Education Week - January 16, 2013 - (Page 24)

24 EDUCATION WEEK n JANUARY 16, 2013 LETTERS to the EDITOR Many Issues Lie Behind Tragedy at Sandy Hook To the Editor: There will be many reports about the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and endless speculations about the young man who set it in motion (“Shootings Revive Debates on Security,” Jan. 9, 2013). What was done shatters the heart and staggers the mind. It is a story of innocence and potential, of educators and caretakers, humanity at its best; and of evil, come out of seemingly nowhere, to annihilate it all. Aberrations of mankind, as we have come to experience, do not merely exist on our televisions, in faraway lands, or on dark streets. They can be found very close to where we live, work, learn, and play. Violent, unspeakable crimes have different roots. They are, I believe, partially born of assaults upon the heart and soul—isolation, abuse, abandonment, untreated disease, or dysfunctions that haunt and claim some minds. We were not there at the school meetings conducted for Adam Lanza. We are not privy to the documents generated by them. To say that anyone with a special need could or could not commit an act born of frustration or rage is to judge without all the data. In addition, individuals can be misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed. Environmental factors and the home-school relationship all play a role in the outcome of such cases. Sometimes there is a perfect storm of these causal elements. As an educator and a mother, I have cried. I have cried as I light my candles for the children and the educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School with whom I share a strong bond. I also light a candle for our leaders, political and otherwise. I hope they understand that the issues behind this horrific event can be found in any community, in some of our safest havens, behind any door. They can even be found in the heart of the quietest kid on the bus. Mary Egan Simsbury, Conn. The writer is a retired special education teacher and currently works as a part-time reading tutor at the Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker in Hartford, Conn. Testing Can Imperil Drive for Success To the Editor: Reading Dave Powell’s Commentary, “Confusing Achievement With Aptitude” (Dec. 12, 2012), brought back some rather n painful memories of my experiences in public schools. Mr. Powell outlines how his son has been hurt by the labeling associated with not scoring proficient on mandated exams; he also writes about the principal of his son’s school telling him in an email that his son is not “capable of managing academic work.” I recall as a teacher in the Bronx in New York City teaching recent arrivals from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, and I remember the pain of many of my students when they realized they had not passed the numerous exams required to achieve a diploma. Through Facebook, I have managed to keep in touch with many of my former students, and those very same ones I agonized over when they didn’t pass a battery of exams to gain their diplomas are now business owners, entrepreneurs, and otherwise engaged in rewarding careers. I am a high school dropout. I received my General Educational Development (ged) certificate and entered college immediately afterward, intent on making something of myself. There was no test that could gauge my drive for success in high school. I left high school feeling like a major failure. As Mr. Powell accurately states: “His [son’s] school district had made the mistake of confusing achievement with aptitude and worsened it by using tests as an exclusive measure of both ... though the tests have no such predictive validity.” It pains me to know that we have turned off the drive for success of many of our kids because we labeled them failures based on tests that do not predict how well they will do in life. Orlando Ramos Associate Superintendent Office of Innovation and Reform East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools Baton Rouge, La. Current Atmosphere Oppresses Teachers, Students To the Editor: As I complete my 37th year in public education, I need to speak of the oppression felt by teachers and children as test scores become the sole measure of their worth (“Confusing Achievement With Aptitude,” Dec. 12, 2012). A vast majority of educators entered the profession to effectuate positive change. Many are also called upon to save lives, not always through grand heroic acts, but surely through daily intervention in the crises that crush our children: domestic violence; neighborhood violence; lack of love; lack of appropriate clothing; and lack of attention to basic physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. National and local plans to define good teaching using arbitrary and invalid measures of student learning constitutes an insidious form of oppression that damages our children and handcuffs their teachers. Day after day, children who are struggling to learn English, overcome learning disabilities, survive chaotic homes and violent neighborhoods—the very children who depend on public schools for education, food, clothing, crisis intervention, love, spirit, and a sense of self-worth—get up and come to school. And every day, their teachers pledge to make their lives better. But how can anyone’s life be made better when its value is reduced to a composite of standardized-test scores? This situation will continue unless people understand and value the work done by educators. Those of us who still care about children and care about public education must work together to make schools back into places of reason, faith, love, and true learning. Ann Evans de Bernard Principal Waltersville Elementary School Bridgeport, Conn. From Grit to Graduate: Character Education in the