Thursday, November 15, 2012

Here's How Common Core Assessments Plan to Certify Workers for the Global Economy

This 10th grade test item is a sample of the type of passage provided by PARCC (The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium of 23 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), to assess student proficiency on the Common Cores State Standards.  PARCC calls this a "grade-level complex literary text." Truth of the matter: They probably chose it because it's in the public domain and there's no reprint fee.

Hey, teachers in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Dictrict of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands:  Are you ready for Ovid?

According to Wikipedia,  Ovid's Metaphorphoses was completed in AD8 and  is recognized as a masterpiece of Golden Age Latin literature. It was one of   the most-read of all classical works-- during the Middle Ages.

I wonder why PARCC doesn't see fit to inform the reader that the translation they're using to test students is the Brookes More translation, produced in 1922. I've posted a prose translation  by Mary Innes below. On an exam, the University of Nottingham gave students the original and asked them to evaluate these two translations. Note: these university students were enrolled in the classics department.  I used to do this sort of thing with third graders and fairy tales: Look at different versions and decide which is more effective--and why. I have 32 versions of The Three Little Pigs, surely, with Mama Pig announcing to her three children that it's time for them to move out and seek their own fortunes, a tale for our time. But truth be told, my students loved finding variant texts on their own. One Monday, Dougie, repeating 3rd grade and not a fan of school, came in beaming. "You'll never guess what I did! I got my mom to take me to a library 30 miles from here. And I've got a different version!"

Now that's reading excitement.

 Modest Proposal:  Perhaps if  teachers share this Titian painting inspired by Metamophoses one of two things will result:

1) it will inspire student reading.
2) it will provoke irate parents to get the work banned.

You can go here for PARCC's questions and guide to the right answers to these questions.

I remind Chicago Teachers that the CTU Quest Center provides   Q and A  on the Common Core, including advice on how to help students with special needs with the Common Core curriculum:

Q. What should I do to meet the needs of my special education students?

A: The standards were written with the assumption that with appropriate accommodations all students, including those with exceptional needs, can achieve them. You should continue to differentiate your instruction, following all IEP requirements, goals, and modifications, and implement "best practices" in your curriculum to meet the needs of all your learners.

Question: What would "appropriate accommodations" for reading Ovid be for students with exceptional needs?

Question: What would "appropriate accommodations" for reading Ovid be for any tenth grader?

And I have another question: President Obama says  Race to the Top and the Common Core are part of  "a national mission to educate our kids and train our workers better than anybody else in the world.  I want to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers, train 2 million workers at our community colleges to get the skills they need for the jobs that are hiring right now."

President Obama,  just how does reading Ovid cut the mustard here?

PARCC insists that Ovid  "aligns to the PARCC Reading Literature Assessment claim because it is based on
on a complex literary text. It aligns to the standards and evidence statements listed in that the item requires students to recognize a theme of a literary text and to find detailed support to show how that theme is developed."

PARCC offers no evidence showing how this educates and trains kids "better than anybody else in the world."

What bothers me most of all about this as a test item is the kind of reading students will have to endure--starting in kindergarten-- to get ready for such a test.

Our U. S. Department of Education shelled out nearly $200 million of  our tax dollars to PARCC to come up with this sort of thing.

