Press Release: Online Michigan Student Test System Developed for Spring 2015

unnamedNews Release

Contact:    Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs, (517) 241-4395

Bill DiSessa, Spokesperson, (517) 335-6649

Michigan Student Test System Developed for Spring 2015

November 13, 2014

LANSING – Michigan’s public schools can begin moving forward in their planning for the online statewide student assessment in the Spring of 2015. The Michigan Department of Education announced today its updated assessment system, called the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP).

“This is great news for our local school districts,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “They’ve been very anxious to hear what the new assessment will be, as we developed a new test to comply with legislatively-mandated changes.”

The new assessment was required by the state legislature for the Spring 2015 testing period. The legislature also required the Department of Education to re-bid its long-term assessment system that will begin in the Spring of 2016.

The new assessment meets all of the requirements put into law by the legislature; that it be: an online assessment, with a paper-and-pencil option; aligned to the state standards; expanding writing assessments to additional grades; providing an increased number of constructed response test questions so that pupils can demonstrate higher-order skills, such as problem solving and communicating reasoning; and pilot tested before statewide implementation.

M-STEP replaces the 44-year-old MEAP test, which was not online and measured the previous state standards. The Spring 2015 assessment will include Michigan-created content, as well as content developed by the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Educators from Michigan public schools helped develop and write test content that will appear on M-STEP.

“The changes in law diverted what the department and local school districts had been developing and preparing for over the past three years,” Flanagan said. “It put schools in some unwelcomed limbo while our experts scrambled to find testing content that met the legislative requirements.”

The assessment for Spring 2015 is a one-year stopgap until the long-term assessment is awarded through the re-bidding process.

M-STEP includes the following assessments:

  • A Spring summative assessment for grades 3-8
  • A Michigan Merit Exam (MME) for grade 11, which includes a college entrance exam; a work skills component; and a summative component aligned to Michigan content standards

This will be the first time all statewide assessments will be administered online. To help prepare, nearly 1,900 Michigan schools have performed pilot online testing over the past three and a half years. The state Legislature has invested more than $100 million over the past two years to help get local districts technology-ready for the new assessments. To date, over 80 percent of schools meet the minimum technology requirement for the new assessment.

There still will be a paper-and-pencil option for schools if they believe they are not ready with the minimal technology requirements. Districts have until November 21 to request a waiver to administer the paper/pencil test. Due to the cost concerns of preparing the separate online and paper/pencil formats, and wanting to be the best stewards of public funds, MDE will not entertain change requests beyond that November 21 deadline date.

The entire Michigan Merit Exam for the Spring of 2015 will take longer for local schools to administer due to requirements in state law.

The high school test requires additional time because the college entrance and work skills tests that Michigan currently is contracted to use, do not measure the state’s standards for English language arts and mathematics. The move to more rigorous standards requires additional types of test questions not present on those assessments. As a result, the state is required to provide additional testing to ensure state and federal laws that require measurement of the state’s standards are met.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has allowed a few states to get a federal flexibility waiver with afuture plan to use only a college-entrance exam like ACT. However, USED cannot waive the Michigan law that requires the state assessments be aligned to the state standards.

The majority of schools that are testing online will have greater flexibility and can configure testing, as desired, within the eight-week window the department has provided them. This provides ample opportunity for schools to plan their testing times. There will be eight partial days of testing for the paper/pencil option of the high school test in the spring. This option, which should be used only by those continuing to prepare their buildings for online testing, must continue to be spread in this fashion to assure adequate testing security.

School Accountability

MDE will be working with the USED to update Michigan’s school accountability model used in its flexibility waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These updates would recognize the changes in statewide assessments and improvements in identifying student academic growth and learning.

In these discussions with USED, it will be the Michigan Department of Education’s intent to use the test data from this transitional year for a trial run of a revised accountability system. It is the intent of the Department that the results of the trial run of accountability would be shared with schools and districts for local decision making, but that no consequences would be applied.

The Department encourages local districts to use the data to inform classroom instruction; student and school improvement planning; and local programming decisions.

Educator and Administrator Evaluations

Schools will be provided student-level growth data for use in teacher and administrator evaluations. Because these educator evaluations are still determined by local school districts, how local districts choose to use the data in the evaluations is up to each district.

