Monthly Archives: November 2017

November Comments 11/29/2017


Criticisms of Test and Punish and Privatization

Daniel Koretz is a well-respective testing expert. His important recent book The Testing Charade citing Cambell’s law provides persuasive evidence of the  tremendous harm to schools and classrooms from significant test score inflation and misleading results when math and reading annual test results are used as primary measures of school quality. He has chapters on the narrowing of curriculum, deleterious test prep, devaluation of good instruction at the altar of teaching for the test, and outright cheating. Campell’s law: 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 is intended to monitor.

California’s accountability system is attempting to combat some of these deleterious effects and its architecture is in keeping with most of his recommendations. He calls for such changes as broader measures of state and local performance, including measures of growth, building broader tests (even in math and reading the tests only cover a portion of the curriculum), making sure that other measures of school quality are included especially local ones, diminishing predictability of questions to decrease the ability to prep for tests, and, most importantly, orienting accountability primarily to improving instruction not providing consequences.  Still, if we believe his research and recommendations, there is some further work that needs to be done to combat the tendency for publicized test results to drive the system in the wrong direction. This is a worthy topic for discussion and Koretz’s book is a valuable read.

I only have two caveats with the book. Koretz does not like Common Core because of its origins as part of a test and punish orientation and offers the same curriculum for all. But the Common Core as articulated in the California frameworks which also include Science and History/Social Science promotes the very active instruction that Koretz finds diminished by the widespread focus on improving test scores. Discussions on how to teach Common Core’s more ambitious curriculum by school staffs also are a great catalyst for school site team building, cooperative efforts, and continuous improvement.

Secondly, Koretz never mentions the power of effective collective action at the school site and the support necessary to promote it as a worthy objective and important to include in any accountability system.

In an important post Mathew DiCarlo relying on a recent CREDO report questions school closure policies as producing no results but causing substantial community and family damage. He writes:

The primary finding of the [CREDO]report is that students from closed schools ended up making less testing progress than similar students in “low performing” schools that didn’t close. The difference was statistically discernible but very small (about 0.01-0.02 standard deviations). In other words, if you (cautiously) take these results at face value, closing schools didn’t help students, on average.


In addition to no results, school closures cause substantial disruption and collateral damage. Such closures are very controversial, however, and for good reason. For one thing, given adequate time and resources, schools may improve – i.e., there are less drastic interventions that might be equally (or more) effective as a way to help students. Moreover, closing a school represents a disruption in students’ lives (and often, by the way, to the larger community). In this sense, any closure must offer cumulative positive effects sufficient to offset an initial negative effect. Much depends on how and why schools are identified for closure, and the quality of the schools that displaced students attend. In practice, then, closure is a fairly risky policy, both educationally and (perhaps especially) politically. This disconnect between the appeal of theoretical school closures and the actual risks, in practice, may help explain why U.S. educational policy has been designed such that many schools operate at some risk of closure, but relatively few ever end up shutting their doors.


Katherine Stewart writing in the American Prospect has written an important article exposing the extent of religious true believers assault on public education and how the charter movement has been duped by them. The Proselytizers and the Privatizers; How religious sectarian school voucher extremists made useful idiots of the charter movement.

Education Next, a conservative publication, finds the “reform” test and punish effort in Douglas County, Colorado a disaster.

Another persuasive article on the failure of the test and punish experiment. No Child Left Behind: A Deeply Flawed Federal Policy by Helen Ladd.

The much hyped state achievement school district in Tennessee ends after flopping (which hasn’t stopped other states from replicating the idea). Diane Ravitch reports on a copy-cat achievement district in Nevada that has also failed.

Variation within schools is much greater than among schools. Marc Tucker raises the issue that our accountability priorities might be misplaced. Federal, state, and local policy have been based on belief that school variation in performance should be a major driver of policy. But Tucker relying on OECD research points out that within school variation is more than twice as important as between schools variation in science and by implication in other areas. This is consistent with the Coleman reports findings 50 years ago. In the US it is four times greater. The implication for policy  is significant. Variation within schools could stem from school policies on placement, discipline, and suspensions. Or from in-class instructional issues. Or from teacher differences in performance. Common-core and the frameworks contain advice on the classroom issues. Also, school variation means that in most schools there are very effective teachers and,  if the school can create effective learning communities where teachers learn from each other, those effective teachers could be a powerful resource in bringing up the performance of the rest and be part of school collaborative efforts at diminishing variation and offering differentiated instruction. This research validates California’s support and emphasis on site collaboration, instructional leadership, and district support of those efforts to engage in continuous improvement.

