A Hero Educator in Upstate Néw York! [feedly]

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Shared via feedly // published on Diane Ravitch’s blog // visit site
A Hero Educator in Upstate Néw York!

Imagine the superintendent of a high-performing district who is fearless and speaks boldly about the political manipulation of the Common Core test scores. Imagine a woman who defends the students and staff against the rigging of scores by ambitious politicians and bureaucrats.

That is Teresa Thayer Snyder of Voorheesville in upstate Néw York, a district that has a 97% graduation rate.

Scores crashed in her district and she spotted the fraud. She saw that the distribution of scores was unchanged, and the gaps were unchanged.

She wrote: “Over the past several months school leaders have been receiving countless messages from the State Education Department preparing us for the dire outcomes associated with the most recent spate of State testing in grades 3-8 in Math and English Language Arts. As the date for the releases of the test scores approached, we received many notices of “talking points” to inform our communities about the outcomes, with explanations of new baselines and how these tests do not reflect the efforts of students and teachers this year. I have rejected these missives because they reek of the self-serving mentality the ‘powers that be’ have thrust upon our students and parents.

“Our community is sophisticated enough to recognize a canard when it experiences one. These tests were intentionally designed to obtain precisely the outcomes that were rendered. The rationale behind this is to demonstrate that our most successful students are not so much and our least successful students are dreadful. If you look at the distribution of scores, you see exactly the same distances as any other test. The only difference is that the distribution has been manipulated to be 30 to 40 percent lower for everybody. This serves an enormously powerful purpose. If you establish a baseline this low, the subsequent growth over the next few years will indicate that your plans for elevating the outcomes were necessary. However, it must be recognized that the test developers control the scaled scores—indeed they have developed a draconian statistical formula that is elaborate, if indecipherable, to determine scaled scores. I would bet my house on the fact that over the next few years, scores will “improve”—not necessarily student learning, but scores. They must, because the State accepted millions and millions of dollars to increase student scores and increase graduation rates. If scores do not improve from this baseline, then those ‘powers that be’ will have a lot of explaining to do to justify having accepted those millions.”

For telling the truth, for standing up to the bullies in Albany, for seeing through the vicious game that the State Education Department is playing and refusing to go along, I hereby name Teresa Thayer Snyder a hero of American education. She joins our honor roll of distinction for her service to her students and her community.

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The Selling of the Common Core

Diane Ravitch’s blog The Selling of the Common Core

This post by Peter Smagorinsky is spot on.

He is a professor at the University of Georgia, and he is amazed at the shrewd marketing of the Common Core.

Think of it.

Schools and teachers are overwhelmed by budget cuts, still reeling from the economic crisis of 2008, and are now trying to absorb new and flawed systems of teacher evaluation. In many states, teachers have lost all job security. At the same time, the proportion of students who live in poverty is one of the highest in the postindustrial world, and many children don’t speak English or have disabilities. These are real problems, and the answer is: the Common Core.

How did David Coleman manage to sell the business and government leaders on the idea that the very thing needed to address the nation’s social and economic problems was a set of national standards? Not voluntary national standards, but mandatory ones. Adopt these standards, spend billions implementing it, and all children will be ready to compete in a global economy; all children will be college-and career-ready; our very survival as a nation depends on these standards.

You have to admire a man who displays a genius for marketing.

http://dianeravitch.net/2013/07/14/the-selling-of-the-common-core

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NPR.org – Education Reform Movement Learns Lesson From Old Standards

dmarsters@gmail.com has sent you the following story: Education Reform Movement Learns Lesson From Old Standards
NPR
David thought you would be interested in this story

Education Reform Movement Learns Lesson From Old Standards

Under the No Child Left Behind law, states saw low test scores and the lowering of score standards. Advocates for the more rigorous Common Core standards say it will be harder for states to hide their failing schools.

Read this story

This email was sent by: NPR,1111 N. Capitol St. NE Washington, DC, 20002, United States. This message was sent to dmarsters.rockon@blogger.com.

Robert Shepherd: Common Core Requires Teaching Abstract Skills, Not Content

Diane Ravitch’s blog Robert Shepherd: Common Core Requires Teaching Abstract Skills, Not Content

Robert Shepherd, experienced writer, textbook developer, curriculum designer, and loyal reader posted some interesting critiques of the way a Common Core will affect teaching and teaching materials:

He writes:

The fact that the “standards” are entirely highly abstract descriptions of skills to be demonstrated, that they are content free, will be ENORMOUSLY distorting in their effects on curriculum development. Instead of presenting a coherent, progressive body of knowledge having to do with some subject like the short story, literary archetypes, Romanticism, the oral tradition, Greek history and thought, etc., we shall see curricula that present materials pretty much at random to teach x set of abstract skills. Even those Common Core standards that are process related are at such a high level of abstraction that they do not encourage the operationalization of those processes, and when one attempts to create a lesson that does operationalize them, that, for example, steps students through the process of, say, writing a press release, one will find that the necessary specific processes that students must learn are nowhere even suggested by the “standards.” Educational publishers will reject manuscripts with this extraneous material and insist that every lesson “cover” some number (six or seven, for example) of standards, whether it makes sense to deal with these together or not. That’s because, over the course of the year, all the standards will have to be “covered.” So, the abstract standards will drive the curriculum development. It’s the tail wagging the dog, and it is entirely predictable that this will be the case because that is what has largely happened with materials developed to meet state standards.

