Posted in Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Charters, Election, Indiana, Politics, Privatization

2016 Medley #26

Achievement Gap, Privatization: Charters, Politics: K-12, Politics: Indiana,
Politics: Teacher Stereotypes


Why The Academic Achievement Gap Is A Racist Idea

Here’s an important discussion on the “achievement gap.”

Policy makers are still trying to solve poverty by “reforming” schools. It hasn’t worked…and it won’t work. Students who are raised in middle and high income families do better in school. Do we change schools to try to overcome student poverty? Of course, but schools can’t do it alone. Policy makers must take responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation.

At 100-years-young this year, standardized tests have come to literally embody the American doors of opportunity, admitting and barring people from the highest ranked schools, colleges, graduate schools, professions, and jobs. Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies. However, some of the greatest defenders of standardized testing are civil rights leaders, who rely on the testing data in their well-meaning lobbying efforts for greater accountability and resources.


NAACP calls for moratorium of charter schools until they stop acting like private schools

Charter schools are private schools.

Applause to the NAACP for calling out charter schools for what they really are – private schools taking public funds and rejecting public oversight.

The purpose of the public school system is to prepare the next generation of citizens. The responsibility for such an undertaking – costs, management, and upkeep – ought to belong to us all…for the benefit of the entire community.

If public schools are struggling to educate our children, then it’s our obligation, as a community, to improve those schools…not privatize them.

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” — John Adams.

On Saturday, the board of directors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ratified a resolution passed this summer at its national convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion and strengthening charter oversight.


What About The Children? Third Presidential Debate Offers No Insight On Issues Like Education

The most unpleasant political campaign in recent memory continues unabated. The level of discourse has dropped to a pathetic level, with one candidate in particular speaking and acting like a spoiled, bullying, adolescent.

The final (thankfully) debate for the presidential campaign took place last week and, like the two previous meetings between the candidates (as well as all the debates during the primaries), nothing was said about K-12 education in the US.

Is that because the two major parties agree on the corporate privatization of public education?

Public education also got overlooked. It’s remarkable to me that this issue, which touches the lives of just about all Americans, never received a full discussion during three debates. I’m sure many people would like to know more about each candidate’s view on what role the federal government should play in education. After all, 90 percent of American children attend public schools.

Trump plans to do away with public school systems

If you want to know where the two major candidates stand on K-12 public education you have to look on their web sites. It’s something that’s not generally discussed during interviews, news conferences, and debates.

Trump’s education plan follows the Republican party line that public schools are “failing” and “choice” will solve everything. Clinton’s plan follows the typical Democratic “support our public schools” and “love our teachers” philosophy (in order to get the endorsement of the two large teachers unions, apparently), but is short on actual, working policy.

Questions about child poverty and the test and punish policies of the last 15 years are missing. Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog published a piece with each candidate’s answers to a set of questions (Note: Trump didn’t answer the questions, just said he favored “choice”).

If there was any doubt, Trump surrogate Carl Paladino made it perfectly clear that if his boss [Donald Trump] is elected his goal will be nothing less than the elimination of public education and complete liquidation of the nation’s teacher unions.

…Contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s likely approach — continuing Democrats’ expansion of privately-run charters, side-by-side with support for traditional public schools with a common-core standards/curriculum and unionized teachers — and you get a clear picture of the choice available to voters on Nov. 8th. It’s not a great choice, but it’s a choice.


Indiana super proposes ISTEP replacement; state panel snubs presentation

Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has been ignored, punished, and abused since the day she took office. Her crime? She’s a Democrat in a state with a supermajority of Republicans. The Republican leadership in the legislature has prevented her from doing what she was elected to do and has doubled down on anti-public education legislation. The Republican governor, Mike Pence, has been blatant in his preference for private, parochial, and charter schools. The state Board of Education (whose membership has changed just recently) has also added to the mix by fighting her at every opportunity.

The legislature ordered a committee to oversee the adoption of a new state achievement test to replace the ISTEP for grades 3 through 8. The Governor insisted on assigning his own chair of the committee, bypassing the State Superintendent. The panel, led by members appointed by the Governor and Republican leadership, has prevented Ritz from even presenting her plan for new testing.

The obstruction continues.