Tucker explains: We know where the differences are in school performance.  They are between the rich schools and the schools serving the poor; between the majority majority schools and the majority minority schools.  They are between the schools that can afford to hire the best teachers and the schools that cannot.  They are between the leafy suburbs and the grim inner cities.  In other words, while we know that there are differences in performance within schools, the big differences in student performance, the ones that really count, are between schools.  That’s why parents are willing to spend a lot more to get their children into schools in the leafy suburbs.  That’s why our accountability systems are focused on giving schools letter grades and singling out the poor-performing schools for special attention.

But then there is the graphic in front of me from the OECD titled “Variation in Science Performance Between and Within Schools.”  It tells a very different story.  Out of 68 countries surveyed, between-school variation accounted for 30 percent of differences in student performance, while within-school variation averaged 69 percent.  Hmm.  Maybe what we know is not true.  Among these countries, the variation in science performance is more than twice as much within schools as it is between schools. (In the US it is 20% between schools and 80% within schools). Also see the original charts

American-style Taliban invasion of our public schools by religious extremists.

Ten major problems with Teach for America’s treatment of its teachers.

A teacher’s defense of public education: the good, the deceptive, and the destructive.

Candidates who are speaking up for public education and against DeVos’s agenda are winning.

Peter Greene quotes another libertarian who misunderstands the public nature of our schools and argues that corporations should run public schools.

The problems with grading schools.

The more weight value added test score measures are given in teacher evaluation the flimsier the results. . Another finding by expert that VAMS are inherently biased.

Schools as a community institution played a major part in disaster relief, another example which contradicts DeVos’s insistence that education is an individual consumer good.


Good Instruction

A strong liberal arts curriculum is the best (comparable to California’s standards and frameworks in ELA/ELD, Mathematics, Science, History/Social Science/Civics, Health, World Languages, Visual and Performing Arts, and Physical Education.)

The Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) has produced a report about the implementation of continuous improvement efforts in California.

WestEd reports that based on a Rand survey study, California teachers are significantly more engaged in collaborative efforts to implement a high quality instructional program than their peers in other states. They found:

  • Increased site-based, collaborative professional learning and peer observation reported among California teachers
  • Higher levels of teacher involvement in key school decisions in California than in other states
  • Shifting approaches to standards-aligned materials among California teachers and leaders


Two prominent Americans, Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone and civic activist John Bridgeland published an op-ed supporting the revitalization of civic education.

Dr. Putnam and Mr. Bridgeland state: “Another bold idea would be to engage philanthropy in a $1 billion annual campaign to restore American history and civic education to its rightful place in American schools. We need “problems of American democracy” courses that teach students about the importance of bedrock American values, educate them through real-world experience about institutions that secure rights, check power, and enable public service, and provide practical skills to turn the wheels of a diverse democracy to address public problems.”

Commenting on the article Ted McConnell of the Civic Mission of the Schools organization stated: Now is the time for all who advocate for more and better civic learning to re-double our efforts to ensure every single K-Higher Ed student in the nation receives the student centered, innovative civic and history learning, vital to the student’s attainment of civic knowledge and civic skills essential to informed and committed civic engagement.  For more examples please see our Facebook page or Twitter feed: ( )

California initiates measures to revive civic education and engagement for students.



Sam Wineburg writing in the NYTimes about the inability of students to detect fake news.

Demystifying to help struggling students learn. Also see a column on how to study smarter.

Deans for Impact paper on the science of learning.

An insightful examination of the pros and cons of personalized learning.

In the same vein Education Week has produced a Special Report: Personalized Learning; Vision Vs Reality

A reporter embeds in a public high-school and finds competence, love, and dedication.

Over 200,000 kids writing samples were examined. Here are the areas that stumped many of them.

