Paying off DeVos, Perhaps a Fall Guy?

It’s pretty obvious that DeVos is not qualified, and yet she likely has enough votes for confirmation. Its super crazy, even a good chunk of governors are advocating for her… and yet she is way out of her league with this, it just doesn’t add up.

Yes, I get the Republican’s have a vision where they want to go education wise. And the thing is, I believe many Democrats agree with a good chunk of the vision. Consider the following from the governors letter.

…. will fight to streamline the federal education bureaucracy, return authority back to states and local school boards, and ensure that more dollars are reaching the classroom.


we look forward to partnering with …. to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her potential in the classroom.

I mean short of some control freak, who would disagree with that?

And yet, I agree there are some pretty big differences too, especially related to accountability measurements, funding allocations, and public vs for-profit control. Alas, with a republican legislature and exec, they aren’t going to nominate someone who isn’t pretty much aligned with that ideology.

The thing is, why DeVos? There are smart Republicans in the education sector,  folks with experience in education, folks with experience how rule making body’s work, folks who know how to lead. Granted, said folks aren’t massive donors which admittedly is pretty important.. but I think its a lot more than that. I think smart Republicans capable of doing a good job with the position, don’t want to touch it with a hundred foot pole.

The reason? It was looking to be a challenging role, which has been made impossible… so if someone is going crater their career, why not let it be a donor. That way, you get them paid off… and it doesn’t matter if no one will ever hire them again. Bottom line, I think this is a replay of what happened to Michael Brown, the FEMA guy under George Bush during Katrina. All the responsibility, limited experience, and hardly any power to do anything about it.

The reason for this is… the ESSA  (replacement to NCLB, and RTTP was passed in a bipartisan fashion in late 2015. Some good bits, some really sucky bits,  but overall, probably as good as could be expected. As such, once it was passed, the dept of edu got rolling on the regulations, ie the details as to how the law would operate, the nuts and bolts through the traditional regulatory process.

Alas, there were a lot of comments during the NPRM process… which for the most part seemed to be of a conservative bent… albeit more than a few comments were not relevant to the proposed rules being they were outside the scope of the ESSA. Bottom line, my guess is a lot of conservative constituents took issue with the ESSA and complained to their legislator about the NPRM.

Thus, when GOP got the majority, they plan to nullify some major sections (teacher preparation and accountability and state plans ) of the ESSA rules using the Congressional Rule Act. If said nullification passes, the rules are eliminated, and new ones cannot be issued by the dept of education. The problem with this, is that the ESSA law remains in force… but the dept of education has no nuts and bolts to make it work.

In other words, the law says do this great big thing… but the regs don’t exist to accomplish it. Even scarier, states have been working on ESSA plans… which now won’t have any federal backup. In other words, this is going to be one nasty screwed up mess… with the only possible fix being a rewrite of the ESSA… which was near impossible to pass in the first place, and writing a new one is probably going to be even harder, especially in a time efficient manner.  Beyond that, there is a lot more edu law than just the ESSA.. so you can’t just rip it out, as other laws require key aspects of it, which may or may not be popular with a GOP congress and senate. I predict a ton of litigation over this…

Since I believe much of today’s government operates under Hanlon’s razor, I don’t think the setup was intentional, as much as it was the GOP crazy on their newly found power and yet totally failing to consider the unintended consequences. Bottom line though, it will take a top notch leader with a ton of educational experience to fix and at least a year if not more to pull off depending upon what crisis come up… and even then, it might not work very well. As such, someone needs to be the fall guy for it… maybe a donor is the best option.

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#HR5 and Societal Values (Common Core reauthorization)

There exists boatloads of opposition to #HR5 on both the progressive side as well as the tea party side. There’s also a significant amount of astroturfing coming from what appears to be folks who have not read the bill. Granted, reading AND comprehending 600+ pages in light of current and forecasted context is not for the faint of heart. That being said, a few overall themes seem to be at play.

1. Folks are unwilling to pay for education on the state and local level, especially as it concerns the least of these. This was one of the big deal issues which led to ESEA Title I and related in the first place. Granted, ESEA has expanded multifold and into a multitude of areas since the 60’s.

