Sunday, September 30, 2007

Flawed Research-NCLB Standardized Testing


Report’s support of NCLB standardized testing rife with glaring weaknesses and faulty generalizations.

EAST LANSING, Mich.—A Lexington Institute report released earlier this month argues that the current standardized testing system should be retained and criticizes the use of multiple measures, particularly portfolios, to assess school performance. A review of that report, however, finds it is ill-founded and of little value as research or for policy development.
The Lexington report, “Portfolios – A Backward Step in School Accountability,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by William Mathis of the University of Vermont.

The report appears to have been written in anticipation of a “discussion draft” concerning NCLB changes, released by the leadership of the House Education Committee. The draft proposes changes that would allow states to use a broad list of “multiple indicators” – for example graduation rates and percent of students taking advanced courses – to assess education outcomes rather than depend so heavily upon standardized test scores.

As Mathis notes, the House Committee’s summary contains a broad list of various multiple indicators, but portfolio assessment is not on the list. He explains that given the absence of portfolio assessment from the list, it is troubling that the Lexington report offers portfolios as the most notable of what it calls “multiple measures” and then erroneously generalizes findings about portfolios to argue against adopting any instruments other than standardized tests. Further, the report ignores a body of research with findings that present portfolios in a more favorable light.

Mathis writes that the report more closely resembles political propaganda than a research report. It provides no new data, examines only two studies done 13 years ago and includes only results favorable to the report’s conclusions. He concludes that the report’s failure to discuss contradictory research undermines its conclusions, and its attempt “to generalize all multiple measures from this questionable base completely discredits (the report).”

Find the complete review by William Mathis as well as a link to the Lexington Institute report at:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Your Opinion Needed on Performance Pay

Lance Cargill, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Tad Jones, House Education Committee Chairman would like your opinion on the issue of performance pay for teachers. They are currently conducting an interim study on the topic of performance pay and they are hearing testimony from many experts who are sharing their experiences and knowledge on the subject. They would also like to hear from you. Please click on the link and give them your opinions:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2008 Teacher of the Year

The 2008 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is Stephanie Canada, a Physical Education teacher from Shawnee Oklahoma. Stephanie, an active OEA member, was chosen from among a dozen finalists that represent our great teachers across Oklahoma. They are Shannon Pruitt, a fourth grade teacher for Dale Public Schools; Steve Bowlware, a high school math teacher with Edmond Public Schools; Sallie Mullens, a first grade teacher with Elk City Public Schools; Lori Duncan, a second grade teacher with Fort Gibson Public Schools; Susan Petreikis, a second grade teacher with Jenks Public Schools; Prentice Redman, a first grade teacher with McAlester Public Schools; Julie Angle, a high school science and computer technology teacher with Medford Public Schools; Michael Payne, a drama/theater teacher at the Classen School of Advanced Studies/Oklahoma City Public Schools; Melanie Eick, a special education teacher of students with multiple disabilities with Stillwater Public Schools; Debbie Snider, a gifted and talented teacher with Union Public Schools in Tulsa; and Brenda Gartrell, a fifth grade science and mathematics teacher at Woodward Public Schools.

The OEA hosted a luncheon for the finalists, their family, and friends, and former teachers of the year. It is always a great time to get togther and listen to the 12 share their stories about great teaching moments. After lunch, we presented the winners with an apple desk clock.

Stephanie will be representing Oklahoma teachers at a variety of functions and meetings. She will receive the help of a teaching partner as part of her recognition so she can fulfill her commitments.

Congratulations to Stephanie and all of the other finalists.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why teach?

Last week, I had two opportunities to answer that question for students. The first group were members of our student local at USAO in Chickasha. The room was full with a number of our members who are getting closer to doing their student teaching. I was able to share a little bit about my experience, but I also discussed about how great our country was because of its commitment to public education.

We owe a great deal to our forefathers, who understood the importance of an educated people. Education is the foundation of our democracy and our teachers play the greatest role in preparing young people for success.

We educate all children who walk through the doors and do our best to provide them with the best educational opportunities.

The message really came to life at Garfield Elementary School in Enid. I was there to address the 6th grade students as part of an ongoing program that brings people of different occupations into the classroom for the students to learn about.

The kids ask you questions, kind of like the old 64 questions game, as they try to figure out what you do for a living. After they figure out what you do, they ask you questions about what it was like to be in the 6th grade.

For me, the 6th grade was a tough time. My grandmother died of cancer. It was my first experience with death, and I had a great deal of growing up to do. I would never have been successful if it hadn't been for two great teachers--Mr. Sedgwich and Miss Grossmark.

I tried to let them know how much their teachers care for them and how they want to see them all grow up to be the best they can be. While that may sound cliche to some of you, it is so important to let kids know the sky's the limits when they are young.

I owe a special thanks to all the great students and teachers at Garfield for inviting me in to their classroom and allowing me to share what it's like to be a teacher and also represent teachers all across Oklahoma.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Didn't I Just Hear That Presentation??

The second round of the House of Representatives interim study on merit pay was held with 3 of the four morning participants agreeing on the importance of professional development in the creation of any incentive based plan.

