Standardized Tests Now Found to be Unnecessary

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Tyler B., May 14, 2015.

  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    A professor at Seton Hall University has figured out how to accurately predict district test scores using parent income and other available demographic data.

    This goes to show that the tests do not show that charters, vouchers or other factors have a big impact on student scores. It's all about their parents.

    The tests do not show us which schools are failing. They show us where the impoverished children live.

    There are better ways to locate poor families other than giving their children hours of test prep and tests.
     
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  3. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    May 14, 2015

    If you believe you have no impact...
     
  4. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    It is no surprise that his research showed that parents in poverty (who usually have a very limited education) have children who are not performing as well as parents who have a higher education level.

    All it indicates to me is that better educated parents will make sure their children learn whether or not the school is providing that education. They will teach at home, provide tutors, and do other things to ensure their children don't end up behind.

    That is not a ringing endorsement for schools. What it says to me and always has is that the school system is doing a poor job educating students in general. Parents are picking up the slack of a sub-par system.
     
  5. Tyler B.

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    Nope. What it shows is that impoverished children perform poorly. You are making things up if you think it says that all schools are bad or performing poorly.

    It does not say that poor kids have bad parents or that high performing students have better parents. That's quite a huge leap.

    Poor kids live under a great deal more stress than other children. Stress has a profound negative impact on brain development and cognition. Of course stressed children score poorly. Don't blame it on their teachers.
     
  6. Jerseygirlteach

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    I think that's an odd way of looking at things. There is only so much schools can do. Many/most of my students have no access to books outside of school, spend most of their free time watching tv or playing video games, eat meals that have very little nutritional value, and have parents that can give them little to no assistance with homework or studying for tests. You cannot realistically expect schools to compensate for all that these kids lack outside of school in the 6 or 7 hours they spend in school. Schools are not "sub-par" because they don't have omnipotent power over the lives of their students.

    Going back to the other thread about Finland...I found it ironic that giving them less work and more freedom were cited as reasons for their success. Of course that works over there, because so much of the rest of their lives are filled with enriching activities. I would never suggest cutting the school day here because my students would just use that time to play more Call of Duty.

    In many Asian countries, many students spend hours outside of the classroom working with parents and tutors to learn more and get ahead. Are these Asian countries "sub-par" too? Not likely. They do a good job of educating students, but the students have higher success rates than we do due to cultural influences.
     
  7. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    Yep. So interesting.

    I teach at a private school, but 25% of our students are on scholarship, are low income, and enter the school with low test grades. Most of them are very successful here. Many people in the community say "BCS does so much better than our public school with the same students! These public schools aren't good!"

    However, that's not quite the full picture. While nearly all of these 25% of students have parents who don't have a high school diploma, they have parents who are motivated to pursue educational alternatives for their children, are willing to go through a serious interview process, and are willing to meet to requirements for parental involvement (For example, our parents have to take their child to a library twice a month). In short, they value education and understand what it means to push their child for academic success. That makes a huge difference.

    I do think that the difference is largely due to attitude and home environment, not necessarily parents providing tutors, doing projects, etc.
     
  8. Pashtun

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    Yep, this is so true.
     
  9. a2z

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    Then why weren't these students successful in the public schools if the parents had the right attitudes and home environment? Why did they have to go to a private school in order to be successful?
     
  10. swansong1

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    In public school, perhaps these parents(students) were fish in a large pond. In a smaller private schools the parents are large fish in a small pond.

    School scores will be affected if the majority of parents(students) are not like the ones in the poster's private school. Schools with a majority of excelling parents will excel also.
     
  11. Tyler B.

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    How do you know these aren't the kids who WERE doing well in public schools? You just pulled a finding out of your hat. You need to reexamine how your beliefs affect your conclusions because you are just making up facts.

    There are some really great charters. There are some really great public schools. Overall charters underperform public. Some of the charters outperform public by cherrypicking their students. The KIPP schools rid themselves of 40% of their black boys between grades 6 and 8. What's left are the kids whose parents offer the most support. These are the very kids who would do well in public.
     
  12. a2z

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    The issue is that the parents and the home environment is blamed when the students don't learn. That is not always the case as you are indicating here. But these students that wen to the private school (far behind) had a good home environment and had parents who valued education. Yet they weren't learning. When their standardized tests scores were low, the home would be pointed to as the problem. The fact is, it was not their home but the school's inability to properly educate them.