Ovid's Metamorphoses : Daedalus and Icarus
    Translated by Brookes More, public domain
                        But Daedalus abhorred the Isle of Crete--
                  290 and his long exile on that sea-girt shore,
                         increased the love of his own native place.
                         "Though Minos blocks escape by sea and land."
                         He said, "The unconfined skies remain
                         though Minos may be lord of all the world
                  295 his sceptre is not regnant of the air,
                         and by that untried way is our escape."
                         This said, he turned his mind to arts unknown
                         and nature unrevealed. He fashioned quills
                         and feathers in due order -- deftly formed
                  300 from small to large, as any rustic pipe
                         prom straws unequal slants. He bound with thread
                         the middle feathers, and the lower fixed
                         with pliant wax; till so, in gentle curves
                         arranged, he bent them to the shape of birds.
                  305 While he was working, his son Icarus,
                         with smiling countenance and unaware
                         of danger to himself, perchance would chase
                         the feathers, ruffled by the shifting breeze,
                         or soften with his thumb the yellow wax,
                  310 and by his playfulness retard the work
                         his anxious father planned.
                         But when at last
                         the father finished it, he poised himself,
                         and lightly floating in the winnowed air
                  315 waved his great feathered wings with bird-like ease.
                         And, likewise he had fashioned for his son
                         such wings; before they ventured in the air
                         he said, "My son, I caution you to keep
                         the middle way, for if your pinions dip
                  320 too low the waters may impede your flight;
                         and if they soar too high the sun may scorch them.
                         Fly midway. Gaze not at the boundless sky,
                         far Ursa Major and Bootes next.
                         Nor on Orion with his flashing brand,
                  325 but follow my safe guidance."
                         As he spoke
                         he fitted on his son the plumed wings
                         with trembling hands, while down his withered cheeks
                         the tears were falling. Then he gave his son
                  330 a last kiss, and upon his gliding wings
                         assumed a careful lead solicitous.
                         As when the bird leads forth her tender young,
                         from high-swung nest to try the yielding air;
                         so he prevailed on willing Icarus;
                  335 encouraged and instructed him in a]l
                         the fatal art; and as he waved his wings
                         looked backward on his son.
                         Beneath their flight,
                         the fisherman while casting his long rod,
                  340 or the tired shepherd leaning on his crook,
                         or the rough plowman as he raised his eyes,
                         astonished might observe them on the wing,
                         and worship them as Gods.
                         Upon the left
                  345 they passed by Samos, Juno's sacred isle;
                         Delos and Paros too, were left behind;
                         and on the right Lebinthus and Calymne,
                         fruitful in honey. Proud of his success,
                         the foolish Icarus forsook his guide,
                  350 and, bold in vanity, began to soar,
                         rising upon his wings to touch the skies;
                         but as he neared the scorching sun, its heat
                         softened the fragrant wax that held his plumes;
                         and heat increasing melted the soft wax--
                  355 he waved his naked arms instead of wings,
                         with no more feathers to sustain his flight.
                         And as he called upon his father's name
                         his voice was smothered in the dark blue sea,
                         now called Icarian from the dead boy's name.
                  360 The unlucky father, not a father, called,
                         "Where are you, Icarus?" and "Where are you?
                         In what place shall I seek you, Icarus?"
                         He called again; and then he saw the wings
                         of his dear Icarus, floating on the waves;
                  365 and he began to rail and curse his art.
                         He found the body on an island shore,
                         now called Icaria, and at once prepared
                         to bury the unfortunate remains;
                         but while he labored a pert partridge near,
                  370 observed him from the covert of an oak,
                         and whistled his unnatural delight.
                         Know you the cause? 'Twas then a single bird,
                         the first one of its kind. 'Twas never seen
                         before the sister of Daedalus had brought
                  375 him Perdix, her dear son, to be his pupil.
                         And as the years went by the gifted youth
                         began to rival his instructor's art.
                         He took the jagged backbone of a fish,
                         and with it as a model made a saw,
                  380 with sharp teeth fashioned from a strip of iron.
                         And he was first to make two arms of iron,
                         smooth hinged upon the center, so that one
                         would make a pivot while the other, turned,
                         described a circle. Wherefore Daedalus
                  385 enraged and envious, sought to slay the youth
                         and cast him headlong from Minerva's fane,--
                         then spread the rumor of an accident.
                         But Pallas, goddess of ingenious men,
                         saving the pupil changed him to a bird,
                  390 and in the middle of the air he flew
                         on feathered wings; and so his active mind--
                         and vigor of his genius were absorbed
                         into his wings and feet; although the name
                         of Perdix was retained.
                  395 The Partridge hides
                         in shaded places by the leafy trees
                         its nested eggs among the bush's twigs;
                         nor does it seek to rise in lofty flight,
                         for it is mindful of its former fall.

