Thursday, October 30, 2014

PARCC Is Magical

Today David Hespe, the acting education commissioner in New Jersey, sent out a letter to Chief School Administrators, Charter School Lead Persons, School Principals, and Test Coordinators.

The re: is "Student Participation in the Statewide Assessment Program." Specifically, it's "why there ought to be some, and how you handle uppity folks who want to avoid it."

In the two page letter, the first page and a half are taken up with a history lesson and a legal brief. Basically, "some laws have been passed, starting with No Child Left Behind, and we think they mean that students have to take the PARCC."

But then Hespe, correctly suspecting that this might not be sufficient for dealing with recalcitrant parental units, offers this magical paragraph:

In speaking with parents and students, it is perhaps most important to outline the positive reasons that individual students should participate in the PARCC examinations. Throughout a student’s educational career, the PARCC assessments will provide parents with important information about their child’s progress toward meeting the goal of being college or career ready. The PARCC assessments will, for the first time, provide detailed diagnostic information about each individual student’s performance that educators, parents and students can utilize to enhance foundational knowledge and student achievement. PARCC assessments will include item analysis which will clarify a student’s level of knowledge and understanding of a particular subject or area of a subject. The data derived from the assessment will be utilized by teachers and administrators to pinpoint areas of difficulty and customize instruction accordingly. Such data can be accessed and utilized as a student progresses to successive school levels.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (forgot that's what PARCC stands for, didn't you) is a magical magical test. It can tell with absolute precision, how prepared your student is for college or career because, magic. And who wouldn't want to know more about the powerful juju contained in the PARCC test.

So if Mr. Hespe and any of his friends come to explain how crucial PARCC testing is for your child's future, you might try asking some questions.

* Exactly what is the correspondence between PARCC results and college readiness. Given the precise data, can you tell me what score my eight year old needs to get on the test to be guaranteed at least a 3.75 GPA at college?

* Does it matter which college he attends, or will test results guarantee he is ready for all colleges?

* Can you show me the research and data that led you to conclude that Test Result A = College Result X? How exactly do you know that meeting the state's politically chosen cut score means that my child is prepared to be a college success?

* Since the PARCC tests math and language, will it still tell me if my child is ready to be a history or music major? How about geology or women's studies?

* My daughter plans to be a stay-at-home mom. Can she skip the test? Since that's her chosen career, is there a portion of the PARCC that tests her lady parts and their ability to make babies?

* Which section of the PARCC tests a student's readiness to start a career as a welder? Is it the same part that tests readiness to become a ski instructor, pro football player, or dental assistant?

* I see that the PARCC will be used to "customize instruction." Does that mean you're giving the test tomorrow? How soon will the teacher get the detailed customizing information-- one week? Ten days? How will the PARCC results help my child's choir director and phys ed teacher customize instruction?

* Is it possible that the PARCC will soon be able to tell me if my eight year old is on track for a happy marriage and nice hair?

* Why do you suppose you keep using the word "utilize" when "using" is a perfectly good plain English substitute?

* To quote the immortal Will Smith in Independence Day, "You really think you can do all that bullshit you just said?"

The PARCC may look like just one more poorly-constructed standardized math and language test, but it is apparently super-duper magical, with the ability to measure every aspect of a child's education and tell whether the child is ready for college and career, regardless of which college, which major, which career, and which child we are talking about. By looking at your eight year old's standardized math and language test, we can tell whether she's on track to be a philosophy major at Harvard or an airline pilot! It's absolutely magical!

Never has a single standardized test claimed so much magical power with so little actual data to back up its assertions. Mr. Hespe would be further ahead to skip his fancy final paragraph and just tell his people to look parents in the eye and say, "Because the state says so." It's not any more educationally convincing than the magical CACR bullshit, but at least it would be honest.

