Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age

 

Dear Friends,

An informative article written by Perri Klass, a Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University. Perri also serves as National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit which promotes early literacy through doctors and nurses who provide primary care to young children at nearly 5,000 clinics, health centers, hospitals, and doctor’s offices in all 50 states. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist.

“Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age”

Do children in a keyboard world need to learn old-fashioned handwriting?

There is a tendency to dismiss handwriting as a nonessential skill, even though researchers have warned that learning to write may be the key to, well, learning to write.

And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.

In an article this year in The Journal of Learning Disabilities, researchers looked at how oral and written language related to attention and what are called “executive function” skills (like planning) in children in grades four through nine, both with and without learning disabilities.

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington and the lead author on the study, told me that evidence from this and other studies suggests that “handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”

Last year in an article in The Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Laura Dinehart, an associate professor of early childhood education at Florida International University, discussed several possible associations between good handwriting and academic achievement: Children with good handwriting may get better grades because their work is more pleasant for teachers to read; children who struggle with writing may find that too much of their attention is consumed by producing the letters, and the content suffers.

But can we actually stimulate children’s brains by helping them form letters with their hands? In a population of low-income children, Dr. Dinehart said, the ones who had good early fine-motor writing skills in prekindergarten did better later on in school. She called for more research on handwriting in the preschool years, and on ways to help young children develop the skills they need for “a complex task” that requires the coordination of cognitive, motor and neuromuscular processes.

“This myth that handwriting is just a motor skill is just plain wrong,” Dr. Berninger said. “We use motor parts of our brain, motor planning, motor control, but what’s very critical is a region of our brain where the visual and language come together, the fusiform gyrus, where visual stimuli actually become letters and written words.” You have to see letters in “the mind’s eye” in order to produce them on the page, she said. Brain imaging shows that the activation of this region is different in children who are having trouble with handwriting.

Functional brain scans of adults show a characteristic brain network that is activated when they read, and it includes areas that relate to motor processes. This suggested to scientists that the cognitive process of reading may be connected to the motor process of forming letters.

Karin James, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, did brain scans on children who did not yet know how to print. “Their brains don’t distinguish letters; they respond to letters the same as to a triangle,” she said.

After the children were taught to print, patterns of brain activation in response to letters showed increased activation of that reading network, including the fusiform gyrus, along with the inferior frontal gyrus and posterior parietal regions of the brain, which adults use for processing written language — even though the children were still at a very early level as writers.

“The letters they produce themselves are very messy and variable, and that’s actually good for how children learn things,” Dr. James said. “That seems to be one big benefit of handwriting.”

Handwriting experts have struggled with the question of whether cursive writing confers special skills and benefits, beyond the benefits that print writing might provide. Dr. Berninger cited a 2015 study that suggested that starting around fourth grade, cursive skills conferred advantages in both spelling and composing, perhaps because the connecting strokes helped children connect letters into words.

For typically developing young children, typing the letters doesn’t seem to generate the same brain activation. As we grow up, of course, most of us transition to keyboard writing, though like many who teach college students, I have struggled with the question of laptops in class, more because I worry about students’ attention wandering than to promote handwriting. Still, studies on note taking have suggested that “college students who are writing on a keyboard are less likely to remember and do well on the content than if writing it by hand,” Dr. Dinehart said.

Dr. Berninger said the research suggests that children need introductory training in printing, then two years of learning and practicing cursive, starting in grade three, and then some systematic attention to touch-typing.

Using a keyboard, and especially learning the positions of the letters without looking at the keys, she said, might well take advantage of the fibers that cross-communicate in the brain, since unlike with handwriting, children will use both hands to type.

“What we’re advocating is teaching children to be hybrid writers,” said Dr. Berninger, “manuscript first for reading — it transfers to better word recognition — then cursive for spelling and for composing. Then, starting in late elementary school, touch-typing.”

As a pediatrician, I think this may be another case where we should be careful that the lure of the digital world doesn’t take away significant experiences that can have real impacts on children’s rapidly developing brains. Mastering handwriting, messy letters and all, is a way of making written language your own, in some profound ways…

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

“Common Core isn’t preparing students very well for college or career, new report says”

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Valerie Strauss an education writer at the Washington Post, shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist.

“Common Core isn’t preparing students very well for college or career, new report says”

A new report that surveys curriculum nationally and reaches thousands of K-12 and college instructors as well as workplace supervisors and employees has some bad news about the Common Core State Standards: Many people in education and the workplace don’t think some of the English Language Arts and math standards — which are being used in most states — are what students and workers need to be successful in college and career.

