CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Inactive Data

So about that actionable data…

One of the frequently-offered reasons for the Big Standardized Tests is that they are supposed to provide information that will allow classroom teachers to “inform instruction,” to tweak our instruction to better prepare for the test better educate our students. Let me show you what that really means in Pennsylvania.

Our BS Tests are called the Keystones (we’re the Keystone State– get it?). They are not a state requirement yet– the legislature has blinked a couple of times now and kicked that can down the road. Because these tests are norm-referenced aka graded on a curve, using them as a graduation requirement is guaranteed to result in the denial of diplomas for some huge number of Pennsylvania students. However, many local districts like my own, make them a local graduation requirement in anticipation of the day when the legislature has the nerve to pull the trigger (right now 2019 is the year it all happens). The big difference with a local requirement is that we can offer an alternative assessment; our students who never pass the Keystones must complete the Binder of Doom– a huge collection of exercises and assessment activities that allow them to demonstrate mastery.  It’s no fun, but it beats not getting a diploma because you passed all your classes but failed on bad standardized test.

Why do local districts attach stakes to the Keystones? Because our school rating and our individual teacher ratings depend upon those test results.

So it is with a combination of curiosity and professional concern that I try to find real, actionable data in the Keystone results, to see if there are things I can do, compromises I can make, even insights I can glean from breaking that data down.

The short answer is no. Let me walk you through the long answer. (We’re just going to stick to the ELA results here).

The results come back to the schools from the state in the form of an enormous Excel document. It has as many lines as there are students who took the test, and the column designations go from A to FB. They come with a key to identify what each column includes; to create a document that you can easily read requires a lot of column hiding (the columns with the answer to “Did this student pass the test” are BP, BQ and BR.

Many of the columns are administrivia– did this student use braille, did the student use paper or computer, that sort of thing. But buried in the columns are raw scores and administrative scores for each section of the test. There are two “modules” and each “module” includes two anchor standards segments. The Key gives a explanation of these:

I can also see raw scores broken down by multiple choice questions and “constructed” answers. The constructed answers can get a score of 1 through 10.

Annnnnnnnd that’s it.

You might think that a good next step would be to look at student results broken down by questions with those questions tagged to the particular sub-standard they purport to measure. That’s not happening. In fact, not only are these assessment anchors not broken down, but if you go to the listing of Pennsylvania Core Standards (because we are one of those states that totally ditched renamed Common Core), you will see that L.F.1 etc only sort of correspond to specific Core Standards.

You might also think that being able to see exactly what questions the students got wrong would allow me to zero in on what I need to teach more carefully or directly, but of course, I am forbidden to so much as look at any questions from the test, and if I accidentally see one, I should scrub it from my memory. Protecting the proprietary materials of the test manufacturer is more important than giving me the chance to get detailed and potentially useful student data from the results.

You’ll also note that “reading for meaning” is assessed based on no more than six or seven questions (I don’t know for a fact that it’s one point per question, but the numbers seem about right based on student reports of test length– not that I’ve ever looked at a copy of the test myself, because that would be a Terrible Ethical Violation).

So that’s it. That’s my actionable data. I know that my students got a score by answering some questions covering one of four broad goals. I don’t know anything about those questions, and I don’t know anything about my students’ answers. I can compare how they do on fiction vs. non-fiction, and for what it’s worth, only a small percentage shows a significant gap between the two scores. I can see if students who do well in my class do poorly on the test, or vice-versa. I can compare the results to our test prep test results and see if our test prep test is telling us anything useful (spoiler alert– it is not).

But if you are imagining that I look at test results and glean insights like “Man, my students need more work on interpreting character development through use of symbolism or imagery” or “Wow, here’s a list of terms I need to cover more carefully” or “They’re just now seeing how form follows function in non-fiction writing structures”– well, that’s not happening.

In the world of actionable data, the Keystones, like most of the Big Standardized Tests, are just a big fat couch potato, following a design that suggests their primary purpose is to make money for the test manufacturing company. Go ahead and make your other arguments for why we need to subject students to this annual folly, but don’t use my teaching as one of your excuses, because the BS Test doesn’t help me one bit.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Inactive Data

Nominations are now open for NEA’s 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year Award – Education Votes

Education Justice Starts Here! Do you know an educator who demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, members, parents and the community to advocate on social justice issues? Do you know someone who impacts the lives of students, fellow educators and their communities as an activist and leader? Tell us about them! NEA’s … Continued…

Source: Nominations are now open for NEA’s 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year Award – Education Votes

NEA Student Member Jaffa Williams shares the inspiration for her activism – Education Votes

“When I look at what’s happening across the country in the field of education – the attacks on unions, the dismissive way teachers are treated by policymakers and the alarming funding priorities, I know that I need to take action.”