Ritz shared the OnTrack proposal with members of the Panel to Study Alternatives to the ISTEP Program Test, but she was denied the opportunity to formally present the plan to panel.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz Releases Details of Cost Cutting, Time Saving, Student-Centered Assessment System Proposal

This proposal was shared with members of the Panel to Study Alternatives to the ISTEP Program Test prior to today’s meeting along with the results of the Request for Information from assessment vendors regarding the viability of utilizing a new approach to assessment. For the second time, the Superintendent’s request to formally present information to the panel was denied resulting in a sixth meeting of the panel with no substantial decisions made. [emphasis added]

The OnTrack proposal can be viewed HERE.


Donald Trump Jr.: if women can’t handle sexual harassment, they should be “kindergarten teachers”

Stereotypes surrounding teachers are still prevalent, apparently. Donald Trump’s son, Jr., has essentially said that teaching Kindergarten is a job that anyone can do because it’s so easy. When workplace harassment was brought up in connection with his father’s misogynistic behaviors, he unsurprisingly blamed women for being harassed by implying that they ought to just accept it as part of being in “the workforce.” If they can’t, he said, they should go “teach kindergarten.”

I wonder how long Junior would last as a teacher in a kindergarten classroom

“If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce,” Trump said. “Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten. I think it’s a respectable position.”

Posted in Baseball, Personal History

Baseball Interlude: Random Thoughts: Cubs Win!


I saw my first professional baseball game at Wrigley Field in the summer of 1956 – or maybe it was ’55…or ’57 – in any case, it was sometime in the mid 50’s. Ernie Banks was a newcomer, having joined the team in 1953 after playing professional baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs. Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Ferguson Jenkins were teenagers still in high school. Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux hadn’t been born yet.

I watched games after school. I got on the ‘el’ after high school and rode to Wrigley. I followed the team in the newspaper when I didn’t have TV or radio access. I joined the Die-Hard Cubs Fan Club in the 80s…and the Cubs Club when the former morphed into the latter.

Here, then, are some random thoughts on an occasion I always hoped to see. The Cubs have won the National League Pennant. “Next year” is now.

  • In 1969 I was in college and only followed the Cubs in the newspaper (IDS). There were TVs in the dorm (I even had a roommate with a TV for a while), but that was before cable or satellite and WGN didn’t broadcast to Bloomington, Indiana. I’m glad I didn’t see that season on TV or in person. It was too painful.
  • My dad saw (or more likely listened to) the Cubs win the National League in 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, but never saw a World Championship. I was born three years after the Cubs’ last trip to the World Series.
  • All the years the Cubs were in the post season for the National league pennant…and came up short…1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015…”Wait till next year!”
  • “So the Cubs haven’t won a pennant in nearly forty years. Why not look at it this way? Take it in terms of eternity. That’s not even a fly speck. Just tell yourself that sometime in the next thousand years the Cubs will get their share of the pie.” – Jack Brickhouse*
  • Since 1876, and before 2016, the Cubs have won two World Series, sixteen National League pennants, and six division championships. The last pennant win (until last night) was 1945. The last World Series win was 1908.
  • Hey! Peanuts! Cubs peanuts here!
  • “I have always been an optimist and even though sometimes you lose more than you win with that type of attitude, still and all there are enough great moments, thrills and excitement to make it all beautiful. You know that tomorrow will be a better day.” – Jack Brickhouse*
  • When Dexter Fowler walks to the plate in the top of the first inning in Cleveland on Tuesday, October 25, he will be the first African-American in a Cubs uniform ever to play in a World Series.
  • For decades I’ve said that all I want is a National League Pennant…even if they lost in the World Series. Now that the Cubs have finally won a National League Pennant, a World Series win would be nice…
  • Baseball is the perfect metaphor for life. Some teams, often those with the most money, win more times than others. But money doesn’t always buy success just like money doesn’t buy happiness. For that, you have to rely on family and friends (teamwork), hard work, a positive attitude, and some luck. Getting knocked down doesn’t make one weak. Strength is better measured by the ability to get up after being knocked down. Courage is not the opposite of fear…it is being afraid, yet still persevering in the face of certain defeat. A hero isn’t the one who wins the game, but the one who keeps swinging till the final out.
“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game
For I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same
When you’re born in Chicago you’re blessed and you’re healed
The first time you walk into Wrigley Field
…Someday we’ll go all the way, yeah, someday we’ll go all the way” – Eddie Vedder
  • Perseverance. Perseverance. Perseverance.
  • “Cub fans will take winning in stride. With enthusiasm, with tears of joy, perhaps, but in stride…When it happens you will find us, like our ancestors in 1908, sensitive enough to know how to be humble in the face of a miracle.” – Jim Langford*


I wish you could have been here to see this…


*from The Cub Fan’s Guide to Life by Jim Langford.