2. Some are calling for the abandonment of federal funding. This make sense in that why have a kazillion bureaudolts skimming off the top, if states and local government can make a go of it on their own… but history does not bear this out, nor do most contemporary state budgets. Rather special ed and funding for high poverty schools tends to be a lower priority than funding districts where wealthy campaign donors live.

3. #HR5 makes Title I portable, but in doing so, it also adds a ton of strings to make sure tax payers are getting value for their money. I get that folks want free stuff from the govt… but taxpayers deserve accountability too. Accountability makes private and charter schools cringe… but if they don’t want to pay their own way, it only make sense that  govt should have strings attached.

4. NCLB, RTTP, and Common Core are accountability tools, or at least they create the illusion of such. #HR5 does a bit of a dodgeball thing to keep standardized test mania in place, and at the same time hopes to placate the states rights folks… but the big deal issue is testing with as many common elements as possible remains. Such provides an economy of scale and greater profitability for the testing and related support firms, so its understandable… but test fetishism especially for the lower grades is not good.

Thus, if not #HR5, how do we address these themes?

We need a values check… it might be that society has changed, and what folks advocated back in the 50’s and 60’s needs to be rethought.

Do citizens really value the least of these, and if they do, how are they best served. If society feels they should be left behind as indicated by the priorities of state and local government budgets, then another convo needs to be had, especially in light of the exponential increase in kids with autism.

How valuable is the neighborhood school and tradition. With folks having greater mobility, is there more of a need for the stability a local school provides, or should it be an open market where competition reigns supreme. If so, then what about those who can’t complete, or who might want to, but whose parents have no interest in doing so? What about the charter school that comes into being for 2-3 years and then upchucks… what impact does that have on the local community?

How important is accountability to the taxpayer and what should it look like?. In the 1960’s, most folks did’t want special ed funds to be used for building a football stadium in a wealthy school district. Today, many states are more than happy to increase funding to wealthy school districts, and decrease it to districts with high numbers of special needs kids or high poverty. What about a fly by night charter school that comes into being to get rich, scam the students, and taxpayers, and then declares bankruptcy (in the meantime, making small fortunes for their key people). On the other side, what about the abuses of unions and the strangleholds on policy they held for decades? What about the testing, curricula, and IT firms who make a fortune every time the whims of state, local, or fed govt change?

What happens when accountability crosses the line into impacting the students education itself? It is worth shutting down a schools computer lab for 2 months in order to accomplish testing? Is it worth outfitting schools with single function Ipads or Chromebooks locked down to the extreme in order to compensate for a vendors ineptness when it comes to student testing software. Is it worth giving students test after test after test and teaching to the test, and canned curricula such that students are creating phallic images and profanity on scantron sheets?

In addition to values, we need to look at the goals / purpose of education which I wrote about previously. Only when this foundation is in place, should policy proceed from it. Punting tweaks to a bad system like HR5 does, only perpetuates the madness of the past, it doesn’t fix it.

*I fully expect #HR5 to pass, as there is too much money involved for it to fail, and or be substantially amended. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days.

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Common Core Weirdness and Echo Chamberism

Near as I can tell common core has to be a liberal and conservative conspiracy based upon their respective echo chambers. Its also much much too high a standard and yet, at the same time a standard which which will result in the dumbing down of society. It fosters critical thinking and it will foster drones who can’t think for themselves. Bill Gates and Lloyd Blackfinn as well as numerous Wall Street types are promoting it as they see the writing on the wall as concerns global competitiveness. Wall Street types are promoting it, as they don’t want to fund another war on poverty, sort of like Johnson’s, but much bigger as such is the only way to fix education. Conservatives are promoting it, as they know it will lead to vouchers and privatization when public schools fail. Liberals are promoting it as they want to brainwash our kids.

Its enough spin and conspiracy theories  to make ones head spin… perhaps the echo chambers are correct, albeit figuring out which one is, or partially is would likely result in even more head spinning. My best guess is there are elements of truth in both camps, and the solution will not be found exclusively in either one.

