Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

A New (Old) Component of Postsecondary Readiness

If you’ve lost track of the ongoing conversation, especially here in Colorado (but generally across the US), about college and workforce readiness. There’s been lots of buzz about it. The Colorado Department of Education is town hall forums meetings all over the state. All this, you may recall is a result of Senate Bill 08-212, the “Preschool to Postsecondary Education Alignment Act” also known as the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4Kids) legislation introduced by Governor Ritter. According to one CDE news release,

The town hall forums will focus on such questions as:

  • What do students need to be workforce ready?
  • What do students need to be postsecondary ready?
  • Are there special considerations for the workforce or higher education in your region of the state?

S.B. 08-212 requires that the Colorado State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education adopt a description of “postsecondary and workforce readiness” by Dec. 15, 2009.

Further, S.B. 08-212 seeks to establish a seamless pathway from preschool into college or the workplace. Essential to that pathway is an understanding of what it means to be ready for education or the workforce after high school and a plan to ensure that students take the necessary courses and master the content to do so.

These are good questions, no doubt, but CDE is missing a critical element, a new (old) component of postsecondary readiness…

Cost.

I don’t mean how much all this legislation is going to cost. (That’s a whole post in itself.) I mean the cost of going to college. Consider an article from today’s New York Times that reports “…college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent.”

Sure, we need to prepare our kids for postsecondary and workforce readiness; I’m not arguing that -yet. But, once we get them ready -especially for college -then what? Student loans, multiple jobs, navigating college over 6-7 years, scholarships and grants (not for all)? Not likely, probable, viable, sustainable, or practical. How many financial crises do we need in this country until we learn massive debt is NOT a good thing?

Unfortunately, massive debt is what we are really making our kids ready for as long as postsecondary education is a commodity to be brokered on capitalistic terms. That is our fundamental problem at the intersection of democracy and capitalism. We simply want postsecondary education for all, but we really can’t provide it for all. We can’t pay for it because we have to pay for it. No government “ism,” assistance programs, or bailout plans are going to help; no legislation introduced by and governor, president, mayor, or whomever will make a difference until we decide that education is a fundamental right for everyone. We’ll fall miserably short of our readiness goals until we restructure our social, economic, political, and cultural priorities to make it happen.

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December 5, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Acronymns Started Fighting This Week

Subtitle: Education Reform Legislation Update -4.19.08

On Thursday (4/17/08) this week I received my BriefCASE from the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) detailing the legislative updates and amendments for Senate Bill 212, also called Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4Kids), that passed the second reading of the bill in the Senate. I have referenced this initiative-turned-bill in two of my previous posts on March 19, 2008 and March 30, 2008.

CASE writes (I’ve added links): “These amendments will put Colorado on a fast track to piloting EPAS (Educational Planning and Assessment System) for purposes of data collection in the 2008-2009 school year. The next phase would call for the elimination of 9th and 10th grade CSAP and adoption of ACT College Readiness Standards for reading, writing, math, and science. It would move forward the following assessment package: Explore in 9th grade; PLAN in 10th grade and ACT plus ACT writing in 11th grade. All assessments would be administered in the spring.”

Later that day, I received a news release from the Colorado Department of Education(CDE) that detailed Commissioner Dwight D. Jones‘ “concerns about rush to adopt assessments before standards.” CDE Communications can be found at http://www.cde.state.co.us/Communications/index.html. Here are some quotes from the press release.

Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones today expressed his concern that amendments to Senate Bill 212 approved today may tie the hands of the department in choosing the best possible standards and assessments for Colorado students.

Specific concerns (abbreviated and bulleted, read the full text here)

  • Alignment with standards. The ACT/EPAS products are not based on content standards adopted by 178 school districts across the state.
  • Achievement gap information.“The Colorado public needs an assurance that any proposed system would provide a similar or better view of achievement gaps.”
  • Costs. “No state in the country has gained federal approval for what is being proposed today,” said Commissioner Jones. “No costs have been projected or identified for the process of gaining federal approval…
  • Growth model. “It’s unclear what adjustments are needed to fit a new test into the growth model,” said Commissioner Jones.

This appears to be the first skirmish in the highly publicized legislation. The legislative amendments definitely seem to be an acknowledgement, albeit political, of the general (correct or not) perception that CSAP is an irrelevant (at least in terms of usefulness to students beyond high school) exam. CDE has spent much of their time and energy on a longitudinal growth model that has CSAP scores at its heart. See Reference 1 and Reference 2for more information. There’s a sort of disconnect since the legislature, in House Bill 07-1048, required CDE to work with a technical advisory panel appointed by Governor Ritterto “to revise the growth model developed under HB 04-1433 to better quantify student growth (CRS § 22-7-604.3). The statute stipulates that the analysis of longitudinal growth should serve as the cornerstone of Colorado’s education accountability system.” (Note: HB 07-1048 is in the appendix in Reference 1 and mentions CSAP specifically. See the press releasefrom the technical advisory panel from March 6, 2008.) Apparently the House, Senate, Governor, CDE and the 178 school districts have lots of work to do before this becomes a practical reality. Is practical too hopeful of a word?