High Stakes Testing 2.0

In the world of reformsters and their Orwellian word salads, statements often mean the opposite of what they appear to say. "We need to be able to hire more great teachers" actually means "We need to be able to fire any teacher we wish." "We want to rescue high-poverty low-achievement schools" turns out to mean "We want to starve high-poverty low-achievement schools of resources."

So it really should be no surprise that "We see that there's a problem with over-reliance on and over-use of high stakes testing" actually means "We intend to triple down on high stakes testing."

From the moment CCSSO and CGCS held their misleading phone conference, it was evident that they were not talking about backing off testing at all. Almost immediately (as if something had been sent out in the Education Reformsters Newsletter), High Stakes Testing 2.0 began to reveal its ugly face. You can see it in the test-cheerleading websites such as Minnesota's. Even Arne Duncan got in on the act of being against the tests before he was for them (as well as trying to shuck responsibility for installing HST at the center of US education in the first place).

This has been a version of all those crime dramas where the guy who has gone undercover punches his buddy in the face before the really dangerous guys can kill the buddy dead. It's a stalling tactic, mean to save the buddy, not actually harm him.

The Cult of Testing paused just long enough to generate some headlines meant to soothe the opposition, but we are already proceeding with High Stakes Testing 2.0, in which high stakes testing remains the hub around which all decisions in education must turn.

Take a look at Education Post, the website that has rapidly proven itself as a war-room agit-prop echo chamber for every talking point of the reformster movement (and so I'll not link to them unless absolutely necessary). They've been running a swell piece by Erika Sanzi who thanks Arne for insulting white suburban moms and praises testing because, well...

My gratitude now extends to his continued call for smart and meaningful testing of students. We cannot possibly provide kids with the education they need and deserve if we don’t have an accurate sense of what they know, what they don’t know, and how we can best help them.

I try not to do personal attacks here. I'll attack ideas and statements, but I remain conscious that these are real people with homes and families and lives and aspirations, I must assume, to do good. But what am I to make of a mother and teacher who says that she won't know how her children or students are doing unless someone shows her standardized test results? How do I not insult her when she has so handily insulted herself?

Sanzi also floats the talking point that standardized tests are just like diagnostic tests at the doctors office. This is a weak comparison-- doctors order tests, one test is not used for all patients no matter what, and diagnostic tests are not used to evaluate the doctor and hospital. If you want my full rant on why this comparison is bogus, you can find it here.

And Sanzi winds up with the other go-to argument for HST, which translates roughly as, "How dare you try to deprive poor, minority students of this chance to advance in the world!?" It is potent salad of baloney that tosses in some powerful ideas-- civil rights! racial equity! wealthy privilege! It makes it clear that you are risking being rhetorically tattooed as a monster if you try to cross them. It does not provide one whit of explanation as to how giving a poor, minority student a high stakes standardized test will open doors to opportunity for that student.

As someone who has taught in both privileged and underprivileged schools, I can’t imagine anything more threatening to students’ civil rights than denying them evidence that proves they are—or are not—learning. How else can we expose and aspire to close the achievement and opportunity gaps if we aren’t willing to acknowledge they exist?

This echoes the language of John White the CCSSO/CGCS phone call suggesting that only through testing will we ever know that students aren't learning. Because the trained professionals that spend 180 days with these students have no clue (or are big fat liars), and so only tests will tell us The Truth. This is one of the foundational pillars of HST-- that our entire army of professional educators simply can't be trusted to give us information about student achievement. If we don't give tests, we will never know.

And test we will.

A recent post on the US DOE blog highlights just how little of an impression the anti-testing pushback has made-- starting with the title "Investing in Evidence: Finding Game-Changing Evaluations."

The full post is a monument to governmental gobbledygook and a blind faith in testing, but just look at that title. There are two huge assumptions embedded there.

1) The game needs to be changed. Schools are such a disaster we must change everything, start a new game, play a new song, throw out bathwater, babies and basinets. Game-changing does not leave any room for the thought that some of the work being done is good-- no, we need a new game.

