Search Results For business model

Educational reform is on the minds of many business leaders and several have weighed in with their concerns:

“We know we are facing a transition, and we must take this opportunity to provide today’s students with the tools and the thinking that is required for the future” ( John Chambers, Cisco Systems).

“….our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today,” (Bill Gates, Microsoft).

“The fact is, too many graduating seniors are unprepared for what will be required to succeed in college or in the workplace,” (William G. Jurgensen, CEO, Nationwide)

These business leaders have every right to express their interest in improving education for the nation. After all, their businesses will require an educated work force. However, too often business leaders speak about educational reform using a business model that is radically different from the public education model.

Funding-Private equity vs. Tax Dollar

A business is funded by an individual or a group of investors, and additional revenue for a business can be added through profits, loans, or the selling of additional shares. In contrast, public school education is funded by taxpayers at the local, state, and federal level; ultimately, politicians control the purse strings for school districts. This manner of funding can be grossly inequitable: On the blog CT, in 2011, Ansonia, Connecticut, spent $10,520 per student while the nearby district Region 9 (Easton/Redding) spent $18,426 per student that same year. Funding can often be capricious as tax revenues depend on the general economy and political agendas; funding can change annually with revenue that cannot be transfered year to year or invested. There are always political promises to reduce taxes despite rising operating and capital costs in educating our nation’s youth to develop 21st Century skills for our future workforce.

Business Loss-Cutting Poor Performers?

Another problem with using the business model for education is the business loss. A clear definition of a business loss is on

A business practice that seeks to detect, identify, investigate and prevent events that cause a drop in value of any of an organization’s revenues, assets and services. Loss-management improvements may involve changes in a business’s operating policies and business model in order to limit instances of accidental and/or intentional loss.

A business with a business loss must be flexible. A business may change operating policies (hours, locations, retail policies, purchasing policies, etc).  In contrast, a public school system that deals with a loss in funding or facilities or student enrollment cannot change hours, locations, or policy arbitrarily or with the speed that business has to react to changes in the market.  Furthermore, a business is free to drop a product line or drop poor performing employees. In contrast, schools cannot drop specific programs (core subjects of math, language arts, science, social studies) or poor performing students. Dropping poor performing students would certainly help test score results but that is not the purpose of public education. In this nation we  educate every student.

Competition-Winners vs. Losers

Business is built on competition and products and services go head to head for the public’s dollar. Economists believe that the market will crowd out inferior products and services using this competitive model. However, employing this model of competition in education would result in a tiered system of inequity. Education reform efforts to introduce competition have included choice through charter schools, but the results of these competitive efforts have not been any more successful than the efforts expended by the public schools. In the inital pilot study (2003) The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), considered  population differences and reported that “the mathematics performance of White, Black, and Hispanic fourth-graders in charter schools was not measurably different from the performance of fourth-graders with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds in other public schools.” The study also reported that, “In reading, there was no measurable difference in performance between charter school students in the fourth grade and their public school counterparts as a whole.” What this means is that competition with other schools is not a factor in school success. Furthermore, the students cannot be part of a competitive market with winners and losers if the goal is to educate every student. Every student must be a winner.

The Single Metric Test

A business with a single product is limited, so many businesses diversify.  Businesses measure success on products or services with monthly, quarterly, and annually produced data through a variety of measurements. Education in contrast is being forced to measure student achievement through standardized tests. Each standardized test “snapshot” is taken one day during a school year, and the results establish a school as being a success or failure. Reform efforts fron No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top exploit this one test metric. Judging a school with this system of measurement is like measuring retail business’s success by one day of sales. Many states are using these single metric tests for teacher evaluations. Would a company’s CEO be judged by one day’s stock price or a salesman by one day of sales? Additionally, the calls listed above ask for “tools and the thinking” that our business leaders want for their future workforce; an increased focus on single metric tests is not a solution for 21st Century skill development and critical problem solving.

