Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education
14Apr/14Off

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10Mar/14Off

Test explanation makes no sense

Ken WhitonKudos once again to CESE Past President Ken Whiton for a stirring editorial in the March 7th, 2014 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (link). Ken's op-ed was titled "Test explanation makes no sense."

Here follows Ken's letter.  Well said, Ken!

Many op-ed columns and letters to the editor by teachers, parents and community members, have expressed frustration and lack of confidence in what is being demanded of students and educators. This is not “defense of the status quo,” or fear of evaluation. These are valid expressions of concern.

Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera responds to criticism with dismissive platitudes about caring for children, as if teachers don’t. But, not caring about teachers’ concerns is also not caring about students. When teachers are shut out of the process of reform and are denigrated and devalued, their students are, as well.

Skandera claims in a column in Tuesday’s Albuquerque Journal that she has reduced the number of hours of testing required by the state. However, as secretary of education, she bears responsibility for the total amount of testing to which students are subjected. Educators are right to be concerned about excessive testing, since every hour spent testing, no matter who requires it, is an hour lost from instructional time.

This lost time would be bad enough, if the same tests were used consistently, every year, but they’re not. Each year brings a different test. Asked about the difficulty of comparing results from last year’s “apples,” to this year’s “oranges,” to next year’s “watermelons,” her dismissive response was, “It will be a non-issue.”

The spokesman for PARCC Inc., creator of the new test, disagrees. “It’s hard. It’s complex. But it’s possible.”

“Possible?” Really? With Skandera’s track record on school grades, teacher evaluations and many other failures, it’s no wonder those concerned with teaching and learning in our public schools have little confidence in her ability to get this right.

In addition, the Journal reporter, Jon Swedien, who actually talked to a teacher, reported on the difficulties of using our current tests on the new “Common Core” curriculum. Because “Common Core” covers fewer topics in greater depth, students will be tested on topics not covered in class.

Skandera said, “While those questions won’t count toward test scores, they will give teachers and students an idea of what next year’s test will be like.” She seems unaware that teachers are not allowed to look at test questions. Unless something changes, teachers will have no way of knowing what next year’s test will be like without adding to their already staggering workload. Students will not be taking this year’s test next year. Knowledge of this year’s test questions does them no good.

We need reform! However, Skandera’s “reform” with no understanding of the consequences of her misguided edicts is not the “reform” we need. That is the reason she faces so much opposition.

If Skandera actually sat down with educators, listened to them, trusted them, gave them a voice in reform, we could have the public education we deserve.

10Feb/14Off

Walter Bishop Murfin 1925-2014

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Walter Bishop Murfin

Born March 28, 1925

Died February 6, 2014

I’ll bet you didn’t know that was Walt’s middle name? Well, it was. I don’t know if he cared whether anyone knew or not but, unfortunately, he is no longer here to berate me for telling everyone, and that hurts. Badly. Walt died yesterday (February 6, 2013).

Walt Murfin is shown here being awarded a CESE plaque honoring his many achievements (February 4th, 2012).

He had a very hard time of it for almost a year, first with a hemorrhagic stroke, and then finally with pneumonia. It was all too much for him. Even someone with such a strong will and intellect as his finally had to let go. His wife, Bettyann, stayed with him at his home until the end with her daughter next door, Walt’s son, John, and Hospice to help out. Still, it is pretty tough.

Walt was nearing 89, and a year ago, still sharp as a tack and a bit of a rascal on occasion to boot! But Bettyann shared him with us, CESE. So he was our rascal! He was one of the smartest people I have ever had the privilege of being around. He was also a good friend – a very good friend. Though meeting late in life, we saw things so much alike that it was as if he and I had known each other for many years. Sure, we didn’t agree on everything, but on most things. When he would get upset with me, he would eventually apologize. When I would get upset with him, he eventually would apologize. Yes – you heard that right. Walt was a complex person.

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Walt and CESE went together as if they were born for each other. I personally think that CESE gave him some added purpose as he got older and, in fact, he was a great asset to CESE. Walt, along with Marshall Berman, was the impetus behind the Murfin Method, or as he wished to call it, the CESE Method. This is a unique way of determining how to improve the educational system (K –12) in New Mexico. Walt worked on this for days at a time, developing the method and details of computations. Walt also help Marshall evaluate data when Marshall was on the state school Board of Education before it was done away with. He helped former CESE president, Steve Getty, perform needed analyses in his educational work. In other words, Walt became very wrapped up in education and in the CESE cause of improving not just science and math education in our state, but also improving all education. He worked on this constantly and passed the results and methods on to anyone who would listen. It has always been CESE’s hope that the state would seriously listen to what we have to say and act upon it. Walt worked very, very hard to that end. Even after his stroke, he recovered enough to almost desperately make sure that his work could be replicated. And people have been listening!

 And, Walt, we are trying to carry on, but you will be impossible to replace. The best we can do is to hope to come close.

 Walt, you have done more than your part to make the world a better place. That’s all one could ask of another person. We miss you very much, Walt. Happy sailing.

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Kim Johnson

CESE Past President
Feb. 7th, 2014

19Jan/14Off

CESE Comments on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

My beautiful picture CESE President Terry Dunbar, on behalf of the Coalition, has written Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera a letter regarding New Mexico's adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards.  His January 6th letter can be read in its entirety here.