Posted in Election, Politics, Public Ed

Election 2016: Meh! vs. Feh!

Last night’s (October 19) debate epitomized this year’s presidential campaign…

Two candidates spoke. There were some policies discussed, but mostly it was “Yes you are,” “No, I’m not!” and “I know you are, but what am I?” back and forth with two, and sometimes three people talking over each other. Those listeners who had made up their minds weren’t convinced to change. “He’s a bigot, a misogynist, and unqualified.” “She’s a criminal and in the pocket of Wall Street.” Nothing was said to change anyone’s mind or give any beneficial information.


I didn’t watch the debate last night. But I bet my description above is still accurate.


I admit that I’m a (nearly) single-issue voter. Public Education.

Before I vote for anyone I ask, “How will this candidate help public education in the nation (or state, or city, or county)?”

Of course there are other issues that are important, like which candidate will actually accept the reality of the Earth’s climate (and do something about it)? Or which one blows his dog whistle so that white supremacists and anti-semites know that he will normalize their bigoted views? Or which one will hand over our economy to people who already have so much money that they could spend a million dollars a day for the next 20 years and still have more than I made in four decades of work in public education?

Those things matter, and they also come into my decision about who to vote for, but public education means the most to me. I’ve spent sixty of my sixty-eight years as either a student, a teacher, or a volunteer in a public school. It just makes sense that it means a lot to me. It makes sense for me to focus on the issue of which candidate will protect and improve the education of 90% of America’s children. I figure that, if we do a good job of educating the majority of our nation’s children, then we’ll be building an educated citizenry who will make good decisions in the future.

[No, I don’t want to get into a discussion about which issues are most important. There are so many important issues and all of us feel like “our issue” is the most important one of all. In my opinion, it’s better to focus on one of them and do the best we can, than try to attack all of them and end up completely ineffective at any of them. Like John Lennon said, “we all doin’ what we can.”]


I’m not really excited about any of the candidates…at least not like I was about candidates in the 1960s. Maybe it’s just my age. After decades of either “Meh!” or “Feh!” a certain amount of cynicism is to be expected.

And “Meh!” vs. “Feh!” is what we have this year, too. Neither of the two major candidates meet my criteria as a pro-public education candidate. There’s a difference between them of course. One of them pledged to spend billions on a voucher plan. He supports unregulated charter school growth, and wants teachers to be armed in their classrooms. The other supports “non-profit” charter schools, but apparently doesn’t understand that most of those still make a profit by manipulating the system. She is also suspiciously beholden to corporate interests who have brought us almost two decades of “reform” with its false “accountability” and false promises.

What about testing? The Republicans are all for it. More accountability!

The Democrats are against “too much testing.” They even have it in their platform. Still, President Obama said that we shouldn’t waste so much time testing our students…yet doubled down on high stakes testing. Why should I expect that this Democrat will be any different? Fool me once, shame on you…

Both of the major party candidates sent their children to private schools which were untouched by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. All their policies are for “other people’s children.”

The two main third party candidates aren’t much better. One of them is a doctor who has pandered to the anti-vaccine movement, and the other is for vouchers and “school choice.” I agree with one of their education platforms, but I’m one who believes that, if I’m going to vote, I want to vote for someone with a chance of winning…but that’s just me. So I’m back trying to choose between the two major party candidates.

As someone quoted in John Oliver’s piece on Third Party Candidates said,

315, 320 million people…and this is the best two that we can come up with?


This election season is possibly the most immature…the most disruptive…the most vicious…the most unpleasant since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams slandered and insulted each other during the campaign of 1800. I have had third graders who argued with greater maturity than the current candidates in the debates, at rallies, and on the evening news.

What these people need is a good primary teacher who can help them learn how to be polite. They need to learn how to take turns and listen – without interrupting – while someone else is talking. They need to learn to “stick to the point” and answer questions presented instead of spewing talking points over and over again no matter what the topic.

People of good will can disagree on the issues. Unfortunately, this year’s election cycle, and our politics in general, has been poisoned by ill will.