Business leaders should have a great deal to say about education since they will be hiring the product of the nation’s education system. But the tenets of business do not match the tenets of education, and business policy does not always have a comparative counterpart in education. Public education is a very specialized institution and the reform of education must come from those who have both the training and classroom experience, beyond the just “being in the classroom” experience of many successful business leaders.

David Brooks recently wrote a column in The NYTimesHonor Code (July 5, 2012),  describing a crisis in education for boys. He suggested that Shakespeare’s character Henry V would not have been a success if he had attended an American School. But how different really was Henry V’s education?  Consider that Shakespeare’s Henry V spends his youth in Henry IV Parts I and II as Prince Hal, an irresponsible squanderer of his good fortune.

Brooks lays out his premise that if little Prince Hal had been placed in an American school, and I am assuming he means an American public school, Hal’s boisterous level of pre-school/kindergarten physical play would mean that he would receive recommendations from “sly” teachers for medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As Prince Hal made his way through our American public school system, Brooks predicts that he would be deprived of the necessary physical outlets such as recess, so he would act out, he would be “rambunctious”. That would result in numerous suspensions for the vigorous heir.

Eventually, Brooks supposes, Prince Hal would “withdraw” and “decide that the official school culture is for wimps and softies and he’d just disengage…by junior high, he’d lose interest in trying and his grades would plummet.” Well, perhaps Brooks should look at Shakespeare’s storyline of Prince Hal who rejected the official British monarchy culture and disengaged for the pubs with his drinking buddies. His “grades” did plummet without the benefit of the American public school.

Prince Hal  had little interest in trying to please his father, he rejected the lessons of his tutors, and he found company with the gregarious Falstaff and other London low-life. In one memorable scene, he “lifts” the crown before his father had passed, a stage metaphor for his immaturity and unreadiness for the responsibilities of Kingship. His education was abysmal; his honor code was lacking.

After the death of the king, however, when Prince Hal becomes Henry V, he engages in a “hands-on” education, one which is gained at the expense of his former friends and at his discovery of the betrayal of allies whom he has executed. He is long past school age when his lack of military strategy catches him outnumbered after the Battle of Harfleur. All these experiences harden him for his ultimate victory at Agincourt, but not before he gets to deliver those wonderful lines from the St. Crispin Day speech, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”. Immediately after the battle, where 10,000 French soliders lay dead as compared to roughly 29 Englishmen, the more battle-hardened Henry V immediately turns around and (twice) orders his men to kill all the French prisoners (Act IV; sc iv).

According to Wikipedia, in March 2010, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in a mock trial of Henry V for the crimes associated with the legality of the invasion and the slaughter of  the French prisoners. The trial  used evidence from the  historical record and Shakespeare’s play:

“The outcome was originally to be determined by an audience vote, however, due to a draw it came down to a judges’ decision. The court was divided on Henry’s justification for war, but unanimously found him guilty on the killing of the prisoners after applying ‘the evolving standards of the maturing society’.”

Therefore, I am confident that Henry the V is the not the best model to describe an honor code.

All this makes me question Brooks’s intent for using Henry V to attack the public school system. While schools are not entirely responsible for the crisis where boys are falling according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, his comment that teachers would give “sly little hints dropped” about medicating students casts teachers as covert operators. Why pick on the teachers?

He does have legitimate reasons for concern about how boys are falling behind in education citing:

  • By 12th grade, male reading test scores are far below female test scores.
  • Boys used to have an advantage in math and science, but that gap is nearly gone.
  • An article as far back as 2004 in the magazine Educational Leadership found that boys accounted for nearly three-quarters of the D’s and F’s.

In laying out his argument, Brooks complains that,

“The education system has become culturally cohesive, rewarding and encouraging a certain sort of person: one who is nurturing, collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious. People who don’t fit this cultural ideal respond by disengaging and rebelling.”

