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Posts: 122
Reply with quote  #1 

"There are consistent lessons about effective school-reform policies in countries around the world that we would be foolish to continue to ignore.”  (Chapter 4, page 66)

Out of the suggested policy changes the author mentions below, which one do you think would be the most effective for the public school system? Why?

-Change the scope, frequency and purpose of testing

-Pay the college cost of students who graduate in the top quarter of their class who agree to teach for five years

-Establish career ladders with increasing responsibilities and compensation for teachers

-Establish clear standards regarding what teachers should know and be able to do

-Provide universal early childhood education

-Support career and technical education as a pathway to the middle class

-Stipulate that teachers are provided with time for collaboration

-Support schools as they make the transition to professional learning communities 

Have a great weekend!

Maggie Susong
ATPE Member Engagement Coordinator

Posts: 37
Reply with quote  #2 
There are two that I think would be most beneficial. The first being change the scope, frequency, and purpose of testing. I feel like standardized testing should not be the be-all, end-all of education but is viewed that way by many schools. The results of testing determine the rating of the school and that puts a lot of pressure on everyone. The pressure is placed on the superintendent and trickles all the way down to the students. I'm not currently in the public grade school and I've heard this has gotten better, but when I was, we did so much practice testing that when it came time for the real test, the students were so burnt out form testing they didn't take it as seriously or they just dreaded the whole week. On math and reading days, they stayed in their testing rooms all day from 9-4, including lunch time. I know this has changed with the staar and I think that's a good change. Hopefully it's slowly getting better but I hope it gets to the point where we don't put so much stock into the one test. It should be one criteria on a list of many to see student growth.

The other one I think is important is stipulate that teachers are provided with time for collaboration. I thought my this is so important for developing good, engaging lessons that are at the heart of student learning, growth, and success. It also allows teachers to discuss what's working for some, what's not working for anyone on the team, etc. This time needs to be given priority and cannot be taken away because the school needs teachers to sub during that time or complete paperwork, or fill the time with other meetings. It would have to be for collaboration with their team only.

Posts: 44
Reply with quote  #3 
Out of the suggested policy changes the author mentions, I think changing the scope, frequency, and purpose would be the most effective for the public school system. I agree that we should move away from the standard multiple choice questions to higher-order thinking and other disciplines to become more competitive and better prepared in life. We do over test our students. I don't think students need to be tested every year. Two or three times during their academic years is more than enough. Students, teachers, and school administrators are under pressure and burned out to perform to the maximum. These standardized tests are not a true measure of a student's growth or a school's rating. They may be indicative of struggling schools and aid in finding remedies.

Posts: 32
Reply with quote  #4 
As I read through the chapter on "learning from higher-performing countries" the common thread that ran through this chapter appeared to be how teachers themselves are viewed by society.  Most countries, with the US being the exception, view their teacher on the same level of professionalism as doctors and lawyers.  The greatest blame for this in the US is lack of funding by our government.  From the top down our society views teachers as "those that can, do; those that can't, teach".  As in most professions, major change must start at the top.  When our government, and public universities, offer teachers the same subsidized education that is offered athletes; a higher level student will be attracted.  Further, if there are more rigid academic requirements made in allowing students to enter the profession, the profession must rise as a whole.  Requiring these students to teach for five years upon graduation ensures that the profession receives a fresh, higher level, intern.  It has been my experience, of late, to see far fewer teachers remain in the profession for five years.  Learning classroom management takes many individuals five years to master. Chances are that once a teacher arrives at that level of experience, they are more likely to stay long-term.  For these reasons, I feel that offering a subsidized college education for those who graduate in the top quarter of their class will provide the greatest return in our current educational system.
Rita Wilcox

Posts: 16
Reply with quote  #5 
These are all excellent ideas!

The one which hits closest to home and my heart is the idea of time for teacher planning.  I would like to say collaboration, but since due to the low salary paid in my district, I am the only one left in my district who teaches what I teach, so collaboration is difficult to say the least.  This has also left me teaching seven different preparations.  My conference period is used going to the alternative discipline school or special education self contained wing to provide instruction for students who are enrolled in one of my courses, but not permitted to attend class.

I am constantly thinking of ways to improve my instruction and engage my students, but often don't have the time to develop the lesson. With my upper levels I can often just throw out the idea and let them run with it, but with 9th graders this is rarely successful.

I do spend a lot of time outside of the school day working, but just staying on top of all the required paperwork takes much of that time.  Time to actually develop lessons would be like winning the lottery!

Karen Tymniak
   "On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur."

   "One only sees well with the heart."
        Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #6 
Out of the suggested policy changes the author mentions, which one do you think would be the most effective for the public school system?