Here follow some points from Terry's letter:

 The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) recommends that New Mexico adopt the Next Generation Science Standards for the following reasons:

NGSS standards are a comprehensive set of guidelines for the teaching of science that will be indispensible for teachers, administrators, and for those at the district and state level who wish to improve classroom teaching and learning in science. ...

Implementation of NGSS in New Mexico

If we are to achieve the ambitious and dynamic vision described in the NGSS and accompanying documents, considerable resources will have to be generated at the district and state level. No standards or curriculum can achieve change in the classroom by itself. The “taught curriculum” even now differs dramatically from the written curriculum and standards. To achieve change in the classroom, many issues must be addressed. Among these are curriculum writing, professional development for science teachers, coordination with teacher training programs, buying and upgrading science supplies and equipment.

The writers of NGSS included recognition of the massive systemic culture change necessary to successfully implement broad changes in actual science classroom practice. They cited the challenges for teachers posed by students who vary widely in demographic background, language ability, level of preparation, work habits, parental expectations, etc. Teachers will need a level of support considerably higher than that which now exists in order to embrace and faithfully implement NGSS.

CESE recommends the adoption of NGSS. Our organization of scientists, engineers, teachers, statisticians, curriculum writers, and concerned citizens stands ready to assist in any way we can to see that the rollout of these world-class standards is successful.

Sincerely,

Terry Dunbar, Ph.D.
President, CESE

The full document, including detailed comments on features of the NGSS, is available here.

31Oct/13Off

Update on CESE Method Now Available

CESE board member Kim Johnson has been hard at work refining our presentation on the CESE Method for determining how New Mexico's schools,  students and teachers are faring.  While the method was originally developed to provide clear paths to school improvement, it can also be used to make teacher merit evaluations much, much fairer than the proposed PED A-F method of assigning scores for performance.

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You can peruse the updated presentation here. Questions about the CESE Method should be directed to board member Kim Johnson.

9Sep/13Off

2013 Annual Meeting Minutes are Posted!

Click here to read the 2013 Annual Meeting (June 29).  Comments from out-going president Ken Whiton, and from in-coming president Terry Dunbar; election of slate for 2013-2014; keynote speaker Zack Kopplin, on "Why we need a Second Giant Leap."

My beautiful picture

Zack Kopplin addresses the CESE 2013 Annual Meeting.

 Want more Annual Meeting Minutes? Click here!

11Aug/13Off

Teachers Deserve EFFECTIVE Evaluations

kensopedKudos to CESE Past President Ken Whiton for a stirring editorial in the August 10th, 2013 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (link). Ken's op-ed was titled "Teachers deserve effective evaluations: PED’s new teacher review system is wrong as are school grades."

Here is a snippet:

An editorial in the Aug. 3 Journal characterizes all opposition to a new teacher evaluation scheme as, “dedicated to the status quo.”

Is defense of “the status quo,” really the reason for opposing the New Mexico Public Education Department’s plan? Look at the track record of the previous “school reform” scheme in New Mexico. The plan for grading schools met with widespread legitimate criticism by dedicated teachers, principals, administrators, parents, legislators and a prestigious organization of scientists and mathematicians who perform statistical analysis for a living.

The Public Education Department was wrong about school grades and it is wrong about evaluating teachers. Even after training sessions, the plan is still not understood by those who will be using it. It is still statistically indefensible. The evaluation plan still does not take into account the complexities, subtleties and realities of teaching in New Mexico. It seems to pull evaluation categories and percentages out of thin air.

Read the entire article here. Well said, Ken!

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11Jul/13Off

Videos of Annual Meeting are On-Line!

Courtesy of CESE board member Jack Jekowski, we are pleased to provide several videos from our June 29th, 2013 Annual Meeting.

CESE Annual Meeting 2013 - Zack Kopplin Talk (30 minutes)

CESE Annual Meeting 2013 Zack Q&As (24 minutes)

CESE Annual Meeting 2013 Zack Q&As #2 (7 minutes)

Dave Magic Trick - CESE Annual Meeting 2013 (6 minutes)

CESE thanks Zack Kopplin for an inspiring talk!

25Jun/13Off

New Mexico, Brace for a Zack Attack!

It's just a few days until our 2013 Annual Meeting! We hope you will join us to hear young dynamo Zack Kopplin, who will be speaking on the topic "Why we need a Second Giant Leap."

zack-hardballThe Time: Saturday, June 29th, 1:00 PM.

The Place: the main lecture hall at Northrop Hall, Room 122, on the University of New Mexico campus.

Zack has led a vigorous opposition to that state's anti-science legislation, the so-called “Louisiana Science Education Act,” which was introduced by Governor Bobby Jindal. He has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. You can be sure he'll have some interesting things to say Saturday.

Click here for a map to Northrop Hall, and here for a one-page flyer to post on bulletin boards and such.

Bring a friend!

9Jun/13Off

The June Beacon is Here!

The June 2013 Beacon  (Vol XVII, No 1) is online!

Contents Preview: Editor’s Message – Kim Johnson;  Darwin and Wallace, What did they really think of religion? - Dr. Paul Braterman;  School Testing – Lisa Durkin; Cartoon - Dave Thomas; Meeting Announcement at the NM Museum of Natural History – Announcing the CESE 2013 Annual Meeting with a special guest, Zack Kopplin.

The Elephant in the Classroom - Too Many Tests!

The Elephant in the Classroom - Too Many Tests!

You can browse previous issues of the Beacon here.