Well, yes. Brooks has described the corporate business model that has driven education, the business model that educators have been trained to use to prepare students when they enter the “real world.” What employer does not want an employee with these qualities? Yet, there are many teachers who recognize this model is not ideal for the diversity in attitude and aptitude for their students. Sadly, many of the educational opportunities that engage disaffected boys and girls including art, music, sports, and after-school programs are the first cut in times of economic hardship.

Additionally, teachers are keenly aware that not all students fit a cultural ideal, so they use multiple teaching strategies (differentiation, student success plans, response to intervention, etc) to reengage the withdrawn student. Mr. Brooks might have discovered these had he attended a classroom session and seen teachers working with students like little Prince Hal. Instead, he lays the blame for the failure of boys in the school system solely on teachers when there are other stakeholders, namely parents, who are primarily responsible.

Brooks’s suggestion that teachers celebrate competition might not meet with a school administration’s approval if a school’s mission statement celebrates cooperation. His suggestion that teachers should honor military virtues over environmental virtues might raise some eyebrows of parents, and his disparate suggestion that teachers should ditch friendship circles in favor of boot camps indicates that he has experienced neither.

In Shakespeare’s play, on the night before the battle of Agincourt,  Henry V walks unnoticed through the camp; he is finally and painfully aware of the responsibilities he has to his men and to his country and says, ““What infinite heartsease / Must kings neglect that private men enjoy?” As more pressures: economic, social, cultural and philosophical, are applied to the American public education system, teachers could paraphrase Henry V’s thoughts and say,  ““What infinite heartsease for those who criticize without being on the front lines in the classroom every day?”

Continue Reading…

I had read the The Rise of the New Groupthink by Susan Cain before its publication in “Week in Review” section of the Sunday NYTimes (1/15/12) because of a link sent to me by a fellow educator. After reading the article, I did several things

1. I made the article into a Reading for Information exercise for my 10th grade students who will read the article online (we have a school subscription) and respond to a series of multiple choice questions and three short answers (see bottom for PDF):

  • What evidence in the article demonstrates the author’s bias towards Groupthink?
  • Do you think the use of Groupthink will expand or contract in the future?
  • What has been your experience with Groupthink? Has this been a positive or negative experience?

2. I sent the link to my principal.

3. I wrote this blog.

In education today, collaboration is the buzz word of significance. Many lesson plans use the verb in generating objectives: “the students will collaborate to….” The recently adopted Language Arts Common Core Curriculum uses the verb in the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard #6 for Writing: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. 

While collaboration is not a skill of intellectual behavior important in learning on Bloom’s Taxonomy which is the Rosetta Stone for curriculum planning, many websites suggest that learning is enhanced through collaborating.  Andrew Churches’s website Educational Origami notes that, “Collaboration is a 21st Century skill of increasing importance and one that is used throughout the learning process. In some taxonomic levels the collaboration verbs are included as an element of Bloom’s Digital taxonomy and in others its is just a mechanism which can be use to facilitate higher order thinking and learning.”  In big bold letters in the middle of the page is the statement: Collaboration is not a 21st Century Skill, it is a 21st Century Essential.

Susan Cain argues a different position. Her concern about Groupthink is explained in business models; her most important example is in the creation of Apple. She offers one paragraph dedicated to collaboration in education:

“Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink. Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.”
Is it any wonder that one of the questions I posed for the Reading for Information prompt dealt with the author’s bias? I would hope that her experience in that 4th grade classroom is one of anomaly, and I wish that Cain had spent more time in many classrooms and in different schools to test her position. My experiences with collaboration in the classroom is not one of sameness, but one where student strengths and weaknesses are most evident.
Recently, I assigned a creative paper where 9th grade students collaborating in groups of threes needed to update the trials of Odysseus with a new character “Fresheus” (freshman+Odysseus) and the trials he encounters during a school day (Polyphemus =bully, etc).  Watching the students test ideas, find a way to communicate outside the classroom (Google docs was the vehicle of choice), and revising their work, I had a clear sense of who was the “leader” in each team, who was the “aider” in each team, and who was there for the ride. In grading this particular essay, I awarded the project a number of points out 40 according to a rubric (ex: 32/40). I then multiplied that number by three (32 X3=96) and told the team members they had the total points (ex: 96) to divide anyway they wanted between the three members of the team. Most teams divided the points evenly, but two teams recognized the “slacker” and split the points accordingly; the slackers received D grades according to their teammates.The advantage for me was obvious-I had only eight papers to grade instead of 24, which meant a faster response time to the students. In addition, the quality of the papers did affirm that collaboration on this particular assignment was a successful strategy, but not all assignments are appropriate for collaboration.
I also know how painful it is for some of the shy, or marginalized members of the class to work with others. I have seen how a creative spirit or “out of the box” thinker is sometimes beaten down by more ordinary ideas offered by more average students. I work in a middle/high school and the social status of a student is baggage in collaboration…and I suspect social status might be baggage in business collaboration as well. However, educators know their students will be going out into the real world where Cain suggests Groupthink is dominating the corporate culture, where people are “corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers.” Educators must prepare students for this experience and challenge them to have their voices be heard in all forums-business, education, religion, politics, etc.
Cain’s clearest example of  successful collaboration is with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. She writes, “Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of creating something from nothing — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself.” She notes that, “Mr. Wozniak wants to give his invention away free, but Mr. Jobs persuades him to co-found Apple Computer.”  Collaboration, for Cain, cannot generate an idea. There still needs to be that one creative spark to set other minds going…and that happens everyday in the classroom if the teacher knows how to pose the question and organize the response. The challenge for educators is to allow students the opportunity to work individually and collaboratively.
Interestingly enough, there is a commercial for Apple that I use in a (short) media study unit in order to show how celebrity endorsements impact consumers.  The text states:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.
The people featured in the commercial were (in order): Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson,John Lennon (with Yoko Ono), Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson (with Kermit the Frog), Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso.
I believe that Groupthink would not have adversely impacted any of these individuals; they each confronted the naysayers of their time and proved those who doubted their genius wrong. So, Cain need not worry that Groupthink will stifle the artist because history has proved that the artist prevails-although sadly, sometimes this is post-humous. Cain’s short interaction with collaboration in a classroom referenced in one short paragraph in her article hopefully does not speak for all education. Today’s educator is charged with the responsibility  to develop each individual student’s skills to confront and navigate through the problems of the real world. Perhaps the best way to negate the adverse -or Orwellian-impact of Groupthink is to prepare students to effectively use collaboration as a tool in accomplishing a goal. Fortunately,  this generation utilizes the methods of collaboration as they already communicate on multiple platforms, some that were not available even two years ago.
Cain should also be aware that students, like artists, who know the rules do not necessarily adhere to them. Robert Frost stated, “To me freedom means riding easy in the harness”;  so might our next generation who with a growing familiarity with the rules of collaboration will move beyond the limitations -or the harness-that cause Cain concern. Regardless, there will be a new Steve Wozniak. She will labor independently until she meets a collaborator who will aide in her changing the world. She will have been a student. Educators, look for her!

15% of the 21st Century is almost over and the headline Before Buying Classroom Technology, Asking ‘Why?’  by Ross Brenneman is in Education Week.

This is one of the most popular stories of the week, July 18, 2014.


Not why is this story popular, but why is there even a question as to question why schools should buy technology?

Certainly, the headline is never the whole story, but the why in the question posed is misleading or frustrating.

Any educational purchase, capital or operating, should always begin with the question “why?”, yet the impression the article makes is that there are administrators who, in an attempt to personalize learning for students, are purchasing technology without having a plan or vision.

Consider first that the word in question-technology- is defined as:

the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area;  capability given by the practical application of knowledge of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems” (Merriam-Webster).

Ironic, then, that the impression the article makes is that technology is causing administrators more problems than solving them.

