again, even under the harshest conditions of hate and inequality.  Imagine all our public schools fully funded?  That is the White Suspremercist nightmare.  I do want community-based schooling, but not community inequity. Equity has always been the prize sought by people of color, immigrants, and the poor in America.

So, what did I discoverer in these mountains of New England within that old 1869 Peterboro school finance report, and my studies over the past decade? 
That reforms without equity cannot bring justice to all our children attending our public schools.  American local schools have been segregated by race and poverty since the beginning — the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education has not led to the desegregation of our public schools.  Time and time again that decision has been weakened at both the federal and state level. From Plessy to Brown, these American courts and legislators had numerous shots at desegregation. In my opinion, they have run far away from those opportunities at every chance.  If they get a clear shot at it, like 1954 with Brown, well then those winds of Racism stir up the haters, and it's a full-court White Suspremercaist press stopping it.  Change can't come from merely chasing more rigorous standards and assessments over and over again. But, it does provide excellent cover for a system not willing to change. 

The issue of inequity never gets systematically addressed in my professional opinion.  Shouldn't all researchers accept improving public education begins with equity?  Should every education reformer be standing to shout from the rooftops equity first? I often find some mention of the inequity of resources in my studies. I see it but addressing it, demanding it, implementing it, and making it a reality. It's too big, too abstract, and too costly. It, however, is always mentioned.  Mentioning the White Elephant in the room has been America's way of dealing with inequity.  Black, Brown, Immigrant, Special Education, and Poor Children have been waiting for justice for over 170 years.

I find the vast majority of policymakers, legislators, and reformers not vested in an all-out fight for equitable resources. Race and income inequality get briefly mentioned, never really addressed. Reformers always return to those three safe status quo choices.
1. Public schools need more rigorous standards in our schools,
2. We need better teachers. To get them we need higher standards for teachers,
3. We need more stringent assessments to improve our public schools.
In 2000, within NCLB the language of Inequity and Race found it's way into our current Education Reform picture.  Communities of color given new reforms coming in more robust tests, new standards, and intense competition would save their children.  In 2019, our public schools are more segregated and broken then they were in 1954. I see no serious attempts to address inequity and lack of funding for poor schools. 
I find those same old ideas of new standards and assessments still driving our current education reforms. With an assumption that competition and incorporating business model thinking is the only way to improve equity and quality in our public schools.

In conclusion, I find Racism still drives American public education.
What will change it? A mass uprising of parents, teachers, and citizens who understand this public school system rooted in Racism is the greatest threat to our democracy.
Rise up, teachers and parents reject silence and apathy, 
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
Moral Monday Connecticut Education Ambassador

If you like to hear the tune that inspired my morning walk today, its mystery of iniquity from Lauryn Hill 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Dear America, We'll live to tell about it!

President Obama said: "We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith."

In my personal opinion, the one thing President Trump doesn't understand that President Obama understood from day one is that America must be more than just another Alpha Dog. Top dogs come and go. What makes America unique is that we became a beacon of hope for all. Like any lighthouse beacon, we should also remember that the water is full of dangerous rocks; capable of sinking this ship of hope for all. White Nationalism places us in danger of becoming another sunken ship along the shores of falling nations.
Mr. President, it is not about our arsenal; it is about our openness, our diversity.  Close America's openness, paint diversity as the enemy, and we become just another temporary top dog until the next top dog comes along.
President Trump clearly doesn't get this. It is essential we understand that his time is limited, and his thinking will pass ~ just like this thinking has always passed.

Stick to the aspiration of something more America, make those pledge words real "Liberty and Justice for All". Trust me America, this man who doesn't understand will not last, like all the haters before him, he too shall fade; and we shall live to tell about it.
Come November 3rd.  2020, I am voting out the man who doesn't understand,

Jesse The Walking Man Turner
If you like, listen to the song that inspired my morning walk today.  It's Play For Change "I lived to tell about it"

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Education reform policies missing the data that really matters

Dear Education Reformers, Policy Makers, and Legislators, where is the data that really matters on your high stakes testing policies? 
If you tried to approve a new medicine or intervention treatment in the medical world, you are required to gather data by talking with patients, care providers, and family. 
This data is not considered soft data, but crucial data.
No medicine can make it to market with this data. There is the data that matters, and the data that really matters!
When did you ever ask children, parents, and teachers about the testing, the reforms, the school closings, moving art, music, and play out of the curriculum for test prep in schools of color? Your education reform took aways the things that mattered, and replace them with a Darwinism education reform policy that demanded unfunded schools compete against each other for limited resources.

You claimed you were giving Black and Brown parents a choice. Your choice left most of their children in more segregated and underfunded schools. Schools with less play, art, music, nurses, counselors, and tutors. Your reforms made billions for Wall Street CEOs, billions that should have been used to fund the arts, music, and wrap-around services needed in communities of color. 
Someone has to say it, your reforms are as deeply rooted in Structural Racism as those that existed before Brown Vs The Board of Education. 

Jonathan Kozol, (2006), wrote in The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America“There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old "accountable" for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.” 

I am calling this failure to collect the data that really matters. I say you did not collect it because you already knew that children, parents, and teachers would have told you. Their tears, their pain, and suffering would have shut you down.
I accuse you of education malpractice,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
Professor of Literacy, Elementary, and Early Childhood Education 

If you like to listen to the song that inspired my morning walk today its Andra Day's Stand Up For Something"

Friday, August 2, 2019

Assessment should not be something done to learners

This image may be old, but it still defines my work as a teacher today.
We are living in a time when assessment, learning, and teaching in our public schools is about measuring, quantifying, weighing, sorting, speeding things up, and labeling who is worthy, and who is to blame. Learners and teachers are living in a time of great damage. Where is the hope in this assessment game of blame?  I am not seeing it.

Something about assessment, teaching and learning that these number crunchers, education reformers, policymakers, and data chasers have not gotten. These data-driven people who say with certainty that our data defines what you are, and where you shall go. I have even heard some of these data chasers claiming to be able to see who is college-ready or not in grades one or two. It is in this kind of thinking that the race to nowhere begins. 

The Latin origins of the very term assessment are "to sit with". Think about it, it does not say 'to do to", it requires sitting signifies sitting next to, and that to me indicates that assessment is a teaching and learning journey together. Both teachers and learners working together, growing together, each one part of something more powerful than some correct answer. No one knows how far a child may go, no test defines them, should limit them. Children are more than test scores.   

Assessment should be not your gate, but the path forward, and teacher and student should walk that path together, for we are in it together. Assessment should be about blame, but about hope. They have turned assessment into a game of numbers. A game of winners and losers, and if you accept their own data than surely you can see they are losing. 

I reject this shame and blame game. I see a path to hope not in their data, but on the faces of those I teach. The data that matters to me? Living and feeling learners who only request to their teachers is to guide them, walk a little with them and help them see more in themselves.
Children are more than test scores, teachers are more than data machines, and hope lives somewhere between the journeys taken together.   

Dr. Jesse P. Turner 
CCSU Literacy Center Director 

If you want to listen to the tune that inspires my morning walk today...its Natalie Merchants 1995 song "Wonder"

"Ooo, I believe, fate, fate smiled 

And destiny laughed as she came to my cradle 

Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience, and with faith
She'll make her way, she'll make her way" ~ Wonder