The report, issued by ACT Inc., finds:

  • There are gaps between some Core standards and what college instructors consider important for students to succeed — especially in the area of writing. For example, middle- and high-school teachers say that they have been emphasizing analyzing source texts and summarizing other authors’ ideas as required by the Core, but college instructors say they value this much less than the “ability to generate sound ideas — a skill applicable across much broader contexts.”
  • …Though the Core standards were designed to prepare students for college and career, the survey found that many workplace supervisors and employees believe skills necessary for success are not part of the Core. Specifically, they say that the No. 1 skill that ensures success is “conscientiousness.”

The 2016 ACT National Curriculum Survey® looks at educational practices and college and career expectations, with results taken from surveys completed by thousands of K-12 teachers and college instructors in English and writing, math, reading, and science. This year, ACT asked workforce supervisors and employees to complete the survey too to see what specifically is being taught in these subjects at each grade level and what material is deemed to be important for college and career readiness.

In March, more than 100 education researchers in California issued a brief saying that there is no “compelling” evidence that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education for children or close the achievement gap, and that Common Core assessments lack “validity, reliability and fairness.” The researchers, from public and private universities in California — including Stanford University, UCLA, and the University of California at Berkeley — said in a brief that the Core standards do not do academically what supporters said they would and that linking them to high-stakes tests harms students.

…Here are some of the conclusions from the report:

1. There are discrepancies between some state standards and what some educators believe is important for college readiness.

Although standards are developed to help ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and career in English language arts and mathematics, some results of the ACT National Curriculum Survey suggest that some state standards may not reflect college readiness in some aspects.

In English Language Arts finding 2, high-school teachers and perhaps some middle-school teachers may be emphasizing certain approaches to writing over others due to a concern for source-based writing in response to the Common Core State Standards. But if so, college instructors appear to value some key features of source-based writing (the ability to analyze source texts and summarize other authors’ ideas) much less than the ability to generate sound ideas — a skill applicable across much broader contexts.

CorePic1

In Mathematics finding 1, some early elementary school teachers report that they are still teaching some of the topics omitted from the Common Core State Standards at certain early grade levels, perhaps in part because the teachers perceive that students are entering their classrooms unprepared for the demands that later mathematics courses will make of them.

Also in finding 1, less than half of middle-school and high-school teachers believe that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics are aligned “a great deal” or “completely” with college instructors’ expectations for college readiness.

Mathematics finding 4 indicates that although middle-school and high-school teachers generally agree about what mathematics skills are important to success in STEM courses and careers, college instructors or workforce respondents ascribed much less importance to those skills. In addition, many mathematics teachers in grades 4-7 report including certain topics relevant in STEM coursework in their curricula at grades earlier than they appear in the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Perhaps these teachers fear that delaying these topics will prevent their students from success in later STEM coursework, or perhaps there is a lack of cross-content coordination with science to streamline what knowledge and skills are required of students at each grade…

According to Workforce finding 3, supervisors and employees report that workplace communication relies more heavily on face-to-face communication than on written communication. And, perhaps in keeping with this finding, workforce respondents also place high value on speaking and listening as contributors to positive outcomes for employees on the job. In addition, two of the six most highly rated workplace communication skills relate to the demeanor with which the employee presents information.

As discussed in English Language Arts finding 1, supervisors indicated that employees in entry-level positions should be able to write narrative texts as well as informational and persuasive texts. Supervisors also value an employee’s ability to tailor communications to enhance understanding and to reconcile gaps in understanding.

Mathematics finding 2 shows that workforce respondents value facility with certain kinds of technology (e.g., calculators, graphing calculators, equation editors) much less than educators do.

To view article online

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/06/09/common-core-isnt-preparing-students-very-well-for-college-or-career-new-report-says/

 

 Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

The Common Core journalism blackout

 

Dear Friends,

An informative article written by Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“The Common Core journalism blackout”

Earlier this month, a deliberately anonymous teacher set forth some of the problems she saw in the Common Core-based test she had to give her students.

This teacher argued — and provided anecdotal evidence to show — that the Common Core-based test: (1) is developmentally inappropriate; and (2) does not actually assess what it claims to assess.

 Both excellent points. But it seems unlikely that reporters for any “mainstream” — or even non-mainstream — media outlets will investigate either of her assertions.

Criticism of Common Core, it is regularly implied by the mainstream, comes only from wing-nuts concerned about “federal overreach,” not from teachers or parents or experts on standards and testing.

But as Mark McQuillan (former commissioner of education in Connecticut), Richard Phelps (testing expert), and I wrote in our analysis of Common Core-based sample tests, PARCC (one of the major Common Core-aligned tests) has at least four major problems. 

1. Most PARCC writing prompts do not elicit the kind of writing done in college or the real world of work. One-third alone is devoted to narratives, mostly imaginative writing. 