The article cites Allison Powell, vice president for new learning models at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, who recounts that some administrators are saying, ‘I bought all this technology, now what?’:

“They’re buying the technology without thinking through what their specific learning goals and outcomes are, and technology might not be the right tool for that.”(Powell)

Such characterizations do not inspire confidence in leadership for learning in the 21st Century.  A look at the comment section that followed the article echoes similar frustrations :

Good grief!!! I have been involved with instructional technology as a teacher, a librarian, an administrator, and in higher education since the early 1990s – and there STILL has to be an article/debate/controversy how to best integrate technological advances in our nation’s classrooms?!ALlen Educator

“Why?” is a good question. However, there’s also “What?”, “Who?”, and “How?” (Assuming “where” is your school and “when” is ASAP.)-Tad Douce

This general portrayal of hapless administrators is not helpful to education, especially when just a few reasons to incorporate technology are obvious:

-standardized testing is now done, or will be done, digitally;
-data and data analysis to improve instruction uses technology;
-achieving college readiness (research) means students will use technology;
-career readiness (business) means students will use technology;
-communicating (in real time) with all stakeholders is education requires technology.

There are more, but these obvious reasons are just a few that could guide administrators to shape a vision as they invest in technology as they would any other educational purchase to prepare students for the future. The answers to the question “why” therefore, are generally understood.  Instead, the question “how will this technology be used” should be foremost in any administrator’s design for the future.Screenshot 2014-07-23 22.51.36

Furthermore, how will any administrator’s vision or design for the future be shaped and reshaped depends on developments in technology; technology is not a one time purchase. There will be many iterations of technology, hardware and software, used in classrooms tomorrow (…. and tomorrow and tomorrow). Above all, in meeting these iterations, an administrator’s vision or design must include ongoing training for educators.

To be fair, Education Week’s article centered on the use of technology in the delivery of personalized learning. In the end, Brennerman points out that the 21st Century is no different than any other century, that “personalized learning can be implemented without technology.” Yet, the headline says nothing about this message. Rather, the impression left is that there are many visionless administrators asking “why?”as if technology is a fad.

Administrators must work to correct the general impression made by the “why” in this headline.  With 85% of the 21st Century ahead, the question should be  “how will” their vision continue to shape the role of technology in education’s future.

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What SHOULD be a tenet of the Common Core State Standards.

The 11th Commandment from Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? Thou Shalt Read Informational Texts.

This edict from on high, from current College Board President and co-architect/promoter of the CCSS David Coleman, has had a seismic shift in curriculum at all grade levels. English/Language Arts Curriculum directors and teachers are jettisoning fiction from their lesson plans in the mistaken belief that they alone are responsible for addressing this new found commandment. For the uninitiated, informational texts in the CCSS replaces the genre previously known as non-fiction and includes many other genres including essays, speeches, and reports.

Columnist Joel Stein exposes the foolishness of this effort in his commentary “How I Replaced Shakespeare” in the 12/10/12 issue of Time Magazine when he discovered that his writing was being analyzed by students. (Note: Diane Ravitch, education activist has the full post on her blog) His response to students who were assigned his articles and who were parsing them for literary devices or thesis?

“Transfer high schools immediately! To one that teaches Shakespeare and Homer instead of the insightful commentary of a first-rate, unconventionally handsome modern wit! Also, don’t do drugs!”

Stein readily admits that students should have some exposure to different genres and explains that he learns how to write in different genres by looking at examples. Similarly English/Language Arts curriculum require students to write in various genres as well through models as well; for example, students are taught with models as to how to write in the genres of essay, business or friendly letter, book review, and poetry.

However, Stein refutes one of Coleman’s most quoted talking points. Coleman said, “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’” Stein’s response? “I agree with this, but only because no one has ever asked me for a market analysis.”

Stein points out that fiction provides the models that makes writers better. “No nonfiction writer can teach you how to use language like William Faulkner or James Joyce can,” he continues. Stein also mentions how the themes in fiction, and he mentions Shakespeare specifically, prepare students for real life choices. Othello, he notes, can help students make better choices about choices in working partnerships.