2) The way to change the game is with tests. Not with training. Not with personnel. Not even with shiny national standards. No, if games are to be changed, it is tests that will change them. It would be hard to come up with a clearer statement of belief that testing is the foundation, the fundamental bedrock of all education.

The proposal itself seems to be (the language is really impenetrable, and you know I have dug my way through some doozies) to collect up the best tests that are most effective for something something as identified by people who volunteer to answer some questions such as "what questions about P-12 education are still unanswered, because if we find the really good tests and connect up the programs that can't afford really good testing, we can sort of spread the testy love around and answer all the questions by using all the tests. Lordy, I may wade into this thing in greater depth some day, but knowing how way leads on to way, probably not.

Specifically, we are asking your help to identify what the most pressing education policy and/or practice questions are and how answering them could provide needed information to educators, parents and local, state, and federal governments to enable significant improvements in education. Our goal is to support the development of findings that have the rigor and power to inform significant improvements in how schools, districts, states, and the federal government provide services to students.

The clear takeaway is this-- this is not a plan for cutting back on tests or limiting tests. It's a plan for spreading tests out and around.

Every indication, from the feds to reformsters to reformster mouthpieces, is that HST 2.0 may be concerned about its optics, but it's not remotely interested in backing off on the noble goal of testing America's children (and teachers) into submission. So we can all stop pretending that testing caps and limits and restraint was ever a thing, because it wasn't, and it isn't. Get those opt out forms back out, because you're going to need them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Education Is Not Medicine

One of the popular new reformster talking points is to compare standardized testing to diagnostic testing at the doctor's office (you can find examples here and here). This comparison is total baloney, and reformsters need to retire it immediately. They are just making themselves look silly. Let's break it down.

Students are not patients.

Students are not patients who need to be "cured" of the "disease" of not knowing stuff. There is nothing about that comparison that holds up. Disease attacks a healthy body and breaks down tissues and functions that were previously fine. Which part of that sounds like a student not understanding how to multiply doubly digit numbers or misunderstanding how to find verbs?

Doctors choose the tests.

The doctor uses her professional judgment to determine which tests will be administered. The doctor uses her professional judgment looking at the symptoms, the nature of the patient, and the possible issues that might be involved. And then the doctor decides which test to order because

There are many tests.

Doctors do not have a single one size fits all diagnostic test that is given to all patients, regardless of whether they are complaining about a sore chest, a broken leg, or a high fever. The test is chosen to fit the situation (again, using the doctor's professional judgment). For that matter, for every test the doctor chooses to give a patient, the doctor also choose NOT to give a large number of tests to that patient. There is no medical analog for a high stakes one size fits all test to be given to all students.

Doctors can still see.

When I went to the doctor with the flesh of my knee split open, my doctor did not say, "Well, it looks like the flesh of your knee is split open, and I might be looking at the patella right there, but let me run some tests, first." He definitely didn't say, "First, I have to give you this exact same test that we give every single patient who enters the hospital no matter what the issue seems to be." Because, as it turns out, my doctor has A) eyes and B) sense. So he sewed up my knee. Some times the correct diagnostic test is no test at all, because A) eyes and B) sense.

Results are timely.

Depending on the urgency of the situation (as determined by the professional judgment of the doctor), the results will come back in a timely manner. If you get your broken leg x-rayed in May, your doctor expects to see the images before September.

Judgment beats test

When the test results return, the doctor makes a diagnosis and prescription based on his professional judgment. The test provides data; it does not make a prescription. "The test says I have to prescribe paxil for you," said no doctor ever. The doctor's judgment is not subordinate to the test results.

Doctors know when to quit

My doctor does not shorten my treatment so that he has time to give me more tests. If he has to make a choice between more treatment for my problem and more testing, more testing does not automatically win.

No stakes tests.