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 For more information on M-STEP, log on to: http://www.michigan.gov/mstep

“Fact-checking attacks on Common Core school standards”

This article was written by Cara Fitzpatrick, Amy Sherman, Jeffrey S. Solochek and originally published on Monday, October 21st, 2013 at 6:01 a.m. on PolitiFact.

It seems many people know about what Common Core is and isn’t. However, many people have not actually explored some of these claims, simply reiterated something they heard, adding their own two cents or interpretation. Unfortunately, this has led to a game of telephone.

As states surge toward full implementation of Common Core State Standards for public schools, the din is rising from some fronts to pull back.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, whose tea party base offers perhaps the most strident opposition, is listening. In open forums Scott requested last week, people stepped forward to give their views. Criticism ranged from what’s taught in English class all the way to conspiracy theories involving iris scans.

PolitiFact Florida reviewed comments from the hearings and found that several of the most dramatic criticisms aren’t backed up by the facts. Here is a brief review of some of their findings. (See individual reports for more details.)

Common Core refers to a set of national education standards adopted by 45 states, including Florida. They came out of years of discussion between private nonprofit groups and state education departments.

The goal: to better prepare students for college and careers and ensure that students in different states learn the same academic concepts.

The Obama administration has used its education grant process, Race to the Top, to encourage states to use the new standards, but no state is required to adhere to Common Core.

•••

One frequent complaint at the hearings is that teachers were not involved in developing the standards.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, the official group that organizes the standards, says that’s not the case.

We wanted more evidence, so we talked to teachers who actually participated in the process.

Becky Pittard, a Volusia County elementary math teacher, served on a team that developed math standards. She said she was puzzled by any suggestion that teachers were left out.

“I can tell you the equal sign standard is there because I insisted,” she said, referring to a first-grade guideline on understanding the meaning of the symbol. “There was impact.”

Many states assembled teams of teachers to review the new standards, including Florida. Deputy chancellor Mary Jane Tappen sent an email to selected teachers in November 2009 expressly for that purpose.

“You are receiving this email because you are a trusted and respected expert in your field,” Tappen wrote. “Florida must provide input on this very first drafty draft of the Common Core National Standards by December 4. … I will be collecting and compiling all our work into one Florida response.”

PolitiFact Florida rated the claim that teachers weren’t involved in creating the standards as False.

•••

Another claim: Common Core standards will dramatically increase the amount of personal information the federal government collects.

“There are over 300 data elements the government is going to be collecting about your children and about you,” Tim Curtis, an activist with the tea party group 9/12, said in Tampa.

His claim has a kernel of truth: Florida requires school districts to keep student information. Some of it is required by the state, while other elements are optional, or only kept at the local level, such as bus stop numbers. The list includes students’ race, test scores, attendance and many more factors.

But those requirements have existed for decades — long before Common Core came along. States collect the data to help them make decisions.

The U.S. Department of Education has routine access to some data, but that data is aggregated and stripped of personally identifiable information.

In fact, laws predating Common Core prohibit a federal database of personally identifiable information on students.

“Florida has no plans to change the data it collects that is linked to Common Core,” said Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters.

We told Curtis that multiple educational experts said Common Core doesn’t require new data collection.

“I can shoot that claim down with a single explanation,” Curtis said. “The Polk County school district began to do iris screening on school children and they did so without notifying their parents. They did so as a result of the beginning of the implementation of Common Core.”

According to the Florida Department of Education, the screening was intended to route children onto the proper bus and wasn’t related to Common Core.

We rated the claim that Common Core means 300 points of data being collected as Mostly False.

•••

Another criticism of Common Core is that it will reduce the reading of fiction and literature.

“Common Core expects English teachers to spend at least half of their reading instructional time at every grade level on informational texts,” said Sandra Stotsky, an education professor at the University of Arkansas and staunch critic of the Common Core. Stotsky didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Common Core standards do emphasize informational texts, particularly in history, social studies, science, and other technical subjects.

And news reports suggest that English teachers are using more informational texts in their classrooms as they move to the Common Core. An Oct. 15 story in The Hechinger Report found one teacher replaced the novel The Great Gatsby, with a memoir, The Glass Castle.