News To the Editor: In recent months, terms like “grit” and “character education” have been making their way out of the ivory tower and onto newsstands. A New York Times book review of How Children Succeed by Paul Tough cites his argument that “noncognitive skills ... are more crucial than sheer brainpower to achieving success.” Nbc’s Education Nation forum featured a session on “True Grit,” and “This American Life” on npr offered a piece on “Grit, Luck, and Money” that showcased students who beat the odds. Though the terms can vary (“efficacy,” “grit,” “character,” “noncognitive skills”), the message is clear. These mainstream pieces linking a “can do” attitude with real results are rooted in research. Across the disciplines, there is a powerful link between self-efficacy and outcomes. In education, longitudinal studies have shown that self-efficacy beliefs are linked to academic achievement, for teachers and students alike. A landmark 2011 report by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or casel, cited an analysis showing that students who were taught social- and emotionallearning instruction skills improved their performance on standardized tests by 11 points, on average. In the recently released 2012 National Survey of School Counselors from the College Board’s Advocacy and Policy Center, we learned that counselors who believe that they can be more effective in improving college-application rates actually tend to work at schools that have higher rates of college attendance. With three in four students failing to graduate from high school with their peers, and even fewer completing college, we need to do everything we can to support America’s students. This matters to them— and it matters to our nation. In the next decade, more than half of all new American jobs will require some postsecondary education, but we are expected to fall far short of fulfilling that need. To accelerate educational outcomes, we need to believe not just in the powerful role of education and educators, but also in our school counselors. We must also believe in every student’s success—and help them to believe in theirs. Mary Bruce Senior Education Adviser Civic Enterprises Washington, D.C. Ms. Bruce is a co-author of the 2012 “Building a Grad Nation: Annual Update on the High School Dropout Epidemic” report, as well as 2011 and 2012 reports on the National Survey of School Counselors, both of which were released by the College Board’s Advocacy and Policy Center. Learning Disabilities Common, But Often Undiagnosed To the Editor: As an aspiring teacher with more than 10 years of work experience in a large public school district in Missouri, I can say that it is excruciating to observe a smart, hard-working student struggle with reading, writing, and spelling at even the most basic levels. Many of these students receive no intervention, become easily discouraged and, often, fight battles over self-esteem due to the lack of assistance they receive to help build their reading skills. The commonality between these students in Missouri (and in other parts of our nation) is that they suffer from an undiagnosed learning disability or dyslexia. Without help, they are being set up for failure in the long run. They simply cannot overcome these issues on their own. This is a problem that is universal across our nation and one that needs to be addressed by every party involved. Parents, administrators, teachers, government officials, lawmakers, policymakers, and community members alike owe it to the next generation to conduct further research into this problem to find a way to fix what is broken in the system. Students will continue to experience learning difficulties. It is our responsibility as a community to reach them exactly where they are and to make reading, writing, and spelling possible for them so that they can lead productive lives as valuable members of our society. I am writing this in hopes that the readers of Education Week will remember that this still is a prevalent problem and to draw attention to the fact that there are quite a few students being overlooked. Be aware of the signs of reading/learning difficulties and do something. Change a life for the better. Jennifer Armstrong Springfield, Mo. n J.H. Snider writes about the need for easy-to- COMMENTARY ONLINE n blogger Rick Hess recently rated scholars “who are contributing most substantially to public debates about K-12 and higher education.” Find out who made the list. n Follow Commentary access, standardized information about school bus routes, particularly those that start in the early-morning hours. Learn what he suggests to bring schedules into the light. on Facebook. edweekcomm n Follow Commentary on Twitter. @EdweekComm

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 16, 2013

Education Week - January 16, 2013
Is Education Facing a ‘Tech Bubble’?
Multiple Gauges Best for Teachers
Model Common-Core Unit Piloted for ELL Teachers
Gun Concerns Personal for Duncan
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Fla. Data Link Suspension To Lower Graduation Rates
Anti-Poverty Program Found To Fall Short In Studies
New Science-Standards Draft Incorporates Feedback
With Common Core in Mind, Schools Turn to E-Rate
Survey Tool Aims for Fresh Eye On Parents
Study Dissects Gender Effects In Math Teaching
Funders and N.C. District Team Up To Run Schools
Blogs of the Week
State of the States
N.Y.’s Cuomo Moves Ahead On K-12 Ideas
Crush of Ed. Laws Awaiting Renewal In Congress
Fiscal Realities Dog States
Policy Brief
R. BARKER BAUSELL: Putting Value-Added Evaluation To the (Scientific) Test
GARY HUGGINS: It’s Time for Summer Learning
JEFF CAMP: Let’s Remove Self-Righteousness From the K-12 Debate
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
MIKE ROSE: Giving Cognition a Bad Name

Education Week - January 16, 2013