    What I am sure you would find in many schools that it is only a small number of students who really are the issue but the ineffectiveness of the solutions used by the school makes the issues larger making it appear as if the problem is with the students and parents, but it is a combination of a few problem parents and school dysfunction.
     
  13. Peregrin5

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    I disagree. I think the school system for the most part does a fantastic job of educating students. But it does a poor job of parenting students. The school system isn't built to stand-in entirely for parents who are out of the picture which is what happens to impoverished families for various reasons.
     
  14. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Personally, I think it all boils down to the value a family places on education. I don't think it has anything to do with poverty levels, educational attainment of the parents, language barriers, teachers, nothing. I think that if a family values education then a child can flourish with any quality educator, regardless of poverty levels. If a family doesn't value education, then no matter the educational system, no matter where you're at, no matter the teacher, then they won't see success.
    Example: After about 6th grade my family was no longer able to help me with my homework. It was too advanced for my folks, and we were unable to afford outside help. But my family valued education, a college education wasn't an optional activity in our home. The deal was, "You will do it. You do well in school, as long as you're not cheating, I don't care how you do it." And I got a great education.
    Meanwhile, many of my friends were rich kids, but their families didn't value education, and many of them are now dead, strung out on drugs, or living in their parents basements playing video games.
    I see it all the time in my students, my kids who's parents are already, in grade 3 drilling into them the importance of doing well in school, even extremely poor ones, or children of uneducated parents are my top performing kids, and the parents who aren't are generally speaking, my low performing kids.
     
  15. gr3teacher

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    Anyone who has ever done any research would already be fully aware that parental income is by far the best indicator of standardized test scores.

    The fact that parents are so important to education is absolutely not an indictment on the importance of teachers. I am responsible for a third grader for a total of 900-1000 hours of class time. Each parent is responsible for their child for about 150k hours... and THEY don't have 25 other children to think about during that same time frame. I'd certainly hope parents have a bigger impact than I do.
     
  16. swansong1

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    I'm sure your research is accurate, but I have to agree with Kellzy that parent involvement, regardless of income, has the greatest impact on a student. I have taught in a variety of schools..."A" rated, "F" rated, low income, high income...and in all of those schools my high performing students almost always had family encouraging them to take their education seriously.
     
  17. gr3teacher

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    Parental income largely dictates the ability to positively impact achievement. It's a lot easier to surround your child with a rich literary environment, extracurricular activities, enriching family trips, etc., if you've got cash. Not to mention being able to spend time as a family, having more preschool options (or even better, being able to have a stay-at-home parent), etc.

    That's not to say that poor parents are bad parents, and rich parents are good parents. That's clearly not true. It's merely pointing out that being a good parent is a lot easier if you have money... and that's not even mentioning the simple reality that somebody with a higher income is more likely to have a higher education level themselves.
     
  18. EdEd

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    And the conversation continues to stall at this issue. I would be interested if anyone changes their mind, in any way, based on any reasonable argument, with this conversation.

    Here is where I think we are at. Someone correct me if I'm wrong:

    1) We can all agree that students from higher poverty schools tend to perform more poorly on standardized tests and other measures of academic achievement.

    2) Poverty affects learning, but predominantly indirectly. This means that poverty itself does not have a direct effect on learning, but rather influences mediating variables such as malnutrition, parental involvement, home vocabulary use, etc.

    3) High poverty schools tend to lose good teachers who don't want to be subjected to higher rates of discipline, more scrutiny from the district/state, and other stressors from teaching in schools that are more difficult to teach in.

    4) Poverty is not a sole determinant of academic achievement. There are many children who live in poverty who do well, despite living in poverty. There are many teachers who effectively teach children living in poverty. This means that poverty is an influence, but not something that predicts with 100% probability that a child will fail.

    If we all agree on these things, we're pretty close. So, why so much argument and conflict? In my opinion, it's surrounding the "narrative of the bad teacher." Here's what that means to me:

    Various folks have constructed template imagery of what the average "teacher" does. They usually have one or two people in mind, and associate that template teacher with a number of characteristics, ranging from lazy to hard-working. That one example teacher stuck in that person's mind is then used to predict the behavior of countless other teachers, create educational policy, or argue against reform efforts. In short, we're using our own, internally created "average teacher" as a narrative to base the rest of our thinking.