However, the idea that English teachers must spend half their time on informational texts misreads the standards.

Common Core follows a framework that spells out percentages of literary versus informational texts by grade level. It calls for a 50 percent/50 percent split in grade four, with an increasing emphasis on informational texts in later grades. In grade 12, the split is 30 percent/70 percent.

But those percentages are meant to reflect the sum of student reading, not just in English.

To meet the 30 percent threshold for literary reading at grade 12, an English teacher would have to focus on stories, novels and plays, said Timothy Shanahan, a retired education professor and a member of the English Language Arts Work Team for the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

PolitiFact Florida rated the claim that English teachers must spend half their time on informational texts as False.

•••

One of the most dramatic claims we found against Common Core came from published materials from the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition. The standards aim “to instill federally determined attitudes and mindsets in students including political and religious beliefs,” states a report on the group’s website.

We found nothing in the standards that suggested any level of government was telling students what political or religious beliefs they should personally hold.

So what evidence do the critics have for saying the Common Core will instill political and religious beliefs?

The coalition’s report zeroes in on lists of hundreds of data elements a school district might keep on its students. The report linked to a screen grab it created of data elements from the National Education Data Model.

The list shown includes “voting status” and “religious consideration” and “religious affiliation.”

But this is not a required list of data for all states or school districts to collect.

So why are the fields on voting and religion even there?

We interviewed Alexander Jackl, chief architect of Choice Solutions, Inc., an education data software company. He’s also one of the original authors of the National Education Data Model.

The data fields are all optional, and the fields for religion are useful for private, religious schools, he said.

We contacted several Florida school districts to ask if they collect data on voting status, political affiliation or religious affiliations, or if they plan to start doing that with Common Core. They all said no.

The Florida Department of Education does not require school districts to ask about those subjects and has no plan to do so under Common Core, Etters said.

So the evidence — a computer model that has a data field for voting status or religion, typically used by a private school — is a far cry from the federal government attempting to instill particular religious or political beliefs. We rate this Pants on Fire!

“Inquiry Learning vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist?”

On my lunch break today, which was sandwiched somewhere in between covering for various teachers who were attending Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, I read an article through my Flipboard on MindShift by Thom Markham titled, “Inquiry Learning vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist?”

The short answer to the headlining question? Yes.  My only question?  Why is this even being debated?

Ok..stay with me, here…Let me explain why I don’t see a reason for debate.  My complete sentence answer is, “They not only can they coexist, but they must coexist.”  And I really think most teachers and parents would agree with the statement if we set the record straight on some terminology.

First, the words “standards” and ” formulaic” are NOT interchangeable.  I frequently here “standards” and Common Core being described as formulaic restrictions that will suffocate learning.  Standards are not prescriptive.  They do not tell the teacher to teach commas on Monday and prepositions on Tuesday.  They are the common foundation in which a teacher can build anything upon.  Standards are “the basics”.

Why do we need standards?  There needs to be a common foundation for teachers, other students, parents, and students to know what is minimally expected for them to know.  There should be some content standards.  For instance, by the end of the 1st grade a student in America should know the significance of the year 1776 to the United States of America.  Another reason: certain facts do not need to be cited in a paper because they are considered to be “common knowledge”.  This “common knowledge” should be defined somewhere.

There are various reasons basic content standards should be outlined.  It gives parents, educators, and tutors who teach privately (“homeschool”) to ensure the same common knowledge is being learned so that if in 5 years a switch must occur, from one district to another, from private to public education, etc., the new educator does not need to spend time “remaking” the common foundation.  This ensures that students who change education styles do not feel like they need to skip grades or be put in remedial classes because they are ahead or behind “grade-level”.

We know we need to teach skills.  We know we need to use a project-based learning environment.  We need to keep the individual accountable yet learn to work effectively in collaboration.  However, without this foundation, the content-based standards, we cannot reach the higher-order thinking required for project-based learning.

How can one create a new type of solar cell without a good grasp of mathematics or knowledge of what the suns rays are composed of?  How will student be able to solve problems if they don’t have the background knowledge to identify what the problem even is?  How will that person submit a research paper for publication in a journal or write a grant to produce a prototype if he can’t write a proper sentence?