Why fractions are so hard. and



A video from the Learning Policy Institute on the power of performance assessment in Oakland Unified school district.


Technology and the Future

Marc Tucker describes a curriculum for a digital future which combines a strong liberal arts base with critical thinking and technology skills.

A balanced look at the problems and benefits of technology in the classroom by EducationNext. The article starts with the following paragraph: In the most recent issue of Education Next, for example, Susan Payne Carter, Kyle Greenberg, and Michael S. Walker write about their research finding that allowing any computer usage in the classroom “reduces students’ average final-exam performance by roughly one-fifth of a standard deviation.” Other studies have shown similarly dismal numbers for student learning when technology is introduced in the classroom. But continues on to say that in some instances targeted use of technology for enhancement and personalized learning in specific areas mediated by a personal touch can be helpful.

KQED’s Mindshift warns of the misuse of technology in the classroom.

A caution by Kristina Rizga writing in Mother Jones about the potential negative influence on public schools by tech companies advocacy of “personalized learning”. Personalized learning is the latest trend to catch the eye of tech moguls—and Betsy DeVos. But does it work? asking But does it work?.

John Merrow reviews a NY Times article by Singer and Ivory, How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom about how the Baltimore school district got snookered into squandering millions of dollars on technology while neglecting the district’s basic needs including payola and pay to play.

Another article, this one by Thomas Ultican, arguing technology in the classroom is highly problematical.

The Curmudgucation blog warns of the AltSchool failures and shift to an off-the-shelf personalized learning product.

But see a paper on the science underpinning the Summit Learning charter school network.

School and the Future of Work: Ten research papers you should read.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, in many fields there are more science and technology graduates than there are jobs. STEM education is all the rage in the U.S. today, but we may be misleading students when it comes to which type of STEM jobs are in high demand and which are not. New data highlighted by Steve Lohr in the New York Times reveals that the number of students with STEM-related degrees is outpacing many of the job opportunities in STEM fields. For example, there were an estimated 169,000 engineering degrees (bachelor, master and Ph.D.) awarded in 2015-2106. But there are only 51,000 job openings projected per year. This gap holds true in other fields like life sciences and physical sciences. The one exception is computer science . . . where the number of jobs is equal to the number of computer science degrees.

Good jobs which don’t require a four year college degree. and an article in EdSource entitled California Has Millions of Good-Paying Jobs for Workers Without a Bachelor’s Degree.

California poll shows the public wishes schools to do more to educate the non-college bound.


Team Building and Collaboration

Five benefits from collaboration.–and_improved_teaching_and_learning.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply

International study finds teacher collaboration pays off.

School leadership counts for improving instruction—five findings from a major recent report. Key findings:

  • Students perform better in schools with the highest levels of instructional and teacher leadership.
  • Specific elements of instructional leadership are strongly related to higher student achievement: (a) Fostering a shared vision for the school; (b) Providing an effective school improvement team; and (c) Holding teachers to high instructional standards.
  • When teachers are involved in decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct policies, students learn more.
  • Schools rarely implement the instructional and teacher leadership variables most strongly related to increased student achievement.
  • High-poverty schools often lack the instructional and teacher leadership elements that strongly relate to increased student achievement, limiting students’ potential.


Voucher and Charter School Tribulations

A major, new well-researched report on charter schools demonstrates major problems and negative consequences and recommends policy remediations.

Michael Petrilli comments that some of the better charter schools are shifting from a narrow no-excuse concentration on reading and math and embracing a broader liberal arts curriculum.

Julian Vasquez Heilig tells of the unfortunate history and segregation of charter schools.

Former Ohio legislator explains how massive shifts to fund charter schools has hurt students in traditional public schools.

Ohio charters have terrible college attendance and graduation rates far below regular public schools with harder to educate students One of the more interesting — and telling — datasets now available with the state report card is how kids who graduate from Ohio’s schools perform after they graduate. For example, we now know the percentage of graduates who have a college degree within 6 years, as well as how many graduates have enrolled in college within 2 years of graduation.
Looking at these two metrics, it’s remarkable how bad charter school perform. Overall, Ohio school districts have 5 times the rate of students with college degrees that charters have. And Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati. Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) have twice the rate.