Source: NEA Student Member Jaffa Williams shares the inspiration for her activism – Education Votes

Trump isn’t worse than George W. Bush or Richard Nixon — yet | Eclectablog

Understanding conservatism is Corey Robin’s specialty.

His book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin — which Robin is updating for a reissue this spring — posits that the defining thread the movement that now defines the Republican Party is “the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back” — or, in other words, “Make America Great Again.”

Well, not just America.

According to Robin, conservatism — since its genesis as a response to the French Revolution — “has always been a reactionary doctrine. And specifically what it has been a reaction against are movements of disposed classes that are trying to assert some agency or power on behalf of themselves,” Robin told Daniel Denvir on a recent episode of The Dig podcast.

Conservatism’s genius, Robin argues, is that it continually presents a new defense of keeping power in the hands of those who have been blessed by birth with it.

This is how Donald Trump can both be seen as abomination of Goldwater’s great legacy by conservatives while presenting characteristics of the “alpha male/strict father” mindset that make him the most conservative ever to conservative.

READ MORE HERE: Trump isn’t worse than George W. Bush or Richard Nixon — yet | Eclectablog

Bill Cobbs makes his case for why he should be Michigan’s governor | The Michigan Chronicle

By Keith A. Owens, Senior Editor

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer remains the most well-known candidate to have announced an intended run for Michigan Governor in 2018, but she is no longer the lone candidate. Since Whitmer’s January announcement, others have entered the race early as well with ideas on how to make Michigan better. Bill Cobbs, is one of those candidates. Last week, the Chronicle had the opportunity to sit down with Cobbs and learn more about  his positions and why he thinks he should be the next governor.

 When did you decide you wanted to run?

 Well, I really started paying attention to what was going on in our state about six years ago. And then, when the Flint water crisis came up, I got closer.

But I kept waiting to see if there was any significant movement on the part of the Democrats in the state.

That didn’t happen.

And I didn’t see the governor doing anything, and that moved me a little bit closer.  I finally made up my mind that I was going to do it, probably January of 2016.

Was the Flint water crisis the main thing that got you into the race?

 Well no, we have a state with tons of issues, but we have ignored fundamental issues that really impact the overall health of our state. I’ve watched as there’s been this unabated attack on public k-12 education in this state, and the impact that it’s had.

I’ve watched us ignore our infrastructure issues, while at the same time we were extending tax breaks to corporations that didn’t need it. And we have provided millions of dollars in corporate welfare and not taking care of the needs of ordinary citizens.

I think we have an outrageous tax policy in this state, that always seeks to do the things that need to be done on the backs of individual taxpayers and give those who can most afford it, the people at the top and the corporations, huge tax breaks, and that’s got to stop.

And finally, the thing that pretty much pushed me over the edge is watching us say to citizens that we don’t have to guarantee safe clean water to you, but we’re gonna give what amounts to a billion-dollar subsidy to a company like Nestle.

At the same time, we haven’t done anything to really abate the citizens in Flint. They’re paying roughly $200 a month for water they can’t use.

What’s your plan for Flint?

 Flint, as much as anything else, is an infrastructure issue. You’ve got 16,000 lead delivery lines that need to be replaced. Last year, the city of Flint did somewhere between 500 and 700 lines. Now left to their own means, it would take them 20 years to get this project done.

So, in addition to providing financial resources, the state has got to provide the manpower to get this done. One of the things I’m going to propose as the next governor of the state is that we develop a statewide infrastructure replacement program.

So that when we have situations like Flint they can go to the top of that list. But we need to attack our infrastructure issues throughout the entire state, because if you look at Detroit, you know Flint only has 16,000 [lead delivery lines].

Detroit has 120,000.

And anyone who tells you we don’t have infrastructure issues associated with those delivery lines, they’re lying to you. We are a tragedy waiting to happen.

What would you do to fund this?

 There are two things; to get us started, we’re going to float a 30-year municipal bond, so that we get the money.

But the way we’re going to service that bond is I want to move toward a constitutional amendment that would allow us to change our tax structure, so rather than having one flat tax structure for everybody in the state?

We maintain the tax structure as it is for families that have a household income of less than $200,000. But if a family has a greater income, they would go to a graduated income tax.