    The next step is that we start to ignore data and reason because we can't possibly imagine that this narrative teacher "could do such a thing." Folks on one side of the argument could never imagine that their narrative teacher would ever do anything less than the best. Folks on the other side could never imagine their narrative teacher ever being able to do anything right.

    The problem, of course, is that there is no such narrative teacher. Teachers are a heterogeneous bunch, as are students coming from both poverty and wealth. Sure, we could probably find some common experiences and characteristics, but no one teacher or student is ever defined by the circumstances from which they come.

    Why are we deadset on proving this idea?

    Why do we need all teachers to be either hard-working or lazy? Why can't we understand that some teachers who fail do so because of poverty, or that some teachers who succeed do so in spite of it?

    I believe the reason we can't get past these questions is because we're stuck in our own narratives of who teachers are, that we've created - in our own minds - that are usually not representative of the entire teaching force.

    So, what to do? My opinion is that step 1 - just like in any good conflict resolution - would be to acknowledge valid points that the other side has to offer.

    Tyler - it would be great for you to acknowledge that:

    1) Teachers can effectively teach kids coming from poverty. We can't always overcome poverty, but can we sometimes. There are good teachers out there who can "beat the odds," and these aren't anomalies or very isolated teachers.

    2) We, as educators, can improve. Our schools can improve, our pedagogy can improve, our response to behavioral incidents can improve, etc. We, as educators, own part of the problem. Poverty is not the ONLY reason kids fail to do well.

    Other folks (unspecified because this seems to be most of us):

    1) Sometimes the best teaching is not enough to overcome poverty. Teachers are not lazy, stupid, or ineffective just because they don't have high standardized test scores. There are a number of reasons teachers do well or not, some of which they control, some of which they don't.

    2) VAM isn't ready to go. The correlations between state tests and teacher effectiveness on other measures, even under the best of circumstances (that often aren't even feasible in public schools), only hover in the mid .60 range. This means that a large, large proportion of the variance of student performance squarely falls outside the range of teacher control. How can we possibly hire or fire a teacher based on that kind of data?

    _____________________


    So, here's my prediction: The folks who need to respond to this post won't, or will respond but only to some isolated point, not to the general concept. They will continue to advocate only for their side, and make no concessions that the issue is complicated and not clearly all or nothing. They will continue to hold tight to their narrative of the good or bad teacher, and a month or two down the road will post yet another article that says exactly the same thing, with no movement forward in the conversation at all.

    Or..... maybe we can be a forward-thinking group and rise above the antics and arguments that some, more noticeable, folks seem to be caught in, and actually progress. Maybe even come to some consensus and shared understanding.

    We've been doing this for years, folks - literally having the same conversation. Let's start having a different one.
     
  19. Pashtun

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    I can agree with everything you said EdEd.

    The only caveat for me is the following.

    I do not want to focus on things that are too far outside my control..why? Because it will negatively influence the things in my control.

    So while I agree that good teachers can/do get low standardized test scores, I prefer to focus my discussions on what I can do better in the classroom to improve learning.
     
  20. Tyler B.

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    I would agree with this post by Pashtun. My point has been that teachers shouldn't be held accountable for forces outside their control. Impoverished children should not be blamed for their low academic performance. It's not their fault that the live in a highly stressful environment. And that the high stakes testing doesn't really tell us something we don't already know.
     
  21. readingrules12

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    So, all the students in Marva Collins class who had test scores in the top 1%, but were from poor incomes is this in his study? Ohh and all the students who did so well in Jaime Escalante's math class in East LA and....

    I have seen poor students who have done quite well on standardized tests. I think stereotyping of any type is wrong. This seems like someone who loves to misuse statistics.
     
  22. Jerseygirlteach

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    Data analysis is not stereotyping. And citing a couple of famous anecdotes about people who overcame odds doesn't mean that all students have the same chance of success. It's the same as giving an anecdote like "My grandpa smoked cigars and drink like a fish everyday and lived to be 100, so clearly these things don't impact life expectancy."

    No one is saying that kids and teachers can't - at times - overcome the odds, but there's a reason why stories like this get made into movies and it's definitely not because it happens a lot.
     
  23. readingrules12

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    I agree with much of what you say. But I do think that is different than what Tyler is saying. True, poverty plays some role in performance in education, and I won't argue that. However, to say that standardized testing is unnecessary because we can just look at how impoverished students is an exaggeration.