Ohio charters widening achievement gap compared to traditional public schools.

Vouchers don’t improve student performance.

Diane Ravitch reports that for the fifth year in a row every Pennsylvania cyber-school fails to meet state standards.

Debunking the “New Orleans Miracle” The New Orleans Tribune finds fault with the much hyped “progress” in New Orleans charter schools.

The performance of a school touted as a “miracle success story” found to be bogus.

The Poison Fruits of Lax Charter Accountability

Founder of a prominent charter school network in New Mexico found guilty of embezzling millions.

Charter school chief in Ohio busted for stealing $2.7 million from school lunch funds to support a lavish life style.

Charter school principal in Delaware pleads guilty to misappropriating school funds.

The head of a small charter school in Texas paid himself a huge salary while neglecting teacher salaries and student resources.

Diane Ravitch reports on Laura Chapman’s findings of lax oversight on charters in Ohio.

The Orlando Sentinel spent months investigating the $1 Billion voucher-like scholarship program and found massive fraud with little oversight.

In another expose, the Sentinel blew the whistle on the Florida voucher program entitled School Vouchers Gone Wild: A serious problem exposed by serious journalism

A virtual high-school in Indiana has one of the worst records in the US. One of Indiana’s largest high schools ended this past school year with almost 5,000 students, but no desks and no classrooms. The school also had very few graduates — 61 out of more than 900 seniors graduated last year. What Indiana Virtual School did have: Tens of millions in state dollars due to come its way over the next two years, and a founder whose for-profit company charged millions of dollars in management fees and rent to the school.

In Chicago, the inspector general found that large numbers of teachers barred from Chicago Public Schools secured work at city charters.


Report finds that parents often make flawed choices in choosing schools because of lack of quality information vitiating one of the major rationales for choice.

The World Education Blog published an article raising substantial questions about choice in OECD countries titled Does School Choice Really Exist?

Jeff Bryant penned a compelling take-down of a badly argued paper by the Center for American Progress which failed to make a progressive case for charter schools.

An article in the Cornell Law Review by Derek Black, Preferencing Educational Choice: the Contitutional Limits.


Where Can Teachers Find Resources to Implement the New California History/Social Science Framework?


During the past decade, especially at the elementary grades, history, social science, and civics have been neglected in many districts. As the country’s founders and the original advocates for public education were well aware, the survival of our democracy depends in large part on developing an attachment to our democratic ideals and practices as well as an historical perspective in each new generation. Since for several years we as a country and state have fallen short of our obligations to pass on these beliefs and supporting knowledge, the framework comes at a crucial time. It should provide a useful tool for the revitalization of the teaching of history, civics, geography, and economics in California’s schools. The framework adds much new content and contains several major shifts from previous documents. The framework:


  • Provides a much more active classroom instruction with each grade chapter posing engaging questions to encourage deeper learning for students.
  • Places a much greater emphasis on understanding our democracy and civic engagement throughout the grade levels—the knowledge of the basic principles of our democratic ideals, the struggles to honor those beliefs, the effort to incorporate democratic habits of discussion and debate into the classroom and school, and the involvement of students in projects such as Model UN and learning opportunities for civic participation and service learning.
  • Reflects the growing diversity of California’s students and the efforts in this country to broaden the social, economic, and political inclusion of all Americans.
  • Combines the power and engagement of strong narrative with the analytic skills of how to examine and evaluate primary and secondary sources, distinguish fact from fiction, conduct credible discussions, write essays or undertake projects on pertinent topics and perceive historical connections between current and past issues.
  • Follows our California History/Social Science standards as updated by legislation and is organized chronologically to cover United States and California history, world history, and incorporates civic, economic, geographic, and environmental ideas in each grade.


California Department of Education Website Links

The first place to look for resources and classroom ideas is the framework itself. Its individual grade level chapters contain useful links. (These links and the following links can be found at the California Department of Education (CDE) website page at

Additionally, the framework’s appendices are an invaluable resource and can be found at

  • Appendix A: Problems, Questions and Themes in History and Geography–seven key themes in History/Social Science. (page 847)
  • Appendix C covers teaching the Contemporary World (page 899)
  • Appendix D covers civics: Educating for Democracy: Civic Education in the History/Social Science framework. (page 919)
  • Appendix E relates to the teaching of religion in the framework. (page 930)
  • Appendix F deals with California and the Environment Initiative. (page 939) with curricular units
  • Appendix G outlines the capacities of literate individuals. (page 975)
  • Appendix H addresses Practicing Civic Engagement; Service Learning in the H/SS Framework. (page 978)

The CDE also lists the ten recently adopted instructional materials for K-8.