2. PARCC uses a format for assessing word knowledge (“use context to determine the word’s meaning”) that is almost completely unsupported by research. This pedagogical format seriously misleads teachers and cripples readers who need to develop fluency in continuous prose reading.

3. PARCC uses “innovative” item-types for which no evidence exists to support claims that they tap deeper thinking and reasoning as part of understanding a text.

4. PARCC tests require many instructional hours to administer and prepare for, but they do not give teachers or parents the kind of information that would justify the extra hours and costs.

These are major flaws that are not likely to be resolved by MCAS 2.0 (the test that will replace PARCC in the Bay State starting next year) because many of the test items that will be in MCAS 2.0 will come from PARCC. (The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted in November 2015 to continue the Bay State’s membership in the PARCC testing consortium). Without vetting by the state’s own teachers across the state, how can Massachusetts administrators and teachers be confident that MCAS 2.0 won’t simply be another vehicle for PARCC’s flawed test items? 

Unfortunately, not one of these issues has been thoroughly reported by the mainstream media. How can one account for such journalism “gaps”? One reason may be the reward system used by the Education Writers Association (EWA), which met in May in Boston for its annual conference (May 1-3). As blogger Anthony Cody commented, in a response to a Pioneer Institute paper on the EWA conference:

“In 2014, my blog posts highly critical of the Common Core actually won first prize in the EWA’s annual contest. The next year they changed their rules so only reporters employed in mainstream publications are eligible. Some of the best investigative work is being done these days by independent, unpaid bloggers. But at EWA, bloggers need not apply. Since most mainstream publications tend to support the Common Core, this effectively eliminates critics of the national standards (and other corporate reform projects).” 

In effect, EWA has found a subtle way to blacklist writers who might write critically about Common Core’s standards and tests. 

As part of the journalism “gap,” reporters have not yet noted the lack of research supporting Common Core “architect” David Coleman’s notion that substituting informational texts for literature will improve students’ college readiness. Not only is Coleman’s assertion not supported by research, available data indicate that exactly the opposite is more likely to happen. For example, we know that reading scores went down in the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results for grade 8.

 

Reporters have also failed to inform their readers about what is missing from Common Core standards,including: a list of recommended authors, standards on British literature apart from Shakespeare, and study of the history of the English language. Is it not newsworthy to note that, while high-achieving students in academically-oriented private and suburban schools will likely get the rich literary-historical content that provides the basis for critical and analytical thinking, under the Common Core regime, urban students will get little more than reading comprehension exercises? 

Why does the media “establishment” believe policy makers and education researchers who themselves seem to believe without evidence that standards mostly in the form of empty skills could develop “critical thinking” or “deeper learning”? It is strange to see them promote as “rigorous” math standards whose quality they should instead suspect because the only mathematicians praising Common Core’s math standards (Jason Zimba and William McCallum) wrote them.

What happened to skepticism or investigative journalism? Could it be that most reporters can’t read and understand high school mathematics or science standards?

To view article online:

http://www.educationviews.org/common-core-journalism-blackout/

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Time to Admit the Obvious: Common Core Has Failed Spectacularly

 

Dear Friends,

An excellent article written by Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow with the American Principles Projec. Shared by Donna Garner, (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.

Time to Admit the Obvious: Common Core Has Failed Spectacularly

 

 On the same day former Bush Administration official Douglas Holtz-Eakin warned that discarding the Common Core national standards would diminish students’ college-readiness and harm the economy, the news came out that Common Core-trained students are less competent than their predecessors in math and generally less prepared for college.

Obviously Mr. Holtz-Eakin didn’t see that coming. But objective observers of Common Core have been predicting this result for years.

Now heading a group called American Action Forum, Mr. Holtz-Eakin makes a number of claims that have been debunked (it’s almost as though he wrote this piece a couple of years ago and hasn’t read the relevant literature since).

To begin with, he embraces the revisionist account of the origins of Common Core: “A state-led effort, the Common Core standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country.” It is now beyond serious dispute that Common Core was in fact a private-foundation- and federal-government-led effort, and that the standards were written essentially by a few drafters selected by unknown people for undisclosed reasons. So Mr. Holtz-Eakin establishes off the bat that he doesn’t understand Common Core.

He then repeats the talking point that the Common Core standards “have been shown to be more rigorous and effective.” Shown by whom? He cites to a Fordham Institute report that was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the chief financier of Common Core. But even though Fordham was essentially being paid to make Common Core look “rigorous” in comparison to the standards of other states, even Fordham was forced to admit that many states (such as Massachusetts and California) had clearly superior standards.