The diagnostic tests that a doctor orders do not become part of the job evaluation of the doctor. The hospital board does not call a doctor in and say, "100% of the limbs you ordered x-rays for this year were broken. Therefor we find you ineffective and you're fired." Nor do we use the test results to judge the hospital. And we especially don't use the test results to judge people in some other department who never even saw the patient.

So stop comparing high stakes standardized tests to diagnostic medical tests. They are not comparable and the analogy is extraordinarily weak. Find something else better to compare high stakes standardized tests to, like cumquats or people who insist on talking loudly on their cell phones in public places.

Furthermore


CCSS: Runaway Train

One of the oddest things about the Common Core is that here you have this giant movement, this massive shadow regulation of one of the nation's largest sectors, the entire institution of public education, and yet nobody is in charge.

Think about that. You've got this set of rules that shape the lives of millions of Americans, and nobody is actually in charge.

Core boosters might say, "Well, the state's in charge," but of course that's just not true. The states were required to adopt the Core as it was handed to them, with only minor additions and no changes, and the states have no real authority to change anything in the Core. At least, that's the supposition-- since there's nobody in charge, there is no place for states to turn to ask for that authority to change the Core.

Conservative Core foes would say that the feds are in charge of the Core, but that's not quite right. Arne Duncan has anointed himself the enforcer of standards compliance, but that's a negative role. He will tell you if your state is being too non-compliant with the Core. He'll tell you what not to do, once you try to do it, and he may punish you for it. But he won't tell you what to do with the Core exactly because A) that would be illegal-ish and B) he doesn't really know anything about how to institute effective education programs.

States have been slowly inching out of the Common Core haunted house, like burglars who think maybe the guard dogs are gone now but they're not quite sure, and so mostly they have just decided to sit on the porch and pretend that they've really gotten out of the place.

The copyright holders have been absolutely silent on the requirement not to change parts of the Core and even more silent than that on the subject of how to use it and what's okay to do with it.

The creators have long since walked away from it, moving on to more profitable ventures. And the politicians that once championed it now dare not speak its name. It's senior night at the football game and nobody will step forward to say, "That's my kid!!"

And you might argue that Pearson et al are de facto in charge of Common Core because they make the materials and tests that give it actual form in the classroom. But if you called up Pearson and asked permission to change a standard, they would laugh at you, and if you asked for help implementing a standard, they would just try to sell you something.

Put another way-- if the Common Core were to collapse and everyone in the country came to see it as a disaster and a Huge Mistake, exactly whose head would roll? Who would be held responsible?

It's kind of amazing. Name one sweeping, nation-wide, institution transforming program that has ever been instituted in this country with nobody in charge of it. Common Core is a gigantic runaway train-- maybe not traveling very fast or true, but with a completely empty cab up front.No in charge. No one's responsible. Or, to use the language of the ed revolution, nobody is accountable for Common Core.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CAP: Core Is for Ladies [Updated]

The Common Core is great for the ladies.

At least that's what we can learn from a new CAP (Center for American Progress) article that combines two now-classic Core-boosting rhetorical techniques-- wacky leaps of logic, and taking credit for what was already happening.

The piece opens with a paragraph with a shout out to Title IX, then sadly shakes its head and notes that there are still gender-based inequities in education and employment persist, particularly for girls of color and from low-income background. Plus, girls often lack access to high-quality, rigorous STEMmy courses, which would prepare them for college and high-paying careers. Not that the author offers any evidence, or even an assertion, that they lack access to a higher degree than boys.

Next up: charts and data. The data is exclusively high stakes tests based, so here's what we know. More eight grade boys get proficient-ranked test scores on science tests than eight grade girls. The boys barely edge out girls on the math test results on the eight grade test. And as always, black and brown girls score lower on the test than their white counterparts. So that's a picture of how eight graders score on those two tests. What we can actually deduce from that about the entire educational system is a whole other debate. I just want to be clear on what we're actually talking about. 

