A Proposal: What to Do About Testing So It Is Used Appropriately

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, we have allowed standardized testing to swamp our schools, stigmatize our students, and demoralize teachers. For years, test publishers warned against the misuse of tests. Tests should be used only for the purpose for which they are designed. They should be used diagnostically, to help students, not to label them or rank them.

But federal law requires that the tests be misused. Educators are frustrated because they feel helpless. They are forced to teach to the tests, which used to be considered unethical. The current tests cannot be used diagnostically, because teachers are not allowed to review the questions and answers with students after the tests. Those are considered the “intellectual property” of the test publisher. From a diagnostic perspective, the tests are useless. All they can do is rank and sort students, based on a criterion that is completely subjective and arbitrary.

Here is what John Dewey wrote about testing in Democracy and Education, p. 222:

How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work.

What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning.

I have a suggestion.

How about giving the tests in September, when school starts? No one would be judged by test results. No student would be stigmatized, no teacher would be given a low rating, no school would be closed. Whatever information can be gleaned from the test at a point when teschers might find it useful. If there is nothing useful to be gained, it would be clear from the outset, and the tests would do no harm.

Furthermore, states and districts should require the testing companies to reveal the questions that students answered correctly and incorrectly. That way, the teachers would learn what the students need to spend more time on. Without that information, the tests are useless.

The states are the consumers. If they jointly insisted that test publishers release the diagnostic information for every student, the test publishers would comply. If the test publishers refuse to do so, the states should seek different vendors and find those willing to supply the necessary information.

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History Lesson: The Founders Cared about Education Before the Constitution Was Adopted

We often hear that the word “education” is not included in the U.S. Constitution. That is true, but it does not mean that the Founding Fathers were indifferent to the importance of education. The U.S. Constitution was written and signed in 1787. Before the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1789, the Congress passed Ordinances that expressed their commitment to the importance of public schools.

Congress enacted the Land Ordinance of 1785 to show how the new lands in the western territories should be settled. This ordinance laid out new townships into 36 sections. Section 16, in the center, was to be set aside in every township in the new Western Territory for the maintenance of public schools. (“There shall be reserved the lot No. 16, of every township, for the maintenance of public schools within the said township.”) The committee that wrote the Land Ordinance included Thomas Jefferson of (Virginia), Hugh Williamson (North Carolina), David Howell (Rhode Island), Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts) and Jacob Read (South Carolina).

Two years later came the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This ordinance provided land in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions for settlement. (This region eventually broke into five states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Illinois [and a part of Minnesota]).

Of particular interest is Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance, which reads in part:

Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

These two ordinances were written by the Founding Fathers and the earliest Congresses, preceding the adoption of the Constitution. In addition to their central purpose, to lay out the rules for settlement, they were meant to encourage the development and proliferation of public schools in every township in every new state. The ordinances also prohibited the spread of slavery into the new territory and the new states after 1800.

While the Founding Fathers had high regard for religion, they did not want government to establish any religion. They incorporated this view into the First Amendment, which was part of the ten amendments included in the Bill of Rights, adopted on December 15, 1791. Responsility for the development and maintenance of public schools was left to the states, as is implicit in the Tenth Amendment.

The Founding Fathers were well aware of the history of religious warfare that had divided Europe for centuries and plunged the continent into chaos again and again. They wanted this new democracy to be a place of religious freedom, where each person could live in accord with his conscience without the interference or the support of government. In a land of many different forms of Christianity, as well as Judaism, the Founders wanted vigorous and successful public schools that neither favored nor opposed any religion.

It is ironic that four of the five states created under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance–Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin–have chosen to disregard the clearly stated wishes of our Founding Fathers. The Northwest Ordinance did not set aside a section for religious schools or private schools. Section 16 in every town was for public schools.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Inspires Young Children Today


At a time when the White House is a source of vulgarity and racism, it is inspiring to read about the young children who entered a contest to display their understanding of Dr. King’s message as it applies today.


I have a dream. My dream is that these young people will spend an hour in the White House tutoring Mr. Trump.

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Tom Ultican Reviews Steven Singer’s New Book, “Gadfly on the Wall”

Tom Ultican loved Steven Singer’s new book, “Gadfly on the Wall,” which also happens to be the name of Steven’s Blog. I often reprint Steven’s posts, because he writes very well, he is well-informed, and he is passionate in defending his students and public schools.

Tom writes:

“Steven shares a hoary story that has become a national crisis. Unlike a Steven King novel, this book, Gadfly on the Wall, is not a fantasy. It is impossible to overstate the damage being done to America and its children by the greedy, the self-centered and the stupid. They are set on destroying free universal public education in America.

