October 30th, 2012

Lawsuit against NYC exam schools cites test validity!

Ah, finally, here’s a case with rumblings about test validity. Validity in testing requires that tests be used only for the purpose they were created. Here’s a lawsuit about the exam used by NYC to select students for its 8 exam schools have not been validated for the purpose they are being used. The complaint alleges that the exam is not validated to predict success in the selected schools–and thus should not be used as a criteria.

Go forth! I have argued for years that validity in testing should be central issue. Let’s see what happens here.

How about using student academic testing that measures how well they perform on state or common standards –as a way to measure teacher effectiveness! Again, where is the validity?

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October 30th, 2012

Betty Hart died at 85.

Who, you say, is Betty Hart? I suspect you know her by her work.

She and Todd R. Risley were the researchers who discovered the fact that many middle and upper class parents talk to their babies far more–and in more positive and encouraging terms–than do many parents in poverty. And, that the lingering effect of this uneven early language development stays with children for many years and is very difficult to overcome.

The fact that early childhood education focuses on helping parents speak to their children more and more and use more words, is Betty Hart’s legacy. Her legacy is rich and lives on.

I didn’t know her name either and skipped over her obituary the first time–but I knew of her influential work. RIP, Betty Hart.

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October 13th, 2012

Parents boycotting tests in New York City, but missing a key argument!

The New York Times today reports that groups of New York City parents are boycotting sampling tests. These tests that children take–about reading, writing, and arithmetic, etc.–are samples for those that will be used to evaluate teachers and schools, among other purposes.

But wait! There’s a real reason to question the use of these tests to evaluate schools and teachers. That reason? They are NOT VALID for that purpose. It is a misuse of them–since these tests are designed to see what children know and can do.

It is a basic requirement of standardized tests that they be used for the purpose they were intended. These tests were intended to measure student performance–not teacher performance. Doing so is invalid. Period.

It is disappointing that this very basic argument about test invalidity is not being made–even by those who now ‘boycott’ sampling tests. It’s a very powerful argument. Someone should makes it soon.

The national testing train has left the station. Let’s stop it before it gets to the destination… Teacher evaluation tests are NOT the same as student evaluation tests…

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October 11th, 2012

‘Education parents!’

Yes! it’s not a typo. Joanne Jacobs picked up a good piece about what it takes to be an ‘education parent,’ a parent that supports children in their learning.

I love it! I believe that–to improve learning for general and special education students, we need ‘education parents.’ It almost doesn’t matter if the specifics in this piece are the ‘right’ ones. What matters is that we focus in the role parents can play in their children’s education. Thus, I was very glad to see this piece.

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October 5th, 2012

Special education reform–BIG time in the debate!

Did you hear it? Often?

One surprise in Tuesday’s Presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney? The mention of education over and over and over again…. And even the mention of special education and children with disabilities, including autism several times. HMMM. See, for example, Joanne Jacob’s write up.

I, for one, am glad that the issue is getting play nationally. Reforming special education is a vital part of ed reform. As my loyal readers and fellow reformers know, I believe our special education system is broken and needs broad systemic reform. In fact, in my view, we can’t really have effective school reform without doing something about special ed. So let’s hope this is the first of many steps.

But I question the “solution” of choice for parents that was put forth …as the answer. Yes, it may be part of an answer, but not the whole kit and caboodle. Yes, while I do think parents want and deserve choice, I have never understood the obsession with it, as if, by itself somehow good education programs will be created for all on a large scale.

Giving a ‘voucher (word not used in the debate) for $1200 or even $5000 or $ 8000 to parents won’t buy a $30,000 or higher priced special education placement. It will also take money from public schools, ultimately, leaving only the poorest and most disabled there. Not a pretty picture especially for those of us who believe deeply that public education for all students is a vital part of who we are as Americans. Not a pretty picture–especially when we deal with the unintended consequences of such a move….

Even if there was enough money thrown at this, will there ever enough good placements? This appears to be something like the constant challenge we face in education—that we get a ‘great idea’ and then OVERpromise it as a solution? How are Florida and other states doing with these vouchers? They’ve had several years …. I hear mixed news–depending on who one asks… Does anyone really know? And who is monitoring the unintended consequences?

But of course, life is full of ironies. One here is that we already have a voucher-like ‘program’ in special education. It’s called a “cost share” between parents and schools. When there is a dispute and request for hearing, often parents and schools “settle” the dispute by agreeing to share the costs of the private school or services that the parent seeks. No hearing is needed and people move on. BUT, then again, this possibility is available ONLY for parents who can ‘pay to play.’ That is, who have funds to be able to SHARE the cost. Many parents can’t do that. So, again, they are left behind. HMMM.

I confess that this issue needs work–far beyond what I can throw at it on this beautiful sunny day in October. But, to get back to the top—I’m glad to see special education receive national attention. We need to fix it! Your thoughts?

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October 3rd, 2012

Immigrant children do better! Who knew?

I knew. My brother and I were immigrants to New Jersey in the 1950’s. We worked hard in school and did very well. And, yes, that status–of not quite fitting in and wanting to–was a great motivator. I’m glad to see that it’s still so for this generation of immigrants.

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