Fewer females than males take the AP computer science test. Few females take STEM related AP tests. Also, female students and students of color take more college remedial courses (the article lumps women and minorities together a lot). And we get a section (well, two paragraphs) of data with a chart about the pay gap between men and women. This, the article tells us, exists even when controlling for college major, hours worked, and occupation.

So wait-- how is the Common Core fixing all this? Let's go back to the introduction:

The Common Core State Standards represent an important step toward closing achievement gaps and opening the door to higher-paying STEM fields for millions of girls. By establishing uniform and more-rigorous academic standards, the Common Core helps ensure that all students—both girls and boys, regardless of their income levels and backgrounds—are taught to the same high expectations. 

This is followed by the data establishing, sort of, that the gender gap exists. Then we arrive at this conclusion.

More engaging and challenging standards build a strong academic foundation for all students. Girls—and in particular, girls of color—have a lot to gain from more-rigorous learning standards that better prepare them for college and career success. By raising the expectations for student learning, the Common Core State Standards allow girls the opportunity to seize STEM learning opportunities while in grade school; to pursue a diverse set of college majors; and to obtain jobs that command higher salaries. The Common Core State Standards can expand on the progress girls have made since Title IX and can have a long-lasting impact on women in society.

Many of you will recognize a composition technique known as "recycling your introduction in new words as your conclusion."

That's it. That's the whole argument. CCSS will raise everybody's standards, so women (and, I guess, students of color) will just automatically be raised up to the level of white guys. Of course, that effect would theoretically work with literally any educational standards at all-- so why didn't the states (particularly those with super high standards rated by Fordham Institution as better than CCSS) already wipe out their own gender gaps? And how can rigorous education wipe out the pay gap when the pay gap, as CAP just said, is controlled for occupation? Will lady engineers suddenly be paid more because they have a Common Core seal of approval stamped upon them?

This has to be one of the laziest arguments I have ever seen for pretty much anything. I guess it's good that they didn't print a special CCSS edition in pink for girls, but the implication that girls have been doing poorly because, well, it's just that nobody asked them to do better-- it's somehow insulting to everybody. If CAP is going to try to score social justice points, they're going to have to do much better than this.

[Update 10/30] The evening that this post went up, several of us were contacted by CAP chieftain Neera Tanden who asked if anyone wanted to take issue with the data.

The answer was, of course, that the data about gender gaps were fine, but there was no data at all to indicate that CCSS could close the gap. Tanden cited gains in the College and Career Readiness Ratings for girls in Kentucky, one of the first states to adopt the Core. I asked how those gains for girls compared to gains for boys, and she referred me to this site, where Kentucky parks all their reports on student achievement.

This actually raised more questions than it answered, because the high school data clearly shows that girls outpace boys by large margins in most tested areas (boys win on the social studies test) and tat the gender gap on the College and Career Ready ratings also runs in favor of the girls. I asked about this, but have yet to hear a response (it's twitter-- I don't read much into the silence). My conclusion, however, is that the CAP article profiled above makes even less sense than it did before.]

Slow Schools

In a recent blog post, Daniel Katz made a plea for a slow schools movement (like the slow foods movement). It's a great piece and well worth your time.

Katz is the director of Secondary Education and Secondary Special Education Teacher Preparation at Seton Hall University, and he begins the post with observations about what he's hearing from his alumni when they return. They are hurried.

This is not a new problem. Teaching has always involved doing an infinite number of tasks in a finite amount of time. People who want to say, "Yeah, just like every other profession" just don't get it. Teachers are up against finite time in a way that no other professions experience. And boy does this resonate.

The most read thing I have ever written in my life is this post about the hard part of teaching, how there is never enough. Over at HuffPost, it has pulled almost 450,000 facebook likes, and they've translated it into Italian, German and French. Nothing I have ever written in my life has come close. What that tells me is that this is a subject that really really resonates.