On behalf of the nearly 40,000 members of the Oklahoma Education Association, executive directors Joel Robison, Dr. Dottie Caldwell, and I represented OEA's position on the subject. Many thought we would be totally opposed to any proposal, but the OEA has always been the leader in looking at enhancements to the salary schedule. You can't ignore OEA's leadership in this area: we were instrumental in getting the National Board process started in Oklahoma, National Board Certified Teachers developed the OEA Accomplished Teacher Project that was presented to OBEC leaders, and we have supported a number of areas that enhances teacher pay that makes a difference in the effectiveness of our teachers as well as documented student success.

After our presentation, Education Minnesota presented a program that strongly supported the concepts of what our presentation was about. EM's presentation was followed by Granger Meador, a Bartlesville teacher, who also talked about the importance of professional development and making all teachers the best they can be.

What appeared to be unified presentations included remarks from Keith Ballard, Executive Director of the OSSBA, as well as a variety of administrative representatives who were all discussing the importance of funding, teacher buy-in, local control, professional development, and getting teachers to the regional average in pay.

We received positive reaction from many of the legislators who appreciated our input and thanked us for being open to presenting the OEA position. Many of the legislators were encouraged by the OEA presentation and we look forward to continued discussions with our elected representatives.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fun with Reading

Over the last few days, I've had a great deal of fun with reading in a variety of different venues. Last week, we completed our photo shoot with for the 2008 Read Across America Project with Co-spokespersons Courtney and Ashley Paris.

As all college basketball fans know, Courtney and Ashley play basketball for the University of Oklahoma. The young ladies were great with the kids and excited about being part of the project. There are a great number of children who look up to them and enjoy watching them play basketball. Thank you Courtney and Ashley for sharing the importance of reading with kids all over Oklahoma.

This morning I was a special guest reader for Mrs. Kelli Chastain's first grade class. I shared the book "Smelly Socks" by Robert Munsch. It is about a girl named Tina who gets the best pair of socks ever and refuses to take them off. The book is very funny and the kids loved the story and pictures. The story about Tina created some great stories by the kids about clothes they didn't want their parents to ever wash. All of us had a fun time together.

Finally, an update on what I'm currently reading. I'm in the middle of two books, the first one, "Plum Island" is a mystery/thriller by Nelson DeMille and the second is an autobiography by David Kolowski called "Life of a Husker".

If you haven't found a special book to read, spend some time in your local library. There are so many great reads you could spend a lifetime trying to get to them all.

If you are interested in reading in schools, check with your local school district to see if they are in need of reading volunteers. Help kids enjoy the thrill of being read to by being the reader to a group of kids.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Senator Gumm on Merit Pay

Not all of our elected representatives favor merit pay.

Senator Gumm’s “Senate Minute” Column for September 4-10, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hello again, everybody! As children, we learn about the game known as “chicken.”This is a game most of us learn on elementary school playgrounds, but it is also played in politics. A big game of “chicken” with serious consequences for Oklahoma’s children is underway.

Leaders in the House of Representatives declare there will be no more teacher pay raises without so-called “merit pay” being in the mix. They have the power to back up their threat because they can stop any teacher pay raise by bottling it up in a committee.

Many of us believe teachers have been historically underpaid. We have made progress in raising teacher salaries during the past few years, but we still have a ways to go.

For those of us who believe teachers are underpaid, their declaration is no different than the schoolyard bully running at another child as fast as he can, daring him or her to “chicken” out. Sadly, though, the consequences of this game are far greater than a few bumps and bruises.

I do not like most merit pay plans out there. “Merit pay” – more often than not – uses standardized test scores as a key component of determining “merit.” We already over-emphasize standardized tests when evaluating schools.

At their core, merit pay plans that use tests are misguided and do not truly reflect teacher performance. Test scores fail to take into account one fundamental fact: school kids are different, each with different gifts, abilities and challenges.

Some students might have to endure difficult home lives; some might face challenges many of us can only imagine. Those challenges will affect performance.

Public education is the only institution that has to educate all children. Teachers should be able to focus on helping children become what God intended for them to become rather than just pushing for a high test score. How do we quantify when a teacher goes above and beyond the call of duty to help a student work through obstacles?

Those who support merit pay suggest that competition among teachers for merit pay dollars would improve performance. I do not believe that would happen. The real competition will be for high performing students – those who test well and, as a result, give the impression one teacher might be better than another.

We can, and we must, do better by our children and those to whom we entrust them – our teachers. We hear a lot about “no child left behind”; merit pay increases the chance that children who test poorly will be left behind as the focus shifts to those students with test scores high enough to boost teachers pay.

So-called “merit pay” plans will not make schools better. Those who advance merit pay hold hostage our teachers’ financial futures and our children’s education just to advance an agenda that is more about looking good than doing good.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Merit Pay...Concerns, Flaws, & Where to Send the Bonus

I've given you information from Texas, now here's the latest from Alaska where many teachers have donated their bonus to charity.

Anchorage Daily News: Incentive pay goes to some teachers, but worries linger (Becky Stoppa, News, Alaska)“The Alaska Public School Performance Incentive Program is in the first of three pilot years. It provides bonuses to eligible staff members at schools whose students show significant improvements from the year before or whose students continue to achieve at high levels, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development… Many felt the incentive program failed to recognize the hard work of teachers in other schools and seemed to suggest that without cash incentives teachers might not work as hard as they could, Sather said.”