Scholars not paid by Gates have been warning for years that Common Core would have dire consequences for students’ college-readiness. English Language Arts expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a member of the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the standards because she recognized that they “would not prepare students for authentic college-level coursework.” Another Validation Committee dissident, world-renowned mathematician Dr. James Milgram, professor emeritus at Stanford University, has been withering in his criticism of the dumbed-down math standards, which he warned could not prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies in college. (Although they’ve tried to backtrack, the math-standards drafters have conceded the point.)  And Dr. Marina Ratner, another world-renowned mathematician, stated in a Wall Street Journal piece that the Common Core “represent lower expectations [than the previous California standards], and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.”

And what about Mr. Holtz-Eakin’s claim that Common Core was shown to be “effective”? The Fordham report showed no such thing, because it was issued before Common Core was implemented. So we must look elsewhere for evidence of effectiveness.

Which brings us to the news released by the National Association of Educational Progress (the NAEP, or the “nation’s report card”) on the same day as Mr. Holtz-Eakin’s fantastical essay. The2015 NAEP scores of the nation’s high-school seniors show a decline in math performance, stagnation in reading performance, and decline in college preparation in both areas.

The average math score for seniors dropped from 153 in 2013 to 152 in 2015, according to NAEP a “statistically significant” decline. The reading scores stagnated, and came in significantly below reading scores from 1992 (down from 292 to 287).

As for college-readiness, Mr. Holtz-Eakin must be especially perturbed by that NAEP indicator. In 2013, 39 percent of students were estimated to be college-ready in math, and 38 percent ready in reading. After two more years of Common Core training, the readiness scores were down to 37 percent in each subject.

These results are especially significant because, unlike students who took the NAEP tests two years earlier, the 2015 test-takers had the benefit of full Common Core implementation. Or maybe “benefit” is the wrong word.

As quoted in The New York Times, NAEP governing board chairman Terry Mazany described all these results as “worrisome.” The Los Angeles Times quotes the “bottom line” offered by a former NAEP official: “We’re stalled. We’re not making any progress.” Indeed.

Coming on the heels of similar dismal NAEP scores for younger students in October, these results confirm that our schools are headed in precisely the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, Michigan is the latest state to explore replacing Common Core with standards that aren’t, well, garbage. This week the Senate Education Committee passed a bill that would substitute the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards for the substandard Common Core. Given that even Gates-funded Fordham agrees the Massachusetts standards are better, will we see Mr. Holtz-Eakin and his ideological compatriots cheering Michigan on?

If anyone in the pro-Common Core camp criticizes Michigan’s action, that will prove these forces have agendas other than the authentic education of children. In the meantime, other state legislatures should jump off the Common Core train before it goes over the cliff. How much more evidence do they need?

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

America’s high school seniors’ reading and math scores have hit a wall

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Joy Resmovits, an editor and reporter who covers education for the Los Angeles Times. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“America’s high school seniors’ reading and math scores have hit a wall”

Excerpts from this article:

America’s high school seniors’ reading and math test scores are barely holding steady or slumping, according to national standardized test results released late Tuesday.

Between 2013 and 2015, on average, students dropped slightly in math and held steady in reading.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP, is a test administered by the federal government. It is considered the gold standard in measuring what students really know, because the results don’t have consequences that could encourage teachers or test takers to game the process.

In math, the average score dropped from 153 to 152, out of 300 points.

On the 500-point reading test, scores dropped one point to 287–a decease officials called statistically insignificant.

The results for seniors weren’t available on a state-by-state basis…

“We’re stalled. That’s the bottom line,”said Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research who used to run the government agency that administers NAEP.

“We’re not making any progress.” The scores come as the country continues to teach and test the Common Core State Standards, a set of learning benchmarks intended to make school more demanding and lessons more consistent among states.

…Officials are confident that the National Assessment accurately captured what students across the country are learning. They said they know that in part because the declines on math were consistent across the areas tested, including geometry, data analysis and algebra.

In 2015, NAEP tested almost 19,000 students in reading and 13,000 in math. In both of those subjects, 37% of students were deemed to be ready for college.

Scores on the lowest end of the reading and math tests were worse than they had been in 2013.

The gap between students who tested well and those who tested poorly concerns Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the government arm that administers the exam. “We need to look at what it means,” she said.

There was one bright spot: In math, the test scores of English language learners…increased by six points since 2013.

But students with disabilities remained stagnant, and students who reported that their parents didn’t finish high school dropped by four points. And since 1992, black students dropped by eight points in reading… 

View the entire article:

http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-how-smart-are-americas-students-naep-seniors-2015-20160426-story.html

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Get Ready to Ditch the SAT and ACT

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Robert Holland, a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

 “Get Ready To Ditch the SAT and ACT”

Decades from now, education historians may observe Common Core (CC) provoked a wave of activism that resulted in decentralizing U.S. education.

