Reader Jim Explains Why Due Process Matters

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Legislatures in various states are trying (and in many cases, recently Kansas, succeeding) to eliminate “tenure” for teachers, which means the elimination of due process.

If a student makes a baseless claim against a teacher (“he touched me”) or a parent complains that the teacher discussed evolution or global warming or taught an “offensive” book, the teacher may be fired on the spot, without a hearing in the absence of due process.

Tenure doesn’t mean a lifetime job. It means that the teacher has a right to a hearing before an impartial administrator and must be fired only for cause, not capriciously.

Teachers don’t get due process until they have taught for two, three, or four years, depending on state law. They don’t give themselves due process; it is a decision made by their principal.

Reader Jim explains in a comment on the blog why teacher differ from other public…

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Open Letter to Michael L. Williams, Commissioner

Word copy of letter below.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Mr. Michael L. Williams

Commissioner of Education

William B. Travis Building

1701 N. Congress Avenue

Austin, TX 78701


Dear Mr. Williams:

On March 31st and April 1st many students across the State of Texas were administered the redesigned English I and English II End of Course Exams. They were allotted five hours to complete the exam; many struggled to finish within the five hour time limit.

One of the main factors that contributed to their struggle to complete the exam in five hours was the fact that the exam contained thirteen multiple choice “field test” questions, a second one page essay and one additional short answer response. These extra “field test” questions amounted to twenty-five percent of the test, twenty-five percent that were a waste time and effort because they did not count towards the passing of the exam.

I am writing you as a parent and educator to ask you to direct the Pearson Company to remove all “field test” questions, additional essays and short answer responses from future English I and English II exams. The removal of the extra questions will allow the students more time to focus on what is necessary rather than spend an hour writing an essay that doesn’t count towards passing the exam.



David R. Taylor

26 Year Teacher, Coach, and Principal

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Does Data Matter to the Status Quo Defenders?

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Reader Chiara Duggan says that study after study shows that charters and vouchers demonstrate that data don’t change their minds. She is right. The charters that get high test scores systematically exclude the most challenging students. Some public schools get higher test scores because they serve affluent districts. The differences between charters, vouchers, and public schools tend to be small if they enroll the same students. But the Status a quo pays large numbers of people to argue that the Status Quo–the destruction of an essential institution of a democratic society–is “working” and has positive effects. When the test scores don’t support their argument, they shift the goal post and claim that the private schools–the charters and vouchers–have higher graduation rates. They take care not to mention attrition rates, which are very high. In the case of Milwaukee, the “independent” evaluators from the Walton-funded University of Arkansas quiet.y acknowledged that…

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High-Stakes Testing Leads to High-Stress Lapses in Judgment

Originally posted on rightfulwriter:

This is a handout given to third graders in El Paso, TX. (Check out the story here.)

The “lesson” was designed by a concerned counselor who wanted to diffuse students’ test anxiety and fears. She gathered their fears through some sort of survey and then put them on paper to talk with them about them. The district reports that it was a help to some kids. 

My greatest concern is this: Why are we making educational decisions that generate these kinds of fears among 8 and 9 year olds in the first place? 

Take a brief refresher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

I always point out to my kids that when the needs at the bottom of the pyramid are endangered, people quickly forget about values, morals, and ethics (self-actualization) to secure basic needs. 

This high-stakes testing culture threatens students and teachers and schools by putting their needs in serious…

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The Day That Susan Ochshorn Nearly Dropped Her iPhone

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Susan Ochshorn is an advocate for early childhood education who keeps track of the good and bad developments affecting young children. She is, needless to say, appalled by the increasing emphasis on academic activities and testing in the early years.

So this is the reason she nearly dropped her iPhone. She opened her phone screen one day recently and discovered an article in Forbes magazine extolling the virtues of PLAY. You read that right. Forbes, the self-proclaimed capitalist tool, published an article on the value of play as a generative force for creativity and entrepreneurship.

John Converse Townsend, the media manager for Ashoka, wrote that: “In order for our global society to develop solutions to pressing problems in an increasingly technology-driven and constantly changing world, we need to re-train our workforce to do what machines can’t: to be enterprising, independent and strategic thinkers—to be purposeful creators.”

He concludes: “If we…

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Oklahoma: Reform Fatigue Sets In

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

After years of enacting reform after reform, and after years of defunding the public schools, Oklahoma legislators are stepping back and thinking twice  what they have wrought.

It is not pretty.

They passed a law saying that third graders would be held back if they didn’t pass a test, but they are rethinking that.

They adopted the Common Core standards, but they are rethinking that.

They adopted A-F school grades, but they are rethinking that.

Imagine that.

A legislature wondering if they did the right thing and taking another look.

Let’s hope it is true.

Let’s hope they are asking themselves whether they are really qualified to tell educators how to do their jobs.

Maybe they should hire well-qualified teachers, set reasonable standards, and let the teachers teach.

And while they are at it, fund the schools so they can offer the arts, foreign languages, history, civics, science, physical education…

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Pearson Crashes in Florida During State Testing


WOW….Texas take notes please.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

I am getting reports of computer servers crashing in various states. Whose nutty idea was it that all testing must be online? Was it to make data mining easier? Ir to enrich the testing companies and vendors of software and hardware?

News from a reader in Florida:

Diane – below is the email sent by our Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart.

Pearson’s server apparently could not handle the number of children testing today. I guess it was a big surprise to them.

We have been warning for years, that Pearson and our state were not technologically ready for this move to online testing.

Today proved it. Across the state, students were kicked off the system and unable to test. Districts were told to wait for instructions while students just had to wait.

When will we talk about the emotional and psychological affect all of these “glitches” have on our children…

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