Had To Share This…Intergovernmental Whatever

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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!

A Few Problemas With Exit Exams

I don’t let myself get quite worked up enough to need one of these remedies, but I put it up as a courtesy for those who do.

Here, in rough outline form, are a few of my “concerns” about exit exams and their effects on students, teachers, taxpayers, and the education system itself. You may have to wait awhile for the essay with footnotes…

Students

1. Students have differential maturity rates. Fair is not always equal. Schools can assess more effectively, with more and better tools, than can the state with its “one-size fits all” paper & pencil test.

2. As evidenced in other states that have exit exams, drop out rates increase significantly. This results in a huge economic loss for students, and loss of productivity in general for the economy.

3. The added level of bureaucracy leaves less money for the classrooms of Oregon, and the reduction of the student:teacher ratios that are now so high.

4. If kept in school for an additional year, many students will loose out on $20-25K by spending another year in school rather than working.

5. An analysis of California’s situation indicates that algebra is a “trip wire” for predicting failure in high school. I think it’s nice to understand algebra so you can relearn it later if you go into a building trade (construction, for example) where it’s used all the time. But unless the job requires internalization of principles and formulas of algebra, you will lose it if you don’t use it. I’m a retired social studies teacher and I’m sure I couldn’t pass an algebra II test. Outside of using some basic formulas for fence building at two homes, I haven’t given it a thought in 40 years.

Teachers

1. Teachers will be oriented toward pushing students to pass the pencil & paper state test and spending less time on equally valid, but different assessments that may be more appropriate for some students.

2. Teachers and local district administrators should be insulted that the state doesn’t trust them to educate, assess, and evaluate their students for credit. (That honks my horn, for sure.)

3. State tests will contribute to the frustration and anxiety level of teachers amping up the current exodus of new teachers from the profession (how many last more than five years, these days? I’m thinking 50%, if we’re lucky).

Taxpayers

1. The taxpayer gets to foot the bill for the new layer of accountability bureaucracy that will be required to design and administer the exit exams on an ongoing basis. Wonder how much money New York has wasted on those Regents exams all these years?

2. Additional services at the local level, and keeping seniors an additional year, will cost the taxpayer more big bucks.

System

1. We allow education to be driven by big business and chambers of commerce. We permit Oregon’s schools to become worker preparation camps instead of fulfilling our mission of preparing students to learn independently, understand world issues like culture and race, and live the life of their choice in a democratic country.

Businesses that complain about hiring illiterates have lousy hiring practices! And businesses should train their employees for the particular jobs offered. (I actually know business people who agree with me and are offended by other business people who presume to run education.)

2. We pile layer upon layer of accountability on local systems that are not yet whole in terms of instructional effectiveness. Can you get record racetrack runs with an untuned race car?

For example, in our standards-oriented state we still have a hundreds, if not thousands, of different grading systems in effect in our classrooms. Many of these grading systems are punitive, and the results of this punishment are distorted grades, frequent failure, less learning, and a loss of self-efficacy for students that often leads to dropping out. Those grading systems do not accurately indicate what students have learned.

Let’s get the instructional, including grading, part right first, eh? Then stand back and watch achievement soar.

3. Accountability of local districts to the state should be taken care of with the accreditation process. Anything more, like exit exams (and No Child Left Behind) is a flat waste of money. Leave it to the districts, folks, and quit hovering.

Oregon Approves Exit Exams for Seniors

Actually, I’m not a moody person, but yesterday I got the news that Oregon joined the parade of states with intellectually deprived educational leadership (i.e., politicians at the helm) that will require some form of exit exam for students to qualify for a high school diploma.

That is so wrong for so many students, for so many reasons, that I’m going to have to vent now and put forth my arguments to the contrary a little later.

Stay with me. It’s late. I’m tired. I’m [disappointed], and I’m bewildered that people in high places can be so stupid.

As an undergraduate sociology major, I used to be amused that statistics would so often validate common sense. But today I’m appalled that common sense cannot always be found in education statistics.