That was not what the power elites intended when they concocted standards and assessments intended to apply to all students, teachers, and schools. Their objective was centralization. But their arrogance has activated a hornets’ nest of angry parents intent on reclaiming control over their children’s schooling.

The revolt is going beyond the widespread opt-outs from federally mandated Common Core-linked testing.  Behind the scenes, hard work is proceeding on long-dreamed-of alternatives to the College Board’s century-old dominance of college-entrance testing. Impetus for that came when a key member of the Common Core cabal, testing consultant David Coleman, went straightway from writing the CC English standards to heading up the College Board on an explicit vow to align its SAT with Common Core.

Testing a New Test

Now, with the start of 2016 SAT testing, that has happened. However, the Vector Assessment of Readiness for College (ARC)—a budding SAT alternative—is happening, too. For four years, remarked company spokesman Julie West, “We spent a great deal of time researching entrance exams dating back generations, speaking with professors, retired educators, and professionals. Questions were developed, submitted, and reviewed. Sample questions were also sent to outside evaluators.”

‘Our assessment evaluates math skills through calculus, contains science through chemistry and physics, and contains questions regarding grammar and classic literature.’

ARC beta testing is underway, most recently at the Great Homeschooling Convention in Cincinnati during the first weekend of April. Homeschool families are a natural constituency because linking the SAT and other standardized tests to a de facto national curriculum places homeschoolers’ hard-won freedom from statist overreach and offensive standards in grave peril, but the ARC alternative also may prove to be useful for private and parochial schools, as well as public schools in states not plugged in to Common Core.

“Because the homeschool community is the only sector that has not experienced dramatic shifts in standards or curriculum over the past several years, we have focused on them during beta,” said West. “However, any student with an SAT/ACT or PSAT score may participate in beta testing.

“Because our assessment evaluates math skills through calculus, contains science through chemistry and physics, and contains questions regarding grammar and classic literature, we believe high-achieving students from private and public schools will also benefit from ARC,” said West. “Because we will not permit super scoring, much of the socioeconomic bias has been addressed. Finally, because we are not a timed test, those with special-needs students have been excited to learn about ARC.”

A Drive to Feed Students Substance

Super scoring is a dubious practice whereby students can take their highest scores from multiple SAT tests and piece them into one inflated outcome. Eliminating that kind of gaming would be a solid initial accomplishment for Vector ARC.

Alternatives to the powerhouse College Board, founded in 1900, have been a long time coming.

The Vector team states its assessment will “assess both proficiency of subject matter as well as overall cognitive abilities,” thus maximizing students’ opportunities “to present their strengths.”

At least one other alternative to the entrance-exam monolith is already available, offered through the Annapolis-based Classic Learning Initiatives, which started in 2015. Administered online at testing centers, the two-hour Classic Learning Test (CLT) draws on the works of some of the greatest minds in Western tradition, thinkers of the caliber of C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Luther King Jr., Plato, and Socrates. Several renowned liberal arts colleges, including St. John’s and Thomas Aquinas, accept CLT scores as an alternative to the SAT or ACT.

Alternatives to the powerhouse College Board, founded in 1900, have been a long time coming. The ACT became one such alternative in November 1959, and in 2011, it actually edged out the SAT in total test-takers. Richard Innes, an education analyst at the Bluegrass Institute, says some officials at ACT still believe its “traditional mission is to provide a quality college readiness test that is useful to college admissions offices.” However, Innes also said ACT’s recent joint venture with Pearson Publishing to create a Common Core-type test called Aspire appears to have introduced “mission confusion” at the company.

Then there is the freshly revised federal education law that lets school boards use the SAT and ACT as their federally mandated annual tests, even for students who don’t plan to go to college, saving money for local school districts and ensuring these education-testing giants have continuous access to a $700-million-per-year market. With big education and big testing continuing to feed off each other, the yearning for individualized alternatives is likely to grow.

http://thefederalist.com/2016/04/20/get-ready-to-ditch-the-sat-and-act/

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Concerned Parent on Math TEKS

 

Dear Friends,

This is timely and informative letter from a concerned parent from Katy, Texas in regard to the new Math TEKS

Hello Texas SBOE,

I am writing to thank you for taking the time to listen, discuss, and seriously consider the concerns of parents and a student at the meeting Friday.  I know you have a long schedule at each session.  It is very appreciated that you take the time to have a two way conversation with the constituents that come to the SBOE with concerns.  You have created a great environment for people coming before the board.