Think of it this way: What is the difference between sitting down and saying, I want to develop a unit that teaches kids about the Civil War or mythology or whatever and saying, I want to develop a unit that teaches kids standards L.3.1 through L.3.6. The curriculum designer starts making decisions based on whether the standard is covered rather than on whether the subject being studied is.

And the point about learning something so that one then has something to write about is KEY. Content must drive instruction. The CCSS have this exactly backward.”

In another comment, Shepherd adds:

“One can already see how distorting this stuff is. Look at an American lit book from one of the big basal publishers. Turn to the units on, say, the Puritans or the Transcendentalists. Ask yourself, how much does the student actually learn from this unit about what happened during that time and what those people actually thought? The answer is, precious little. The emphasis is not on learning about the thoughts and behaviors of the Puritans and Transcendentalists but on learning some abstract set of skills. The content is WAY down the list of concerns in each lesson. The result: These units are, in current texts, incredibly dumbed down. The student who does the unit on the Puritans does not come away knowing about original sin, election, predestination, salvation through Grace, local governance, individual responsibility, the Protestant work ethic, the direct relation without intermediaries between people and God, the significance of the Word as a direct pipeline between people and the divine. But all of these were incredibly important to the development of American thought. Much in our current culture is a direct consequence of this stream that has run through our history, and if people don’t understand it, they won’t understand a lot of why things are as they are today. If one goes back to textbooks written twenty years ago, all of this stuff is dealt with in the unit on the Puritans. Now, that stuff is considered too difficult, and besides, the emphasis is supposed to be on this or that set of abstract skills described by this or that subset of the CCSS in ELA. That’s what will be one the only test that matters–the high-stakes test. It will be a test of isolated “skills.”

And he concludes:

“The Common Core will be the final nail in the coffin of coherent curriculum development in the English language arts.”

http://dianeravitch.net/2013/07/05/robert-shepherd-common-core-requires-teaching-abstract-skills-not-content

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Happy Birthday George Orwell, here’s your surveillance society

The Verge Happy Birthday George Orwell, here’s your surveillance society

Pic2_large

To celebrate what would’ve been George Owell’s 110th birthday, two Dutch artists sought inspiration from perhaps his most famous novel, 1984. The artists took to the streets of the Dutch city of Utrecht to put party hats on CCTV cameras in an attempt to draw attention to the culture of surveillance in modern cities. If we only looked above the stores and billboards that line our streets, say Front404, the artists behind the stunt, we’d realize how many cameras are above us.

Continue reading…

http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/4/4490058/front404-orwells-birthday-cctv-cameras-with-party-hats

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Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age – CBS News

From Evernote:

Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age – CBS News

Clipped from: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57592342/reading-writing-may-help-preserve-memory-in-older-age/

By

Michelle Castillo /

CBS News/ July 4, 2013, 1:01 PM

Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age

relationships love romance attraction sex mental illness generic heart brain obsession stalking / istockphoto

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Being a bookworm, jotting down your thoughts and completing other tasks that keep your brain active may help you stay sharp in your later years.

A study published on July 3 in Neurology revealed that reading, writing and doing other mentally-stimulating activities at every age helped stave off memory problems.

“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” study author Robert S. Wilson, senior neuropsychologist of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a press release.

Researchers gave 294 older people memory and thinking tests over an average of about six years. The subjects were also asked if they read books, wrote or did any other similar activities when they were a child, through adolescence, in middle age and at their current age.

After the subjects died, their brains were examined for lesions, brain plaque and tangles, which are physical signs of dementia. Dementia is a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Those that reported doing mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives had a slower rate of memory decline compared to people who did not do those tasks. Taking the physical signs of dementia out of the equation, those that kept themselves mentally busy had a 15 percent slower rate of mental and thinking decline compared to those that did not.

Furthermore, those that reported the most reading and writing later in life were able to slow their memory decline by 32 percent compared to people with average mental activity. Those that reported the lowest mental stimulation in their later years had a 48 percent faster memory decline compared to the average.

“Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” said Wilson.

Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told the BBC previous research also showed that mental stimulation slowed memory and cognitive decline. However, scientists still don’t know how these activities help.

“By examining donated brain tissue, this study has shed more light on this complex question, and the results lend weight to the theory that mental activity may provide a level of ‘cognitive reserve’, helping the brain resist some of the damage from diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” said Ridley, who was not involved in the study.

Prashanthi Vemuri, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., explained to HealthDay that researchers have argued over how cognitive tasks help preserve memory. It could either be that staying mentally stimulated helps slow cognitive problems or that people stop doing mental tasks because they are starting to have the symptoms of dementia. This study gives evidence to the former theory.

“It confirms that whatever is happening in the brain is happening, but the cognitively stimulating activities a person does independently slow down the progression of the disease,” Vemuri said.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Comments Add a Comment

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marvinlzinn says:
I understand this: From an injury with seven weeks coma I lost half of my vocabulary and occasionally could not talk for a few minutes. When I was reading, I had to repeat it several times before I could remember anything in it. It took a year to begin to improve, but after seven years (age 68) I still read half the speed I used to.
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