New Jersey Teacher’s Union Endorses Thomas Guskey’s Position on the Use of Zeros in Grading

Apparently not all teacher unions are averse to rational and unbiased conversation about grading policy. Go to page 16 of the New Jersey Teacher Association’s NJEA Review magazine for October 2005 to read their cover story on whether or not teachers should use zeros in grading.

Grading for Learning: Dealing with the Student Who “Won’t Work” (Revisited)

Teacher grading policies need to be grounded in reality. That reality is this: most students will conform to the teacher’s expectations, especially if those expectations are reasonable. Teachers who set up punitive grading systems create self-fulfilling prophecies by gearing their policies to the exceptions, the what-ifs. Those teachers go looking for trouble and they find it. There will always be exceptional students on both ends of the normal population curve who will confound, amaze, and frustrate us, but creating a classroom management and/or grading policy that speaks to margins and drags the majority of students into an academic minefield is counter-productive.

So, what do we do with the student who “won’t work”?

Step One: Analyze the situation. What work is he or she refusing to do? Class work? Homework? Group work? Attending to the teacher? Taking notes on presentations? Is it “make or break” for succeeding in the course? Is the work necessary for learning or has the student already demonstrated understanding of the topic? Is the work a stated requirement of the class, grounded in district curriculum? Is the homework necessary, or does the student already have the subject under control?

We need to determine if the student is learning enough to satisfy the requirements of the course and not get hung up in procedural minutiae. “Fairness” is not treating all students alike. Fairness in education is meeting students at their own level of need. Our job is to evaluate learning, not “give credit” (the district gives “credits” for courses completed successfully).

I will do what I can to help and persuade a student to engage in learning, even to arranging mandatory after-school tutoring for the student with the permission of the parent. If it’s simply a matter of homework not completed by a student who can score high in the test on that subject matter, what’s the point of hassling the kid or reducing the grade? Power struggles backed up by punitive grading solve nothing and don’t facilitate accurate reports of academic achievement.

Step Two: Get help. Recalcitrant students often have multiple issues that accompany their refusal to engage in learning that have to be handled professionally by all school personnel involved. Involve the parent, counselor, and administration. Go over IEPs, 504s, and make sure that all the ducks are in a row: those that will help the student and those that satisfy state and federal bureaucracy. Keep the feedback going through that loop.

Step Three: Continue to grade for learning. If the student can’t or won’t meet the requirements of the course, summative assessments will tell the tale and that’s that. No need to engage in punitive grading for “school work” that is not completed. Keep the parent, principal, and counselor informed and meet with them all as needed.

Keep a record of summative assessment scores and formative assessment evaluations. Use INC (Incomplete) or NS (Not Submitted) rather than zeros when recording late or missing assessments or assignments. Use only summative assessment scores for report card grades, and use the formative set to back up your report card grades and your good (professional) judgment.

Not On the Test Revisited

NCLB (the federal No Child Left Behind law) makes me grind my teeth for lots of reasons.

This very cool song pretty well sums them up…

Now go visit Tom Chapin’s web site, Not On the Test.

For those of you who want the lyrics, Tom generously published them on his other web site, tomchapin.com.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Thanks to Tom Brandt for hooking me up with the video!

So, What Else Did the Board Discuss Last Tuesday? (Tempest in a Teapot, Part 2)

From my comments on The Oregonian Forum re Lighthouse:

The irony in this discussion of the Board’s faux “division” is that our OSBA Lighthouse Project instructors are competent, experienced, and successful education professionals who are, as the Board is, locked into a rigid program that needs data on the Board’s performance as measured by future student achievement, and therefore [the program] cannot adapt or change to improve.

Also ironic is that of all the topics the Board discussed last Tuesday, this one is merely “sensational,” while the other topics were much more relevant to the continued improvement of student achievement.

The Board received updates on the District’s rollout of standards-based grading (see Policy IK) accompanied by increased professional development in classroom assessment — the day-to-day, moment-by-moment feedback teachers give to students about learning, which, according to exhaustive research, is our most powerful teaching tool.

The Board also continued the discussion about the upcoming renewal of the HSD 1J Strategic Plan that will involve a large cross-section of the HSD community. Board members Adriana Canas, Rebecca Lantz, and Hugh O’Donnell will serve on a core committee with 27 other community representatives to determine which of the current plan’s objectives have been met, which should be maintained, and which still need work. The core committee will also deliberate on perceived need for new objectives.

Following the work of the core committee, still more educators and community members will serve on action teams that will determine the steps needed to realize the objectives.

Any volunteers?

Dividing the Board? Not.

An article in today’s The Oregonian suggested that a recent discussion at a Board work session on Tuesday, September 14, centering on HSD 1J Board of Directors training, is dividing the Board. Certainly we Board members have differing opinions, but is it really news that we disagree on something? We disagree all the time, but we come to consensus, or, in formal meetings, vote. And nobody walks away mad.

