Adams County and Education Reform- Part 4: Portfolio Assessments

A portfolio is defined as “a set of pieces of creative work collected together to show someone’s ability.” (1) For our purpose a portfolio is the collection of student work that shows they’ve met Colorado state academic standards. Basically, teacher and student at each grade level collaborate to choose the student’s best work that demonstrates that he/she has achieved the standard with the exception of local and state approved tests like the ACT or SAT’s that are automatically placed in the portfolio. Students are still assessed or evaluated based on an authentic spectrum of work and ability.

Portfolios follow the student from grade to grade. An electronic version would be a rubric that compiles student data such as attendance, teacher commentary, grades for each subject, local and corporate made test scores that measure basic skills and subject matter skills, extra-curricular activities, interests/hobbies outside of school, social-emotional score, 21st Century Skill/Workplace Readiness score, problem-solving/critical thinking, and samples of student work that show the best the student was able to accomplish. The rubric would then crunch the numbers that combine to prove a student’s abilities given a certain point system for each category. The total score would determine if a student was ready for the next grade level.

Teachers use portfolios to hold parent conferences that speak to each skill, domain, and student demonstration of critical thinking and problem-solving. Conversations surround the student’s total cognitive, affective, and kinesthetic abilities than just around a test score. The whole child is assessed using the portfolio system and in evaluating that child’s readiness for the next grade level. It is a system that is efficacious and authentic because it captures the student’s abilities in real-time and not just one time like on a standardized test.

An example of a portfolio is a student collects his/her work for each semester and consults with each teacher about the work evaluated in each class. The student then works with an academic advisor to mark and analyze his/her work in a rubric that calculates the demonstration of skill or the successful completion of student work in a given category. Let’s say that a student participated in Student Council, Basketball, and completed outside service hours. These interactions or extra-curricular activities would be weighted in to the score of the rubric along with the academic components such as subject matter tests, weekly quizzes, and student created work such as term papers, projects, and group work. A school district may use standards from the 21st Century Workforce Readiness standards and the Common Core Curriculum to measure student academic achievement along with the social-emotional and critical thinking aspects of human relations involved in public school.

Schools that already use the portfolio system of assessment to analyze student skills and abilities are Sheridan School District, Falcon School District and Vantage Point High School in Adams 12 Five Star Schools. The portfolio assessment is cost effective, time-saving, and involves the student throughout the entire process. Whereas standardized testing is costly, time-consuming, and only involves the student at one point in time: the test date.

Millions of dollars of taxpayer money are thrown away each year on standardized testing that is only used to measure the growth in math, reading and writing for comparison between school districts. These measurements fail to evaluate the entire school program and total student experience within an academic year. Now, using Senate Bill 191, standardized tests will be used to measure teacher effectiveness based on a student’s performance on a single testing system known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) test. According to the PARCC creators they have successfully piloted the test and are ready to roll it out in our state next year. The Colorado State Senate wanted a metric to grade teachers to get that Race to the Top money. We must ask if any thought was given about the ramifications of using a one-time standardized test to measure a teacher’s performance? What are the costs on instruction time? What is the impact on children’s learning? The test and the curriculum may cause more problems and cost the districts more money to carry out the curriculum than getting limited amounts of Race to the Top funds. Teachers may have helped create the test and the Common Core Curriculum but they did not create Colorado’s Senate Bill 191.

The cost of implementing PARCC and the Common Core Standards includes outside consultants, training and development of teachers, working with teacher professional organizations and unions to affect a fair and balanced teacher evaluation system, training administrators and all other relevant staff, parent education and awareness or public relations needed to tell parents about PARCC, purchasing the test and computer software, upgrading hardware to contain the software, and purchasing the paper-and-pencil version. School districts and taxpayers are burdened with the heavy cost of standardized test costs and in the long run these tests aren’t used for any real purpose other than for a testing company and its “partners” to make a profit. The student loses and the corporation that created the test wins.