Let’s look at standards in another way.  If we don’t have standards to minimally define the objectives of high school, then why do we even have high school altogether?  Think about the educational goals and objectives of high school.  How are they different from middle school or even elementary school? If we cannot even define the objectives we want students to accomplish in high school, there is a much larger problem than curriculum/methods of presentation.  How much of compulsory learning is actually “essential” to being a productive member of society and what is superfluous?

There are quite a few rhetorical questions in that last paragraph.  However, we really need to think about why we need standards versus what the standards should be.

Last analogy: if I asked you (in the USA) to go to McDonald’s and get me a medium Diet Coke (please), would you know what size glass I’m asking you to get?  Now let’s exchange McDonald’s for Burger King.  If they both have a Diet Coke machine and I asked for a medium Diet, would I get essentially the same thing?  Most likely, unless they recently changed cup sizes on me.  I remember a number of years ago some of the fast food restaurants changed their glasses sizes and suddenly a medium at Burger King was previously the large and I was charged more.  Standardization is what allows you to expect cups to usually come in 8oz, 12oz, 16oz, 20oz, and 32oz.  Once in awhile you may find a 10oz.  You don’t expect to find a 13oz cup at McDonald’s.  And how did the graphic designer know what would fit on the cup?  Standardization.  All McDonald’s restaurants have the same size cups.

Education standards function the same way as the cup.  Teachers are the graphic designers.  We make the difference between the look of the cup, but it’s foundation is still a cup.

Project-based learning must coexist with content standards.  Neither will thrive without the other.  It is a symbiotic relationship (a term learned in science class, yet here it is in another “subject”).

Article: Culture, Not Curriculum, May be Key to High School Reform

I agree with this article.  The “achievement gap problem” does not lie solely upon the teachers, solely upon the students, solely upon the parents, solely upon the curriculum, or solely upon the school’s administration.  It lies in the culture of the school.  Each “piece of the puzzle” puts in a certain amount of effort that is required and demanded by the school’s culture.  We will only get back what we put in.  We will only get back what we demand others to put in.

The article says it’s time to focus not on the plants we grow but instead on the soil we plant them in.  I’m a product of the good soil in this area.  I went to the local public schools for K-12.  I would love nothing more than to turn around and give that same high quality (or better!) education back to the school system that empowered me.  It was the culture of the local district that made a difference.  It was the sincerity of the teachers.  It was the hard work the teachers put in.  It was the hard work my parents put in.  It was the hard work I put in.  The least important component to me of my public education was the curriculum.

—–

Culture, Not Curriculum, May be Key to High School Reform
Article By November 12, 2012, USNews.com

School leaders can improve student achievement by empowering teachers and engaging parents, one expert says.

Resurrecting a struggling high school is more about changing culture than curriculum, according to Charles Payne, a University of Chicago professor and affiliate of the university’s Urban Education Institute.

Schools should be places where teachers are trusted, students are challenged, and parents are engaged, Payne said Friday at an annual conference hosted by the Education Trust, an advocacy group. When that happens, students show up and teachers stick around, and that alone can boost student achievement.

“If you can get your students to … show up regularly, if you can get the teachers to stay in one school … then students have a better chance to develop, even if we hold the quality of teaching constant,” he told a ballroom full of educators and administrators. “We’ve got to stop worrying about the particular plants we are planting, and worry more about the soil.”

[Find out what teachers wish parents asked at conferences.]

Teacher collaboration, strong community ties, rigorous instruction, supportive leadership, and a safe learning climate can all help change the makeup of the soil, he said, but those elements are futile on their own. Without support from their principal, colleagues, and parents, educators who are excited about engaging their students will eventually revert back to the status quo of teaching with workbooks and answer sheets, he added.

“[They] get tired of being the hardest working person on a staff where the other teachers are almost laughing at [them],” Payne said. “You can create all the pockets of good instruction you want, [but] if the organizational environment doesn’t support [the change], it is likely to destroy it.”

[Read how high school teachers put training to work.]

School districts that have transformed their culture, often through a change of leadership, have seen improvements in graduation rates, drops in truancy levels, and increases in college readiness, he said, pointing to Baltimore City Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, and New York City Public Schools as examples.