“Billionaires be wary, Steven says he is ready kick your sorry asses.

“Many people were disheartened when Donald Trump became president and installed an evangelical who despises public schools as Secretary of Education. Her agenda seems to be ending public education and creating a system of government financed Christian schools. Here, I really love Steven’s attitude. He says,

“We lived through administrations that wanted to destroy us and actually knew how to do it! We can take Tiny Hands, the Bankruptcy King any day! This is a guy who couldn’t make a profit running casinos – a business where the house always wins! You expect us to cower in fear that he’s going to take away our schools. Son, we’ve fought better than you!”

“I first met the author of The Gadfly on the Wall at Chicago’s Drake Hotel almost three years ago. Educators, parents and others were arriving for the National Public Education (NPE) conference. The Drake’s lobby waiting area is at the top of a short flight of stairs next to the room where hi-tea has been served since the 19th century. It was here that I met Karen Wolfe from LA, Larry Profit from Tennessee, Steven Singer from Pennsylvania and many others.

“That evening the tall Anthony Cody was at the top of the stairs greeting new arrivals; many of whom gathered in the elegantly appointed waiting area. It was a conducive atmosphere for my first conversation with a humble bespectacled somewhat chubby Steven. I had been reading Steven’s new blog and really liked it. Later, I made some notes about the evening’s encounters intending of write about it when time permitted. Steven beat me to it. In the morning our arrival scene was covered by a wonderful post in his “Gadfly on the Wall Blog.”

“I have learned that Steven is disciplined, efficient and a very hard worker. He is emblematic of the teacher blogger. His opinions are sometimes hyperbolic but when he states a fact it is well sourced and the source is readily available. I have often used sources Steven provided when doing my own writing.

“Unlike education journalism in commercial and non-profit media, teacher bloggers show more integrity because their peers in the profession demand it. Also, billionaires are not underwriting their blogs. Teachers are providing unvarnished truths about the attack on public education. The Gadfly on the Wall is a compilation of three years of blogs calling out the perpetrators of the attacks on public schools for their false narratives about failing public schools, their often-racist agendas, and their manipulation of data used to justify charter schools, testing and vouchers.”

Tom concludes:

“I was particularly moved by Singer’s treatment of educating refugees. He noted,

“Some may shudder or sneer at the prospect of giving shelter to people in need, that is the reality in our public schools. In the lives of many, many children we provide the only stability, the only safety, the only love they get all day.”

“He concluded the article on refugees:

“So if we’re considering letting in more refugees, don’t worry about me. Send them all my way. I’ll take all you’ve got. That’s what public schools do.”

“I have tried to give a flavor of this wonderful book along with some of my own views. The bottom line is that Gadfly on the Wall is entertaining, informative and provocative. Thank you, Steven.”

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Inequality, School Privatization, and the Oligarchs Who Benefit

Jelmer Evers, Dutch scholar and teacher, draws together the seemingly disparate strands that connect the rise of neo-fascist movements, attacks on democracy, growing inequality, and the oligarchs’ determination to privatize public schools.

View story at Medium.com

He writes:

“Rent-seeking and privatization are not just confined to the prison system. Almost every aspect of society has been opened up for markets and investors. In ‘The Privatization of Education: a Political Economy of Global Economy Reform’ (full text) Antoni Verger et all show that this is a global phenomenon in many guises, and that everywhere “individual and positional goals start to overshadow social and collective goals” These policies spread throughout very deliberate informal policy networks and more formal international frameworks.

“A telling example are the PISA tests. In the excellent ‘The Global Education Race: taking the measure of PISA and international testing’ Sam Sellar, Greg Thompson and David Rutkowski delve into the complex world of international testing. Many questions should be asked about what is actually being tested and what kind of conclusion can acutally be drawn from the data. They make clear that it these tests are not just about the tests, but just as much about the stories being created around them. And with the advent of ‘Big Data’ this is something we have to deal with. As they state: “the future of public education will depend on the creation of publics who understand enough about these technologies to debate their benefits, dangers and impacts on the collective project of teaching the next generation”.

“We must take that one step further and call for ‘publics’- and certainly professions- who understand the philosophies, histories, political economy and sociology around public discourses and for teachers around public education specifically. That is also the case in what I would deem the most important book about education that I’ve read the last year, Dennis Shirley’s ‘New Imperatives of Educational Change: achievement with integrity’. We should aspire to do the best for our children, but we also should do what is right and virtuous. And privatization, top-down accountability, casualization of the teaching profession, an infantile narrow look on ‘what works’ damage our children, our schools, our profession, and most importantly they do untold damage to our society and our democracy. As Yong Zhao states in a very good- and hopefully influential- article ‘What works might hurt: side-effects in education’ you have to look at side-effects and opportunity costs.

