The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Still Stranded in Jargon Land

on November 16, 2015

A while ago I posted a piece on jargon explaining that there were different kinds, some honest and useful, others dishonest and harmful. Still, we must understand that jargon is put before us all the time by politicians, advertisers, and ideologues to serve their own purposes. For example, in reading the commentary by Michael Petrilli that I wrote about on November 9th I was struck by some of his jargon, and that moved me to write again about educational jargon today. However, not everything I mention below came from Petrilli; there are many others spitting out jargon today in an effort to persuade those people unfamiliar with the realities of education to get tougher on public schools and their teachers or to abandon public education altogether.

Let me begin with Petrilli’s jargon. He refers to the obedient kids in schools as the hard-working students, and the ones following the rules. Those who misbehave to any extent are the chronic disrupters who hurt the high achievers, the ones who comply with all rules and teacher demands. What Petrilli wants to do is to separate the disobedient students from the compliant ones by creating tracked classrooms or sending the latter to high quality charter schools, one of which he identifies as the Success Academies (their name is, in itself, jargon). He says,”If the Success Academies and schools like it (sic) didn’t exist, many of those hard-working, high-achieving students” the compliant ones, would be stuck in “chaotic, low-performing public schools“, high poverty schools.

Moving on from Petrilli’s jargon, I will list below just a few other pieces of jargon that I missed last time, followed by their true meanings. Mostly they come from private groups that support charter schools or policy makers and pundits who understand little about good teaching or real student learning.

Value-added assessments: Teachers should be judged in part by comparing students’ current test scores to those of the previous year. To what extent the teacher is responsible for the gains—or lack thereof—is debatable

Student Achievement: High stakes test scores are the only valid evidence of learning

The Common Core Standards are more rigorous than previous state standards  The CCSS are indeed more difficult than those of most states, but not necessarily more appropriate for the designated grade levels or more in line with college or workplace expectations.

NCLB waivers: The DOE has allowed some states to substitute their own plans for school improvement for the requirements of NCLB, as long as those plans are just as demanding or even more so.

Tough Love: Strict behavioral demands and harsh punishments for students who don’t don’t comply with schools’ or teachers’ expectations.

Data Driven Instruction: School officials using previous test scores and heaven-knows-what other numbers to decide what and how teachers should teach.

Accountability: Schools doing what the DOE and state legislatures want them to do.

Foolish Parents, lazy teachers, and  corrupt teachers unions:  Those who advocate for opting-out students from high stakes tests.

If you readers have noticed others in your states, please let me know and I will post them as an addendum.



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