Teachers have always suffered from having more and more duties, tasks and responsibilities jammed into their days (and into the parts of their days that are supposed to be theirs). And as Katz correctly observes, those "new"duties are removed just about as often as governments repeal "temporary" taxes. But there is a new order of magnitude going on today.

In a policy environment that provides high stakes standardized tests the power to put teachers’ jobs in the balance and with an active movement afoot to remove teachers’ workplace protections, pressures today rival those at any point since the Common School movement began in the 19th century.

And as Katz observes, it's not just a matter of Getting Things Done, but of getting things done right.

However, the need for “slow schools” goes well beyond a simple desire to lift added and poorly thought out burdens from teachers who already had important work to do.  It goes towards fundamental aspects of what learning actually requires.  A productive school is one that hums with energy, but it is not the energy of people rushing anxiously from one obligation to another.  It is the energy of people grappling with challenging ideas and materials, working through from what they do not understand to what they do understand, and proposing and testing new hypotheses about how the world works around them.  That is a specific kind of energy that cannot happen under constant pressure to perform on command.

Thinking, understanding, coming to grips with concepts, and particular the kind of deep conceptual understanding that the Sultans of Common Core insist they want. This is one of the many self-contradictions of life under the Core-- we want you to go an inch wide and a mile deep, but we won't tell you what material you can now cut from the curriculum, mostly because we still expect you to cover everything you always covered-- just deeper and slower. We want you to drive from LA to San Francisco at 20 MPH, with a stop every hour to get out and smell the flowers, but we still expect you to leave after breakfast and get there in time for supper.

Deeper understanding takes time. Time, Katz says, that includes time for being confused and working through that confusion.

A deep and layered understanding of complex ideas cannot be forced to happen simply through intensity, although significance and deep understanding have intensity of their own.  Students necessarily must be frustrated as they grapple with complex and unknown concepts, but they need time in order to work through that confusion, and when forced or hurried to move they not only fail to develop the desired understanding, but also they become needlessly frustrated and disengaged from the task of learning.  Taken together, Bruner, Doyle, and Duckworth denote essential truisms about classrooms and learning:  1) students are capable of better and deeper understanding of more complex ideas than we often think they can; 2) the products, processes, and materials that support the development of that understanding are often highly ambiguous and complex to enact in a classroom; 3) confusion is an important part of the learning process, and learners need time and space to be where they are in their emerging understanding without being forced to move faster than they need.

 Unfortunately, what we've got is a system that demands results Right Now. Actually, not so much demands results as demands an assortment of paperwork and data points that can stand in for results. And so we have multiple tales of teachers are commanded to spend so much time planning to teach, documenting the planning to teach, document the results of the plan, documenting the results of the teaching, and documenting the analyses of the data generated by the plan to teach-- all this to the point that the teacher literally has no time to do her actual job.

Reformsters have become like the person who asks, fifteen minutes into a first date, "Are we going to get married, or not?" The demands for results (or at least data-filled reports that pass as results) have become so urgent that we lack the proper time to get the results in the first place (but then, we don't need actual results-- just data points and reports that pass for them).

Katz is right. We do need to slow down-- not for the harried and hurried teachers, but for the students who need the time to take that slow and sometimes muddled journey to understanding. I think Katz is absolutely correct-- we need a slow schools movement.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MA Committed to Chasing Teachers Away

It seems that several states are locked in a contest to determine who can do the most to undermine and gut the teaching profession. From Florida to North Carolina to Tennessee, state governments are doing their best to find creative ways to tell professional educators to go straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect any dollars.

Massachusetts has taken a bold leap forward by extending the misuse of student test scores. The proposed revisions in the licensure process are a masterpiece of bureaucratic gobbledygook, but then, they have to be-- because if the people who wrote these exquisitely stupid rules had written them plainly, it would be obvious just how foolish they are.

There are three proposed versions (A, B & C) of the new system, and they all share one piece of twisted DNA-- they link teacher evaluations to teacher licenses. Not pay level or continued employment in that particular school district-- but licensure. A couple of below-average evaluations, and you will lose your MA license to teach.