 Translated by Mary Innes, 1955

Meanwhile Daedalus, tired of Crete and of his long absence from home, was filled with longing for his own country, but he was shut in by the sea. Then he said: “The king may block my way by land or across the ocean, but the sky, surely, is open, and that is how we shall go. Minos may possess all the rest, but he does not possess the air.” With these words, he set his mind to sciences never explored before, and altered the laws of nature. He laid down a row of feathers, beginning with tiny ones, and gradually increasing their length, so that the edge seemed to slope upwards. In the same way, the pipe which shepherds used to play is built up from reeds, each slightly longer than the last. Then he fastened the feathers together in the middle with thread, and at the bottom with wax; when he had arranged them in this way, he bent them round into a gentle curve, to look like real birds’ wings. His son Icarus stood beside him and, not knowing that the materials he was handling were to endanger his life, laughingly captured the feathers which blew away in the wind, or softened the yellow wax with his thumb, and by his pranks hindered the marvellous work on which his father was engaged.

When Daedalus had put the finishing touches to his invention, he raised himself into the air, balancing his body on his two wings, and there he hovered, moving his feathers up and down. Then he prepared his son to fly too. “I warn you, Icarus,” he said, “you must follow a course midway between earth and heaven, in case the sun should scorch your feathers, if you go too high, or the water make them heavy if you are too low. And pay no attention to the stars, to Bootes, or Helice or Orion with his drawn sword: take me as your guide, and follow me!”

While he was giving Icarus these instructions on how to fly, Daedalus was at the same time fastening the novel wings on his son’s shoulders. As he worked and talked the old man’s cheeks were wet with tears, and his fatherly affection made his hands tremble. He kissed his son, whom he was never to kiss again: then, raising himself on his wings, flew in front, showing anxious concern for his companion, just like a bird who has brought her tender fledgelings out of their nest in the treetops, and launched them into the air. He urged Icarus to follow close, and instructed him in the art that was to be his ruin, moving his own wings and keeping a watchful eye on those of his son behind him. Some fisher, perhaps, plying his quivering rod, some shepherd leaning on his staff, or a peasant bent over his plough handle caught sight of them as they flew past and stood stock still in astonishment, believing that these creatures who could fly through the air must be gods.

Now Juno’s sacred isle of Samos lay on the left, Delos and Paros were already behind them, and Lebinthos was on their right hand, along with Calymne, rich in honey, when the boy Icarus began to enjoy the thrill of swooping boldly through the air. Drawn on by his eagerness for the open sky, he left his guide and soared upwards, till he came too close to the blazing sun, and it softened the sweet-smelling wax that bound his wings together. The wax melted. Icarus moved his bare arms up and down, but without their feathers they had no purchase on the air. Even as his lips were crying his father’s name, they were swallowed up in the deep blue waters which are called after him. The unhappy father, a father no longer, cried out: “Icarus!” “Icarus,” he called. “Where are you? Where am I to look for you?” As he was still calling “Icarus” he saw the feathers on the water, and cursed his inventive skill. He laid his son to rest in a tomb, and the land took its name from that of the boy who was buried there.

NPR, are you out of your #*%@- mind????

The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.

–Michel Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature

I guess Sunday was business at usual at NPR, but I found it astounding. Maybe my rage came from the fact that a couple of days previously I’d written a brief commentary about the failure of the Tennessee print media to report on or even acknowledge the astronomical rise in the number of homeless public school students between 2007 and 2010—74%.

The national rise in the number of homeless public school students was 38%.

Have you seen any newspaper headlines about that in your local papers? Any commentaries on your local NPR station?

This all came home to me while listening to wiccan priestess [that’s a descriptor from her Wikipedia entry] Margot Adler on NPR, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.

