Education Week - December 12, 2012 - (Page 27)

EDUCATION WEEK n DECEMBER 12, 2012 n 27 ties with names that conjure more images of Orwellian overreach— Success for All, Dynamic Measurement Group Inc.—and, of course, by the omnipresent Pearson. They come with a dizzying array of scientific-sounding diagnostic procedures used to measure such things as “orf” and “lnf” and my personal favorite, “prosody”— things that make you wonder how anybody ever learned to read before we started measuring them. And there is another thing these tests do: They measure failure better than they do success. In our district, the testing regimen is used to decide which students are in need of “remediation” or “learning support” or whatever other vaguely patronizing euphemism is favored by the test administrator. You can almost feel the scores being talked about in hushed tones at meetings of the “data team,” just as consequential decisions are being made about who will be “fine” and who will need “extra support” to succeed (i.e., pass his tests) in the coming year. We began to realize that 30 years of educational dogma had come home to roost in a painful and very personal way. This is the ideology of public schooling in the era of No Child Left Behind: It is one that encourages people to look for and remediate failure, instead of trying to find and nurture success. It is an ideology that promotes the use of jargon (“heterogeneous ability groups,” “learning styles,” “multiple measures of student effectiveness”) as a substitute for genuine conversation about what kinds of people we want students to be and become. It is an ideology that privileges testing over teaching, a system that makes the beguiling promise that sophisticated instruments (administered incongruously with the oldest technology around—pencil and paper) can tell us everything we need to know about human cognitive ability in just a few hours. How could we blame our son’s teachers for believing everything they had been told? After all, as Upton Sinclair once said, it’s difficult to get a man PAGE 29 > Smokeless Santa? Sanitizing a Child’s World DAVE POWELL taught high school social studies for six years in suburban Atlanta and is now an assistant professor of education at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. He teaches courses on the foundations of education, educational psychology, social studies methods, and teacher action research. T “ By Anita N. Voelker he holiday book-buying season is upon us, and for those who have not heard, the Canadian independent publisher Pamela McColl has updated Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 Christmas poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” by deleting two lines regarding Santa’s pipe and its ubiquitous cloud of smoke. McColl, an anti-smoking activist, hopes her version of the poem will deter children from smoking. Although the recent publication of this bowdlerized version of “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” has become fodder for comedians, I am not amused. This event reminded me of an incident that occurred when one of my student-teachers read The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, to her 4th graders. As she shared the scene in which a father, cigarette in his clamped mouth, sells his daughter, she looked up to find 24 pairs of horri- will also better equip teacher-leaders to both teach and lead. • Reallocate resources to fuel innovation. Many schools, no doubt, suffer from inequities in how certain students and communities are funded. And the economic recession has left many districts feeling strapped. But now is the time for policymakers, administrators, and union leaders to think much differently about how dollars are used. They would do well to explore how high-quality new providers can help deliver the kinds of learning experiences, support, and online opportunities that take full advantage of elt—and, in doing so, create new space for teachers to lead and innovate. • Reframe accountability to focus on the spread of teaching expertise. Our current accountability system, framed by the No Child Left Behind Act, rests on top of an archaic set of rules and regulations, systems, and structures, that impede teachers and administrators’ best efforts to extend better student learning. America’s system of testing ought to take care to see that students can apply what they know to new problems and situations, and its accountability regimes must identify more than who is doing well or not. The accountability system must send clear signals as to why students are or are not succeeding. and supply transparent indicators so teachers know what they need to do, singly or collaboratively, to help students learn. School reform is too often viewed in dichotomous and dysfunctional ways. Expanded learning time—which has supporters in what are usually seen as warring camps—opens up windows of opportunity to move beyond the debates and create and sustain the kinds of partnerships that already are working, but are so incredibly difficult to do well and sustain. Transformational elt models will entail teachers’ playing roles different from those they do now, and policymakers, administrators, and union leaders will have to embrace policies and rules that make this possible. This will inevitably mean breaking up rigid teacher-certification regimes, lock-step salary schedules, and the “widgetized” culture of classroom teaching. But doing so holds out the thrilling promise of professionalization and a results-oriented teaching profession that transcends more than a century of school reform compromises geared to the demands of yesterday. n BARNETT BERRY is the founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, in Carrboro, N.C., and the author of Teacherpreneurs (Jossey-Bass, 2013). FREDERICK M. HESS is the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, and the author of Cage-Busting Leadership (Harvard Education Press, 2013). I cringe at the possibility of children living in an unreal, utopian world where images that do not fit the current culture are erased.” fied eyes upon her. She paused, recognizing this was troubling. Wisely, she created time for conversation. She assumed that the children were disturbed by the selling of a child. But, in whispered unison, the children warned their young student-teacher that the word “cigarette” is forbidden at their school. They insisted that she replace “cigarette” with “chicken.” Strikingly, a man with a chicken in his mouth made a strange substitution, but the children were surprisingly satisfied and seemingly unfazed that a child was being sold by her father ... as long as he was not smoking! I am not an advocate of smoking, nor am I receiving a kickback from the tobacco industry, but I grieve the loss of this small, 6-inch paperwrapped bundle of nicotine. Not for what it was, but for what it represented. I anguish over what other images will also be erased. What other truths discarded? To those who care deeply about children, I offer an alternative. Rather than eliminate images or words that offend, advance the notion of information literacy alongside critical literacy for children. The American Library Association uses the term “information literacy” to describe “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” David Shenk, an emeritus professor from Columbia University, warned in the book Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut that we enter dangerous territory when members of society, including children, are not equipped with the ability to use information literacy. Much like information literacy, “critical literacy” is a stance that enables readers to consider text and images, not simply at face value, but through historical, cultural, and political lenses. In a Q&A on critical literacy, Patrick Shannon, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University, said critical literacy encourages readers to use the question “Why are things the way they are?” as a tool. Imagine what would be gained if parents discussed why things are “the way they are” as they read a book together. In the case of Moore’s poem, parents could point out the 1823 publication date and share how medical research about smoking occurred well after the poem was published. My hunch is that many 21st-century preschoolers have viewed images of their great-grandfathers, great-grandmothers, or other relatives smoking cigarettes or pipes inside the yellowed pages of old photograph albums. I would hope that the children would not consider their ancestors to be evil or dim-witted because of a cigarette or pipe. But, rather, I hope children will be apprenticed in how to situate an image or text within the historical and cultural context of the times. I believe in children and their ability to think critically. I also recognize that some may consider my reaction to one deleted pipe and wreath of smoke as unnecessarily radical. But I cringe at the possibility of children living in an unreal, utopian world where images that do not fit the current culture are erased. Children do not need us to artificially sanitize the world. Quite frankly, we cannot. However, children do need us. There is no doubt about that. They need us to show them the past, even if it was shrouded in smoke. Then we can teach them how to find perspective. In doing so, we offer our children a much more useful gift: the ability to read and think critically. In the process, they may create their own, better future. n ANITA N. VOELKER is an associate professor of education at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. Composite Illustration by Vanessa Solis