CDE provides links to resources which support the new framework. Further, there is a general recommended literature list which should be helpful with supporting materials such as biographies.  The CDE is currently working on a list of supporting materials specific to the H/SS framework.


The California History/Social Science Project

Their website has a wealth of resources to support the framework. (

    • Their main framework page includes details on upcoming conferences, and links to other resources  (
    • Their newest resource is a Textbook Adoption page, which includes their just-released adoption toolkit, and two blogs with strategies to help schools and districts pick resources for their teachers and students. (
    • Another popular tool is their Question Matrix – all of the Framework questions, organized by grade level in an excel spreadsheet with columns to help teachers align their existing resources with the new Framework.

o   History Blueprint units:  massive units for grades 7 (Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World), 8 (Civil War), and 10 and 11 (Cold War).  All units incorporate inquiry approach, provide support for student literacy, primary sources, and innovative assessments. (

o   ELD collection – three shorter lessons with specific support for English learners for grade 5 (American Revolution), 8 (Westward Expansion), and 10 (Democratic Roots). (

    • Current Context – this resource highlights the Citizenship piece by putting current events in historical context.  Moreover, this year’s series includes a special focus on environmental literacy – recent issues focused on Water (Oroville Dam), and Forest Fires. (
    • Environmental Literacy Webinars:  four part recorded webinar series that offers teachers both a description of how using the environment in HSS classrooms can engage students and concrete lesson plans so they can give it a try. (
    • Teach the Election – another citizenship resource – lots of articles and lessons to help teachers incorporate current events into their history classrooms (
    • All of these web resources align well with the CHSSP’s professional development programs which are being hosted in schools across California.  They work with school leaders to design introductory sessions, ongoing lesson study and original curriculum, and alignment to current school and district reform efforts.  For more information on that, they can contact Nancy McTygue’s office (; 530-752-0572).
    • Teaching California, a new program led by the California Historical Society, in partnership with the CHSSP, will provide a K-12 collection of primary and secondary sources and literacy support for California teachers, aligned to the new Framework.  Currently under development, resources from the collection should be available starting in 2019.  For more information:

Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE)

LACOE’s History/Social Science page is chock full of resources. Especially, look at the Civic Learning Compendium for the California History-Social Science Framework

Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP)

SERP has developed an extensive series of units on tons of discussion questions for Civics and History. Word Generation: Infusing Civics into Everyday Teaching…veryday-teaching/ ‎Other resources can be found at the SERP website

For Some Specific Programs Aimed at Civic Education and Engagement

Educating for Democracy

This blog was developed through a collaboration between the Teaching Channel and the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at the University of California, Riverside .  They will be updating this collection on an ongoing basis. To receive updates on new resources and information about civic learning, follow @Ed4Democracy on Twitter and sign up for the Education for Democracy newsletter .

They have also curated a list of relevant, high-quality civic learning materials from national civic education organizations such as the well-respected ICivics.



Sam Wineburg’s Research and Units on Evaluating Online Civic Information

Sam Wineburg leads the Stanford History Education group and has produced materials to evaluate online civic information based on their research and reports that students have trouble judging credibility.

Here are the units: Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning; ;some short history performance assessments. ; and some lessons, Reading Like An Historian 

Here also are some articles with relevant research about his approach. ; ; ;

These are just some of the resources available but should help many of you in designing top-notch classroom instruction.