I also am grateful that you plan to take future time to discuss what to do with the math TEKS.  I don’t think the SBOE or the authors of the TEKS knew how literally the schools and publishers would follow these TEKS.  The schools are teaching the TEKS and only the TEKS.  The breadth of the TEKs is so overwhelming there is not extra time available.  We cannot assume any more is being done than the literal wording of the TEKS.

For reference I have attached the K-8 TEKS with the word FRACTION capitalized and highlighted in yellow as an example.  If the TEKS say to represent adding and subtracting fractions “using objects and pictorial models that build to the number line and properties of operations” that is all that is taught.  Objects and pictures are great examples to use to teach fractions, but the goal should be to add or subtract any two fractions, without drawing pictures.  I am not sure the definition of “build to the number line and property of operations” but that does note seem to be interpreted by the text book providers or the teachers as actually doing math with fractions to find an answer.

Please note that conversion between improper and mixed fractions is never mentioned in the TEKS.  Mastery of fractions, in my opinion, is critical for later STEM classes.  Without this mastery, unit conversions and so much of math and science are much more difficult.  I fear children will be turned off from the sciences because of a poor math foundation.  I bring up fractions as only one easily identified example.

Please keep in mind I am not a lobbyist, and I have nothing to gain from this effort to improve the math TEKS.  I see what is being done in my daughter’s math class, and I am compelled to try and make it better for her and the other children.  Our ISD is attempting to strictly follow the law and the TEKS, so I understand the remedy is with the SBOE.  Again, thank you for listening and acting on our concerns.

Best regards,

John Pendergraff

Katy, Texas

Below is a link to view the provisions.

http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter111/ch111a.html

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

When Will We Ever Learn: Dissecting The Common Core State Standards

 

Dear Friends,

Informative question and answer segment on Common Core.   Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and an education activist.  Dr. Mark Bertin is a board certified development behavioral pediatrician.

 

[Please read and notice what Dr. Louis Moats said over two years ago. She was already beginning to see the damaging impact of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). She was already sorry that she and Marilyn Adams had taken part as contributing writers of the CCSS because their work was not incorporated into the final standards To Put it nicely, Dr. Moats, Marilyn Adams (and probably other noteworthy researchers) were “used” by David Coleman to make the CCSS look more official and researched-based; but in reality, the CCSS were written by those chosen by Coleman who did not have the deep content knowledge that Dr. Moats and Marilyn Adams had. – Donna Garner]

 

When Will We Ever Learn:

Dissecting The Common Core State Standards with Dr. Louisa Moats

By Mark Bertin, M. D

 

Dr. Louisa Moats, the nationally-renowned teacher, psychologist, researcher and author, was one of the contributing writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS initiative is an attempt to deal with inconsistent academic expectations from state-to-state and an increasing number of inadequately prepared high school graduates by setting high, consistent standards for grades K-12 in English language arts and math. To date, forty-five states have adopted the standards. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the implementation of the CCSS with Dr. Moats.

Dr. Bertin:   What was your involvement in the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

Dr. Moats:   Marilyn Adams and I were the team of writers, recruited in 2009 by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, who drafted the Foundational Reading Skills section of the CCSS and closely reviewed the whole ELA (English Language Arts) section for K-5. We drafted sections on Language and Writing Foundations that were not incorporated into the document as originally drafted. I am the author of the Reading Foundational Skills section of Appendix A.

Dr. Bertin:   What did you see as potential benefits of establishing the CCSS when you first became involved?

Dr. Moats:  I saw the confusing inconsistencies among states’ standards, the lowering of standards overall, and the poor results for our high school kids in international comparisons. I also believed that the solid consensus in reading intervention research could be reflected in standards and that we could use the CCSS to promote better instruction for kids at risk.

Dr. Bertin:  What has actually happened in its implementation?

Dr. Moats:  I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests. How naïve I was. The CCSS represent lofty aspirational goals for students aiming for four year, highly selective colleges. Realistically, at least half, if not the majority, of students are not going to meet those standards as written, although the students deserve to be well prepared for career and work through meaningful and rigorous education.

Our lofty standards are appropriate for the most academically able, but what are we going to do for the huge numbers of kids that are going to “fail” the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test?  We need to create a wide range of educational choices and pathways to high school graduation, employment, and citizenship. The Europeans got this right a long time ago.

If I could take all the money going to the testing companies and reinvest it, I’d focus on the teaching profession – recruitment, pay, work conditions, rigorous and on-going training. Many of our teachers are not qualified or prepared to teach the standards we have written. It doesn’t make sense to ask kids to achieve standards that their teachers have not achieved!

Dr. Bertin:   What differences might there be for younger students versus older students encountering it for the first time?