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - December 12, 2012

Education Week - December 12, 2012
Test Designers Tap Students for Feedback
Race to Top Draws Out New Suitors
Common Core Taught Through the Arts
Federal Attention on ELL Needs Seen to Wane
News in Brief
Report Roundup
NAEP Seeks to Test New Measure Of Student Poverty
In Rural Areas, After-School Efforts Must Stretch to Provide Services
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: McGraw-Hill Education Sale Highlights Publishing Trends
K-12, Higher Ed. Unite to Align Learning In Minnesota
States Pledge to Expand School Hours, Days
Absenteeism Linked to Low Achievement In NAEP Time Study
Union Pushes Higher Standards For New Teachers
Brand-New NAEP Report on Vocabulary Shows Same Old Gaps
Psychiatrists Revising Manual On Mental Disorders
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.C. Law Protects Educators From Online Harassment
Blogs of the Week
Education May Not Benefit From Brighter Financial Outlook
K-12 Education Advocates Lobby To Avert Fiscal Cliff
Policy Brief
Louisiana’s Ambitious Voucher Effort Unclear Following Judge’s Ruling
BARNETT BERRY & FREDERICK M. HESS: Expanded Learning Time: An Avenue to Greater Change
DAVE POWELL: Confusing Achievement With Aptitude
ANITA N. VOELKER: Smokeless Santa? Sanitizing a Child’s World
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES S. LIEBMAN: Ending the Great School Wars

Education Week - December 12, 2012