Nationwide standard?

The idea of a minimum nationwide standard for high school graduation and/or college readiness may not a bad thing.  Why should a kid in OK who moves to CA or MA be 2 years behind in math. Why should college kids have to spend $$$$ for remedial coursework they should have had in high school. Why should an employer have to struggle to find entry level employees who can handle simple math and read well enough to pass a safety exam. A students ability to learn or not learn a given subject is primarily subject to political will, not GPS coordinates so this type of thing should be a relatively easy fix. Alas a minimum standard is also likely to mean the ending of social / seat time promotion, schools as daycares, and grade inflation… Such standards are likely to be fought against tooth and nail. Ie, if a state or school district wants the lowest common denominator type of standard to make their numbers and surrounding property values look good… they will scream about states rights, and/or fed overreach. My counter to this is “what about the students? Granted, there needs to be flexibility for special ed kids such as the current IEP set up.

Local Control?

The idea of local control and varied curricula can be a good thing. Ed pysch is far from totally explored, so it seems entirely reasonable that individual classrooms and teachers should be trying things… even more so, trying things and sharing what works as well as what doesn’t.

One wrench in this is canned curricula… if 80% of classrooms are doing the exact same thing, there is a ton of duplication of effort / massive loss in efficiency. It would seem to be in a states vested interest, if classes are nearly identical that they should leverage the economy of scale… this is one of the cost savings of some common core implementations. Alas, students and teachers are not drones where 1 size fits all works… It may save taxpayers a lot of money in the short haul, but they will pay more, likely much more later when global competitiveness suffers.

Guinea Pigs

Another wrench, and its a huge one, is no one wants their kids to be guinea pigs… Education short of a small number of teachers and principals is exceedingly risk averse. Certainly no one wants to doom a classroom… but when said classroom is not functioning very well for lowest 30% of its students, the status quo should no longer be an option. Again, this is something best dealt with on the local level… where in a given cohort of students won’t end up being sequential guinea pigs so to speak. The proverbial doing the same thing the same way over and over again, and expecting improvement to magically appear should remain in the land of unicorns and honey.

No Easy Answers and Overreach

Overreach is a problem. Higher standards at the high school level (at least for 45 states who had lower standards than common core math) are no doubt needed. The difficulty is that things went too far, not only were standards raised at the high school level, they were also set for all the grades as well… and to add insult to injury, such pretty much drove canned curricula, and 1 size fits all approach ends up permeating the entire system.

From a outsiders view, this would seem to be exceedingly counterproductive… but such is following Finland’s reform path, where it truly did some amazing things. Alas, a generation of students and teachers went through a ton of headaches over 3 decades to get where they are today. Unlike Finland, the US attention span is much shorter… I have serious doubts folks are willing to make a 3 decade commitment,especially so if it imperils a generation to get there.


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3 Problems in Education wrt #DTActionLab

I’ve been thinking about 3 big issues/problems in education, part of one being highly visible, and 2 being near invisible as related to the following tweet and linked article as to how ideas spread. The linked 7 page article primarily deals with issues in the medical field, both historically and contemporarily, but the concepts also seem applicable to education.

Good article for #DTActionLab #VirtualLibrary: “How Do Good Ideas Spread?”in @NewYorker 

The 3 issues:

  1. One immediate output of edu is most visible, ie students test scores. Its often what drives politicians, school boards, and parents. As I’ve pounded on in the past, such a measurement can be near useless for a number of factors. How a former student functions in the next stage of life, their career, or future academic course of study are better metrics, but such factors often lean toward the invisible.
  2. The spark of lifelong learning is a challenge to measure immediately and on scale making it quite invisible to other than those directly involved with a given students education.  From a scaling perspective, mass spark could be best demonstrated as to whether future generations rise to challenges or retreat from them. The long haul invisibility of this makes it an even tougher sell than Lister’s methods as described in the linked article.
  3. The equalization of opportunity for all is for the most part not visible… Sure politicians play lip service to it when it comes to test scores vs socio-economic factors, but they enact policies time and time against it. Some on the far right have implied it would be better to just let things go, its not worth the investment in tax money and/or resources if students and/or their community are not willing. Even in the far left idealist realm, short of the hard core folks who not only move into a declining schools neighborhood, and enrolls their kids in said school, few are willing to make a familial sacrifice over this. Just as Lister knew about carbolic acid’s benefits, the surgeons experienced how it burned their hands and thus many refused to adopt it… but there were some early adapters.