Instead, the shared blame for students not knowing how to write well or be able to read non-fiction lies with other disciplines such as history and science, a charge echoed by Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers who, along the National Governors Association, created the Common Core. Stein quotes Wilhoit saying, “History class assignments tend to be short textbook summaries, not primary sources.” Indeed the CCSS anticipated that reading across the disciplines is the most effective way to increase student understanding, so the CCSS made clear that a student’s diet of reading should be 70% informational texts and 30% fiction. Unfortunately, the explanation as to how this percentage would play out in the average student’s school day was relegated to two footnotes. On page 5 of the CCSS English Language Arts (down load) is the footnote that illuminates the 11th commandment of how Thou Shalt Read Informational Texts:

The percentages on the table reflect the sum of student reading, not just reading in ELA settings. Teachers of senior English classes, for example, are not required to devote 70
percent of reading to informational texts. Rather, 70 percent of student reading across the grade should be informational.
As with reading, the percentages in the table reflect the sum of student writing, not just writing in ELA settings.

When the CCSS were announced, the misreadings of this the English/Language Arts standards began immediately. The footnote was largely ignored. Instead, the movement to jam informational texts into English classes began. Literature was dumped in order to meet the set ratio in English classes alone rather than a move to increase the reading of informational texts in all other disciplines.Stein recounts how Wilhoit highlights the reaction of the small, vocal group who objected. “It (CCSS) upset people who love literature. That happens to be a lot of high school teachers,” Wilhoit said.

In How I Replaced Shakespeare, Stein adds his voice to the small vocal group who love literature.  He is a former writer for the Los Angeles Times and now is a regular contributor to Time. He is a good writer who recognizes that all students would be far better served to read great literature (Shakespeare,Faulkner, Joyce)  rather than his column of “informational texts.” The loss of literature at every grade level in an attempt to serve ratios-50% fiction/50% informational text in elementary and 30% fiction/70% in high school- is too great a price to be paid to meet the goals of the yet unproven Common Core.

Et Tu, Kristof?

September 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Dear Nicholas Kristof:

Not you too? I have always looked to you as the defender of just causes; a voice of reason in times of crisis. I agreed with your passionate opening in your New York Times column Students Over Unions, September 12, 2012, noting the role of poverty as a factor in “the most important civil rights battleground” and that “the most crucial struggle against poverty is the one fought in schools.”

In adding your opinion to the Chicago teacher’s strike, you considered that today’s inner-city urban schools, “echo the ‘separate but equal’ system of the early 1950s. In the Chicago Public Schools where teachers are now on strike, 86 percent of children are black or Hispanic, and 87 percent come from low-income families.”
In this opinion piece, you also made the good points that I look for in your columns:
  • The single most important step we could take has nothing to do with unions and everything to do with providing early-childhood education to at-risk kids.
  • Teachers need to be much better paid to attract the best college graduates to the nation’s worst schools.
However, you lost me at, “How does one figure out who is a weak teacher?”
Your solution is to have schools look at value added measurements (VAM) using test data. You suggest that researchers are improving the use of VAM and that, “with three years of data, it’s usually possible to tell which teachers are failing.”
Before you put your faith in VAM, you might have perused, John Ewing’s article “Mathematical Intimidation: Driven by the Data” in the publication Notices of the American Mathematic Society.  Ewing’s thesis in the article addresses a common misuse of mathematics that “is simpler, more pervasive, and (alas) more insidious: mathematics employed as a rhetorical weapon—an intellectual credential to convince the public that an idea or a process is ‘objective’ and hence better than other competing ideas or processes.”
As the president of the organization”Math for America”, Ewing disputes the use of tests to evaluate teachers, schools, or programs, and he short lists four of the most important problems:

1. Influences. Test scores are affected by many factors, including the incoming levels of achievement, the influence of previous teachers, the attitudes of peers, and parental support. One cannot immediately separate the influence of a particular teacher or program among all those variables.