Tests should measure student ability only and that score should be used to move the student to the next level of their education or for entrance into the college or career of their choice. Instead this test is used to punish schools and misrepresent the hard work of good teachers.

Portfolios are used by students to present their work to a future employer and college/university upon successful completion of the secondary academic level. This system benefits students. They are an authentic evaluation of the interactions between student and teacher. Finally, they are cost efficient to the school district that uses them and to the tax payer that relies on them to promote their children’s academic success.

1.) Oxford American Desk Dictionary & Thesaurus (Third Edition)

Andrew Romanoff is a true friend of working people

This Labor Day 2014, as we officially kick off the campaign, I want to promote a true friend of working folks in a key Adams County race.
Let’s pause this Labor Day to salute a long time friend of working people: Andrew Romanoff, candidate for Colorado’s sixth congressional district.
In his eight years in the Colorado legislature, Andrew demonstrated, time and again, all of the top skills needed in a legislator. He listened. He stood firm by his principles, but he also compromised for the greater good. He represented all his constituents, not just the primary voters in his party. He stood firm by his decisions. He led the way to a better future.
In 2005, Andrew was Speaker of the Colorado state house. He had spearheaded Referendum C&D, a rather wonky pair of ballot measures made necessary by Colorado’s stupid TABOR restrictions. I had the honor of driving him to seven events. Seven campaign stops later, I was a true believer.
Andrew knew his script cold. More than having memorized the words, he delivered them every time with enough passion and sincerity to make you feel like he was talking directly to you. Then you get to know Andrew, and you realize he IS talking directly to you.
More importantly, Andrew listens to you. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it. From the moment he walks in the door at your typical fundraiser or county party assembly, he is mobbed by liberals like me, all well meaning, all anxious to bend his ear on climate change or the state of our schools or whatever is on their mind.
In the 10 years I’ve known him, the ever-shifting nature of politics has kept Andrew on the move (he was term-limited him out of the Speaker’s office). If you step back and look at all Andrew has worked on the last 10 years, there are common threads amongst the tapestry of “jobs” the rough seas of politics have tossed him along.
Andrew has always been working for the underdog. Andrew has always been fighting to represent those who can’t afford lobbyists. Andrew has always maintained the highest of ethical standards. Andrew has always stood true to the principles of the Democratic Party.
I wish all the voters of CD6 could know Andrew like I do. The race would no longer be a toss-up.
The fact is, Andrew’s race for Congress is a toss-up.  Most elections are pre-determined, settled earlier during the primary in gerrymandered districts safe even in wave elections. Not Colorado’s CD6. This district is a true swing district, even by old-school standards.
Andrew will be the ideal Congressman in the Ed Perlmutter mold. He’ll be accessible, he’ll be always on the go, he’ll listen, he’ll represent.
The favorable comparison, of Andrew Romanoff being promoted to Ed Perlmutter status, really shined through for all to see in Commerce City this year at Colorado’s largest Memorial Day parade. Congressman Perlmutter, as he has always done since his first election, ran up and down the parade route. He always needs to run to catch up because he constantly falls behind when listening to the concerns of a neighbor. Listen, run and catch up, stop and listen, run and catch up, Congressman Perlmutter is like the Energizer bunny at a parade.
And this year, there was Andrew Romanoff, running to catch up because he had been listening to a random person he encountered along the parade route. Pausing to listen to another voter, he had to run to catch up.
Now he’s running to join Ed Perlmutter in Congress. Like Ed, Andrew will be a great representative for Colorado’s best interests. If you really want to help, give Andrew a small donation. It’s a good investment in a better America.

Re-Elect Jenise May for HD30!

