Friday, May 25, 2007


The cover story of TIME this week is about No Child Left Behind. The kind of people who read this blog won't learn anything new from it, but it's interesting to see how the mainstream press handles the story. As far as I can tell, there's not a lot of momentum on either side. The supporters of the law know they are shackled with all of its messiness and with its underlying blame-the-teacher bias, while opponents haven't been able to come up with a narrative that's compelling enough to convince those who aren't education insiders that the law is genuinely destructive. So here's a question for CEE types: What do you (and your colleagues) teach your students about NCLB?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting Serious About Assessment

About ten years ago, there seemed to be a great deal of interest in new assessments that would take us beyond multiple choice, beyond the recall of factual knowledge, and then along came NCLB and everything seemed to go backwards. But a piece in this week's Education Week ("Assessment in the Age of Innovation")suggests it may be time to get serious about good assessment practices again:
American students today are largely evaluated based on their factual knowledge. A recent study by Robert C. Pianta and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning found that the average 5th grader received five times as much instruction in basic skills as instruction focused on problem-solving or reasoning. Our existing assessment system tends to reinforce rote instructional practices emphasizing the drilling of facts likely to be on a test, rather than problem-solving and reasoning strategies difficult to capture in multiple-choice test items.

The new assessments will have to do the following:

• Be largely performance-based. We need to know how students apply content knowledge to critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical tasks throughout their education, so that we can help them hone this ability and come to understand that successful learning is as much about the process as it is about facts and figures.

• Make students’ thinking visible. The assessments should reveal the kinds of conceptual strategies a student uses to solve a problem.

• Generate data that can be acted upon. Teachers need to be able to understand what the assessment reveals about students’ thinking. And school administrators, policymakers, and teachers need to be able to use this assessment information to determine how to create better opportunities for students.

• Build capacity in both teachers and students. Assessments should provide frequent opportunity for feedback and revision, so that both teachers and students learn from the process.

• Be part of a comprehensive and well-aligned continuum. Assessment should be an ongoing process that is well-aligned to the target concepts, or core ideas, reflected in the standards.

Read the rest here (registration required).

Friday, May 18, 2007

In Washington

The House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness met yesterday to discuss teacher preparation. Washington seems to be fairly interested in this issue, but it's hard to tell where the interest will lead. As usual, the focus seems to be on using federal dollars to lever change. For me, the big question is how any federal moves will interact with the state licensing apparatus and with NCATE. Here's the whole story at Inside Higher Ed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rigor or Not

A new ACT report says high school courses are not rigorous enough. Here's the executive summary and the full report. Agree or disagree?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Collaborative MA Programs?

There's been some conversation recently on my campus about a master's degree program for experienced teachers that would involve work in the College of Education and the Department of English. (As things now stand, students can elect to do a graduate degree in education or English, but not a hybrid.) Is anyone aware of a good example of such a program (one that combines courses in English and education and maybe even one that's jointly administered)? Where is it and how is it structured?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Meade, Moffett Deadlines Extended

The deadline to nominate a book or article for the Richard A. Meade Award or to apply for the James Moffett Memorial Award has been extended to June 15, 2007.

The Meade Award is to recognize published research that investigates English/Language Arts teacher development at any educational level, of any scope and in any setting. What outstanding book or article have you read this year on English language arts teacher development (pre-service or in-service)? Take a look at the criteria and nomination process and, while you're at it, at the list of luminaries who have won the award in years past.

The Moffett Award is for K-12 teachers who need funding ($1,000) for a teacher research project that draws upon the work of James Moffett. If you know teachers who are involved in teacher research, please point them toward this opportunity. Here's the application process and a list of previous awardees.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It Just Keeps Coming

More on Reading First from the Boston Herald/Associated Press:

More conflicts disclosed in Reading First program
By Associated Press
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Updated: 04:04 PM EST

WASHINGTON - Officials who gave states advice on which teaching materials to buy under a federal reading program had deep financial ties to publishers, according to a congressional report Wednesday.

The report, compiled by Senate Education Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., details how officials contracted by the government to help run the program were at the same time drawing pay from publishers that benefited from the reading initiative.

Kennedy’s report added new detail to a conflict-of-interest investigation by the Education Department’s inspector general, which earlier had found that the Reading First Program favored some reading programs over others and that federal officials and contractors didn’t guard against conflicts.

The new report focused on four contractors who headed centers that guided states in choosing reading programs aimed at kindergartners through third graders.

It found the contractors "had substantial financial ties to publishing companies while simultaneously being responsible for providing technical assistance to states and school districts." That damaged the integrity of the program and illustrates the need for Congress to act to head off future conflicts, the report concluded.

More here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Levine on Educational Research

From Inside Higher Ed:
May 7
Filling the Void
“Form triumphs over substance.”

If Arthur Levine’s 92-page report, “Educating Researchers,” could be condensed into a sentence, that would be it. The report, released today, is the third in a series written by Levine, president emeritus of Columbia University’s Teachers College and now president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, where he has continued his inquiries into the state of teacher education.

Now he has turned his focus to the quality of research at education schools, and the methods and practices passed on to aspiring researchers in education doctoral programs — programs that, Levine told Inside Higher Ed, are more interested in the “form” of handing out doctorates than the “substance” of good research to back them up.

More here, or go directly to the report.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Running Out of Steam?

I'm probably being too optimistic, but I'm starting to think the testing juggernaut is running out of steam. Here's today's evidence:

House Votes to End Test Central to GOP's Shift on Head Start
By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 3, 2007; Page A07

The House dealt a blow to President Bush's chief early-childhood initiative yesterday, voting to end the standardized testing of 4-year-olds, which was at the heart of his efforts to refocus Head Start.

A Test Everyone Will Fail
By Gerald W. Bracey
Washington Post
Thursday, May 3, 2007; Page A25

The world of education is a world of tests these days. But why should tests be only for students? Here's one for policymakers, politicians and adults in general. Bet you don't pass.

And finally, from a column by Diane Ravitch in The Huffington Post ("Let's Fix the Schools"), this remark: "Let's ease up on the testing mania and put the emphasis where it belongs: on providing a great education."