Education Week - May 11, 2016 - (Page 24)
contribution the newspaper could make to
turning things around in schools and really
improving the lives of our students and the
success of our educational system.
Robert Barkley Jr.
Student Engagement Should Be
The Main Goal of Education
To the Editor:
Your article "Survey: Student Engagement
Drops by Grade Level" (March 23, 2016)
should have been the issue's lead article.
Lack of student engagement is the greatest
problem with education in our country.
However, it is an issue that no current key
public officer, presidential candidate, or recent
U.S. Department of Education leader seems to
The fundamental purpose of education is to
preserve and nurture enthusiasm for learning.
That being the case, engagement is the No.
1 factor that should be measured in schools.
Yet our current educational reformists-both
the corporate types and their shills in elected
leadership roles-do not seem to grasp this.
Instead, they push their mindless masstesting siege, which contributes mightily to the
decline in student engagement.
The author Lee Jenkins, in his 1997 book
Improving Student Learning, reports that
while he was superintendent of a California
school district, he measured student
enthusiasm for learning. The results were
stark: Student enthusiasm for learning
declined steadily from kindergarten and 1st
grade to 8th grade, dropping from about 90
percent to between 30 percent and 40 percent.
In other words, students begin their school
experience enthusiastic about learning, and
our school structure and standardized-testing
practices reduce that enthusiasm dramatically.
If one envisions the creation of college-ready
and work-ready graduates as the primary goal
of K-12 education, this preparation target will
not be met under the current system.
I believe that most appropriately trained
educators realize all of this instinctively, if
not consciously. And the failure of our leaders
to address this phenomenon is contributing
greatly to professional-educator frustration,
including early retirements for current
teachers and lower numbers of people
pursuing teaching jobs in the first place.
I would encourage Education Week to lead
deep and ongoing coverage of the issue of
student engagement. It is the greatest single
The author is a retired executive director of the Ohio
Measure School Climate,
Not Social-Emotional Skills
To the Editor:
While I applaud the increase in attention to
students' social and emotional skills, the recent
urgency to develop ways to measure such
proficiencies in the classroom gives me pause
("'Testing for Joy and Grit'? I Don't Think So,"
Finding Common Ground blog, www.edweek.
org, March 24, 2016). The Milken Institute
School of Public Health at George Washington
University, the center where I work, studies
the implementation of school-based emotional
health and behavioral programs. We are
concerned about the push to measure such
skills in children rather than assessing the
general climate of the school.
There are many valid arguments against
testing students' individual skills, including
a lack of agreement on which skills matter
most. But the larger issue is that focusing
on students' skills shifts the emphasis from
deficiencies in the students' environment to
deficiencies in the student.
In short, efforts should focus on building
positive school environments. The U.S.
Department of Education describes a positive
school climate as one that promotes a
supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical
environment and builds respectful and trusting
relationships within the school community.
Measuring school climate is challenging, but
can identify needs that may otherwise go
unnoticed and can engage community partners
in enhancing student supports.
Tools that have demonstrated results are
available. In Alaska, the voluntary School
Climate and Connectedness Survey collects
information about student, staff, and family
experiences in schools, and informs planning
goals and allocation of resources. Since the
survey began in 2006, 90 percent of the school
districts have participated in it. The decisions
made as a result of those surveys reflect a
strong relationship between positive school
climate and the percentage of students meeting
state standards for learning.
While the latest research affirms that
building social and emotional skills in children
leads to better academic and employment
outcomes, measuring these skills on the
individual level misses the point. Assessing
school climate, including contextual factors that
influence student development and learning,
offers a better way to understand and respond
to the needs of all students.
Olga Acosta Price
Center for Health and Health Care in Schools
Milken Institute School of Public Health
George Washington University
Educator Shares Her Thoughts
On Staying in the Classroom
To the Editor:
I write in response to a first-person essay
published on your Education Week Teacher
site ("Why I Plan to Stay in Teaching," Feb. 24,
2016). As an educator for the past seven years,
I have had the privilege of working in magnet
schools as well as in high-needs schools.
When I began my teaching career, I was
placed in a Title I elementary school in
southwest Louisiana with students who
were economically disadvantaged. I walked
into my first year as an alternative-teachingcertification candidate with an undergraduate
degree in sociology.
In other words, I knew nothing about
curriculum, pacing guides, or standards-but I
knew if something didn't change in education,
more and more African-American males and
females could possibly enter the criminaljustice system.