My comments on the article are as follows:

Wendy, just a slight course adjustment here…I’m with John on the ponderous waste of time, and I’d just as soon discontinue the project. But with four Board members (and probably five, but the fifth was missing from the meeting) wanting to continue the project, it doesn’t much matter what John or I have to say.

Perhaps you didn’t have space in your article, but it would be nice for folks to know that we, the Board, are lab rats in the Iowa Lighthouse Project. Not that that’s a totally bad thing, but because the Iowa folks are gathering data based on our performance as a Board over the next few years, the content and delivery of Lighthouse instruction has not, and cannot be, altered or the data gathered might be less valid and reliable as compared to other Board’s performances nation-wide over the last few years. That’s just the facts of life in a research project that depends on good statistics.

And that’s a piece of the picture that none of us had explained to us going into this thing.

The best thing we learned from Lighthouse was to follow up with District administration on Board expectations. The rest has been to micro-analyze District performance data (an admin job) and encouragement to micro-manage our administrators, which is something that the Oregon School Board Association has discouraged in the past, according to all our training to date. At least until Lighthouse.

I’m all for high-performing Boards of Ed, and I think we have a very conscientious group, but we barely have enough meeting time and opportunity to take care of A-1 priority issues, let alone waste time with the glacial pace and questionable learning opportunities of Lighthouse.

If the Lighthouse curriculum could be condensed and presented the way a competent teacher would be expected to present it, I’d be willing to go for it, but not the way it is now.

Bottom line: this Board is made up of seven reasonable adults, and our differences of opinion on the Lighthouse Project are no big deal. Certainly not enough to cause a “division” among us.

Last, I “feel” the comment by Mad As He** talking about irony. Remember, Mad, I’m a retired teacher. Part of my (latent) mission as a Board member is to encourage better, more differentiated professional development that is actually welcome and valuable, and positively affects student achievement.

Further comment:

singa September 17, 2010 at 6:58AM

“The school board needs to be conversant enough to be critical consumers of the reports put in front of them by staff thus enabling them to ask appropriate questions and set reasonable and challenging educational goals for the district. The next step is to set reasonable parameters for the admin. to work within to achieve those educational goals through board direction and policy.

In the end the buck of district performance stops with the board.”

Right as rain, singa.

From the Board page on the HSD 1J website, http://www.hsd.k12.or.us/District/BoardofDirectors/tabid/64/Default.aspx :

“The Board of Directors received several distinguished accolades from the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA), both collectively and individually, for their commitment to community engagement and developing their skills as Board members. The awards were presented at the 2009 OSBA annual convention in Portland, which was held in November.

OSBA Continuing Board Achievement
The Board received the Continuing Board Achievement award for the sixth-consecutive year. This award signifies the Board’s successful completion of substantial board leadership training activities through the Leadership Institute. The award represents the Board’s commitment to continually enhancing their skills to strengthen their effectiveness as a school board.

OSBA Leadership Training
Three individual Board members were recognized for their leadership achievements though engaging in OSBA’s leadership training last year: Patti McLeod, Rebecca Lantz and Carolyn Ortman received Platinum Awards.”

40% of Teachers Unhappy? Natural Selection At Work Or Can We Improve Teacher Support?

teacher image

Read “State of Mind,” an article about teacher job satisfaction that appeared yesterday online in Education Week.

Are you happy with your profession? Why or why not? What’s to be done?

What would you like to tell your Superintendent or local Board of Ed about the state of teaching in your district/school?

Ning’s the Thing

teacher meeting

I first heard the word “Ning” from The Science Goddess a while back. I’m not sure I understand the full potential of nings, but from what I can see, there’s plenty of opportunity for collaboration and learning. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.

I’ve added a new link category, “Nings,” to my sidebar for folks who visit here and would like to be pointed in new, helpful directions.

My first ning link is to The English Companion Ning, a meeting place for English/Language Arts teachers. Jim Burke, the administrator of the ning also has a web site called English Companion. And he is seriously published. Check out his books.

If you want to create your own Ning, go here.

(A few clicks later…)

I’m in the exploration mode here, in real time. Mr. Burke has a blog also. I’ll be looking at that for a while!

Additional Note (October 4, 2009): I just viewed a bunch of education-related nings using the search term teacher ning. There’s lots out there. Surf’s up!

On Merit Pay for Teachers

meritstandard

I don’t know how long this link will be available, but Eric Schopmeyer, a Portland, Oregon music teacher speaks about, not the impossibility of instituting merit pay fairly across the board, but of the disrespect to our profession by pushing the issue.

Right on, Eric!