If we did that, that additional revenue that we brought in could be used to service our debt for our construction programs, and it could also be used to do the things that people got excited about when Bernie was running.

How would you navigate the heavily Republican Michigan legislature?

 The Democratic party has got to change the way it approaches elections. In order to change the makeup of the legislature, we’ve got to identify strong candidates this year, and by the end of this year, cut out the party infighting, and have strong candidates that we can put on the ballot across the state so that we really do have an opportunity to take back some of those districts where we don’t play today.

So if we can convince folks that it makes more sense to declare early, get into the pool of candidates, and allow folks to see them, to hear them to have an opportunity to evaluate this this year.

And go into next year focused 100 percent not on fighting other Democrats but on fighting the Republicans, I think we got a chance to make some significant inroads in the State House and Senate.

Source: Bill Cobbs makes his case for why he should be Michigan’s governor | The Michigan Chronicle



As I meet people across the state, I am amazed how similar we are. They say our nation is divided, but from barbershops to coffee shops, Michiganders I meet share many concerns.

Citizens express their concern for our future, for our infrastructure, for the people of Flint, for our Great Lakes, and for our schools. I have heard stories of citizens’ triumph over adversity, speaking up in the face of retaliation by Emergency Managers, and teachers standing up for students who have no one else. I am encouraged and strengthened by you. We can take back our state.

If you’d like me to speak to your circle of friends, community or political group, service club, civic organization or county Democrats chapter feel free to send an email to my scheduler, Jeffrey Salisbury at .

No group is too large or too small. I hope to meet you soon.

  • Bill Cobbs

Source: Clean Up Michigan – Bill Cobbs for Governor in MI


Phone: 248-331-3275

The people of Michigan have waited too long for the infrastructure, water and educational issues in our state to be solved. If you want a Governor whose priority is putting the people first, you can help out with a donation. Every donation goes a long ways to reaching out to voters just like you, so we can win.
Bill does NOT accept donations from corporations.

Source: Creating Quality Education – Bill Cobbs for Governor in MI

MI House passes bills on high school graduation requirements

Lansing Eastern Graduation

LANSING – High school students might be able to take different classes such as computer coding instead of English and statistics rather than algebra II to help them graduate under a package of bills passed by the Michigan House on Thursday.

The bills would change requirements in foreign language, mathematics, health and English. Currently, Michigan high school students are required to complete the Merit Standard Curriculum to graduate that requires a specific number of credits in English, science, mathematics and other classes.

Under the new package of bills, the English credits would be replaced with 21st century skills with a combination of different classes students could take like computer coding or science classes. Additionally, another bill would allow for 30 hours of safety training by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to replace the requirement for a health education requirement.

North Branch Republican state Rep. Gary Howell sponsored a bill that would let students either take algebra II or statistics to fulfil part of the math requirement.

“It’s a pretty straightforward bill what it did is allow a student going forward to make a choice, right now algebra II is mandatory, under my bill they would have a choice of statistics if they would find that more useful for their future career,” Howell said.

State Rep. Curt VanderWall, R- Ludington, said it is extremely important to him to make sure kids and families make the best decisions they can career wise.

“This opens up the opportunity for the young people to do career tech and really learn where they want to go for their future,” VanderWall said. “College is not for everybody, we encourage everybody that goes but you know who knows better but the parent, the school the counselors and the child.”

VanderWall also said that he also met with superintendents from his district and the response to the legislation has been positive.

READ MORE HERE: House passes bills on high school graduation requirements

Michigan House panel trims higher ed budget plan

A Michigan House panel approved a higher education budget plan that spends less than Gov. Snyder’s recommendation

Lansing — Five universities would remain below 2011 funding levels under a preliminary college and university budget a House panel approved Thursday that is $9 million below Gov. Rick Snyder’s recommendation.

The budget could change again when the full House and Senate consider it. But the panel’s move signals more resistance from House Republicans who have trimmed millions of dollars from the fellow GOP governor’s proposed budget to prove the state would have enough money to pay for an income tax cut.

Democrats have opposed the move.


Post-Labor Day school start law would be axed under Michigan bill |

Michigan is one of three states to require schools to start after Labor Day

Post-Labor Day school start law would be axed underMichigan bill

But education groups oppose the law and want it changed, saying the … schools to start after Labor Day, Knollenberg’s office said in a news release.

READ MORE HERE: Post-Labor Day school start law would be axed under Michigan bill |