I had the pleasure of walking with Representative Jenise May this morning, as we canvassed the River Run section of north Commerce City encouraging Dems to vote and asking U’s (unaffiliated voters) what it will take to earn their vote.
I’m so proud of Jenise. She’s smart and focused. Jenise has grown nicely into her role as a public figure. She’s achieved great success, especially for a first term legislator. She’s working incredibly long hours. And she’s clearly been studying up on the issues of the day. Trust me, if an elected leader is within earshot, I’m not talking about the weather!
Jenise May lives down in Aurora in the portion of the city wedged between the Adams County line to the south and Pena Blvd on the north. It is an area full of working class people – the kind of people I’m always adamant about Democrats defending and supporting.
Fortunately for all of us in HD30, Jenise May fits the bill. Jenise’s first term in the Colorado House has been nothing less than stellar. She has been influential, passing some notable pieces of legislation. She has worked tirelessly, doing a great job representing the needs of working people in my neighborhood and all of Colorado for that matter. Her colleagues at the Capitol noticed, and rewarded her outstanding dedication to common sense and the common good with a prestigous appointment to the Joint Budget Committee. For those not familiar with the inner-workings of Colorado policy making – and more importantly, Colorado state funding – just know that “JBC” is probably second only to the Governor’s office in political power and influence.
And isn’t this why we win elections in the first place? So that we can have our people in the majority at the Capitol, pulling the levers of power? I say yes. Yes!
Jenise May is a perfect complement to our democracy in motion. She ran a bill allowing community colleges to offer 4 year degrees in applied sciences. Both chambers of her colleagues passed it. Governor Lucky John Hickenlooper signed it. The system works.
The system works better when voter turnout is high. We need working people to vote. This means you. Every election matters. This election sure as hell matters. Don’t assume that “President Obama has our back.” He does to some degree. But a President can only veto so many things. Budgets can be passed with completely unrelated attachments like banning abortions. Then a Presidential veto means our soldiers in a war zone get their funding cutoff. That’s a tough veto. If not impossible.
Your vote matters. Your local reps, your Jenise Mays, they make an impact. Give them small donations like $32 or $11 if they stand up for your values. Take a few hours on a Saturday this election season to walk with your Rep. You might discover them to be a dedicated, hard working, common sense focused kind of leader. Just like my Rep.
Thanks Jenise!

Lucky John is a better nickname than Hick

Great news everybody, Mike Littwin is still writing. The former Rocky Mountain News legend known for his rumpled look, up yours attitude, and call ‘em as he sees ‘em style continues to practice his fine art over at the Colorado Independent. (I know, it’s so easy to forget they’re over there…)

I’ve always been impressed by how accurately Littwin calls balls and strikes in the world of Colorado politics, and his recent piece summarizing the Great Colorado Fracking Wars Compromise was no exception.

I know many liberals are discontent with the compromise. I certainly have a hard time swallowing a “deal” that Frank McNulty boasts is a “victory.”

And I know some of Jared Polis’s constituents were upset enough to protest and call him a sell-out. Which is, of course, stupid. Jared was, and probably still is, the best, if not only, hope the anti-fracking crowd has in their long-shot battle to stop fracking. It’s here to stay people, whether you like it or not. Don’t be like the Republican Taliban. Get over it.*

Governor John Hickenlooper – labeled Lucky John by Littwin – is an upbeat and hardworking pro. He knows you create your own luck.

Give the guv some credit here. The fracking compromise was a brilliant move from a purely political standpoint. And it never hurts to reassure the business community.

The bottom line is this – while the outcome of those anti-fracking initiatives was hard to forecast, there was no doubt that the oil and gas industry was poised to pour millions of dollars into Colorado, and not just for TV, but for an Obama-style GOTV effort. And that would not have helped any Dems on the ballot, including important races like Senator Mark Udall, which could be the balance of power in the US Senate, Andrew Romanoff, one of the few pick-ups the national party realistically has a shot at in the US House, and, of course, the Governor’s race. Where Lucky John just created some more good luck for himself.