As an additional point the people over at ACT must be absolutely drooling over the prospect of getting an entire state of 9th and 10th grade students taking their tests. Of course we have mandated the ACT for our 11th graders already. Let’s not forget that although ACT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit company, they aren’t giving their tests away and it’s in their best interests to capture as many kids as possible to give weight to their college and workplace influences. Their continued corporate health directly depends on their sustained growth. Their National Career Readiness Certificate and the associated WorkKeys assessment can’t be far behind if we go down the currently proposed legislative path. 

CSAP or EPAS, I could go on, but I already have: Fit: Corporational Education; State Standardized Test Questions. Let’s just hope there’s not more Death Threats for Test Scores (Thanks, Wes!)

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fit: Corporational Education

Well, the blog does have “Fit” in the title…

I took a survey today in order to give “input to understand the expectations that various stakeholders have of Colorado’s graduates.” I think there is an implicit assumption that the input come from Colorado people, but the information is publicly available on the web at the Colorado Department of Education website under the CDE Communications link.

Disclaimer: I have the utmost respect for many of the people at CDE and those serving on the Graduation Guidelines Development Council. I know more than a few of these people personally and I’m excited about the change in direction. More than one of them is absolutely brilliant and I apologize if this is perceived to diminish their work. I really am hoping for the best, but it’s dark, and the iceberg has been spotted. The opinions listed below may not represent anyone else’s but my own. I reserve the right to change my opinion after further consideration and persuasion -and emergence from this fugue. Maybe it’s Dr. Cook’s book, but it’s sure a raw nerve right now.

With that said, some of the questions stood out. Most used a Likert scale that had the items Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. One question read…

6. What should be the primary outcome(s) of public education? How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following? (Insert Likert scale after each item with check buttons)

a.) Post-secondary Readiness    
b.) Workforce Readiness     
c.) Minimum competencies 
d.) Socialization and general education
e.) Create thoughtful and responsible citizenry
f.) Other

And another…

7. How can the high school experience be improved? How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following? (Insert Likert scale after each item with check buttons)a.) Increase the rigor and expectations
b.) Provide relevancy for the subjects taught
c.) Integrate more career and technical opportunities
d.) Increase the chance to apply content learned
e.) Provide students with access to programs and curriculum so that they can make informed decisions about their post-secondary lives     
f.) Other
And…8. How can high schools motivate students to excel? How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following? (Insert Likert scale after each item with check buttons)

a.) Offer students an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of course content in order to move through the system at their own rate
b.) Provide internships to apply content learnings to “real work”
c.) Create high schools that are “career pathways” thus enabling students to plan their post-secondary careers early
d.) Offer opportunities for participation in a variety of rigorous academic programming to assure students have the skills necessary to make post secondary choices
e.) Offer students more “dual credit ” opportunities that count toward high school graduation and college credit
f.) Other

First of all, I’m encouraged that some of the choices reflect some more modern considerations and some of the later questions have some of the same types of progressive choices. When I considered the choices and the areas they represent (not counting “other”), one or two of the responses fell outside the corporate realm. (As an aside, as you’ll see below, I group colleges and universities in with corporations.) I hope this is an opportunity to change things, at least in Colorado, but with the disproportionate weighting of choices, I’m discouraged. I gave my thoughts at the end of the survey, right or wrong, practical or not. I submit them here for your consideration…

Our kids should NOT be held to the so-called achievement metrics that have their origins in corporate America. The current educational practice in Colorado and the US to create workers, either right out of high school or eventually out of college, makes us (education) subservient to the corporations who have a vested interest in having a constant flow of employees. Our focus on seat time, and core subject standardization (at the expense, often, of non-tested areas), and school days and calendars that were designed in the Industrial Age have moved us away from the pursuit of knowledge, democracy, collaboration, communication and innovation. The difficulty in quantifying these ideals makes them unpalatable for a culture obsessed with wealth accumulation and proves that we should be educating and developing kids, not producing automatons for colleges and businesses.

We have let colleges and universities in Colorado dictate to us what courses our kids should have in order to attend them. We acquiesced; as a result, we are a party to educational discrimination and elitism. When we examine the source of these dictum, we find that they come from those with a vested interest in maintaining a fiscal bottom line, not a human one. The colleges and universities, who hunger for more tuition dollars, have partnered with corporate entities, like ACT, to produce a self-serving set of requirements designed to increase their capital intake. Meanwhile kids continue to drop out of our schools citing lack of relevance and lack of engagement as primary reasons. They are smarter than we think. They see a life of servitude either to the higher education or corporate machines. In that regard we have failed them.

Our current educational system is designed for a world that no longer exists. Schools are constantly prevented from producing a moral populace of learners and teachers, innovators and communicators, citizens (both local and global) and thinkers, servants and seekers, creators and collaborators. We are stopped by business methodologies and corporate expectations. The world has changed fundamentally especially for the US, yet we want to keep reinventing our archaic, outmoded, and ill-conceived system. This survey seems designed to justify that position.

March 5, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment