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Re: grade level debunked

Monty - it's not intended for people to come to YouTube and stumble upon. It would be propagated by folks like you and me and then, if successful, become viral on its own.

Here's a way we could frame it:


Voice-Over: We've all heard over and over again that our students are not "at grade level."

Politician Speech Excerpt 1 - talking about "grade level"

Politician Speech Excerpt 2 - talking about "grade level"

But what the heck do we mean by "grade level"?

Jerry Bracey (for example) - talking about what it is and isn't

Monty Neill - talking about what it is and isn't

George Cunningham - talking about what it is and isn't

Voice-Over: We spend $$$ dollars every year on tests that determine if kids are "at grade level."

So if grade level doesn't really exist, how come we're spending so much time -- and money -- on trying to figure out if kids are there or not?

Wouldn't it be better to spend money on tests that actually told us what kids knew and could do?

Well, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that these measures do exist.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

But the bad news is that politicians are fixated on this "grade level" thing.

Politician Speech Excerpt 3 - talking about "grade level"

Clearly the politicians aren't getting it. So how can we make them get it?

We need to start locally and pressure our local school districts to use measures that are meaningful. Once we get local districts using these measures and pointing them up as models, we can encourage other districts to do the same. Once we have enough schools using these measures, we can start to pressure politicians to adopt state and federal policies that put them into use at the larger level.

Go to this web site for more info.


What works about this? What doesn't?


On Apr 16, 2009, at 1:13 PM, Monty Neill wrote:

When I read this, I just don't see "grade level" as something that will grab most people - maybe I am wrong, since it clearly grabbed you, Peter.

BTW, on you tube, if you put in NCLB, the video featuring Jerry has 43 K hits; way beyond the others that showed up under nclb - other than a CNN clip and an Obama clip (26K), all others under 10K. "It's not the test" has 83K; FairTest's little clip has 6K - neither are on the NCLB list in youtube. Beware how much work you do for very likely not a lot of views, never mind real attention or resulting action. Some things do attract a ton of attention, but...

And is "grade level" something youtube viewers would focus on? At a minimum, some other framing and naming that would attract folks that leads plausibly into the point (grade level) you want to make.


----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Campbell
To: Mike
Cc: arn2-strategy ; ARN Main List ; ARN State ; ndsg Study Group
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2009 3:55 PM
Subject: [ARN-state] Re: [ndsgroup] Re: [arn2-strategy] grade level debunked

Hi, Mike. Fair enough, and understood. I like your optimism -- it's
refreshing to say the least! I really don't think we can rely on
politicians like Obama to lead the change on this. Thus the shotgun.
They're all convinced that the purpose of public education is to
prepare children to be competitive in the global economy. I say
"all" because I have not encountered a single politician in Congress
-- except Dennis Kucinich -- that says anything to the contrary. Please correct me if I'm mistaken. They are all also convinced that
grade level is alive and well and waiting to be measured. Again, I'm
using the word "all" because I mean it. Please provide corrections if
I'm mistaken.

If I'm right, what this means is that we have to make the politicians
the last in the chain of who is to receive the message. They will be
responsible for enacting policy that reflects change, but they will
do so because public opinion forces them to do so.

So how to get public opinion to change on this?

RE: Monty's suggestion (as you remind us): "encourage more thought on
who the audience would be, how to reach them, what the message is,
what they should retain and take away, and anything you want them to

OK, so here's a start:

audience - anyone with an Internet connection that has an interest in
public education (the message would be sent via YouTube, so they need
an Internet connection)

how to reach them - YouTube; the message is short and powerful and
people forward it on to friends and colleagues; it becomes viral

what the message is - "grade level" (1) is a phantasm, (2) cannot be
measured accurately or reliably and does not yield any kind of useful
information whatsoever, and (3) is therefore meaningless when we talk
about the academic achievement of low-income minorities.

what they should retain and take away - 1) If "grade level" is a
phantasm and does not accurately measure what students know and can
do, what are other means by which we can better understand what
students know and can do? (2) If it's meaningless to say that low-
income minorities are not "at grade level," then what is a meaningful
way to talk about the disparity that exists between low-income kids
and their more affluent peers?

what we want them to do - go to web sites that provide strong,
compelling examples of alternatives, including examples from other
countries; provide examples of letters to write to their school
boards; school boards pass resolutions or make policy changes that
allow schools to develop alternatives to "grade level"

This is a rough start.

Anyone care to chime in and add anything? Change anything?


On Apr 16, 2009, at 3:52 AM, Mike wrote:

> Therefore, I think we should be forthright in expressing our views
> about assessment and standards clearly. No I don't think we are
> going to get rid of standardized testing in the new bill. But we
> may get changes that are substantial and not just "tweaking." There
> is widespread opposition to many of NCLB's punitive assaults on
> schools and teachers. This is still contested territory and I'm not
> so sure we are going back to the Bush days (how soon we forget).
> But I think we should make our criticisms pointed--not a shotgun
> approach hitting everyone ("so-called progressives" or the entire
> Democratic Party). I think we should use restraint and make sure we
> are on just grounds, ie. are we against high standards for teachers?
> Finally, I think we should avoid empty cliches, ie. "NCLB number
> crunching" and as Monty put it the other day: "encourage more
> thought on who the audience would be, how to reach them, what the
> message is, what they should retain and take away, and anything you
> want them to do."

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