2. Polls. Like polls, tests are only samples. They cover only a small selection of material from a larger domain. A student’s score is meant to represent how much has been learned on all material, but tests (like polls) can be misleading.

3. Intangibles. Tests (especially multiple-choice tests) measure the learning of facts and procedures rather than the many other goals of teaching. Attitude, engagement, and the ability to learn further on one’s own are difficult to measure with tests. In some cases, these “intangible” goals may be more important than those measured by tests.

4. Inflation. Test scores can be increased without increasing student learning. This assertion has been convincingly demonstrated, but it is widely ignored by many in the education establishment. In fact, the assertion should not be surprising. Every teacher knows that providing strategies for test-taking can improve student performance and that narrowing the curriculum to conform precisely to the test (“teaching to the test”) can have an even greater effect. The evidence shows that these effects can be substantial: One can dramatically increase test scores while at the same time actually decreasing student learning. “Test scores” are not the same as “student achievement”.

In pointing out the flaws of VAM in testing, Ewing concludes:

“Of course we should hold teachers accountable, but this does not mean we have to pretend that mathematical models can do something they cannot. Of course we should rid our schools of incompetent teachers, but value-added models are an exceedingly blunt tool for this purpose. In any case, we ought to expect more from our teachers than what value-added attempts to measure.”

Ultimately, Ewing determines the tool, the data from a single metric, used to measure teacher performance is fundamentally flawed. I ask you to consider what other profession evaluates on a single metric?

Evaluate performers in any other profession and note the number of metrics used to determine success. Athletes have pre-season games, games, playoffs all of which give important data to determine improvement over time. Multiple industries release profit statements quarterly while parsing through the tremendous amount of targeted consumer data now available. Lawyers, doctors, and other professions are ranked not by single cases, but by professional performance accrued case by case. Government agencies use multiple measurements to determine progress in various sectors (employment, demographics, investments,etc) and provide monthly reports to determine progress; even the presidential race has a primary before the election. Yet there are those who would want teachers to be evaluated using the metric of a single test, taken one day out of one school year.

The single metric test is given state by state to measure growth in skills and subject area content in reading, writing, math and science. Elementary school teachers and teachers at the high school in these subject areas receive the most scrutiny. Many state standardized tests are given at specific grade levels. In other words, in my state of Connecticut, teachers in 5th, 8th or 10th grade who teach one of the “core” classes carry a different evaluation burden; their test results are widely publicized as the school ranking against other schools. Elective teachers (art, PE, music, foreign language) or “off-year testing” teachers do not receive the same level of examination by the public.

However, I do not advocate increasing tests at every grade level or in every subject in order to even the playing field. You write that the reliance on tests and VAM “are stirring skepticism and anger among teachers” because the evaluation system is being created by those who do not have authentic or extensive classroom experience. Instead, the evaluation system is being handed over in large part to the testing industry, and that testing industry lives in an incestuous relationship with publishing and educational “support” developers. The testing industry proclaims a school system’s success by evaluating data from a test, but within that same industry are multiple businesses that profit from a a school system’s need to purchase programs and materials they promote as necessary to pass the standardized test. “Failing the standardized tests? You need our reading/writing/math/science program!”

Before you hop onto the bandwagon with those advocating a one-test metric, consider how this opinion piece “Students over Unions” differs in both research and sentiment from your columns that bring national attention to the poor and the disenfranchised. So different was the tone of this piece as to have a caught the attention of several other writers who called you out specifically: Sarah Jaffe from Truth Out Five So-Called Libreral Pundits that are Attacking Teachers; and Education Week contributor Larry Ferrlazzo on his blog “When Bad Ideas Happen to Good Columnists” to name two.Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post in Why Rahm Emanuel and The New York Times are Wrong about Teacher Evaluation  also found and incorporated the Ewing argument in explaining the lack of union support from your paper. You even got into a Twitter-tiff with education advocate Diane Ravitch

Ultimately, I am confident that you would not want one column, specifically this one column, to be used to define you for an entire year.  You would not want one metric to measure your success as writer for the New York Times. You would not want one single opinion piece be used as measurement in order to evaluate your annual performance.