It was difficult for me to select one from the many suggestions. I see pros with each policy. I agree that too much money and time is spent on standardized testing. In addition, these test are testing all students one way-multiple choice. Paying for college costs for teachers would be great. I'm still paying on mine after 16 years. But I don't think that policy alone would be effective. Many good teachers increase their responsibilities and do it because that is what helps them grow as professionals and is what is best for kids. Many or most do it without compensation. Of course we need to establish clear standards that is essential. I agree with the text that states, "until there is widespread agreement on what teachers must know and be able to do, teachers preparation programs will continue to be in disarray. " Universal early childhood education, as research shows does close gaps and have many benefits such as a return of $7 for every $1 spent. I see this policy having a substantial impact in our system. However, since I'm asked to select one policy I would say that providing teachers time for collaboration is the policy I see as making a huge impact for the public school system. I see this first hand as my co-workers and I have been lucky enough to have weekly PLC meetings with our reading coach. Our administration has also given us one full day of planning per grading period. They hire substitutes for the day and we work feverishly on plans, creating assessments based on our data, and collaborating. Is hard to find a time outside of school hours to collaborate due to other family obligations. This gift of planning time is so vital for increased student learning. It needs to be routine and priority and believe me we want that time!!!

Posts: 42
Reply with quote  #7 

"There are consistent lessons about effective school-reform policies in countries around the world that we would be foolish to continue to ignore.”  (Chapter 4, page 66)

Out of the suggested policy changes the author mentions below, which one do you think would be the most effective for the public school system? Why?

-Change the scope, frequency and purpose of testing

I wish we could change the scope, frequency, and purpose of testing.  I feel our testing puts an intense amount of stress on everyone involved - administrators, teachers, students, and parents.  I'm seeing it on many sides now that I have been a teacher for the last 18 years and I now am also a parent of graduating 3rd and 5th graders.  I am also a Texas high school graduate.  All of my education has been here through public institutions in our state and I am proud.  I do not remember ever feeling the pressure my student or children feel about testing now.  When I was in primary school we took the Iowa test and I don't remember being prepped for that at all.  In fact, I remember not bubbling my answer key correctly and my teacher quickly forgiving me.  

I am happy to have two overachieving children, but at the same time, I feel like I am doing them a disservice encouraging them to do well at these tests at all costs - and expecting them to score "advanced" - knowing that the "proficient" rating is really not that high of a bar to achieve.

As an educator, I feel I've done some of my students a disservice by teaching them to test well.  Teaching calculator strategies and tips when I really wanted to take more time teaching them to do it by hand.  Many of my students would be at a total loss without the calculator.

I understand the need for accountability, but feel there is a better way.

Jennifer Goedken

Posts: 98
Reply with quote  #8 
I think the most effective policy change would be to allow time for collaboration. When I first began teaching, I was completely on my own...just given the TEKS and an 11 year old science textbook (before the Internet was commonplace). I would have been so much better off if I had someone to collaborate with. My kids' district now seems to have it much better. Each grade level gets a planning day every few weeks to collaborate. I feel pretty comfortable with my child getting any teacher at their school due to the support I know that they get from other teachers and the principal.

Posts: 89
Reply with quote  #9 

I think all the policy changes the author mentions would bring about incredible success in American public schools.  It’s very difficult to choose one! For immediate effective change, I think schools should make the transition to professional learning communities.  This would benefit all teachers, especially now that the “most common level of experience [is] one year.”  We all know from experience the first 3 years are the most difficult, and guidance and support during this time period is indispensable for both the teacher and his/her students.  I also believe if we want to close the achievement gap and truly assist children facing obstacles like poverty, disabilities or language barriers, an EFFECTIVE early childhood education program could bring about immediate results.  Until policy makers are forced to see improvement in public schools, it’s going to be very difficult to change the scope, frequency and purpose of testing even though I’m all for it! Sadly, at this point, there’s so much money (“1.7 billion” dollars) to be made with standardized testing, it will be extremely difficult to limit or eliminate it. 


It was fascinating reading about teachers in Singapore and Finland.  I would definitely love to teach there!  How amazing and inspiring would it be to be respected by parents, students and the community?  To completely overall the American public school system and bring about effective change for generations, I believe we should “recruit highly capable candidates to teaching, pay competitive salaries, and purposefully create favorable working conditions that support the ongoing learning of members of the profession.”  After being an educator for just a few years, I quickly realized all the suggestions the author describes would greatly benefit our children.  They are common sense strategies, and it’s just plain sad that our school system has reached the point it has: poorly qualified and trained teachers, low pay, low morale, high turn-over rate, negligible collaboration and planning time, unattainable demands, and unfair standards to measure teaching abilities (standardized tests).  The worst is how testing is limiting the time students can actually engage in “the skills most needed and valued in the 21st century, such as problem solving, critical thinking, reasoning, and working effectively with others to establish and achieve goals.” It really is amazing what American educators have accomplished in the face of so many obstacles!


Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #10 
Success is twofold. For students, early childhood education must begin now provided those doing the teaching are trained educators. This need is past due. For teachers, that in itself has two parts. New teachers need more specific training in the issues confronting students today, and experienced teachers must learn to and need time to collaborate. PLCs are wonderful when we know how to use them well. We do not generally have a professional, collaborative mindset. (p. 73) 

Posts: 26
Reply with quote  #11 
4.  To maximize efficiency and minimize costs, test developers have traditionally relied on multiple-choice assessments that don’t address such 21st century skills as complex reasoning, oral and written communication skills, or the ability to create complex achievement-related products. If teachers devote time to these important skills that are not addressed on the standardized test, a portion of the teacher’s impact is effectively ignored.

I have the book on my Kindle so I don't know what page in chapter three this came from. It is from Assumption 5.

Years ago I remember being told of this really cool science test that the kids were going to take. It was actually going to be a hands on test for them to demonstrate what they knew about the scientific process. Sadly it was only a one time test because it was time consuming and probably costly. In all the of the beginning of the year meetings we are told to challenge our kids, problem solve, collaborate; then we give them bubble sheets for answers. I wish we could test the kids like we teach. Make test more meaningful to show the true potential of a student. I this test lest frequently but more thoroughly would be a feast approach. When we proble solve in my room we may spend two days on a problem, albeit I am a second grade teacher. But even when I was in the upper grades and I am explaining to parents how I want homework completed and that I am looking for the same process on our practice state test the first question I am asked is "can my child finish the test in 4 hours doing problem solving like this." I had not thought about that. I wanted the students to be thorough in their thought process. I had been demonstrating that in my lessons. The state of Texas only gives them 4 hours to the entire test. I think if we are to truely prepare our students for the real world we need to change our testing procedures. We need them to show us what they know, not regurgitate facts about nothing with any significant meaning. I think we can see more of what a child can do in 10 well thought out diverse questions than in 40 multiple choice.


Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #12 
I believe more than one policy could be implemented for a more effective public school system.

First, by changing the scope, frequency, and purpose of testing, curriculum can be expanded and there could be more instructional time. Teachers are spending so much time educating students on the strategies needed to ace standardized assessments. I believe students and their education is of most importance, so this is why I appreciate this policy. I really like the idea of "testing" each year via applying the knowledge learned through real-world applications. Students would feel less pressured and less stressed in this type of environment. It is also a good indicator of mastery of a skill. I also appreciate how support of schools would be given, if needed, instead of feeling like a prison when TEA becomes involved.

I also believe if educators felt valued and compensated, they would feel more inclined to stay in education and purposefully and desirably teach. The small step in pay for some districts is almost laughable. For this reason, I also believe the policy of establishing career ladders with increasing responsibilities and compensation for teachers would be great to implement. I had my master's degree, but only got a few more dollars each month: this didn't even pay half of my monthly student loan payment. In order for our students to learn, someone with the passion and a positive effectiveness needs to lead instruction. I believe this would impact public education and also assist in enticing future educators to join the profession and it will enhance our current educators in enjoying the profession they chose.

I was once told that our main purpose as educators is to help mold successful adults. We set the foundation and instill the knowledge needed for adulthood. By supporting career and technical education, the public school system can prepare students to excel in society.

And lastly, because my passion is early childhood, I'm a strong advocate for providing early childhood education. If every child could attend a preschool program, our students would be more advanced and more prepared to learn. If we can catch problems in the early years, they will be less problems later on, and this is in every domain, not just cognitive. Students must have a strong foundation in which to build skills upon. Early childhood assists in setting up this important foundation.

Posts: 63
Reply with quote  #13 

Each suggested policy change would be a great implementation in the public school system. Out of the eight, the one in my opinion that would be the most effective would be change the scope, frequency and purpose of testing.

Standardized testing shouldn’t be the end of the line when it comes to education. But these tests seem to be viewed that way when it comes down to the rating of a school, teacher evaluations, and the determination of student success. There is so much pressure brought on from these tests and the level of stress trickles down from the very top all the way down to the students.  By the time it comes to take the test, a lot of these students are already burned out from all the previous benchmark tests and practice tests for the STAAR that by the time they get to the real thing they could care less.

I know one school where they have a practice test the week before STAAR. The students take a mock test and pretend like it is the real thing. I remember several teachers real perturbed or quite upset when they got the scores back. A good friend of mine, who is an excellent teacher, had a class this year that just didn’t care. Smart kiddos, but they could care less about all the testing. My friend was real stressed on the days leading up to the test and the day of. I tutored several different groups of students for the two months leading up to the test. Several of those kids were scared about what would happen if they fail the test. I tried my best to calm their fears.