I’m done with it all. I’ve made my choices for national, state, and local elections. I’ve decided who to vote for even though I disagree with some of their policies.

Between now and the end of October (or possibly the beginning of November) I’m going to spend my time watching baseball and cheering for my Cubs – for as long as their season lasts.

When I’m not watching baseball I’m going to read some children’s books…the content will be more mature than the political discussion going on around me.

Let me know when it’s over.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, Lead, Politics, reading, retention, SSR, TeacherShortage, Texas

2016 Medley #25

Retention of Children with Lead Poisoning, Charters, SSR, First Amendment,
Teacher Shortage, Textbooks, Politics


If you are the state of Michigan, you damage the ability of children to learn by poisoning them with lead-tainted water which causes

  • decreased bone and muscle growth
  • poor muscle coordination
  • damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and/or hearing
  • speech and language problems
  • developmental delay
  • seizures and unconsciousness (in cases of extremely high lead levels)

Then you punish them for not being able to “pass the test.”

It’s not just Michigan, of course, although Flint, Michigan is the poster city for lead poisoning in children. Lead poisoning is still a serious problem for America’s children.

In addition, many more states besides Michigan require retaining students in third grade because of their failure to pass a test.

But Michigan is just the latest. Governor Snyder, who allowed the city of Flint to be poisoned by lead through mismanagement and not-so-benign neglect, just signed into law a bill which would require third grade students to pass a test, or be punished with in-grade retention.

Calling this sort of behavior “child abuse” isn’t nearly strong enough. When will policy makers and politicians take responsibility for their impact on student achievement?

Michigan to Retain Children with Lead Poisoning

Michigan has a lead problem with its children in Flint, and a governor who failed badly his own accountability test. Many wonder why he is still governor. Some wonder why he isn’t in jail. But yesterday he signed off on a bill to fail third graders. How many children in Flint will wind up failing third grade due to the leaded water they drank? I’m guessing many.

So children fail, through no fault of their own, while the governor gets a pass. Fancy that.

I know there are exemptions to failing in Michigan, but that doesn’t excuse a rotten bill that highlights retention as something good.

We know that the fear of failing a grade for a child is on the same level as losing a parent. Once a child is humiliated by this action, they will have a difficult time ever fully recovering.

And children who fail third grade don’t do any better than those who are socially promoted, especially if those promoted get extra help.

So children who the State of Michigan failed by not protecting them—permitting the poisoning of their water—will now get a double whammy and get blamed for their school problems.

Let’s not forget children who don’t have lead poisoning, but, who, also through no fault of their own, have dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

Retention is punishment to children and it doesn’t work. We can’t forget that.

Florida Update: Also see FL: Oh, Come On Now!

How lead poisoning affects children


U.S. Dept. of Education’s Own Inspector Again Condemns DOE’s Oversight of Charter School Grants

We need leaders who will stop the drain of public funds to corporate pockets. Elect state and local candidates who will direct public funds to public schools. Elect federal candidates not purchased by lobbyists for charter schools.

Letting the “marketplace rule” is inappropriate for public schools. When schools struggle – usually through insufficient resources – we need to help them improve, not close them.

  • “(W)e found that 22 of the 33 charter schools in our review had 36 examples of internal control weaknesses related to the charter schools’ relationships with their CMOs (concerning conflicts of interest, related-party transactions, and insufficient segregation of duties).”
  • (T)hese… internal control weaknesses represent the following significant risks to Department program objectives: (1) financial risk, which is the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse; (2) lack of accountability over Federal funds, which is the risk that, as a result of charter school boards ceding fiscal authority to CMOs, charter school stakeholders… may not have accountability over Federal funds sufficient to ensure compliance with Federal requirements; and (3) performance risk….”
  • “Further, the Department did not implement adequate monitoring procedures that would provide sufficient assurance that it could identify and mitigate the risks specific to charter school relationships with CMOs.”

How Charter Schools Bust Unions

“The initial idea of charter schools was that teachers and communities would have a say in how our schools function so we could better meet the needs of our students. They were supposed to be teacher-led and teacher-driven. But until we have a contract holding them accountable to their promises, they will not be held accountable.”


Sustained Silent Reading: The effects are substantial, it works, and it leads to more reading. A response to Shanahan (2016).

Allowing students to choose what they read and giving them time to read every day really works.