As for Congressman Polis, you have to respect the fact that he was gearing up for a fight shaping up to be Jared Polis v. The World. Yes, he’s safe in his liberal district with Boulder at its heart. But Jared has larger ambitions – as he should – and he really took a bold and somewhat risky stance here. He got the lawsuit dropped against the city of Longmont, which will save the taxpayers there countless thousands, no small sum for a small town. Most of all, he showed us he’s unafraid. Jared Polis is one of Colorado’s best Democrats. All true blue liberals owe him a huge thanks.

Thanks Jared!

* I don’t want this to be a post about fracking. I’ve been accused before of being a pro-oil Republican dressed as a Dem for not being all-in on the anti-fracking movement. Let me be clear – I think the idea of smashing up the Earth to save a few pennies per BTU is somewhere between risky and lunacy. Also, the amount of water they use is unimaginable. And they can’t leave it down there – it would only further increase the risk of earthquakes. So when they bring the water up it’s poisoned and has nowhere to go. Again, risky to lunacy. Fracking certainly feels shortsighted and unsustainable.

But it’s here to stay. At least until they’ve fracked it all up. It creates jobs, and believe it or not, the people who work those jobs aren’t gun toting criminals. They may own firearms, but they’re good honest people, just like those of us who oppose fracking. They have families, they pay taxes, and I refuse to refer to people who work in the oil and gas industry as “the enemy.” That’s stupid. Friends and neighbors is more like it.

We have to pick our battles. Natural gas is 50% “better” (less worse is more accurate) than coal on CO2, and something like 100% better on mercury emissions. My numbers here are rough, not scientific, but the point is made. We need energy, and natural gas is better than coal. It’s better than gasoline too. Electric motors can’t propel 18 wheelers over your standard issue Rocky Mountain. Natural gas can, making it the perfect complement to a primarily electric car nation. Which is where we need to go. Electricity that can be generated by renewable sources like solar and wind with, as a stabilizing supplier, natural gas.

Now, I realize the ballot initiatives were about local control. Those ballot initiatives could have passed, and if nothing more happened, if no locality passed any new laws, nothing would have changed. In other words, the initiatives themselves weren’t the threat, just the possible repercussions. But it certainly would have put the legal department of any oil and gas company into overdrive. And they were gonna fight tooth nail first to keep the status quo certainty any business prefers. And that would have made this election even worse for us Dems. We’re already in choppy seas here. We didn’t need this.

Go Register One Voter

At last night’s JFK Dinner, AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. challenged over 250 Adams County Democratic Party activists and supporters to get out there and register one, just one, new voter between Saturday night’s festivities and “sundown on Monday.”
He’s right on a couple of levels. First, if it is to be, it’s up to me. If every attendee registers one voter now, and one more between now and the end of registration, that’s over 500 new voters right there. And when the people vote, Democrats win.
He’s also right in that this will be a grind-it-out, turn out the vote election. By which I mean this won’t be a wave a election (see 2006 and 2010) where one party has an overwhelming advantage heading into election day. Republicans should have such an advantage, given the historical “six year itch.” The six year itch refers to an incumbent lame duck President, whereby the voting electorate, historically, has grown fatigued with the present party occupying the White House. While there is ample evidence of this historical “itch” heading into Barack Obama’s sixth year, the GOP has hindered themselves by showing their true colors and continuing to engage in divisive and negative tactics (see gov’t shutdown, immigration). Their antics have them behind the eight ball when they should be riding a surge in a most American political sentiment – send the bums a message!
Talk radio host Norman Goldman was our emcee for the evening. A larger than life figure with pipes made for radio, Norman warmed us up nicely with comments about the GOP and their extremism.
A lawyer by trade, he made the choice several years ago to shift from practicing attorney to full-time activist. He initially got his start on The Ed Schultz Show as Big Eddie’s “Senior Legal Analyst,” which Norman said was a stab at CNN and their use of the same title for one of their commentators.
Norman said he’s always a little surprised when people call in complaining. “We’ve been winning elections recently!” he pointed out, noting that Barack Obama received the affirmative vote of over 66 million Americans in 2008, and if that wasn’t enough proof or validation for everyone, he was re-elected four years later by over 65 million Americans, almost 5 million more than his nearest competitor.
The challenge of the night however belonged to AFGE President Cox:
Identify someone you know who isn’t registered to vote, and register them!