Just as the article alluded to as concerns the swaying of behaviors, the please methods and the legislative approaches eventually loose effectiveness.

In a multitude of ways, the please methods have been at the point of diminishing returns for years. Please we need more money for schools, more autonomy for teachers, more this, more that have been exhausted and are running on deaf ears. Certainly today’s economics and wealth stratification issues have not helped the matters, but I could see the running out of steam on this even in the eighties.

The legislative means while not all that effective are likewise running out of steam. Part of this is a cultural shift… teachers unions have a fraction of the power that they had years ago when some of them practically dictated to state legislatures what to do. Not so much in the compensation side per se, but in the operations side…. a lot of legislation has union written all over it. Some good, some with so much over-reach that the anti-union backlash of today almost seems justifiable.

So whats the answer? A credible narrative followed by relationship building over the long haul that will change hearts and minds, will raise visibility, and can make things happen. Repeating the same “please” and “do” stuff over and over and hoping for different results hasn’t worked for decades, I’m not sure why folks would think it would work today. I understand the pressing need to head off the dismantling of public edu, as well as protecting the students.  On the other hand, if the messages being sent are not changing hearts and minds, or worse serving to close them, sending more of the same is unlikely to make any difference, or could even make things worse.


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Education Framing Issues

The lack of proper framing in education discussions serves to build assumptions that folks are talking about the same thing, when in reality, they could be nearly 180 degrees apart. I’ve taken a few pieces here and there from things I’ve read over the past few months to demonstrate how they were framed, or not framed, and some assumptions which may or may not occur.

Student Achievement, Testing, and Teachers

Some believe standardized tests are not a reasonable measure of students mastery or lack there or, yet point at standardized test results as to why charter schools and other approaches are not the end all solution.

Some believe that teacher performance or lack there is far from a large factor in a students achievement, yet at the same time find alternative teaching licensing programs dangerous and ill thought out.

Some believe that standardized testing is the greatest thing ever, so much so, that they dont seem to mind that 80%+ of the school years technology resources are tied not to education, but to testing. Some have even gone so far as to state more testing is needed.

Fairness and Inequality

Some believe that schools are tasked with solving societies social problems of fairness and inequality in addition to education. Others could care less whether fairness and inequality were addressed in a school format, much less being solved by it.

Some believe that students who dont want to be in school harm pull the entire classroom down, and as such mandatory attendance laws should be scrapped. Others believe that students who dont want to be in school should be kept there anyhow, such that society benefits by reduced crime in the future, no matter the cost financially, and to the other students in the short term.


Some see education as a way to make a fast buck, and get locked in to long term contracts favoring themselves via legislative action, thus spending money on lobbyists is nearly more important that the students. Others see any spending on politics whether it be via lobbyists or unions as a distraction from the primary focus, the student. Others go so far as to say it is wrong for a private entity to profit from public money, even more so if it takes money away from the classroom.

Some see vouchers as a way to save money, as in some situations, they provide K12 edu at 1/2 the cost of public education, but they dont consider what may be gained lost as a result. Others see any alternative methods of education as an attack on funding for public education, and as such is anathema.

I dont know what the answer is… but clarity and / or framing an issue with all the factors out in the open I think is key. Assumptions that folks are on the same page does not work out too well.

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Standardized Tests, Not Always Evil

I’ve ranted on standardized tests quite a bit as of late for three reasons, bad design, bad evaluation, and missing or marginal stats. There is a fourth rant on deck, and thats misapplication. However, before rolling into that domain, I first want to state they are not always evil.

