Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education
12Jun/14Off

Skandera, Journal Just Don’t Get It on Teacher Evaluations

Ken WhitonKudos once again to CESE Past President Ken Whiton for yet another stirring editorial in the June 12th, 2014 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (link). Ken's latest op-ed is titled "Gov., Skandera, Journal just don’t get it on evals."

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

What more can a teacher do when a student, in spite of the teacher’s best efforts, still doesn’t “get it?” The teacher has tried every tool in the toolbox, every technique, every “best practice,” but still no comprehension.

Finally, the teacher realizes the student is refusing to learn the material, no matter how well it is presented. Instead of listening, the student dismisses everything the teacher says, refuses to listen to valid criticism, makes excuses and rejects any information that contradicts the student’s preconceived notions.

Please reread the above two paragraphs and replace the word “student,” with the phrase, “Our current governor, the Education secretary-designate and editors of the Albuquerque Journal.”

Teachers must keep trying until these “students” understand the damage they are doing to our children and public education in New Mexico. Let’s hope they listen this time.

Any evaluation process must be valid, consistent, fair, truly reflect the quality of the work teachers are doing and give them clear guidelines for improvement. The new system, in spite of claims to the contrary, fails every test. In spite of assertions in the Journal editorial, the people who really understand statistical analyses have tried, repeatedly, to point out the numerous flaws, but so far, few are listening.

It is outrageous to rate a teacher’s performance based on subjects she or he has not taught and students who have never been in that teacher’s classroom. It is even more outrageous to judge a teacher based on factors that are out of that teacher’s control. Perhaps the governor and Education secretary-designate would like to be evaluated based on what takes place in another state.

No one in charge of education in New Mexico seems to grasp the simple truth that raising student test scores becomes more difficult as the scores improve and yet a school’s grade is lowered if an arbitrary increase is not made.

No one seems to understand that basing a large part of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores only captures part of the picture. It demeans students and the profession of education by treating teachers like piece-workers and children like widgets on an assembly line. While private-sector businesses can reject raw materials that don’t meet their standards, our public schools welcome all students.

No one seems to understand that overloading students with incessant testing is demoralizing to them and their teachers and that forcing students to take more tests lessens their motivation to do well. Why does taking the SAT require less than four hours, but testing in New Mexico schools takes weeks?

No one seems to realize that cherry-picking statistics to make “school reform” look good gives a false picture of what is happening in public school classrooms.

8Jun/14Off

CESE Elects New Slate at 2014 Annual Meeting

A new slate of officers for the year 2014-2015 was nominated and elected at today's CESE Annual Meeting (June 7th, 2014).  Leading CESE for the next year is new president Patty Finley. PattyFinely200The vice-president/president-elect for this year is Lisa Durkin. Steve Brügge will continue as treasurer, and Marilyn Savitt-Kring is staying on as secretary.  Board member Marvin Moss has announced his resignation from the board, to allow him more time for his museum activities.

CESE thanks outgoing president Terry Dunbar for a splendid year of service. Here are some pictures from the meeting, which followed a social at the home of Steve and Karen Brügge.

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Rear left: Steve Brugge, Nancy and Jerry Shelton ; table: David Hsi, Margaret Mavretich and Robert Walko, and Mary Ann Jekowski.

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Outgoing president Terry Dunbar talks to the audience. Foreground: Jack Jekowski, Ken Whiton. Far rear: Patty Finely, Jeanette Dunbar.

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Patty Finley, incoming president, addresses the attendees. Terry Dunbar at right.

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Patty Finley addresses the audience. Far left: Kurt Steinhaus.

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Kim Johnson reads an award which was presented to Dave Thomas.

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Dave's award.

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!

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.

29May/13Off

Kopplin to Speak on “Why we need a Second Giant Leap”

zack-kopplin-current-2013Our Annual Meeting will be held on Saturday, June 29th, 1:00-4:30 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the main lecture hall at Northrop Hall on the University of New Mexico campus.  Our speaker is noted Louisiana activist Zack Kopplin, who will be speaking on the topic "Why we need a Second Giant Leap."

Zack's efforts to overturn Louisiana's pro-creationist "Science Education Act" were discussed by Phil Plait in a May 5th blog at Slate.

More details about June's Annual Meeting will be forthcoming in the new Beacon.

Stay tuned!