Well, neither do teachers.

Going back to school means that teachers and students will confront two philosophical statements. One statement is the school’s mission statement that quite literally confronts them as they enter a school building. The second statement is the statement of purpose for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that currently guides the curriculum for K-12 teachers in states that adopted the CCSS.

Here is an interesting exercise. Below, there are three randomly selected school mission statements plus the mission statement from my own school, Wamogo Middle/High School. These statements are generic enough to be for any grade level; they could be for any school.  You could test your school’s mission statement as well. I pasted the combination of these four statements into a word cloud generator that highlights the more frequently used terms. (illustration below)

_______School recognizes that each child is an individual; that all children are creative; that all children need to succeed. Therefore, _______ School respects the individual needs of children; fosters a caring and creative environment; and emphasizes the social, emotional, physical, intellectual development of each child.

Our mission at ____ High School is to provide individualized education that addresses students’ unique learning styles, cultivates independent thought, and promotes the building of character, enabling them to contribute to their communities in meaningful and positive ways.

The mission of _______Public Schools is to assure that, within a nurturing and stimulating environment, each of our diverse students and graduates achieves literacy and appropriate core competencies, and becomes a responsible and compassionate citizen.

The mission of Wamogo is to educate all students in a challenging, disciplined, and supportive environment. In cooperation with students, parents, and community members, we seek to empower students to be lifelong, independent learners and contributors in a diverse and ever changing society. (Wamogo Middle/High School)

Next, I selected an an excerpt from introduction that explains the purpose and goals of the Common Core State Standards; the text selected was about the same length as the mission statements. I pasted the excerpt  into another word cloud generator that highlights the more frequently used terms. (illustration below)

The standards are informed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

What is immediately  apparent is that the language in the school mission statement Wordsift wordcloud is very different than the language in the CCSS Wordsift wordcloud. For example, the words education and school do not appear in the CCSS wordcloud; the words skill and knowledge do not appear in the school mission statements wordcloud. The word standard is emphasized in the CCSS wordcloud; the  word child is emphasized in the school mission statement wordcloud. The word career is in the CCSS workcloud; its counterpart is citizen in the mission statement wordcloud. The words college, consistent, informed, provide dominate the CCSS wordcloud. The words creative, environment, individual, need dominate the school mission statement wordcloud. The word student is one of the few emphasized overlapping vocabulary choices. Neither mentions 21st century skills.

I am not a fan of school mission statements. They are usually written by committee, and each successive rewrite makes the language in the statement generalized or vague or bland; I believe that “please all, please none” is the problem with a mission statement. However, one would hope that the differences in diction between a generic mission statement and the Common Core would not be so striking. Ultimately, these two ideas contribute to a common outcome; there should be some commonality other than an emphasis on the word student.

Additionally, the difference is not only one of word choice, but also one of tone. The verbs assure, become, contribute, cultivate, foster, promote, and recognize in the school mission statement wordcloud differ in tone from the few verbs  build, define, learn, live, and graduate in the CCSS wordcloud. The adjectives caring, compassionate, diverse, individualized, stimulating in the school mission statement wordcloud differ in tone from aligned, appropriate, effective, expected, higher order, global and rigorous as adjectives in the CCSS wordcloud. The words social, public and character are not in the CCSS wordcloud; the words economy, benchmark and workforce are not in the mission statement wordcloud. Perhaps it is not a surprise that the language of the mission statements is more sensitive or empathetic in tone than the businesslike language of the CCSS.

My random selection of the three school mission statement plus the statement of my own school cannot possibly speak for all school mission statements. There may be mission statements that have vastly different vocabulary.  Regardless, this imperfect comparison highlights a gap in the language of these mission statements and the language of the CCSS. The goals and purpose of the Common Core should have something in common with goals and purpose of a school.