…fourth grade children in Taiwan and Hong Kong who reported doing more independent reading in their first language in school scored higher on the PIRLS 2006 reading test, controlling for students’ reading attitude, parents’ reading attitude, home education resources, the amount of outside school informational reading done, and the amount of in-class reading aloud done by students.


School board president in Texas defends students who refuse to stand during the national anthem

Here’s a principal who understands the first amendment. The constitutional protections of free speech allow us to say and do things that others disagree with. It also allows those who disagree with us to respond.

During an on air interview with WFFA, Carl Sherman, Jr., president of DeSoto Independent School District’s board, defended members of the girls volleyball team and cheerleading squad, who refused to stand during the national anthem at games in protest over recent shootings of African-American men by the police. “Yes there are possibly greater ways to get that message across, however, we are sitting here in 2016 and the messages that were brought forth in the 60’s were somehow lost in translation,” explained Sherman. “Yeah, we can criticize the method but we have to listen to the message.”


The educator exodus: Indiana struggles to keep teachers in-state

Since 2005 the governors and legislators of Indiana have done everything they could to damage the reputation of teachers, remove incentives to become a teacher in Indiana, and make the profession of teaching less attractive.

“The stress that has come about due to high-stakes standardized testing is taking a toll on the retention rate of teachers in the state,” Tyner said. “The Indiana Department of Education needs to continue to work to find a solution to this problem.”


Some Guy In Texas May Be Influencing The Content Of Public School Textbooks In Your State

In one review, which drove me nuts, ERA criticized a book for “political correctness (e.g., anti-white, anti-male, anti-Christian bias).” What do they mean by that? Well, they complain about books that supposedly highlight “Meanness Of Whites To People Of Color.”

Under that heading, they list “The People Could Fly,” an acclaimed short story that some Texas 8th graders read from a textbook titled Elements of Literature. ERA’s beef is that this story has an anti-white bias because it’s a “Folk tale about oppressive whites, mistreated slaves in Old South.”

So, this group was offended that this story was being “mean” by misrepresenting white slave owners! According to ERA, it’s “mean” to accurately portray history through literature. Can you imagine? People being “mean” to others because of the color of their skin? Slave owners knew nothing about that, right?

This is merely one example, but there are hundreds of awful reviews on that site that hold up conservative Christians, whites and men as superiors.


At This Point, if You’re Still a Donald Trump Supporter, Here’s What You Really Are

What would Republicans say if Hillary Clinton had been caught on video saying, “…when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the balls.”

“What if Barack Obama had five children by three different women?”

When did it become ok for candidates for the Presidency of the U.S. to act like this?

At this point, there’s not even a shred of sane or rational logic anyone can use to defend Donald Trump. While I don’t feel sorry for those who continue to do so, I do pity the fact that there are millions of people who are so deplorable that, even after Friday’s stunning story where he more or less said he believes he has the right to sexually assault women, they still think he should be president.

If these comments don’t drive away a good chunk of his support (which time will tell if it will), then almost nothing is going to.

As Trump said a few months ago, most of his supporters really are mindless sheep who’ll support him no matter what.

However, at this point, if you’re still a supporter of Donald Trump, here’s what you really are: You’re someone who’s cemented your place in history as an individual who we’re all going to look back upon with disgust and shame because you were ignorant enough to support one of the worst presidential candidates in United States history.

This is a man who’s:

  • Mocked a man with disabilities.
  • Attacked the parents of a fallen American hero.
  • Belittled POWs and the war record of Sen. John McCain.
  • Lied about how much money he raised for veterans.
  • Called a former Miss Universe “disgusting” and fat, telling his Twitter followers to find her non-existent sex tape.
  • Accused an American-born federal judge of being unfit to do his job because of his Mexican heritage…
  • …Re-tweeted anti-African American propaganda created by a white supremacy group.
  • Played dumb about knowing who former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke was…
  • …Feels he has the right to sexually assault women.
Posted in Indiana, Pence, Privatization, Ritz

No bias, No spin, No jargon…sometimes

Chalkbeat, “a nonprofit news organization,” says of itself…

Everyone has an opinion about how to fix education, especially for the poorest children. As a nonprofit news organization, we at Chalkbeat offer you solid facts about what is actually happening and what it means, from local reporters who really understand.
No bias, no spin, no jargon.