Download this handy one-page flyer to give to your friends and social networks!

MAP TO NORTHROP HALL

unm_northropNorthrop-street

 

12Feb/13Off

Introduction to the CESE Method

We have published an update on the CESE Method, here. The CESE Method is a method for showing schools how to improve, as opposed to the current New Mexico Public Education Department system, that only shows schools how well they are doing compared to standards.

24Aug/12Off

And Now, the Los Alamos Monitor…

... has joined the growing list of media outlets giving a nod to CESE's research on New Mexico's proposed A-F Grading System.

 

 

 

 

 

The guest viewpoint by Sherry Robinson appeared in the Monitor on August 4th, and is reproduced here for the benefit of CESE readers.  It does not appear to have been posted on the Monitor's website, but we will add a link to the article if it is posted in future.

Here are few teasers to whet your appetites for the article!

Now we're starting to hear from parties that don't have a political agenda, and it's official: The state's grading system of schools is too complicated, and the methodology is questionable.

The nonpartisan Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education says the state's A-F school grading system is hard to understand, and the system combines elements that are not only apples and oranges but tofu and cheeseburgers. As a result, the results can swing dramatically from year to year.

The coalition's only agenda is to improve math and science education in the state: its membership is weighted with scientists and engineers, many with national lab backgrounds. I've always found them reliable.

Thank you, Sherry Robinson!

Also new this week: Minutes of the 2012 Annual Meeting, featuring outgoing president Terry Dunbar and incoming president Ken Whiton's remarks, as well as a riveting presentation by former State Senator Pauline Eisenstadt on her tumultuous career at the New Mexico roundhouse.

5Aug/12Off

Journal Editorial: “Simplify A-F Grading Formula To Get Buy-In”

The Albuquerque Journal published an editorial on August 4th, titled "Simplify A-F Grading Formula To Get Buy-In." CESE is mentioned prominently!

 

 

 

 

 

When a group of scientists and mathematicians are left scratching their heads, it’s unlikely parents and some educators will be able to decode the state’s new A-F grading system, either.

The nonpartisan Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education has been promoting science education and literacy in New Mexico since 1997. It recently undertook the challenge of trying to replicate the grading formula designed by the state Public Education Department to rank schools.

It couldn’t, partly because it didn’t have all of the data the PED used, but the group concluded the formula is too complex, adds together incompatible elements and is so sensitive to small changes that unreasonable grade swings from one year to the next can result.

“We’re not talking about a bunch of schmucks here who haven’t seen this stuff before,” said M. Kim Johnson, a retired physicist and an author of the report. “We think it’s all probably above board, but we don’t think the average person, school principal or superintendent could conceivably follow it.”

Please, click through and read the entire editorial.

Thank you, Albuquerque Journal!

31Jul/12Off

CESE in the News, II: Albuquerque Journal, July 31, 2012

A major article by Hailey Heinz appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, July 31st, on page C-1 (Metro & NM), with the title " Group: Grading System Too Complex."  Also, a sound bite by our own Kim Johnson was selected by the Journal as Tuesday's "Quote of the Day."

The copyrighted article goes into detail on CESE's findings regarding the A-F grading system, and on its interactions with the state legislature.

 

The Heinz article notes that

A nonpartisan group of scientists and mathematicians says the state’s new A-F school grading system is too complex for most people to understand, including principals and superintendents.

The group also believes the system adds elements together that aren’t compatible, and that the formula’s sensitivity to small changes results in unreasonable grade changes from one year to the next.

In addition, Heinz writes:

M. Kim Johnson, past president and an author of the report, said Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, asked the group to examine the A-F school grading system and try to replicate it. Johnson said the group has testified before the Legislative Education Study Committee in the past and did so recently to present its findings.

...

Those findings were cited by Democrats in the Legislature, who sent out a news release last week expressing “deep concern” over the credibility of the A-F grades. Those quoted in the news release included Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque; Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City; and Miera.

and continues:

The coalition contends it is mathematically inappropriate to add these [different] measures [of growth and current standing]  together. According to the report, such addition is “something like adding oranges and cows to derive pickup trucks. The result is not obviously meaningful.”

... Doing so also is part of the reason for dramatic changes in grades.

Those changes have come under scrutiny, as some school grades went from “B” to “F,” and vice versa, between preliminary January grades and final July grades.

The full article in appears in the Wednesday Journal.