Fascinating article about how the web is personalized for each of us… and how we get ‘news’ only about the stuff we already like and favor…


The web is personalized. We get cocooned. We  live in echo chambers–listening to and seeing only what we are predisposed to. Our world view gets limited…

I’m afraid this happens in our schools and communities, also. We create bubbles–and talk only with people who agree with us.  The rest?  Well, we don’t see or hear them.

Sad to me and scary. And to you?

Yes, it’s more than possible.

While he talks about lots of things in the comparison with how other good school-nations do it (including getting better teachers from the get- go and paying them well, etc., etc., and not focusing on charter schools, testing, accountability, vouchers, etc., etc., I will write about only one of those aspects. 

Testing and accountability…

I believe that our curent obsession with accountability to “get rid of bad teachers” is over the top– it’s like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. It’s too much. Too complicated. Too, too, too. And it’s not going to change our system–as most teachers are already good enough and many teachers are excellent.  We are upending the entire system in order to be able to fire perhaps 5%- 10% of teaching staff.   Makes no sense to me.


I recently got a whiff of this…. I had put in a proposal to speak to the superintendents group about reforming special education and was told there’s no room on the program because it’s all devoted to evaluating teachers. Really?  I do believe we are heading in the wrong direction.

We have two gaps in our educational system… One we work hard at and one we ignore–to our detriment.

The one that we work hard at is the gap between the lowest performing students and the middle (making AYP under the No Child Left Behind Act).  Let’s say, the bottom 50% of achievement. The one we ignore is the gap between students who already have grade level skills and the top students–gifted, talented, etc.  That is, closing the gap of potential–how do we focus on getting, let’s say, the top 50%  to achieve to their potential.

Here is an important and timely debate on this issue.


The question debated  is, are we short changing or even ignoring the top students? In my view we are. To our detriment as a nation. In fact, I think we are on a suicide mission–when we compare how we educate our top students with other advanced countries.

Thank you for this timely piece. Your thoughts?


Say it ain’t so!

Another example of education by belief system–not research!  In modern pedagogy, we are lead to believe that problem-solving is better than lecturing –especially in the middle school years. Well, here’s research to question that.

From my perspective in this blog over the years, we can add this research to the list we have compiled about special education.  For example,

  • the belief in ‘learning styles’ has been deeply questioned by brain research.
  • the belief in the ability of students to multitask has been deeply questioned by brain research. Thus, we need a quiet space without the IPhone for work! 
  • the mantra of ‘inclusion’ is powerful, even as it often lacks research support.
  • the notion that all students can or should pass the same state tests fails the blush test.
  • the focus on student weaknesses lacks a research basis.
  • the use of  ‘accommodations’ that actually lower standards goes unreported.
  • the idea that if something is hard for a student to learn, it means that there’s something ‘wrong’ with the student–not that the student needs to practice, practice, practice to learn the subject or skill.
  • Etc.

Do you have a list of your favorites?

Interesting piece. The saga goes on and on…. about using student test scores for everything.  Will doing the dishes be next?http://www.joannejacobs.com/2011/05/the-exaggerated-power-of-test-scores/comment-page-1/#comment-163857

But WAIT!!

Before we use test scores for any accountability–student and/or teacher and/or schools, let’s be sure the tests are valid–that is, that they actually measure what they say they measure.

Check out my friend, Marcia Kastner’s new book, TESTING THE TEST on this… and her Commentary in Education Week (May 11).



Here’s my friend, Marcia Kastner’s email blast about her COMMENTARY this week! Thought you’d like to see this.

Before we start to base so much on testing (student, school, and teacher accountability, for starters), let’s be sure that the tests are valid and reliable.

Hello everyone,

 As you know, I’ve written a book titled “TESTING THE TEST:  How to Recognize When Math Tests Are Flawed, How to Fix Them, Why We Should Care.”  If you’ve had a chance to read my book, I hope you’ve found it helpful and informative.  In my book you will see that I feel passionately that math tests must be valid, that is, measure what they were designed to measure about what students know – and don’t know.  Only valid tests give educators accurate information about student achievement, which is absolutely necessary for improving education.

 Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that many national and state standardized tests have flawed math questions that prevent the tests from being valid.  My concern about these tests, as well as the growing emphasis on using test scores for teacher, school, and student accountability by state governments, encouraged me to write an article about this issue.  I am happy to report that my article has just been published as a Commentary titled “Testing the Test” on the back page of the May 11, 2011 issue of Education Week, the premier source of news, information, and analysis on K-12 education!  In the words of the Commentary Editor, my article is “thought-provoking” and discusses a “provocative topic.”  You can read the article on my Web site at http://marciakastner.com/ed-week-commentary_311.html.  Let me know what you think!

 I would like to continue to spread the word about this topic.  Please let me know if there are other outlets or specific organizations and people who would benefit from reading my book or article.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Marcia Kastner



Here it is! A great help for teachers, parents, and test makers. Accommodations and modifications are NOT the same. Let’s get them straight–so we can have honest and valid test results and grades in our nation’s classrooms.

Sticker #6: AccommodationModification

You can get these FREE stickers in two ways:  if you order books from School Law Pro–you’ll get a complete set. Otherwise, send a stamped, self addressed envelop to

School Law Pro.

PO Box 960515

Boston, MA 02196

And… a selection will be sent to you.  Let us know your favorites.

All the best, Miriam

Her story, Wu wins mathcounts… 87.5% of participants in this middle school math contest are Chinese Americans. That says it all to me.

Our laws focus on closing the gap–from the bottom to the middle. Check out NCLB, AYP, even the special ed law, the IDEA.

It’s more than time for us to work on closing that other huge gap–from the middle to the top. What laws and policies focus on that now? I can’t think of one.  We need to change this approach.

Time on task.  Let’s measure that in our nation’s classrooms, so says this wonderful op-ed piece.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01bausell.html?src=recg.  A great read. Yes, this approach makes sense to me. Let’s measure what takes place in the classroom. More time on task usually leads to more learning.

This seems to be a far more direct way to measure effectiveness, more than the indirect way of measuring student performance on tests designed to measure student performance–not teacher performance–and then extrapolating from those student test results.  A test should be used only for what it’s designed.  This convoluted approach does not seem valid.

Thus this op-ed piece is hopeful:  Let’s measure what goes on in the classroom.  That is direct. Not extrapolated. It seems like a winning approach to me.