Nov. 26th, 2017

What is Word Generation?
• Tier 1, discussion-rich program suite for grades 4 – 8 focused on discussion of controversial social issues while building grade-level academic skills:
• academic language
• perspective-taking
• argumentation skills
• comprehension
• writing
• science
• social studies

72 one-week interdisciplinary units for middle school

Social Studies Generation
18 one-week social studies units for middle school

Science Generation
18 one-week science units for middle school

Word Generation ELEMENTARY
24 two-week interdisciplinary
units for grades 4 & 5

Grades 4 and 5
• Tier 1 program for grades 4 and 5
• For each grade: 12 two-week units organized around a central question (plus a one- week introductory unit)
o 40-50 minute lessons each day
o 5–6 high-utility academic “focus words” emphasized in each unit

Unit Topic
4.00 Introduction to Word Generation
4.01 What is fair?
4.02 Should students share responsibility for each other’s behavior in school?
4.03 Who should decide what we eat?
4.04 Should students be required to wear uniforms?
4.05 Should everyone learn a second language?
4.06 Who cares where we came from?
4.07 Who gets to decide what’s safe?
4.08 Should wild animals be adopted as pets?
4.09 When is it acceptable to break the rules?
4.10 Why do we wear what we wear?
4.11 Why do we buy what we buy?
4.12 Why do we value what we value?

Unit Topic
5.00 Introduction to Word Generation
5.01 Where do I belong?
5.02 Should everyone be included?
5.03 Why should I care?
5.04 What divides us and how can we resolve our differences?
5.05 Why do we fight?
5.06 Do we need to give up our privacy to protect our communities?
5.07 The Power of Power
5.08 Why do communities have different ideas about what brings happiness?
5.09 How can one person influence a community?
5.10 Do we need laws to regulate our behavior?
5.11 What kind of protections justify restricting our freedoms?
5.12 Can we create a better society?

5.11 What kinds of protections justify restricting our freedoms?

restrict amend resistance target reliance persist

Typical Schedule

Day 1: Action News

Allows students to tune into a news report (a critical aspect of becoming an informed citizen).

Simultaneously builds comprehension skills by:
• using aural introduction of content with closed captioning
• using academic language in context
• hearing multiple viewpoints on a single issue.

Day 1: Action News

Day 1: Readers Theater

Students read aloud a dialogue among 4 students in their own everyday language

Grapple with four different perspectives, and the casual reasoning behind them

Day 4: Ask the Expert

Days 5-6: Science/Math/ Articles/Informational Text

Day 7-8: Discussion and Debate
On Day 6 you read about Olly Neal, who stole library books in high school and is now a judge.
Today, you will put yourself in Judge Olly Neal’s shoes and respond to the characters from the Reader’s Theater. Work with a partner to fill in the chart. There are many right answers, so be creative!

Days 9-10: Writing

Fully developed/free resources
• Word Chants
• Vocab Cards
• Letters for Familes (English, Spanish, Spanish, Arabic)
• Rubrics (Debate, Discussion, Argumentative Writing)
• Debate/Discussion Supports for ELLs

72 one-week interdisciplinary units for middle school

Social Studies Generation
18 one-week social studies units for middle school

Science Generation
18 one-week science units for middle school

Word Generation ELEMENTARY
24 two-week interdisciplinary
units for grades 4 & 5


People disagree about the specific factors that make a film inappropriate for children in the United States.

Those who like the rating system say it helps people decide if a product is right for them or their children.

Others say ratings are too simplistic, that they ignore the central messages in movies or books.

Some people don’t like rating systems because they can be used for maximizing profits rather than protecting the public.

Furthermore, a young gamer who is stopped from buying a title because it is “too mature” can often get someone older to buy it.

Social Studies Generation
Unit 6.1 — Pharaohs: Oppressors or Great Leaders?
Unit 6.2 — Pharaohs: Wise Investors or Wasteful Spenders?
Unit 6.3 — Was it better to be an Athenian or a Spartan?
Unit 6.4 — The Legacy of Alexander the Great: Great Leader or Power-Hungry Tyrant?
Unit 6.5 — Ancient Roman Government: Whose Voice Counts?
Unit 6.6 — Pompeii: An Irresponsible Decision or Unexpected Disaster?

Unit 7.1 — What happens to your life when you’re uprooted?
Unit 7.2 — Who do you trust when your life is at stake?
Unit 7.3 — Where is home?