Dr. Moats:   What is good for older students (e.g., the emphasis on text complexity, comprehension of difficult text, written composition, use of internet resources) is not necessarily good for younger students who need to acquire the basic skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Novice readers (typically through grade 3) need a stronger emphasis on the foundational skills of reading, language, and writing than on the “higher level” academic activities that depend on those foundations, until they are fluent readers.

Our CCSS guidelines, conferences, publishers’ materials, and books have turned away from critical, research-based methodologies on how to develop the basic underlying skills of literacy. Systematic, cumulative skill development and code-emphasis instruction is getting short shrift all around, even though we have consensus reports from the 1920’s onward that show it is more effective than comprehension-focused instruction.

I’m listening, but I don’t hear the words “research based” as often as I did a decade ago – and when CCSS proponents use the words, they’re usually referring to the research showing that high school kids who can’t read complex text don’t do as well in college. Basic findings of reading and literacy research, information about individual differences in reading and language ability, and explicit teaching procedures are really being lost in this shuffle.

Dr. Bertin:  What benefits have you seen or heard about so far as the CCSS has been put in place, and what difficulties?

Dr. Moats:   The standards may drive the adoption or use of more challenging and complex texts for kids to read and a wider sampling of genres. If handled right, there could be a resurgence of meaty curriculum of the “core knowledge” variety. There may be more emphasis on purposeful, teacher-directed writing. But we were making great inroads into beginning reading assessment and instruction practices between 2000-2008 that now are being cast aside in favor of “reading aloud from complex text” – which is not the same as teaching kids how to read on their own, accurately and fluently.

 

Dr.  Bertin:  What has the impact been on classroom teachers?

Dr. Moats:  Classroom teachers are confused, lacking in training and skills to implement the standards, overstressed, and the victims of misinformed directives from administrators who are not well grounded in reading research.  I’m beginning to get messages from very frustrated educators who threw out what was working in favor of a new “CCSS aligned” program, and now find that they don’t have the tools to teach kids how to read and write. Teachers are told to use “grade level” texts, for example; if half the kids are below grade level by definition, what does the teacher do? She has to decide whether to teach “the standard” or teach the kids.

Dr. Bertin:  You’ve raised concerns elsewhere that CCSS represents a compromise that does not emphasize educational research.  How do the CCSS reflect, or fail to reflect, research in reading instruction?

Dr.  Moats:   The standards obscure the critical causal relationships among components, chiefly the foundational skills and the higher level skills of comprehension that depend on fluent, accurate reading.  Foundations should be first!  The categories of the standards obscure the interdependence of decoding, spelling, and knowledge of language. The standards contain no explicit information about foundational writing skills, which are hidden in sections other than “writing”, but which are critical for competence in composition.

The standards treat the foundational language, reading, and writing skills as if they should take minimal time to teach and as if they are relatively easy to teach and to learn. They are not. The standards call for raising the difficulty of text, but many students cannot read at or above grade level, and therefore may not receive enough practice at levels that will build their fluency gradually over time.

Dr. Bertin:  How about recommendations for writing?

Dr. Moats:   We need a foundational writing skills section in the CCSS, with a much more detailed progression. We should not be requiring 3rd graders to compose on the computer. Writing in response to reading is a valuable activity, but teachers need a lot of assistance knowing what to assign, how to support writing, and how to give corrective feedback that is constructive.  Very few know how to teach kids to write a sentence, for example.

Dr. Bertin:   In an article for the International Dyslexia Association, you wrote “raising standards and expectations, without sufficient attention to known cause and remedies for reading and academic failure, and without a substantial influx of new resources to educate and support teachers, is not likely to benefit students with mild, moderate, or severe learning difficulties.”   You also mention that 34% of the population as a whole is behind academically in fourth grade, and in high poverty areas 70-80% of students are at risk for reading failure.

How does the CCSS impact children who turn out to need additional academic supports for learning disabilities, ADHD or other educational concerns?

Dr. Moats:   I have not yet seen a well-informed policy directive that addresses the needs of these populations. There are absurd directives about “universal design for learning” and endless accommodations, like reading a test aloud, to kids with learning disabilities. Why would we want to do that? The test itself is inappropriate for many kids.

Dr. Bertin:   How does it relate to concerns you have about teacher training in general? 

Dr. Moats:   What little time there is for professional development is being taken up by poorly designed workshops on teaching comprehension of difficult text or getting kids to compose arguments and essays. This will not be good for the kids who need a systematic, explicit form of instruction to reach basic levels of academic competence.

I’ve been around a long time, and this feels like 1987 all over again, with different words attached to the same problems. When will we ever learn?

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Comparison – Two Types of Education

Dear Friends,

 

A comparison chart on two types of education, shared by Donna Garner (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.   Original chart produced by Education Consultant Carole H. Haynes, Ph.D.