If only I knew then what I know now, maybe I
would have been more prepared for what I was
going to face in my classroom. On a daily basis,
I encountered students who battled parent
absenteeism, gangs, and lack of exposure
to the world beyond their "gated" housing
As a first-year teacher, I probably was not the
most effective, but what I did understand was
love, care, and survival. I survived the school
year without shedding any tears or getting
verbally attacked by a parent, and I was able
to equip my students with some of the skills
and tools necessary to become successful and
productive citizens of society.
The reason I became an educator and my
rationale for continuing my path in education
remain unchanged. I teach to educate children
and expose them to a world outside their local
communities and to guide them on which
paths to choose.
Amanda E. Austin
5th Grade Math and Science Instructor
Mayfair Laboratory School
Baton Rouge, La.
ESSA Ignores the Research
On Testing English Learners
To the Editor:
I just finished reading "The Every Student
Succeeds Act: An ESSA Overview" (March
31, 2016). I still find it hard to believe that
educators permitted the accountability
provision under Title III-the Englishlanguage-learner provision-to be moved into
Title I and did nothing to change the minimal
time now allowed for these children to acquire
According to the new Every Student Succeeds
Act, ELL students can be tested in both reading
and math in their third year and these results
treated as though these students were native
English speakers. In doing so, ESSA is ignoring
the research on how long it takes students to
acquire on-grade-level proficiency in English.
After two or three years in an English-asa-second-language program, students may
sound like native speakers because they have
gained informal conversational skills. The
research indicates that it may take up to eight
years in English-only programs for children to
acquire the academic language they need to
be successful at their grade level. Why is the
research still being ignored?
Claiming that merging Title III accountability
with Title I will put the focus where it needs
to be is ludicrous, since each state will choose
to focus on what it feels is important. It took
federal oversight to get many states to provide
appropriate services for English-language
learners. What will happen to them now?
Education Week takes no editorial positions, but
publishes opinion essays and letters from outside
contributors in its Commentary section.
For information about submitting an essay or letter for
review, visit www.edweek.org/go/guidelines.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23
support for what was once considered unrealistic-passage
of laws in an increasing number of cities setting a minimum
wage of $15 an hour, and the burgeoning movement to opt
out of high-stakes testing. The former means more money in
workers' paychecks, which in turn leads to families that are
less stressed and more stable and to more children who are
ready to learn. The latter, if its growing influence is realized in
different policy decisions, will mean more time for meaningful
learning. Both suggest a shift in the perception of what is
possible when average citizens get together to demand change.
That's progress relative to where we have been.
A third sign of progress is the developing body of knowledge
about effective teaching and learning, which has yet to be fully
realized in daily instruction. For example, because we know
that learning is an active process, the old practice of passive
learning and rote memorization should fade away. Because we
know that early development affects children's later learning,
we should be investing in family health and well-being. Because we know that students' emotional health affects learning, we should invest in family and community stability and
24 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 11, 2016 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
promote supportive classroom culture. Because we know that
learning in diverse environments is good for all children, we
should be promoting integrated classrooms, schools, and neighborhoods.
A battle is raging between two solutions to different education tracks. One is to give a few students an opportunity to
jump aboard a theoretically faster-moving train with limited
available space. That track symbolizes charter schools. However, on average, they are no more effective than the regular
public schools from which they drain limited funds, and they
are removed from the democratic control of communities.
The other solution is systemic, addressing not just the
content and quality of instruction and school leadership, but
also inequity in funding and the conditions of people's lives in
communities through investment in jobs, universal preschool,
health care, and access to higher education.
My perception of my morning train ride was constrained by
the reference points in the tunnel. So it is if we confine our
thinking to accepting the limits of the current education system and the inequity that surrounds us. Our new reference
point for education should be ensuring what it takes to prepare
every child to be successful in life, work, and citizenship. n
Relative Motion in Education
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 11, 2016
Education Week - May 11, 2016
Bungling Student Names: A Slight That Stings
Popularity of Ed Tech Often Not Linked to Products’ Impact
As ESSA Rolls Out, State Officials Vow To Hear Local Voices
Rich Districts Post Widest Racial Gaps
News in Brief
Study Says Teachers Feel Stressed, Discounted
Amid Rocky Start, College-Access Coalition Hires First Director
Migrant Students Kept Out of Schools, AP Investigation Finds
Scores Decline for Low-Performers On 12th Grade NAEP
National Survey Shows Rise in Student Safety
Blogs of the Week
Education Funding a Key Factor In Illinois Budget Showdown
ESSA Paves Way for Deeper Access to Wealth of K-12 Data
Blogs of the Week
Relative Motion In Education
Education Policy Should Address Student Poverty
Quality Physical Education Is a Life Changer
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
‘People Support What They Create’: Stakeholder Engagement Is Key to ESSA’s Future
Education Week - May 11, 2016