Unit 7.4 — Who will we become?
Unit 7.5 — How do I fit in?
Unit 7.6 — Should we stay or should we return?
Unit 8.1 — What are governments good for?
Unit 8.2 — Who gets to say what I need to know?
Unit 8.3 — What is the value of your citizenship?
Unit 8.4 — When is a crime not a crime?
Unit 8.5 — Where is the justice in our justice system?
Unit 8.6 — How do we right the wrongs of the past?

Focus Words
agency • pressure • document • resolve • dual • renounce • universal • right


Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!


Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!




Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!




Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!





Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!



Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!



ELA Math Science
Supplementary Activities

Science Generation

Major design considerations:

‣ distinguishing prediction/guess and observation/inference

‣ the idea that “I don’t know” is a terrific first step

‣ learning to describe and construct controlled conditions

‣ using evidence instead of speculation when identifying cause/effect relationships

‣ using mathematics spontaneously, including appropriate units of measurement and graphing strategies

‣ the idea that revising plans is at the heart of what scientists do, but

‣ working to reduce bias, admitting bias

‣ hands-on WITH… planning, integrated text, creative strategies for capturing and displaying data, varied outcomes, communication

‣ recording data in stages and within processes

‣ the concept that skepticism is not disrespect in science


Fordham Institute’s Simplistic System for Evaluating State Accountability Systems Gets it Wrong for California.

The Fordham Institute recently published evaluation of state accountability system is dangerously off the mark. They use three criteria to give strong, medium, or weak rankings.

The first criterion elevates giving clear and intuitive annual ratings such as A-F grades to schools as an easily understood way for parents, educators and policy makers to evaluate a school and then push for improvements. California had persuasive reasons to reject that approach. A-F grades are simple and clear, yet often misleading as primarily based on reading and math scores which are much too narrow a definition of school quality. Several states which have used this system have experienced widespread misidentification of schools and found that the grades merely tracked socio-economics. Many schools with low grades were actually high performers.

California instead uses a broader set of measures called a dashboard which includes test results of annual exams but also such measures as graduation rates, preparation for college, preparation for careers, achievement gaps among groups, school climate, enrollment in advanced courses and suspension rates. Each measure is given a ranking using a quadrant method which combines growth and level of performance. This strategy is much more useful for educators and parents to determine where improvements need to be focused.

To mingle these diverse measures to produce an average score may be simple but could well mask major differences in performance. One school may have medium test scores but high engagement levels, graduation rates, and college attendance. Another school with the same ranking grade may have very high test scores but low college attendance. If the purpose of accountability is to provide useful information to school and district staffs to guide improvement efforts, then discrete information on each measure is warranted, and mushing these various measures together inappropriate and counter-productive.

If your car’s temperature gauge is in the red but all the other gauges are fine, a high average score will mask the seriousness of the situation. Or conversely, if the gas gauge is on empty but the temperature gauge is fine in one car and the opposite is true in another car, the same average score is highly misleading and doesn’t pinpoint the problem.

Fordham agrees that a variety of measures could also be provided but argues parents won’t be able to understand multiple measures so they need one rank even if it is not accurate. They produce no evidence that parents can’t use a dashboard to push for needed changes. The California PTA found that its parent members liked the dashboard idea as a more precise method of understanding strengths and weaknesses in their schools and had no difficulty understanding it. Moreover, even if multiple measures are offered, the single ranking will become the main way to judge schools and crowd out the more useful information to the detriment of the proper educational response.

I suspect the real reason Fordham advocates a flawed ranking system based on averaging measures is that they have wholly bought in to a “test and punish” policy of weaponizing a single grade as a way to put pressures on schools to improve, for districts or states to close “low performing” schools, and to encourage charter expansion.

The strategy of using reading and math test scores and supporting consequences for low performance was the basic policy idea behind No Child Left Behind (NCLB). That program and philosophy did not produced results but did cause large-scale deleterious consequences. NAEP (the National Assessment) scores were climbing before NCLB, slowed down during its first years and in the final years when consequences multiplied came to a screeching halt. Closing schools has also proven to produce no effect on average but has caused significant collateral damage to communities and families.  . and Fordham has been an acknowledged advocate of charter expansion. California views accountability much differently. It is following a “build and support” approach” primarily aimed at producing useful information for educators and others to improve the quality of schools. The state policy assumes that teachers and educators are committed to continuous improvement and don’t need to be bludgeoned to get them to improve.

