Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education
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.

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.

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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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!

9May/13Off

The Elephant in the Classroom

The Elephant in the Classroom - Too Many Tests!

The Elephant in the Classroom - Too Many Tests!

 

This cartoon is a sneak preview of the upcoming Beacon, which should appear in the next few weeks.  We're releasing it early because it resonates all-too-well with an article by Hailey Heinz in the Albuquerque Journal for Thursday, May 9th entitled "Some N.M. students face dual final exams.And, we should mention that CESE's very own Lisa Durkin is prominently featured in the article!

A snippet:

Teachers, parents, students and school board members around New Mexico have pushed back in recent weeks against new state end-of-course exams being given in certain core high school classes.

Chief among their complaints are that the tests are taking more time away from instruction and that students who already spend much of the spring semester taking exams are now being tested twice on the same content.

“At some point, we’re losing so much instructional time that we don’t have time to instruct for the subject that they’re being tested on,” said Lisa Durkin, who teaches biology at Valencia High School in Los Lunas. “And the kids aren’t taking the test seriously, because they’ve had to take so many tests that it just doesn’t mean anything to them anymore.”

State education chief Hanna Skandera said this week she never intended for students to take the end-of-course exams in addition to their existing finals, and agrees that is too much time spent on testing.

Well said, Lisa!

21Feb/13Off

Comparison of CESE Results to PED Grades

How do CESE Canonical Correlation Results compare to PED Grades?

One of the questions that is most asked of CESE when we present the CESE method is how the CESE Method results compare to the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) grades.  Here is a two-page introduction that summarizes and provides context for a 29-page briefing which provides detailed comparisons for 2012 New Mexico school grades.

15Jan/13Off

Message from CESE President Ken Whiton

I am Ken Whiton, a retired APS teacher, writing to introduce you to The Coalition for Excellence in Math and Science Education (CESE).

CESE is composed of interested citizens throughout New Mexico and the nation, including scientists, engineers, educators, university faculty, members of the clergy, community leaders and parents. CESE is non-profit, non-partisan and non-sectarian, and welcomes members of all religions and political philosophies. The Coalition works to improve all education, concentrating on science and math literacy for all citizens. We also provide support to teachers, students, the public, and to public officials, when requested.  Recent newspaper articles about CESE are posted on our website: http://www.cese.org.

As you will see, we have analyzed the Public Education Department’s method of grading schools, and found it to be needlessly complex and unjustified in some of its assumptions. It also combines factors that offer no added information concerning school performance. This can cause a school’s grade to be out-of-line with respect to the school’s actual performance.

CESE has created an evaluation system which takes into account those areas in students’ lives that are beyond any school staff’s control. This method actually provides a means of showing schools how to learn and not just telling them how they are performing. This is not to excuse poor performance or lack of achievement, but to make sure educators are not penalized by an evaluation system which does not capture the realities of a school’s population. Using our method, CESE statisticians have found that many low-scoring schools are actually “out-performing” as predicted by their demographics. This leads to the method for identifying the schools that should be studied for best practices to pass on to those with similar demographic profiles. This also provides for recognition of the outperforming schools and personnel that would otherwise be non-existent.

CESE is the only organization working to improve education that wants and actively seeks educator and school staff input and membership. Five of the 15 members of our board currently teach in our public schools. What we do not have and are now seeking is administrators’ input. We all recognize the importance of effective leadership in all schools.  We need you! 

I invite you to visit our website to learn more about us. I also invite you to join us and participate in our discussions at whatever level of involvement your time permits. We would appreciate your permission to e-mail relevant items to you for your comment, again, as your time permits.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time,

Ken Whiton, President, CESE

27Jul/12Off

CESE In the News


The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) was mentioned prominently in a July 26th article in the Capitol Report New Mexico.

The report notes that:

Roundhouse Democrats and officials in the Susana Martinez administration are exchanging verbal shots over the governor’s school reforms — and a little-known educational group cited by the Democrats didn’t even know it was even being prominently mentioned in the debate.

and continues:

The Democrats’ news release called on the Martinez administration “to adopt the educational reform recommendations developed by the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education.”

On Thursday afternoon, Capitol Report New Mexico called R. [M.] Kim Johnson, who is a past president and board member of the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) who said he had not heard that his organization was cited in the Roundhouse Democrats’ news release until he was told by this reporter.

“We were not aware they were going to say that,” Johnson said, although he added that “I’m not unpleased” to hear the news.

More:

A retired physicist, Johnson says educational reform is “more complex than simply adopting a method” and said he had talked to Rep. Miera at a recent Legislative Education Study Commitee meeting.

When asked about the A-through-F law, Johnson said, “some of the things they score on are mixing apples and oranges.”

Stay tuned for updates on this breaking news.

CESE is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is non-partisan, and does not advocate for any specific political party.

All we care about is having New Mexico schools perform to their potential. That has always been our dream.

You may read the NM Democrats Press Release here. CESE was invited to perform  an analysis by the request of the LESC, and the information generated for this work is in the public domain. Contact CESE if you would like more information.