A Way of Life

Standardized tests are a way of life for many occupations, it could be board exams in nursing, the patent bar, software certification, or even assessments given to folks wanting to join heavy equipment apprenticeship programs. The idea of such tests, is not to show that those who pass them are gurus by any means, but more so, to demonstrate some level of subject mastery. In a lot of cases, such tests merely open the doors for a novice to start down a career path where in they will learn much more than they ever could in the classroom. Passing an exam is a way of showing a level of commitment, a certain level of mastery, a willingness and ability to learn, which will hopefully lead to a better employee down the road.


However, standardized tests can be gamed, and end up being more a function of a applicants short term memory, than an indication of subject mastery, much less commitment or ability to learn. Case in point, the fellow who can memorize like all tomorrow, and passes all of the Microsoft exams with flying colors, but has little hands on experience is likely not someone you want working on your network. Similar issues exist with any number of standardized test prep courses, no matter how well they are spun, ie SAT, ACT. GRE, GMAT, patent bar, etc. Case in point, look at score dilution over time.

Test Anxiety

In addition, some people cave under the stress of exams, and while they may have substantial subject mastery and experience, they end up receiving sub par scores, or may even fail.

Extraneous Factors

Another factor to consider is the issue of extraneous factors. Ie stressors outside of the educational environment often play significant roles, even amongst the best students. A death in ones family, or that of a friend can cause scores to crash and burn. Even the ending of a teen relationship can throw a wrench into the mix. Such issues however are more a problem with rigidized testing processes and procedures than with the test itself.

That being said, if the issues of gaming and test anxiety can be dealt with, a properly designed, assessed, and applied standardized test can provide substantial value, albeit not without unintended consequences.

Canada HS Graduation Standards

What brought this to light, was a blog post by a teacher / exam grader in Canada. Apparently unlike the US, standards in Canada are much higher as far as assessment goes. Beyond that, the standardized tests discussed are used for purposes of granting, or not granting a HS diploma. Apart from the aspects of gaming/test anxiety, such serves to prevent diploma dilution, likely minimizes the associated headaches of remedial education post high school, and probably gives some level of confidence to employers as well. Ie nothing is more frustrating then to hire a new employee, only to find out they can’t pass the most basic of safety training exams, as they the lack basic skills to do so.

Unintended Consequences

Of course, tieing diplomas to an exam while solving one problem, opens up a couple others. Ie social promotion is fairly common… and the societal impact of not passing the exam has huge negative connotations. Likewise, needing extra time to prepare and/or even retake such exams is often looked down upon.

That being said, exams are a way of life, irrespective of the problems involved with them. Even the old codger hiring a youngster to help out is silently assessing them to see if they want to bring them on full time. Standardized tests are an attempt to take some of the subjectivity out of the decisions process. They may be imperfect, but they do serve a purpose.

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Lets go for Real Accountability in Standardized Testing

So I read this article on how standardized test essays were scored and about had a bird. I sort of figured that if essays were used as part of standardized testing, they would be assessed with some degree of rigor. Ie multiple scorers, who would discuss each one, and from there come to consensus as to how to rank an essay over a given number of domains, ie creativity, grammer, spelling, depth of understanding etc. Such ranking would provide enough resolution such that meaningful feedback could be returned to the students class room teacher.

Rather, it appears its single readers going as fast as possible, who are providing anything but meaningful feedback. It also appears an incredibly biased process which leans towards the least common denominator save for one thing, the grading firms are getting rich off the deal. In a lot of ways such parallels Matthew Crawfords experiences at a research firm which he wrote about in Shop Class for Soulcraft.

The saddest part of this deal, is that school funding is tied to it, and some states are even proposing teachers compensation be related to the scores of such tests. I sort of wonder why taxpayers arent likewise having a bird over such methods… they are paying for it afterall.

The thing is money talks, and such is a way the aforementioned problems can be addressed. I posted the following comment over on the citipages article.

One solution to this debacle is to require clawbacks as part of the contract with standardized testing companies based upon a students future performance. In other words, the testing industry would in effect be accountable for their methods of assessment (as well as fraud detection).