In summary, using California as an example, there is strong evidence that the rankings for the first criteria are backwards—weak should be ranked strong and the strong states which rely on misleading letter grades should be ranked as weak.

Fordham’s second criterion is valid and important. Avoid basing test scores on reaching a set proficiency levels which encourages schools to only concentrate on those students just below that proficient level. Instead, use scaled scores or averages which results in all students contributing to the measure.

Unfortunately, the Fordham review for California was flawed and completely misrepresented the state’s approach. Fordham gave the state a weak designation because through sloppy staff work it thought that the state used proficiency levels to determine its measures. It didn’t and even a cursory view of California’s system would have proven it. The state uses the distance from a standard met level, which is fully in keeping with the scale score or average approach. David Sapp, deputy policy director and assistant legal counsel for the state board, said the report [Fordham’s Rankings] also contained a big error. California already has moved away from the old standard of rating achievement based on the percentage of students who scored proficient. The dashboard measures performance in relation to the point identified as minimum proficiency on the Smarter Balanced math and English language arts tests. It measures how far above or below that point students, on average, scored.

Fordham’s third criterion Fairness to All Schools has a very helpful basic idea—growth scores on tests are fairer to low income schools. One of the major problems with NCLB was its reliance on levels of performance which disadvantaged schools with lower socio-economics and gave a pass to schools with higher income children. Under that rubric school scores almost completely tracked the socio-economic level of the school.

However, Fordham’s fix is terribly flawed. They want growth in student test scores in math and reading to be at least fifty percent of the total grade of the school. If growth is emphasized to the exclusion of status (the actual performance level), then schools which have historically produced students scoring at high levels are mistakenly identified as mediocre or worse. Imagine a school with low-income students who after considerable effort has reached a high plateau of performance and maintained that level for several years. They would unfairly look mediocre or worse on a measure heavily weighted to growth.

California solved this problem in a clever way based on what some of the best jurisdictions in the US and Canada have instituted. They use a quadrant method so schools get high marks if they produce high scores in either growth or status—the fairest method around. So in reality growth could be higher than 50% for some schools on this measure. This solution completely escaped the pundits at Fordham and they gave the state a weak designation as minimizing growth. Furthermore, while California has used cohort growth instead of student score growth, this is only temporary until four years of student data is available.

In addition, Fordham made a major strategic error in this criterion. To emphasize growth their standard requires that the growth score should be at least 50% of the total score or grade. If status scores are added at a somewhat smaller percentage to protect schools already achieving at high levels, the overall score becomes essentially a math and reading annual test score. That strategy in NCLB resulted in a profound narrowing of the curriculum shortchanging history, civics, science, and the arts and humanities. It also produced widespread gaming by extensive test prep. de-emphasizing quality instruction, and outright cheating, and yet results were still meagre or non-existent. It also ignored local measures of quality which are essential for a realistic picture of school performance. Daniel Koretz in his recent book The Testing Charade persuasively demonstrates how placing high-stakes on math and reading scores was so devastating. Campbell’s law is still potent: 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 is intended to monitor.

Finally, Fordham’s selection of only these three criteria is highly questionable. Why aren’t there measures of the strength of the curriculum or instructional program, of teacher and community engagement, of effective school teams devoted to continuous improvement, of performance gaps among groups, or of social and community support? In a rush for a club to beat schools Fordham has ignored those measures which actually produce results. As an example, effective team building and promoting teacher efficacy produce extremely high effect sizes which are large multiples greater than giving letter grades to schools or the punitive use of testing. Fordham at one time supported such valuable measures, but, unfortunately, lately the Institute has neglected them as Fordham became chained to a much narrower approach.

California has developed some of the strongest efforts in the country in developing and implementing a powerful curriculum, school site team building and continuous improvement, district support for those efforts, and state policies which enhance them. See the report on standards by Achieve which give California the highest rankings for the quality of standards, frameworks and instruction.  Of course, these policies fly in the face of Fordham’s reliance on a discredited “test and punish” agenda. A piece of advice to Fordham: back to the drawing boards and base your efforts on the best research and proven experience of what works and what doesn’t.



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