    I teach in a unique school where many of our students' families are very poor and some are incredibly rich. I am not kidding that my lowest math standardized test score this year came from a student whose parents are by far the wealthiest in my class. One of my highest scores was from a student who is very poor. My experience is much different than what this study is saying.
     
  24. gr3teacher

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    Your experience may be vastly different from what evidence from all over the country (and indeed, the entire planet) shows, but that doesn't make the research any less valid. It just makes your classroom an outlier.

    I'm also curious... you point out that "one of your highest" scores came from someone who was very poor. Based on your description, I'd expect roughly half of your class to be very poor, and half to be very rich. What's the approximate tax bracket of your highest student? Is your low rich student typical for your school, or is it an outlier? How about the high poor student? Assuming the mix of rich and poor in your classroom is relatively even, if the research (in your experience) is so wrong about poorer students, wouldn't it make sense to expect that you'd have several poorer students bucking the trend, not just one?
     
  25. readingrules12

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    The top student's parents make well over $500,000/year. We have over 60% of our families on free and reduced lunch.

    I have worked also in a neighborhood public school that was a very wealthy school and also in a public school that had families that were very poor. No doubt there were more students that did well in the wealthy school. The thing is there are so many "outliers" that I would hardly call them outliers. Every year I have several students from poor families that do quite well.

    One thing I have found is that students who come from very rich families don't always have it so easy. Some have parents who work incredible amounts of hours making lots of $$$. This takes a toll on some of the children who hardly see their parents. Teens from wealthy parents have a higher rate of suicide and many other problems.

    I have spent my life volunteering and working with the poor. They are far more complicated than this data analysis shows.

    I think the 3 things I find that are more important are:

    1. How many have at least one parent working?
    2. How many have at least one parent who really cares about
    education?
    3. How many days are the students at school? Absences definitely often effect performance.
     
  26. EdEd

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    Thanks Pashtun - I think this is a crucial point. I do think it's of merit to talk about things outside of our immediate control as educators, because I think those deeper conversations are important and can change things if we get involved in other ways, but from a day-to-day perspective, yes for sure.
     
  27. EdEd

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    Thanks Tyler. I do think we're all more in agreement than not.
     
  28. EdEd

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    So based on a few replies to my last post, I'm wondering if we could find further consensus with this point:

    1) It is scientifically possible to measure a teacher's contribution to academic achievement as measured by broad academic assessments, assuming we can get to the point of controlling for variables other than teacher contribution. This is possible, we're just not there yet. What this means is that VAM is not scientifically flawed, it's just not sensitive enough yet to teacher contributions vs. other factors such as environmental conditions, peer influences, poverty, etc. While we can control for some of these conditions to some degree, our technology is not there yet to use it in real time.

    What we'd essentially be agreeing to is that VAM is not conceptually flawed, just not technically sound enough for use yet. This would bring us a lot closer to being on the same page.
     
  29. Go Blue!

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    While IA that parental invovlement and parental motivation play a huge role in a child's success in school (and I guess this correlation is also seen in test scores); I am also sure that economics plays a role in how well the parents can be involved, help out their child and to what extent they can provide resources. I have met some very hard-working, dedicated parents who, despite their best efforts and desires, cannot be the most hands-on, involved parents (especially when they have multiple kids in a one-parent household and lack transportation which is a huge issue I have this year).
     
  30. Jerseygirlteach

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    It's interesting that you say that and I don't disagree with you. You'll note, though, that all three of these things are out of the teacher's control and at least two of them are out of the student's control. Yet, we both agree that they are extremely important factors in student's success on standardized tests despite the fact that neither the student nor the teacher can control these factors.
     
  31. gr3teacher

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    Wouldn't a better question be whether or not continuing to add more and more pressure and high-stakes to a single data point is really a good thing? The more you tell teachers/administrators that the only thing that matters is one single test, the more you're going to see cut which isn't directly related to that single test.

    Even in a world where VAM could be fully reliable (which I don't think we'll ever have, particularly for elementary and special education teachers), you'd still be continuing to increase the demands of "The Test," when the exact opposite should be occurring.
     