When it comes to the STAAR test, it should be one item on a nice sized list of things that determine student success and qualifications of a teacher. I feel that these tests will never go away, but they should be changed for the better. As the book pointed out other nations test every child a few times a year and those tests use higher order thinking techniques compared to our multiple choice questions. If we move away from the standard muck of multiple choice and into what these other high performing nations are doing, we might get better results, students better prepared in life, and less stress on everyone.


Posts: 57
Reply with quote  #14 
The policy I think should be changed the most is change the scope, frequency and purpose of testing. Testing should be just to see process and not tied to student advancement or teacher evaluation. Testing to me is a snapshot of a student and does not look at them over time. It is done in different circumstances than students are use to. Testing can catch students on their best or worst day. These should not be ground to punish either teacher or student

It should not be done every year either, maybe once in elementary, middle and high school. Testing can be stressful on many students can they need a break from testing every year from grades 3-11, especially if they are already taking yearly benchmarks. At my school 3rd and 4th graders took a benchmark the week after STAAR and the students were tired. Students and teachers should not be punished because they are tired. If testing was done less we might see better results and happier students would preform better

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #15 
"The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction" (Barber & Mourshed). The major crises with American education is the vampiric syphoning of funds and time for testing that do not measure anything but basic knowledge.  Maybe testing around the 4th grade can be basic knowledge, but there should only be a few test, and those test should truly measure academic potential. Go online and download a English STAAR test.  Do NOT read the story, but answer the question.  I have passed the majority of those test without reading just by basic common sense.  Think about the title and other questions and through a process of elimination, it can be passed.  The student passes or is commended, now what?  Nothing..... in order to be successful in any given field, the person must be able to think outside the box.  Basic knowledge is setting students up to be entry level positions only.  Test less but teach more.  Have a skeletal curriculum, but allow the interest of the classroom design the curriculum. Similarly to Singapore's professional development, as they have training to address the need, so does the American education system needs to train to address our weakness, but it is difficult to Band-Aid a problem when we are bogged down teaching just knowledge base information. 
Furthermore, one of the most ridiculous ideas is testing most special education students on grade level test does NOT show an indication of improvement.  Students on K-3rd grade, sitting in a resource or life skills class, is required to take the same test as a 9th-11th grade students with a few accommodations such as reading the questions.  It is the same as going to the elementary and  bring the student over to take a test and being upset when they do not pass AND penalize the school for each failing causing more suffering on the student.  Wouldn't it be more beneficial to teach the students to look for employment, fill out applications, and other life skills or should they focus of rhyme scheme and what certain figurative language means what?  Now, some students in special education are taking high level class or even honor classes... those students test, but when you have some that cannot write their name taking a test, that is asinine and giving away money to buy the test and grade the test.
Having this testing report card on performance places the superintendent in a catch 22.  If the students do not perform well, the school suffer, so we must do well on the test.  Students must be taught the test, so now, we loose more time to actually teach beyond the standard.  AND if you are in high school, time is already short between athletic and other UIL events, pictures, student meetings, pep rallies, etc.
In addition to testing limitations or at least improvements in what is measured, society will only change its opinion about teachers when they take education seriously.
Teaching control: wow how innovative.  Finland's teachers are allowed to "how they will teach, what they will teach, and when they will teach (from the national curriculum)" is awesome.  Unfortunately, I'm being sarcastic.  This should be status quo.  Each classroom is different.  Each group of kids is different, and even the dynamic among the kids is different.  What is the point of teaching standardized when students are complex?  Different schools are bombarded by different obstacles which create different results, yet the public and our governing body do not take this into consideration.  Why are teachers the black sheep of professionalism?  All problems and all solutions and all issues are our responsibility with no regard to the socio-economic categories.  If they categories do not matter, why are they on the report card?  If should just be number of kids who took the test and number that passed. If the categories are significant enough to track, they should be significant enough to show that there will be differences and allow for them.
Lastly, I like how it was mentioned the amount needed to cover and not really knowing what is all on the test.  Teaching course like U.S. History... there is no way to get through it all thoroughly before the test or even afterward.  The book is HUGE, but 'covering' the whole book and understanding and moving beyond knowledge are contradictory.  It would be nice for the teacher to teach key events and then in depth over subjects that are relevant or becoming socially dominant today.  Get up, watch CNN, some time that week, be able to relate it to the lesson.  Do some in depth studying and thinking.   But Thinking is no longer allowed because the outcome tested is passing a knowledge based, multiple choice test in 4 hours.

** I like how another blogger said the test is just a snapshot of a student's performance.  If it amazing that you livelihood is determined by the mood of a 8-18 year old on a particular day.  We had 4 students move in a week before the test, yet their results are now our grade. Interesting how we seem to be following Microsoft's methods.

Nanceen Hoskins
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