In New York, district administrators revitalized a push toward smaller schools focused on personalized attention and community partnerships. As a result, graduation rates for minority students improved 8 percentage points, Payne noted.

Administrators in Baltimore started throwing annual block parties to connect with students, and cut down on the number of long-term suspensions. Graduation rates at Baltimore high schools are up 20 percent from four years ago, and up 26 percent among black male students, he said.

Montgomery County schools shrunk the achievement gap at all grade levels, in part because district officials moved their top talent to underserved schools, Payne added.

“There are some groups of African-American and Hispanic students who, when they get a different caliber of teachers, can turn on a dime,” he added. “Montgomery County cannot be the only place where those students exist.”

Public vs. Private Education

Let’s be honest.  There are many persuasive arguments both in favor of and against public and private education.  And depending on the context and the framing of the argument, I could be swayed either way.  Because when you boil down the pros and cons, private and public education are arguing for the same end goal: providing the next generation with an education.

I’m not going to argue which one is “better”.  The term “better” is relative.  When the context (the environment) changes, so do the arguments.  That being said, there are thousands of parents/guardians who are struggling with the decision whether they should send their student to a private school or public school.  I want to examine the points parents/guardians should consider when making that decision.  Again, I’m not here to make a decision for any parents or guardian, I’m trying to help them make a well-informed decision.

Current Environment

The first thing to look at is the current school environment.  Is the student happy?  Is the student challenged adequately or given impossible standards?  Is the student interested in the curriculum or is he/she bored?  Does the student want to change schools?  If the student is doing well, is happy, and is not interested in changing schools, then there is no reason to make a change.  But if there is a disconnect somewhere, parents/guardians should examine or re-examine the school’s resources to see if the school still is meeting the student’s needs.  And if not, then parents/guardians should examine the possibility of switching their student to another school, either another of the same type, or examine switching from public to private or private to public.  Note on terminology: charter schools are considered part of the public education system.

Distance

The potential new school’s distance to your residence needs to be taken into account.  Especially in regards to daily transportation to and from the school. Will you need to drive your student there and pick him/her up every day?  Is driving your student every day feasible with your schedule?  Is there anyone you know that you could set up a carpool with?  Does the school provide bus transportation?  Will your student be able to take public transit?  Is your student able to drive himself/herself to school everyday?  Will a car need to be purchased?  Is transportation an added expense that needs to be budgeted?  It is important to examine the distance between your residence and the school because the daily transportation could cause frequent hassles and additional problems later down the line.

Tuition/Cost

This category is usually what makes or breaks a parent/guardian’s decision to send their student to a private school.  Before you throw in the towel after seeing the price of tuition at a private school, read all the fine print.  You could find out that the high price tag is all-inclusive – meaning it includes all the things parents/guardians pay for in public schools like lunches, field trips, athletic fees, parking permit fees, PTO fees, yearbooks, school pictures, etc.  You could also find out that the tuition covers none of those and you’ll have to add all those fees on top of the tuition price.  Additionally, some private schools require uniforms and they can be quite expensive.  Some private schools may require a laptop and expensive software, which is another additional cost.  Education, no matter at a public or private school, will cost money.  No matter which one you choose, you will need to plan for surprise expenses.  Just remember that the tuition fee most likely isn’t an end-all-be-all fee.

Quality of Education

Both public and private schools can have quality or poor education.  Parents/guardians need to look at the school district in which they reside and examine the quality of its education.  Ask the students (or their parents/guardians) in the neighborhood if they think they’re getting a good education or if they like school.  Parents/guardians should ask if they can meet with some teachers in the district after school.  Depending on the school’s security policies, parents/guardians may be able to take a tour with the principal during the school day.  Search the school district and school in Google and read news stories or personal reviews.  Don’t just look at test scores – they only make up part of the whole picture of a quality education.

After examining the local school district, examine the quality of education at the private schools you are interested in.  Do the same things you did to obtain information about the local district – ask the students, teachers, and parents/guardians questions; see if you can tour the school; Google the school; look at test scores; etc.