For another view on merit pay, which highlights how the federal government (a government that intrudes on the constitutional right of the states to handle public education) views the issue, check out Larry Ferlazzo on In Practice.

*****************************

Should Eric’s link become history, here’s the text from “The Stump,” opinion from The Oregonian online.

Education, In My Opinion, Sunday Commentary »

Merit pay for teachers

By George Rede

March 21, 2009, 6:46AM
Eric Schopmeyer

Count instead on real incentives to help kids achieve

Implicit in the idea of merit pay is the notion that teachers would work harder at their jobs if only they were motivated by the promise of more money. This misapplication of market principles is utterly disrespectful to our nation’s educators. At best, it reads as a dark, satirical joke.

A scene in such a black comedy might open thusly: A classroom of 32 second-graders struggles in a futile attempt to complete an assignment while a teacher leans back lazily in her chair, ignoring them, counting out a neat stack of twenties thinking, “No, still not enough. Oh, if only someone would make it worth my while, I could easily get all these kids to pass the test. But until then … .”

Any cursory examination of our education system will turn up a group of serious and dedicated professionals who pour their hearts and souls into their jobs, working countless hours of unpaid overtime, dipping into our own pockets for needed supplies and tirelessly shepherding children toward academic success.

We do all this in an environment of essentially untenable conditions caused by the toxic dichotomy of ever-increasing demands and ever-diminishing resources. And it shouldn’t come as news to anyone that people don’t go into teaching for the money. We work our hardest every day not for the promise of the dollar but for love for the children and a deep belief that education is the key to a healthy society. You could give us a million dollar bonus every year, but it wouldn’t make a difference without a substantial investment in improving the fundamental conditions under which we are made to work.

A parallel scene might take place on the battlefields of Afghanistan. A small battalion, outnumbered and unarmed, is deployed behind enemy lines. Their commanding officer promises each of them bonus pay should they reign victorious. They’ll fight because they have to. They’ll fight for survival. They’ll fight out of loyalty. But without proper weaponry and ample reinforcements, the battle (and their survival) is a lost cause. The motivation of bonus pay is moot.

If you want to spend money to improve teaching and learning in the classroom, spend it on reducing class size, spend it on the resources and materials that we desperately lack, spend it on upgrading our crumbling facilities, spend it on programs to end the poverty that prevents so many of our kids from succeeding.

Sure, teachers deserve more pay — all teachers do. That’s a simple matter of respect for an extremely challenging profession that is so vital to our society and our economy. But I’d take a reduction in class size over an increase in pay any day.

Eric Schopmeyer is a music teacher at Marysville Elementary School in Portland.

Had To Share This…Intergovernmental Whatever

bedraggled2_465x405

I shouldn’t say that I feel like she looks, but “bedraggled” may be an apt description of her situation and mine, although I’m glad to say, I’m happily bedraggled (and not wet). Lots of good stuff to do and not enough time in which to do it. Know what I mean?

Short update on our regular board meeting of 25NOV2008: All action items passed unanimously.

Short comment on Susan Gordanier’s recent Argus article describing the combined City Council/HSD 1J Board of Directors meeting: Susan, in her zeal to make a big deal out of the Thomas Middle School demolition discussion (a non-existent “stalemate”), ignored a great agreement of the combined group of elected officials, namely that the “policy makers” (the Mayor’s term for councilors and board members) needed to encourage high-ranking administrators in both the city and the school district to meet on a regular basis to maximize our partnership for the benefit of the citizens of the City of Hillsboro and the patrons of the Hillsboro School District. These officials do meet and strategize, but not on a regular basis. That’s what I call “news,” but when a reporter is in the preconceptive mode, he/she can miss a lot of good stuff. That was the high point of the meeting, but the promise of benefits to citizens never made print.

The so-called “stalemate” on the issue of the demolition of JB Thomas Middle School was not a stalemate at all, but a denial on the part of the Mayor and two of his Councilors who are apparently willing to follow him. School board members endeavored to help the those city officials understand that regardless of how “feasible” they thought the Thomas site is/was for the City, it would never be feasible for the School District, hence our reluctance to waste taxpayer funds on a useless “feasibility study.”

The School District defends the needs of children. City officials, in their quest for control over the Thomas site, never mentioned children or the needs of the children.

In other news, I’ll be presenting two break-out sessions at the international Educational Testing Service 3rd Annual Conference on Sound Grading Practices (the last frontier in education reform) this Thursday and Friday in Portland. A good number of HSD administrators and teachers will be attending. See you all there!

Not On the Test

NCLB makes me grind my teeth for lots of reasons.

This very cool song pretty well sums them up…

Now go visit Tom Chapin’s web site, Not On the Test.

For those of you who want the lyrics, Tom generously published them on his other web site, tomchapin.com.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Thanks to Tom Brandt for hooking me up with the video!