There is no profession anywhere in the country that has such astonishing rules. Good lord-- even if your manager at McDonalds decides you're not up to snuff, he doesn't blackball you from ever working in any fast food joint ever again! Yes, every profession has means of defrocking people who commit egregious and unpardonable offenses. But-- and I'm going to repeat this because I'm afraid your This Can't Be Real filter is keeping you from seeing the words that I'm typing-- Massachusetts proposes to take your license to teach away if you have a couple of low evaluations.

It will not surprise you to learn that those evaluations would include all the usual groundless baloney. Student Impact Ratings-- did your real student get better test scores than his imaginary counterpart being taught by an imaginary average teacher in a parallel universe? Did you successfully climb the paperwork mountain generated by a teacher improvement plan (duly filed with the state department that doesn't have time to do the work it has now, so good luck with the new influx of improvement plan filings)? One version of the plan even allows for factoring in student evaluations of teachers; yes, teachers, your entire career can be hanging by a thread that dangles in front of an eight-year-old with scissors.

You can read the proposed plans here -- apparently hosted by an outfit called the Keystone Center, who have  this to say about themselves: "The Keystone Center was established to independently facilitate the resolution of national policy conflicts." Those conflicts seem to most often have to do with oil and gas stuff, as well as Colorado higher education and monarch butterflies. How they ended up helping Massachusetts blow up teaching careers is not clear to me. But it's easy to see how their "project partners" ended up here, because they're teamed up with TNTP, a group that never met a set of teacher job protections that they didn't want throw in a woodchipper and burn with fire.

If TNTP ever has a legitimate mission, it has long since been replaced with one single-minded focus-- to make it easier to fire all teachers everywhere all the time.

Keystone is also the "vendor and facilitator" for some "stakeholder meetings." These meetings do not appear to be designed for freewheeling stakeholder discussion.

During the upcoming stakeholder meetings, we are not asking for people to vote on or express their support or opposition to any one or more of the Policy Options. Rather, we will be asking stakeholders to identify pros and cons of each of the Policy Options as well as specific considerations or challenges and how to address these challenges.

Massachusetts Teachers Association members who attended the first of these meetings report that they are exactly the cheery railroad ride one would expect.

Members who attended the first session reported that the conversations were controlled and participants were not given the option of challenging the faulty premises being promoted by DESE. (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

The MTA site also has some direct and strongly worded objections to all three plans, and I would recommend that the rest of us all study these because if TNTP has their nose in this business, they'll be telling all their friends across the country about this fun way to chase people out of teaching.

I would point out to the people pushing this that it's a great way to chase people away from teaching in Massachusetts ever. I would point out that young people interested in starting a teaching career might favor a state where that career can't be snuffed out because of random fake data that's beyond their control. I would point out that this is one more policy that will almost certainly make it even harder than it already is to recruit teachers for high-poverty low-achievement schools. I mean, most states are settling for evaluation systems that punish inner-city teachers with just losing that particular job; it takes big brass ones for Massachusetts to say, "Come teach in a poor struggling under-funded low-resource school. Take a chance on the job that could end your entire teaching career before you're even thirty." Who on God's green earth thinks this is a way to put a great teacher in every classroom?

Well, the answer is nobody. I would say all those things to the people pushing this program if I thought they cared about any of that. But it seems increasingly obvious that creating a massive teacher shortage is not a bug, but a feature. It's not an unintended consequence, but the chosen objective.

The MTA is a feisty group. I hope they keep fighting, and fighting hard, because if they lose this, two bad things will happen.

First, Massachusetts will become one more state where teachers choose to work only if they're forced to by personal circumstances like friends and family or if they have no other options.

Second, other reformsters in other states (near other branch offices of TNTP) will look at Massachusetts as a model to follow, and the cancer will spread.