Once parents/guardians have all the information from each potential school, you will then be able to make an informed decision on which school has the highest quality education plan for your student.  You may find the local public school to be atrocious and desire to pay for a private school education for your student.  You could also discover that the local public district is similar, on par, or be of higher quality than local private schools.  You may decide that you really don’t need to pay for a private education.

Philosophy or Doctrine

Most schools have a philosophy.  It may be called a mission, a philosophy, or a vision statement, or even a doctrine.  Parents/guardians and students should read this statement to see if it matches their own philosophy.  For most public school districts, there typically isn’t any disconnect.  Conflicts between parents/guardians/students and school philosophies are more common to charter schools and private schools.

Parents who are considering a private school with a religious affiliation should examine the school’s philosophy or doctrine to see if it matches with their own philosophy or beliefs.  If not, parents and students need to ask themselves if they are willing to accept the school’s philosophy while on the school grounds.  For some students, the answer is yes, for others, the answer is no.

For parents  who are still on the fence between the local public school district and a local private school, a third option is a charter school.  Charter schools are still part of the public school system, yet they have many attributes found in private schools.  Some charter schools may have a philosophy with an emphasis that is important to your student such as an arts emphasis, a music emphasis, a math and science emphasis, etc.

No Good Options Available

If no good options are available, parents/guardians can choose to home-school their students.  Home-schooling does not have as much as a negative connotation as it once did and there are an abundance of resources available to ensure your student learns what is required to obtain at general education degree (GED).  Students can also take online or distance-learning courses for material parents/guardians are unable to teach.

Re-examination

Don’t be afraid of re-examining your student’s education at any point.  What worked two years ago may not be working anymore.  Remember: no matter which type of education your student receives, he/she is receiving an education and that is the best thing you can give your student.

iPads…for Kindergarteners?

Amidst budget cuts of essential services and staff, one school district in Maine is spending $200,000 to buy iPads for their 5-6 year old kindergarteners.  Yup, that’s right, the Auburn School Board in Maine voted unanimously to purchase over 300 iPad 2’s and give them to kindergarteners.

I am all for technology in the classroom.  I’d love to use the iPad or other tablets in the classroom…but my discipline is secondary education , not primary education.  And while I can agree there are great arguments for an elementary school to purchase a set of 30 for the school that teacher’s can use in the classroom, I think giving them to kindergarteners to borrow like a textbook for the year is not the best way to spent $200,000 on technology.

First, let’s look at the age group.  5-6 year old children.  They like to play, draw, and use their imaginations.

Pros:

  • Utilizing technology at a young age give students the ability to imagine and create with resources that are being used in the real world, right now.
  • There are many programs that are free or inexpensive that can assist young students in interacting with knowledge in a fun, engaging manner.

Cons

  • 5-6 year olds are not the most careful.  Dropping/breaking iPads can cause a delay in using the technology because not everyone has one.
  • Repair process can have a long turn around time.  Can get expensive.
  • Distractions – kindergarteners are easily distracted.  I don’t think much learning will be done when Angry Birds is so accessible.
  • Lost/stolen iPads – how often do kids loose their homework or just shove something in their backpack?

 

Look at previous statistics of school districts that issued laptops to students.  Did the benefits outweigh the costs?  Were they abandoned within a year or so?  I believe the district would not just hand out the iPads without contracts of liability to parents and an exhaustive policy and consequences manual.  What if a parent does not want to take on the responsibility of paying for damages?

 

I have three main issues with giving iPad 2’s to kindergarteners.

  1. Kindergarteners do not need brand new, top-of-the-line iPad 2’s in the classroom.  The school district would have a better investment of buying refurbished iPads to give to kindergarteners.  This will reduce the cost of the iPads and any losses while still giving young students the ability to use tablet technology.
  2. Secondary education students would benefit more from the use of iPads in the classroom as they are technology currently being used in the real world and would be entering higher education and/or the workforce earlier than kindergarteners.  A simple case of seniority.  The top-of-the-line equipment should be reserved for those who would receive the largest benefit first.
  3. Using $200,000 for “perks” in a classroom when there isn’t enough money to purchase “necessities” such as staff, adequate desks & chairs, updated textbooks, and healthy food.