That self-assessment is true, sometimes. In its daily newsletter, Rise and Shine, Chalkbeat reposts articles focusing on education from a variety of sources…some pro-public education, some pro-“reform.”

It’s own news stories, however, are often different.

In July, for example, on the occasion of Mike Pence’s elevation to the position of V.P. candidate on the Republican ticket, Chalkbeat posted an assessment of his “education record.” On Wednesday, following the national debate by the two vice presidential candidates, they reposted the same article in Rise and Shine

Mike Pence faced Tim Kaine in the only VP debate last night. We’ve got the story on his (somewhat surprising) record on education.

Here is, in part, what they wrote

As governor, Pence has supported expanding charter schools and voucher programs. But Pence’s signature education initiative was a push to create the first state-funded preschool program. Despite opposition from many Republican allies in the state legislature, Pence was a staunch advocate for the small preschool pilot program that launched in 2015. [emphasis added]

What is surprising is that Chalkbeat neglected to mention that in 2014 the Indiana Department of Education, under State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, had applied for a federal grant to fund preschool education which Pence stopped dead in its tracks. He rescinded the application for the $80 million grant which would have brought preschool programs to low-income students. Pence, instead, opted to push for a preschool “pilot” program which would serve students in only 5 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

In another move, Pence created a new agency to support his privatization plans, in direct opposition to the State Department of Education. He closed the agency after some political fallout, and then went after the State Superintendent.

Ten times Pence didn’t make Indiana great again

9. Pence disenfranchises State Superintendent Glenda Ritz (ongoing)

Before Pence got settled into the governor’s chair, he created the Center for Education and Career Innovation, which became a mirror agency to Ritz’s Department of Education. CECI was just the beginning of the rift between Pence and Ritz. Although he dissolved CECI in 2014, Pence supported the state legislature’s push to weaken Ritz’s office, including attempts to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position instead of an elected one and removing the superintendent as chair of the Board of Education.

It seems to me that his “signature education initiative” during his term as governor has been to support private education at the expense of public schools, and to disrupt the work of the elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz.

And Pence’s education plan isn’t surprising at all. When he ran for Governor he told the citizens of Indiana that he wanted to privatize public education…and he’s worked hard to do that. Since Glenda Ritz ran on a pro-public education platform, the fact that Pence has done everything he could to stand in her way isn’t surprising either.

What is surprising about Pence’s education record in Indiana? Not much.

And Chalkbeat? It’s not surprising that they claim that his “signature education initiative” is a preschool program yet don’t mention his thumbing his nose at an $80 million grant which would have done more. They get their support from some of the most powerful “privatizers” in the business…

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Gates Family Foundation
  • The Anschutz Foundation
  • The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • The Walton Family Foundation

Chalkbeat tries, and often succeeds, at being an objective news source for education. Sometimes, however,  the deep pockets of Gates, Walton, and others, show through.

Posted in Charters, Election, Equity, Gulen, Indiana, Politics, Privatization, read-alouds, reading, TeacherShortage, TFA

2016 Medley #24

Teacher Shortage, Teach for America,
Reading, Privatization, Politics, Read Aloud


Understanding the Teacher Shortage Crisis and the Solutions to Fix it

Those of us who have watched the destruction of public education and the vilifying of teachers by legislators, state (and national) executives, and billionaire “reformers,” are not at all surprised by a teacher shortage.

The reasons for the decline in the number of teachers are correlated to teacher evaluation systems blended with high stakes standardized testing implemented over the past ten years, a shrinking student base in teacher education programs, a lack of respect for the teaching profession, and low salaries and benefits.

Candidates present their cases

Eric Holcomb, Republican Candidate for Governor of Indiana, says that the teacher shortage is “not just in Indiana,” which is true. However, the reasons are the same nationally and locally. Teachers in Indiana have lost collective bargaining rights, lost due process rights, lost classroom autonomy, and gained salary stagnation. The state legislature, the governor, and the State Board of Education all contributed just like similar politicians in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida…

In addition, Holcomb’s comment “lawmakers have increased K-12 funding” is misleading and disingenuous. A big chunk of that money is going for “reform” schemes like the overuse of standardized testing, private school vouchers, and charter schools…all pushed by the Republican governor and the Republican supermajority in the state legislature.

The issue of teacher shortages arose, and Holcomb pointed out it’s a national problem, not just one in Indiana.

He said lawmakers have increased K-12 funding, but “it’s about where that money ends up.” For instance, he said, too much is going to administrative costs instead of salaries.

