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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Blog: Who Stands to Gain From Hanna Skandera's Faulty Approach to Education Reform?

Mikecorwin This is a guest blog by Michael Corwin, Executive Director of the Independent Source PAC of Santa Fe. It's cross-posted in the PAC's new 8-page electronic and print publication, New Mexico's Spyglass (pdf) -- which is a must-read for anyone interested in learning the facts that expose "the actions, agendas, and hypocrisy of conservative candidates, elected and appointed officials and interest groups." Great work by a new organization with a top-notch investigative team. Everyone interested in holding government accountable should check out more of their work on their website, as well as in their new publication.

The National Research Council says Hanna Skandera’s brand of “Education Reform” does not work. So why is the Martinez Administration so gung ho about an approach that is clearly not what’s best for the children? Who really stands to gain from their faulty approach?

Skandera and Martinez have begun instituting the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s (“FEE”) one size fits all cookie cutter agenda of ending “social promotion,” “incentivizing” teacher and school performance, replacing experience and training with “effectiveness,” replacing teachers with technology guides, using “proprietary” curriculum and teacher training and privatizing public school through “choice.”

The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences. It conducts research to provide advice to the nation’s decision makers through a congressional charter. It is agenda free.

FEE is entirely agenda driven. Well, it is also driven by its desire to enrich its friends and cohorts with taxpayer money that should be going to teacher salaries and school infrastructure.

Holding Back Students Doesn't Work
In testimony on “High Stakes Testing and Social Promotion” before congress, Robert M. Houser, who chaired the Committee on Appropriate Test Use Board on Testing and Assessment for the National Academies, stated, “with respect to retention in grade, the research evidence is overwhelming: Simply holding back students who have not achieved to the appropriate standard does not work.”

Not only does ending social promotion not work according to Houser, “but flunking them, holding them over for a repeat year, and simply assuming that this will help them overcome their educational deficits, is ineffective and may even aggravate an already untenable situation.” Houser’s research found:

  • Students who have been held back typically do not catch up.
  • Low-performing students learn more if they are promoted- even without remedial help—than if they are held back.
  • Students who are held back are much more likely to drop out before completing high school.

Relative to New Mexico, a minority majority and poor state, was Houser’s finding that “minorities and poor children are the most likely to be held back.”

Test-Based Incentive Programs Don't Work
The National Research Council has also weighed in on “incentive programs, which impose sanctions or offer rewards for students, teachers or schools on the basis of students’ test performance” in a recent report entitled, “Current Test-Based Incentive Programs Have Not Consistently Raised Student Achievement in the U.S.” The study found that school-based incentives gains occurred only in elementary grade mathematics, and are so small that claiming these incentives will help us compete internationally is a joke. In fact, incentives to test scores showed only a .08 standard deviation, improving from 50th percentile to 53 percentile versus the 84 percentile achieved in high performing countries. It will never make us competitive. The National Research Council using “low-stakes tests” that are not linked to incentives found that “the overall effects on achievement tend to be small and are effectively zero for a number of incentives programs.”

The study found that attaching incentives to test scores has several detrimental impacts:

  • They encourage teachers to focus narrowly on the material tested (teaching to the test).
  • Students knowledge of untested materials may stay the same or even decrease.
  • Test scores give an inflated picture of what students actually know with respect to the full range of content standards.

As a result the report found, “it is unreasonable to implement incentives tied to tests on a narrow range of content and then criticize teachers for narrowing their instruction to match the tests.”

Education should not be about teaching to the test. It should be about teaching how to think and provide fundamental skills that allow the student to become a productive member of society.

What Does Work?
So what really does work? According to the National Research Council, smaller class sizes, better-trained teachers and principals, challenging curriculum, high expectations, good after-school programs and summer school “can make a large and positive influence”.

In other words focus on the needs of the individual students, identify those that need assistance and provide it to them. For generations, American students that had trouble learning to read were given pull out training by remedial reading teachers.

This was a very effective approach, but then districts eliminated those positions. Why not bring them back? There are also thousands of retired teachers and other volunteers, who are happy to donate their time to do pullout remedial reading.

Skandera's Approach Benefits "Proprietary" Programs
Skandera’s approach to educational reform relies heavily on protecting the financial interests of companies and their “proprietary” curriculums and training programs … Teach for America, K-12, Inc., Laying the Foundation and of course FEE.

Perhaps this is due to Skandera’s lack of classroom experience and history of working for companies that sell training programs.

Skandera’s approach has only nominally asked those that are in the trenches -- teachers -- about approaches that will work. It is time for those who really care about education to do just that.

This is a guest blog by Michael Corwin, who is the executive director of Independent Source Pac and a licensed private investigator. Corwin has been conducting civil and criminal investigations since 1988. He has provided political opposition research and rapid response investigations in approximately 170 political races. He operates the firm Corwin Research & Investigations, LLC in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Corwin is the author of the books the "Everyday Detective" and the "Training Manual on Private Investigation." He has been a featured speaker and conferences and seminars. Corwin’s cases have been featured in the local and national media including an Edward R. Murrow award winning Dateline NBC episode. From 2006 through 2010 Corwin conducted investigations for the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission.

Note: If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

September 13, 2011 at 06:21 PM in Education, Guest Blogger, Independent Source PAC, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink

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