 

iPads and tablet technology are invaluable in schools and in the workplace.  Kindergarteners can benefit from the occasionally use of iPads, but they are not needed everyday.  You don’t want to focus on what the technology can do, but what it is actually doing. Plus, kids need to learn the basics, understand the “old” way, the “hard” way so they can fully appreciate what the technology can do.  The iPad should enhance learning, not be the source.  A class of 30 rowdy kindergarteners is tough to control, is it really a good idea to give them an expensive item that can they will find a way to break in seconds?  Or would you rather see $200,000 invested in providing healthier food, adequately paid staff, better field trips, and more buses?  If you had $500 to give to a kindergartener to invest in their learning and well-being, is an iPad really what you would purchase?

Education Instead of Avoidance

At what point can a person absolve the past and move forward?  Everyone has made a mistake – a choice they later regretted.  How long is the acceptable amount of time before the label can be removed?

Recently there have been several articles published about a Missouri high school teacher with a past – a pornographic past.  The immediate negative backlash called her cruel names and demanded her resignation.  Why?  If solely for the fact that she was not up front about her past, then I may agree.  But truthfully, I cannot think of one reason, based on the facts presented, that she should have resigned or possibly be terminated.

Fact: Tericka Dye appeared in a few adult films in the 1990’s under the name Rikki Andersin.

I agree that the fact that she had previously been involved with porn makes her a less than desirable candidate for a teacher.  But teacher’s don’t live in an idealized, perfect bubble world.  We experience life.  Then bring life to the classroom through our lenses.  Before panicking that your child has been influenced by a “porn star”, stop and think.  Really look at the facts.

At the time Dye acted in the films, she was living in California with an undiagnosed (and untreated) bipolar disorder and had no money.  She made a choice.  One she didn’t realize had ramifications for the rest of her life.  But is she currently in the adult film industry?  No.  She enlisted in the army and served in the military police.  Following the army she attended Murray State University.  How can a poor choice when she was young hover over her head for the rest of her life?  Her career serving in the army and attending college is not enough to absolve her of a desperate choice?

She began teaching in Kentucky until someone discovered some of her movies.  She was suspended from teaching and her contract was not renewed.  She even sat down with Dr. Phil on his TV show explaining her past.  At what point she changed her name to Tera Myers I do not know, but logically this would be the time she would change it.  She started over in Missouri teaching science.  I can only assume the districts she worked in checked her credentials to validate her teaching certificate.  However when a student asked her a question about her past films, she asked the administration how to handle the situation.  And here is where the name calling and assumptions begin.

My first thought was: how did a high school student (most likely under the age of 18) find and recognize the teacher in a porn film?  My second thought was: Instead of banishing her from the classroom, how about equipping her, other teachers, and the district to use her past as some life lessons?  Lessons that include “it’s never to late to start a career” or “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” and “decisions have consequences but they do not define you as a person”.

Instead of actual education about issues in today’s society, our curriculum focuses too much on the past and nothing of the current or the future.  Too many parents run to the school board or the district administrators when they feel something inappropriate is being taught in the classroom.  Why aren’t the parents talking to their students?  Why must teachers avoid topics that are relevant to today’s society in favor of less controversial topics?

Why are parents throwing fits about corrupting students’ minds?  Does the mere presence of Meyers in a classroom encourage students to pursue porn or other “illegal” careers?  Absolutely not.  Her distant past is not a “disruption to the educational process” (Goodman qtq “Mo. district knew nothing of teacher’s porn past”).  Her distant past is a real-life example for lessons to be learned instead of avoided.  To me, the anger displayed by parents means they aren’t doing their jobs as parents and leaving it to the school/teachers to completely educate their kids about academic and social subjects. If parents REALLY did their jobs it would not be a problem. But too many people say “ooo, taboo” we must ignore it and hope it goes away rather than talk, learn, and grow from conversations.

 

Muessig, Ben. “St. Louis Teacher Tera Myers Resigns After Student Finds Out About Her Porn Star Past.” Top News & Analysis, US, World, Sports, Celebrity & Weird News. N.p., 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. <http://www.aolnews.com>

NECN. “Mo. district knew nothing of teacher’s porn past.” NECN – Breaking News, Boston Weather, World and US News Stories – Get the Latest Business, Health, Entertainment, Sports. N.p., 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. <http://www.necn.com >.