ADLER: At the Imagine plaque in Strawberry fields, a real return to normal; a guitarist singing Beatle songs and crowds taking pictures.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Is going to be a…
ADLER: There were two totally different Manhattans in the wake of Sandy’s fury. And I spent a lot of my time in what I’ve come to call the border area: those blocks where there was power, activity and normalcy on one side; and on the other, no lights and just the noise of a few generators pumping power into darkened delis and pizza joints. Grand Central Terminal was on the power side, bustling Friday; the Apple store on the upper level was packed, the restaurants a hive of activity. The open banks on the border became makeshift workspaces for the powerless on the dark side.
Edward Sherman sat with some 15 other people in a Chase Bank.
EDWARD SHERMAN: It’s become my office. I have been sitting in the lobby of JP Morgan Chase working, yeah. Yes. Yes.
ADLER: Our NPR New York office on 42nd Street was on the power side of the street, the beloved public library on Fifth Avenue, with it’s lions out front, was shuttered and dark and will not open until tomorrow. Macy’s was filled with customers. Huge symbols of capitalism – Charles Schwab, Credit Swiss – were locked down. The upscale Lord and Taylor, a block from the library was in darkness until it opened at noon on Saturday.
Minutes before that, I saw people with Lord and Taylor shopping bags coming from the subway to return things. And just about to walk in was Salma El Said from Egypt.
SALMA EL SAID: We are happy because it’s business. You know, I mean, you want the best for the best for the people, too. You know? It was sad to see it closed like that, closed.
ADLER: People in Staten island and New Jersey are still struggling, and so are some here in Manhattan, but now that the power is back, we’re beginning, just beginning to be one island once again.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

I’m sure glad that life has returned to Normal for Margot Adler and that she can again enjoy a stroll in Central Park. . . . But heralding shopping at Macy’s? And Lord and Taylor shopping bags? I was screaming at the radio, “1.8 million people in the New York City area are without electricity. Forty thousand people in New York City are homeless. Those in Staten Island and the Rockaways who still have homes—sort of—are battling the cold, the sewage pile up. And worse. Maybe Margot Adler and NPR need to venture a bit further downtown—or at least read the New York Times. []
NPR, are you out of your #*%@- mind????

And what about the rest of us? When are we going to demand that our local media tell the truth about poverty?

We need to be relentless, calling out the megaphones to power. We need to demand that they stop ignoring the poor while celebrating those Macy’s shoppers. I would say “hats off” to @NYTMetro on Twitter; the New York Times Metro Desk posts ongoing updates about what’s happening to  the people  in the New York-New Jersey area who face much greater challenges than returning items at Lord & Taylor.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Back to Basics: The Weight of the Matter

A recent column I wrote for the Washington Post received such positive comment that I decided to expand one of the brief anecdotes to give a broader picture of how children learn. Honoring how children learn is a messy endeavor, something no longer allowed in our current atmosphere of schools dominated by a corporate imperative for workers who do more now than they did a generation ago, an imperative that demands schools train kids in a conveyor belt delivery system of skills.

People are attracted to and co-opted by the rhetoric of systemic reform of education because it promises both to level the playing field and to offer a more challenging curriculum. But the promises are empty. For starters, task completers and problem solvers are two different kettle of fish. To complete a task, one needs to rely on habitual activity, rarely needing the kinds of thinking involved in problem solving. Here are the seven components of task completion: 1) begin work immediately, 2) work quietly, 3) remain seated, 4) ask good questions, 5) complete work, 6) work carefully, and 7) follow instructions. Something should be added to that list: Once one completes a task, one moves on to another task. Such strictures may keep a classroom orderly; they do not produce problem solving.

Take Daryll, a boy repeating first grade whose official records label him as have “[a] short attention span, difficulty sticking to a task.” One day Daryll worked for three hours straight on his proof that sixteen bottle caps on side of a balance weighed the same as sixteen bottle caps on the other side. He set up this proof and then tested it and tested it and tested it. Along the way he weighed other things. Lots of other things.