For example, if a student who does very well on the standardized tests, either MC or essay, and then said student proceeds to flunk out,or even get C’s or D’s while in high school or college years later, significant penalties would then be automatically and retroactively imposed upon the grading firm. It likely would be necessary to require bonds to be posted up front as part of said contract, as a firms viability cannot be predicted over the long haul. Granted, there are any number of factors well beyond the control of the assessment firms..but then again insurance actuaries do the same kind of thing nearly every day.

Granted, such an approach might prove to be too expensive to operate on shore, being it would likely equate to highly trained graders working together, and having enough time to achieve a level of accuracy such that their firm would not end up loosing their shirt years down the road (or go out of business today, as they could no longer afford the bond). On the other hand, having the assessment firm being at more than are arms length from those who would wish to influence outcomes might not be such a bad thing either.

I guess I’m half sarcastic,and half idealistic in this… it would throw such a huge wrench into the status quo, and many grading firms would go under, and likewise many would lose their jobs. On the other hand, to hold a school district accountable with teachers, staff, students, and parents at risk, all the while the test firms rake in the dough with so little accountability is not cool either.

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Measurements of Teaching Effectiveness…I dont think so

I took a look at the preliminary report from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation concerning Measurements of Teaching effectiveness, and I was aghast. It almost appears as if someone is setting Mr Gates up for another blue screen of death scenario.

Case in point, even a quick view of tables 4 and 5 in the report should raise some eyebrows. Correlation coefficients do not look very good, albeit granted, this is an preliminary report.

Whats most disconcerting, is the textual discussion of those tables is in some cases near reverse of what they indicate. Perhaps the scariest aspect of this, is that so few look at the data tables, but more so just rely on the text!

The only criticism of the report which I was able to find was the following from Jesse Rothstein from UC Berkeley.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) Project seeks to validate the use of a teacher’s estimated “value-added”—computed from the year-on-year test score gains of her students—as a measure of teaching effectiveness….

As there is every reason to think that the problems with value-added measures apparent in the MET data would be worse in a high-stakes environment, the MET results are sobering about the value of student achievement data as a significant component of teacher evaluations.

The complete abstract of her criticism as well as a her full report are must reads, especially now that so many states are trying to create legislation as concerns testing and teacher evaluation.

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Accountability and the Goals of Education

The public more and more is demanding accountability in the education sector. Egads, when someone needs to have a masters degree to effectively be a clerk as happened to a friend of mine, there is something massively wrong. When a high school graduate can’t follow the most basic manufacturing safety course there is something wrong.

These problems are widespread, and as such there are pushes all across the nation for teacher accountability. My premise is that such accountability efforts are misguided, premature, and will likely be counterproductive. Rather, the problem is a societal one, and that must be addressed first, or we shall jump the gun to the peril of the next generation

The big elephant in the room is a function of the divergent opinions as to what educational goals should be. If the end goals of education are in conflict, pretty much everything that spins out of them will be sub-par. I told one fellow on twitter, when such divergence occurs, only the least common denominator is possible, and as such it is likely to be a failure to all.

Some folks see subject mastery as the goal of education… ok, but considering that only 10% of a given class could really attain a high level of mastery in a given period of time, should 90% fail? Or perhaps we reduce the standard of mastery…but how many should fail as a result? If the standards are lowered to the least common denominator, does such really help anyone? One must also consider that some students may enter a classroom having already mastered the subject material far beyond the standards selected… and as a result, are bored to death and spinning their wheels.

One must also consider what subject mastery comprises. Is it merely the ability to do well on a standardized test? Is it the ability to parrot back canned answers via memorization? Is it the ability to understand, derive and create? All of these issues must be considered should subject mastery be a goal.

Some folks see a student’s future as the goal of education. Ie, do well in school and you will get into a good undergrad program. Do well there, and you will get into a good grad program. Do well there and you will get a good job. Of course, such falls apart in that high school graduates in some cases have better jobs than PhD’s, being there are so few jobs in the PhD area. Also, most students with a BSEE will do better financially than those with a PhD in biochemistry, until perhaps the later years of their careers. Unintended consequences of the student’s future potential goal include cheating, student whining, whining parents, grade inflation, degree deflation, and/or social promotion.