“And the opportunity costs of privatization and marketization of education are huge, and have big repercussions beyond education itself. If you are serious about education as a force for equity you have to take into account what your parties’ policies are doing to society and its children. You have to take into account that policies that undermining public education as a public institution- governed for and by the people- will damage everything that you stand for. So if you see a call for further flexibility, shortening, practice of teacher education, and call it ‘training’ be wary. Yes, teaching is a practice, but it is also a profession informed by science, philosophy and reflection.

“Sadly there are many forces undermining public education. From Silicon Valley, venture capitalists to right-wing politicians, sometimes under different heading: free-markets, pro-choice, efficiency or religious freedom. But it was the ‘New Left’- Democrats, New Labour, European social democrats- who have started us on this road. One could say they’ve softened up public education for the state that it is in in many countries around the world. This is now being exploited by right-wing governments, corporations and the 1%. It’s ironic that parties that were originally founded in the interest of labour have been the vehicles in it’s destruction.

“But this didn’t happen overnight and by itself. There have been deliberate and long running attempts to capture the state by moneyed interests, rent-seeking. In her book ‘Dark Money: the hiden history of billionaires’ Jane Mayer uncovers the strategies and overlapping policy networks, think tanks, “charities” of the Koch Brothers to revamp the United States into their right-wing image, through organisations like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, and numerous super-PACs. This has only accelerated after the ‘Citizens United’ ruling, which gave corporations and rich individuals unprecedented possibilities to buy influence in the political process. The capture of the state, the rent-seeking that van Bavel, Rodrik and Scheidel warn us about, has turned America increasingly into an oligarchy. As the final quote of Charles Koch in the book painfully illustrates: “I just want my fair share — which is all of it.” This is why North-Carolina is not a democracy anymore. Institutions are failing and the oligarchs are winning. And it isn’t restricted to the other side of the Atlantic.”

With the appointment of Betsy DeVos, he writes, the oligarchs have captured control of the federal government.

My view: Our present dire situation is far from terminal. Resistance is growing. Betsy has stripped the veneer from the so-called reform movement. She is all-in for privatization. There is nothing liberal, progressive, or even modern about her worldview.

It is only a matter of time until the marauders and oligarchs get their comeuppance.

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

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Make a difference and be a hero in your community. #MLKDay

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2018 is finally here! Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with service.
Make a difference and be a hero in your community.


HOPE Corps is Operation HOPE’s nationwide network of volunteers, dedicated to promoting financial self-sufficiency and empowerment in the communities where it’s needed most. We’re always looking for compassionate, dedicated people to serve at the vanguard of our movement for financial literacy and economic justice.

You don’t need a background in finance or teaching. All you need is passion and enthusiasm–and some time to spare. Make a difference and be a hero in your community. The following programs are currently accepting volunteers:


Volunteer to help kids in low income communities develop financial literacy.
You don’t need a background in teaching or prior financial expertise. We provide in-depth training and a fun and engaging curriculum.

Learn more

   Help to reconnect the power of aspiration              with the power of education in our children’s lives.
You will participate in a HBIABA training, either in-person, on the phone, or via webinar.

Learn more


 Share your financial expertise by phone with  someone who really needs it.
We train volunteers to provide disaster preparation and recovery counseling by phone and in-person seminars, and join disaster response teams on site.

Learn more


  Volunteer in one of our HOPE Centers in cities       across the U.S. and South Africa. 
Teach a class on financial management. Provide technical assistance in our Cyber Cafés. Or lend a hand with community outreach and events in your area.

Operation HOPE, Inc., is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, protected veteran status, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by law.

The post Make a difference and be a hero in your community. #MLKDay appeared first on johnhopebryant.com.

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Pasi Sahlberg Moving to Australia to Battle GERM


Pasi Sahlberg, the great Finnish educator, has accepted a major research post at the well-funded Gonski Institute of Education in Australia. He will have a wonderful platform to continue his research into major education issues and his advocacy for wholesome, child-friendly schooling.

Pasi’s Award-wining book, Finnish Lessons, has been translated into many languages. If you have not read it, you should. He coined the term GERM to describe the Global Educational Reform Movement, a movement that places standards and test scores above the needs and interests of students.

In this article, Pasi describes the terrible effects of high-stakes testing. 

This is an opening shot to introduce him to Australians.

He explains that unnecessary emphasis on competition for test scores has caused the loss of more important activities, including the arts and play. A childhood without play is no childhood at all.

When children learn because they are eager to learn, their comprehension is far greater than when they learn because of compulsion.

Australia is lucky to have this great man to lead educational thought on behalf of the health, creativity, and well-being of children.


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