***
Check your Colorado voter registration or request a registration form be mailed to you. (Colorado does not have on-line voter registration.)
Norman Goldman’s smart phone app: http://www.normangoldman.com/about/app/
Listen to Norman Goldman on the Internet: http://www.normangoldman.com/listen/

Adams County and Education Reform-Part 3: Cost Efficient and Authentic Reform

If you ask most parents you’ll find that they are happy with how well their child’s school is doing. Research data shows that a majority of citizens support their public schools and school districts, and view public schools as vital to their child’s future. (1) It is the corporate media and corporate “reformers” like the American Federation for Children, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Better Education for Kids (B4K), the Center for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, and on ad-nauseum…that bash community supported public schools, their outstanding performance records, and dedicated teachers. (2) These reforms are not for the benefit of children but for the profit of a few. Since the Clinton presidency our nation has seen the largest privatization efforts to take away public and local control of our schools to private corporations and federal control.

Our schools actually do well preparing students for life after high school. Schools are a microcosm of our society and reflect the values and culture of a community. The public schools that teach and nurture our children are being slowly dismantled and shut down because the federal government begins to impose punitive rules on our public schools for not meeting standards at one-hundred percent. Between President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top Act public schools have seen good teachers fired or had their contracts non-renewed; class sizes double; and public schools closed for not meeting state standards imposed by the feds to compete for government funding dollars.

Barack Obama’s Race to the Top Act is the first time in United States history that the states and public schools have had to compete for dollars than funding schools based on the number of children that fall into poverty and in need of more instructional time. (3) Instead, Obama’s law created an environment of hyper-competition between states and school districts to grab up the meager federal dollars set-aside for our children’s education. States and schools districts now spend over a third of public tax dollars on consultants, software, staff development, grant writers, and standardized tests. (4) Our tax dollars are better spent on classroom instruction, hiring highly qualified teachers, assessing the whole-child, authentic assessments or portfolio assessments, helping poor parents access schools through parent engagement, teacher preparation, and reducing class size.

Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have gulped down the “privatization punch” so toxic to education reform and even more toxic to our children’s ability to succeed in schooling. Both political parties are making education reform decisions that are neither research based nor properly tested. The Common Core and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests have not been thoroughly tested to show academic improvement. Certainly the PARCC test was piloted, software readied and purchased at great cost to the Colorado taxpayer, but it has never been shown to show improved academic achievement. In fact, none of the standardization that has occurred over the past three decades has shown improved academic achievement. Instead, what it has done is create a multi-billion dollar industry for tests, test prep materials, consultants, consulting companies, for-profit charter operators, and charter school companies. All at taxpayer expense!

The people of Adams County and the state of Colorado are paying a large amount of money for very little return. 

The “reforms” Adams County residents are paying for are costly and take up valuable instructional time from our children who could be experiencing a progressive, holistic education instead of preparing for standardized tests using an untested standardized core curriculum.

Education reforms that are cost-efficient, authentic, and research based are portfolio assessments; increased parent engagement; proportional teacher tuition and career pre-assessments; mentorship for new teachers; and teacher/site-based curriculum and instructional reform. Portfolio Assessments are the gathered evidence and student product of learning in a set period of time. I will discuss portfolio assessments in Part 4. Increased parent engagement will be covered in Part 5 is the inclusion of parents in the school decision-making process and the training of parents for communication between themselves and their schools or teachers. Part six of this blog subject on education reform will explain the advantages and research data on charging teachers lower tuition rates and pre-assessing a teacher’s readiness or skill toward a successful career in education. The Part 6 explains how mentorship for new teachers benefit students, teacher longevity and the taxpayer’s wallet. Part 7 is about site-based curriculum and instructional reform. Parts 8, 9, and 10 will deal with Charter Schools, Unscientific and non-Researched Based Curriculum, and Adams County Citizen Action toward School Reform.