  32. Go Blue!

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    I am also willing to place some of the blame for poor test scores (and other measures of poor academic performance) on sub-par schools, although I am not sure that teachers are always the reason why these school are sub-par. I think in high-poverty environments, it is easy to blame the "failing schools" and "poor teachers" for all that is going wrong not only in the schools but also in the community.

    Ever since the riots broke out in Baltimore two weeks ago; as educators, all we have heard (from congress members, parents, celebs, people who live in Maryland but never come to Baltimore, etc.) is that "the reason the children feel oppressed, unheard and are angry is because they realize that their future is bleak and their opportunities are few. They realize that they are receiving a sub-par education and that the odds are against them." This, of course, is mostly the fault of the schools and teachers. The responsibility is rarely shared.

    While there are parts of that I do agree with - many students' future opportunities are few - I am not willing to say this is due solely the fault of Baltimore City PS. I think other things also come into play here in high-poverty areas and we need to adress those factors if we ever expect to see any improvement on test scores or other indicators of academic success.
     
  33. Go Blue!

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    We have 2 KIPP schools in Baltimore and they are notorious for putting out students who are behavior problems, although not so much when it comesto students who are "well-behaved, struggling learners." My current school use to share a building with the KIPP MS program and I remember that when their kids got into fights, they were dismissed pretty quickly. Some of these kids ended up transferring into my school which is a 6-12 public charter run by BCPS. Yay ...
     
  34. EdEd

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    I think this is a great point, but potentially folded into the one I asked. For example, one way of modified the "technology" of VAM could be including more data points beyond a single test, such as incorporating progress monitoring data such as CBM.
     
  35. Jerseygirlteach

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    I doubt anyone outside of special ed is familiar with the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) test, but something like that for all students is what I would be comfortable with. Basically, the teacher inputs data as to the level of the student and then the students take a series of very brief, (5-10 minutes), computer-based testlets. After each testlet is taken, someone in a central office scores it and uses that score to select an appropriate level for the next test. It is, therefore, very individualized. It is also presented in an engaging format that my students actually enjoyed.

    If we had something like that for gen ed and these testlets were given throughout the year - maybe once a week or so - it would probably be a much more reliable and usable measure of student growth. Teachers could use the data immediately to assess students and target areas of remediation. The pressure of a "big test" would be off. If a student was having an off day, it would only affect one little testlet rather than The Test.. So, it would be much more reliable.

    All that being said, I still don't want test scores tied to teacher compensation because, as I think most of us agreed to here, there are too many factors influencing test performance that are out of teachers control. But at least a system like this would be far less damaging to students and have some value as an assessment tool.
     
  36. EdEd

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    I think this would be a great direction for the conversation to head - asking how we could make assessments more accurate, more effective, etc. You're definitely right in that more accurate assessments don't necessarily say anything about teachers any more than less accurate assessments, unless we figure out a better way to control for variables outside teacher control. However, just having this conversation makes us as educators look like we're part of the solution - brainstorming ways that something might be able to work, moving forward with conversation rather than blocking it - but still having high standards for what an end product might look like.
     
  37. gr3teacher

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    I'm frustrated with any ideas of "being part" of a conversation is being primarily facilitated by people looking for the quickest, most efficient way of making money and marginalizing the teaching profession.

    I have no patience or desire to take part in conversations dealing with the "reform" movement, because the only interest of the reform movement is to further private interests. Period. The decision-makers have been bought and paid for by the Pearsons of the world, and any involvement teachers have at a substantive level just serves to validate their profit-making ideas.

    That isn't to say there isn't room for improvement in the education field, but until the businessmen and non-educators back out of the conversation completely, those improvements aren't going to happen.
     
  38. vateacher757

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    May 17, 2015

    Well said, well said!

    and to the comment about media et al blaming the fate of Baltimore youth on *cough* *cough* a sub par education...no matter how educated they become if there are NO JOBS to be had in Baltimore for them then nothing changes for them.....the jobs that paid decent money are not found in Baltimore they have been shipped overseas........educated unskilled(non STEM) employees have little options......and not everyone in this world are STEM so what jobs that pay decent can they find......anywhere????
     
  39. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 18, 2015

    So for sake of clarification, which reforms are you lumping into the category of the "reform movement" in which the only interest to "to further private interest?"
     
  40. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 18, 2015

    Well said! However we do need to discuss the corporate reform movement because as educators, we need to actively oppose those who would deconstruct public education.
     

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