 

                                  Type #1 (Traditional) vs. Type #2 (CSCOPE & Common Core)

 

Description  

Type#1 Traditional

Classical Learning

 

 

Type #2 CSCOPE/CommonCore

Standard Progressive, 

Radical Social Justice Agenda

     
Instruction Direct instruction by teacher Self-directed learning, group-thinkEmphasis on:Subjectivity, feelings, emotions, beliefs, multiculturalism, political correctness, social engineering, globalism, evolution, sexual freedom, contraceptives, environmental extremism, global warming and climate change, victimization, diversity, acceptance of homosexuality as normal, redistribution of wealthDe-emphasis on:Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution, national sovereignty, Founding Fathers, American exceptionalism
     
Curriculum Academic, fact-based, skills, research Social concerns, project-based, constructivism, subjective, uses unproven fads and theories
     
Teacher’s Role Authority figure; sets the plan for the class; academic instruction Facilitator
     
Student’s Role Learn from teacher; focus on factual learning, develop foundation skills for logical and analytical reasoning, independent thinking Students teach each other; focus on feelings, emotions, opinions; group-think
     
English, Language Arts, Reading (ELAR) Phonics; classical literature; cursive handwriting; grammar; usage; correct spelling; expository, persuasive, research writing Whole language, balanced literacy,Guided Reading; no cursive writing instruction so cannot read primary documents of Founding Fathers
Mathematics “Drill and Skill,” four math functions learned to automaticity Fuzzy math, rejects drill and memorization of math facts, dependent on calculators
     
Social Studies Focus on American heritage and exceptionalism, national sovereignty, Founding documents Diversity, multiculturalism, globalization, revisionist history, political correctness
     
Character Development Pro-faith, self-control, personal responsibility, self-discipline, solid work ethic Secular, moral relativism, anti-faith, victimization
     
Equality Equal opportunities Equal outcomes
     
Assessment Students evaluated by earned grades, objective tests Inflated grades, subjective assessments evaluated based upon value system of grader, group grades
     
Outcomes Objective tests (right-or-wrong answers), emphasis on academic skills and knowledge Subjective assessments; emphasis on holistic, “feel good” scoring

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Open Letter from Kim Belcher to the State Board of Education

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Kim Belcher, a Katy Texas ISD parent.  Shared by Donna Garner, (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.

Open Letter from Kim Belcher

To The Texas State Board of Education and Texas Legislature

 It is with remorse, frustration and somewhat without knowing what is next that I write to you, following the viewing of the hearing by the Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability that was held in Austin yesterday.

I am appalled by Governor Greg Abbott’s choice of appointment of Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath.  While we witnessed a despicable display of arrogance by the Commissioner, I was grateful to finally hear him take ownership of the Common Core and national alignment in our state standards.  Not only did he grace us with his humor and his wit as it pertains to being dismissive of our State laws, but he took a gleeful sort of pride in his ownership of this behemoth.

We learned from the Governor’s Commissioner and some of his supporters that our children are a profit and loss tick for the end game of Education Reform. We learned that he fully intends to comply with Federal mandates and “what the Federal government expects.” We now understand that he fully intends to monitor our children from cradle to grave for the purposes of “workforce development.”  These measures are not just of academic performance, but actual physical responses to circumstances in the classroom.  I was taken aback by the number of times “real time” was referred to and the number of metrics that will be supplied by this real time data initiative.

This Commission and any of our elected bodies that do not stand against are working toward pitting the people of this State against the government.

This is a pivotal point for education in our State because the powers that be are no longer hiding their intentions.  Monitoring of our children at a Federal level, while denigrating the quality of their education is reminiscent of Communist models that the world has experienced in the past.

Social engineering, diminishing reading, writing and arithmetic in exchange for teaching values, attitudes and beliefs, tracking the moment by moment performance and emotion of school children, dictating the outcomes of their adult lives through the use of data, nanny state government in education… these things are the antithesis of Liberty.  Remember Liberty?  Remember the Republic?  Remember individual sovereignty?  Remember the enumerated powers?

This is a historical movement that will have your names on it.  Which side of the equation will you be on?  We know what to expect of the Beltran’s in this shift, but several of you identify yourselves to your constituents as Conservatives.  Conservatives are liberty minded and understand the rights of the individual. Are you going to sign off on this knowing that it violates every premise that this country was founded upon?  Will you let that rest on your shoulders?  Will you be able to sleep at night knowing that you didn’t at least attempt to stand up for our kids, our state and our nation?

We will soon see because the time to stop it is now, before it fully makes its way into the classroom.  You are either with the children or you are not. Make your position known today.

https://mykidzliberty.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/c-is-for-conservative-or-communist/

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com