1.) https://www.aft.org/pdfs/press/publicschoolparentsurvey0713.pdf

2.) Ravitch, Diane (2013), Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, ‘The context for Corporate Reform, ‘ Chapter 2, Pg. 21, Alfed A. Knopf, New York.

3.) Ibid., Pg. 17

4.) Brown, Jennifer, “Cost Doesn’t Spell Success for Colorado Schools Using  Consultants to Improve Achievement,” Denver Post, February 19, 2012.

The Effects of Israeli Violence on the Palestinian Children of Gaza.

The conditions in the Gaza Strip of Palestine are horrendous. Poverty among the citizens of Gaza is below third world standards and the United Nations considers this a “gross violation of humanitarian law.” (1) The inhumane occupation by Israel, an aggressor state, has blockaded Gaza from getting the humanitarian assistance that the people who live their need to survive. Basic survival needs such as water, clothing, food, medicine, energy, and fuel are extremely hard to find in the small strip of land called Gaza. Efforts from Doctors Without Borders to the United Nations World Health Organization to aid in alleviating a bit of the pain suffered by the Palestinians of Gaza are often blocked by Israel. The children of Gaza suffer the most from the harsh military rule and continuous bombardment by Israel.

One major effect of the poor and violent conditions of Gaza caused by the Israelis is the psychological impact they have on young children and teenagers. War always has a negative impact on the psyche of children and does make children lethargic, numb, suicidal, angry, depressed, and, eventually, mentally ill or, if they turn to drugs, drug addicts. The children of Gaza experience homelessness and lack of shelter on a scale unprecedented since the illegal occupation by Israel. Homes of Palestinians are frequently bombed or bulldozed by the occupation forces (IDF). Since there is no place for the children to escape to and many Palestinians are unable to flee the aggression, the forced living conditions of limited living space or in shelters that do not meet basic safety standards. Many of these buildings collapse due to the bombing and many children die beneath the rubble.

Drug addiction is rampant among young teenage boys in Gaza because of not knowing what the future holds for them. Tamadol is the drug of choice as it is an opiate and easily smuggled in to Gaza. Opiates, hashish, and heroin numb the pain and depression felt by teenagers experiencing lack of control over their own destinies.

Public schools, orphanages, and hospitals run by Hamas are targets for Israelis missiles and rockets. Whatever the reason or justification for bombing these places, they are certainly not safe places for kids. Here is a quote from Richard Falk the United Nations Special Rapporteur,

“Since 2000, he noted, 1,335 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of the presence of the Israeli military and settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory. ‘The arbitrary opening of fire by Israeli military against Palestinian children is appalling,’ he said, adding that the policies of land confiscation, expansion of settlements, home demolitions and forced displacement of families, revocation of residency permits and restrictions on freedom of movement continue to have a greater impact on children. 

He stated that Israel continues to arbitrarily arrest, detain and abuse children, noting that 226 children are currently in Israeli detention, including 45 who are between 12 and 15 years old.

 ‘Children continue to be arrested at night, at checkpoints or off the street. Upon arrest, children and their families are seldom informed of the charges against them,’ said Mr. Falk, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.” (2)

The United States and the citizens of Adams County must demand that our Congressional Representatives, our Senators, and our local politicians do not support Israeli violence against the children of Gaza as it is a violation of human rights and it is just plain evil to harm a child! It is imperative that we contact our representatives to let them know that we do not support the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the continued illegal building of settlements on Palestinian Arab soil. Our tax dollars are better spent on building new schools, hiring qualified teachers, and supplying our own children with the necessities for a quality of life here at home and not wasting billions of dollars on supplying Israel with weaponry used to slaughter innocent children.

1.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Fact_Finding_Mission_on_the_Gaza_Conflict

2.) http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38255#.U8VLo1aE4TA

by Antonio D’Lallo