Some see the development of lifetime learning as the goal of education. The idea being to take even the smallest spark of interest, and fan it into a flame, and that such is possible for all students. It may in some cases mean that mastery of a subject area may take much longer for some, and much less for others… but timing is not so much an issue as it is that such is occurring. By the same token, such an approach is perhaps the hardest one to measure.

Some see the development of a student’s potential as a goal of education. They understand that some will excel in one area, and not so well in others. The view is that if a student is given the opportunity and encouraged to put in equal effort in any number of areas, the student, as well as society will receive the greatest benefit. Such of course creates huge disparities in the amount and type of resources required.

Being that resources are constrained, some see equal distribution of educational resources to be the goal of education. The idea being that while a given student may not live up to their own potential, they at least get a bit of a push. Also, that some students who need a lot more help will not get it, they too get at least a bit of direction.

Some folks see student seat time as a goal of education. Ie, the more time that is put in, the more varied the experience, the greater potential for understanding. Such is common in the professions of aviation, law, and medicine. Its also possible, that if enough seat time and variation is presented, sooner or later a spark for learning will develop. It should also be considered that some students need extended time for percolation and reflection in contrast with others. A cynical view is that if a student is compelled to be in a seat at school, they are less likely to be creating havoc outside of it, and/or costing parents money.

Some folks see education as a way to get rich and/or increase ones power, and as a side issue to also better individuals and society. The idea being that if they can skim off a bit of the financial or physical resources through a long term proprietary economic lock-in, they will be in good shape for years to come. While such is admittedly a cynical view, it is far too realistic when one considers that only about 30% of any given states education budget goes towards classroom teacher’s compensation. Another way to view this, albeit cynically is the great emphasis on seat time and lack of cross-institutional credit transfers in post secondary ed. Such an approach inflates revenue via artificial supply limits, minimizes branding dilution, focuses power, and saves money via limiting institutional overhead.

High stake state based standardized testing is the least common denominator of many of the above goals. Its also known that each state can create their own tests and standards and that they vary widely. Next throw in the potentially huge dollars and power that are at stake and things get really messy. When one considers all the above factors, it really makes one wonder if such tests are really of any use at all education wise. It appears Campbells predictions have become all too true.

So what is the answer? Before you even think about educational accountability, it is absolutely imperative that you define what the end goal(s) are and from there, pick the appropriate tool(s). Choosing the wrong measurement tool would be like using a weigh scale to measure the length of a trailer. Yes, there will be some correlation… but its not gong to be very accurate, and in a vast majority of cases such an approach will be totally wrong. Making decisions based upon errant data will likely put us in a worse situation than we are already in. Part 2 of this series will take a closer look at misguided attempts at accountability.

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Should Teachers Be Paid Less than $55,000/year?

A friend told of a conversation she had overheard between a couple guys. One was saying to the other. “So I asked the guy, say a teacher makes *$55,000…would you really want the person teaching your kids to make less?” Such got me thinking a bit more.

Daycare for pre-K children runs around $7800 in Wisconsin. This is what parents are paying out of pocket… just for daycare. When the kids get older and go to school, such would seemingly drop, being the total hours in daycare drops off in a huge way. The thing is, it only drops a bit… $7124/year for children in a family child care home.

If you have 20 children in a daycare, the parents out of pocket cost for to use an after school center would be pushing around $160,000.

And yet, a degreed, and licensed teacher for those same kids gets paid $55,000, and perhaps another $25,000 in benefits for a total compensation of half of what those parents are paying for afterschool daycare.

Should a teacher really be paid less than half of what parents pay for afterschool daycare?

* The actual average salary of Wisconsin teachers is $51,264 via the WEAC. The DPI district data is pretty close to that as well. The DPI median for benefits is $25,800. Thus the total compensation is pretty close to $77,000… even less than half of what 20 parents would pay for daycare.

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