After taking a two-day break from bottle caps, Daryll weighed them again—just to make sure. Then he wondered what would happen with one hundred bottle caps. This is messy stuff, just verifying that one has one hundred of something, and not the sort of thing people who talk of benchmarks, rubrics, and efficiency can tolerate. There’s no room for such problem solving in a schedule filled with state edicts of skill alignment and piles of accompanying worksheets.

Once he’d verified the number of his one hundred bottle caps, Daryll wondered what would equal their weight—a book, his shoe, the teacher’s lunch. The classroom was filled with interesting things to weigh.

Three days later, Daryll got the idea of putting one hundred bottle caps on the other side of the balance. This was a very profound moment. Daryll discovered that, just as 16 bottle caps = 16 bottle caps, 100 bottle caps = 100 bottle caps.

He recounted ever bottle cap to verify this discovery. He stared at the balance. He counted again. He stood contemplating the balance.

We'd had a couple of brief conversations during the three days. There would be more conversation later, after Daryll had time to think about his accomplishment, but this was Daryll's moment. On his own, he had discovered something very profound.

This is what it means to be a teacher—knowing when to move in, when to keep hands off. When to keep your mouth shut.

A decade ago, the Business Roundtable declared, "The only way we can assure that the skills and abilities of our young people will keep pace with the rapidly advancing, technology-based world marketplace is by setting standards for our schools, putting in place the processes to meet those standards and then testing to ensure that those standards are in fact being met." Daryll and his teacher knew differently. For the Business Roundtable and the U. S. Department of Education with its Race to the Top and for the U. S. Congress with its LEARN (sic) Act, the education of young children is an issue of control. For Daryll and his teacher, it is an issue of independence.

Adapted from Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?

Politics and Parsnips

The Free Press reported (“Dinner at 1600", Feb. 23) that as President Barack Obama was offering a toast before a four-course dinner at the White House, he acknowledged a tuxedo-clad Governor Douglas as “an extraordinary partner with this White House.” He was referring to
the work of the National Governors Association on the Common Core Standards in math and

The New York Times called this national standards effort “a bipartisan project at variance with the highly polarized political mood in Washington." I call it a unilateral policy leaving out
teachers, students, and parents.

For starters, I'd like to ask Governor Douglas if has read As I Lay Dying, with its 15 narrators, offered, along with Pride and Prejudice as Exemplar Text for 11th graders

And how about Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800), presented as an Exemplar Text, for 9th graders? When I grappled with Wordsworth's great principle of emotion recollected in tranquility as a grad student, I figured I had only myself to blame. After all, I’d chosen to study English literature. But who’s there to protect the 14-year-old from this pretense at academic rigor?

Does Governor Douglas think 14-year-olds will embrace Wordsworth's declarations about the source of the sexual appetite, and all the passions connected with it? And if not, perhaps our Chief State School Officer might offer some ideas for differentiated teaching strategies. After all, he Council of Chief State School Officers were co-conspirators in the production of the Common Core document.

Things are just as dicey for younger students. Here are two selections the National Governors Association and the Chief State School Officers offer as Exemplar Narratives for 6-8 graders:
"Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic by Plato (380 BCE) and "Address to Students at Moscow State University" by Ronald Reagan (1988).

According to the Free Press account, both Obama and Douglas offered toasts with glasses of water. One can only wonder what the people devising the Common Core were drinking.

In order to qualify for the pots of money President Obama is eager to hand out, states must accept 100 percent of the Standards document. They cannot pick and choose. Exercising any judgment based on what teachers know about kids is forbidden. To get the Obama bribe, state politicos must promise that schoolchildren will be forced to swallow ALL the Kool-Aid.

The governors, the chief state school officers, and President Obama insist these are
"high-quality education standards," drawing on “the most important international models as well as research and input from numerous sources, including scholars, assessment developers, professional organizations, and educators from kindergarten through college. In their design and content, the Standards represent a synthesis of the best elements of standards-related work
to date and an important advance over that previous work.”

I say they're parsnips and I say to hell with them