But Gregg said, “we created this teacher shortage in the last few years by the way we have demeaned those in the education profession.” He promised to bring teachers back to the table on policy and testing decisions – one thing he said will help attract and retain teachers.


Do Americans Hate Teachers, Or are they Duped by Teach for America?

Teach for America gives its “corps members” – students from the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities – only five weeks of training to prepare them to teach poor, urban students.

Is there any other profession which would let recent graduates take on professional responsibilities without serious preparation? I have a masters degree in Elementary Education, a Reading Specialization, and nearly four decades of experience in elementary school classrooms. Would I be prepared to practice corporate law with five weeks of “training?”

Yet school systems (and states) around the country regularly allow these untrained novices into classrooms with the neediest students.

“But there is no one else who will take this job!” the school systems respond. Aside from the fact that that’s not always true the problem then becomes one of recruitment. Maybe teachers ought to be given salaries commensurate with their training. Maybe they ought to have more autonomy, prep time, and time for collaboration with other teachers. Maybe states should stop bashing teachers and do what’s needed to make the profession more attractive.

Do Americans understand that by contributing to a turnaround group of young novices to be teachers, they are destroying the American teaching profession? Do they know that sooner or later there will be no more real, qualified teachers to instruct their students?

Are they not aware that fast-track trained beginners, who focus on data, digital instruction, and classroom control, and who are never intent on becoming teachers until they recruited, are not the best individuals to lead a classroom?

Are they confused and think they are doing something nice, or are they hell-bent on destroying public education?


Teaching Struggling Readers: Focus on Meaning

Thanks to Russ Walsh for his thoughtful discussion of how to improve literacy instruction. Educators must take back instruction from statehouses and billionaire board rooms.

The key thing to understand in designing a support program for readers is that reading is communication. If we begin our search for the best way to help a struggling reader with the idea that language is meaningful and reading is about making sense of written language, then we have a better chance to help struggling readers.

What does this mean for instruction? One thing it means is we need to provide interventions early, before children experience too much failure and adopt too many “confusions” about how reading works. Secondly, it means that rather than doubling down on phonics instruction, we need to double down on meaning making. If a student struggles to make meaning from text, we must scaffold the meaning sufficiently to assist the student in decoding the words.

Most instruction for struggling readers, in other words, has it backward.


Who Is Watching? Turkish Cleric, Accused of Motivating Military Coup, Controls Large Network of Charter Schools in the U.S.

Did you know that the reclusive Turkish primary school graduate preacher, former imam, writer, and political figure who failed in a coup attempt in Turkey is running one of the largest networks of charter schools in the US?

The lack of transparency of the Gulen charter network and the failure of federal and state oversight are warning signs of the dangers involved in turning over taxpayer dollars for public education to private charter operators. In the case of the Gulen network, the amount of money involved is enormous—hundreds of millions of dollars. Shouldn’t there be government investigations? A moratorium on adding more schools to these networks? Where is the voice of the charter industry for due diligence in schools where we send our children? Our children deserve better.


Report: How privatization increases inequality and here (full report)

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” — John Adams

Section 5: Privatization perpetuates socioeconomic and racial segregation

… implications of this increasing segregation can especially be felt in districts with rapid charter growth. In Durham County, North Carolina, the fast growth of charters has increased racial segregation at the financial expense of the public school district. Neighborhood schools have lost middle class children to charter schools and have been left with a higher concentration of poor students and students of color. Charter schools are exempt from providing student transportation or free and reduced price lunch, making it less likely that poor students can attend charter schools that don’t provide these critical services.

Charter school expansion has been destabilizing for the school district. One recent study estimates that the net cost to the Durham Public Schools could be as high as $2,000 per charter school student. The school district estimated in 2014 that charter schools take $14.9 million each year from neighborhood schools. This means that the traditional public schools in the district, which contain higher proportions of lower-income students, students of color, and more expensive-to-educate children (such as those with disabilities) are financially strained, as the district is unable to reduce its spending proportionally with the loss of charter students due to unavoidable fixed costs.286 Unfortunately, this financial loss hurts the public school district’s ability to provide quality education to its remaining students, who lose out even more as schools become more racially isolated and segregated.


10 Emotional Abuse Tactics That Trump Blatantly Used in the First Debate

A lot of people are saying that this guy is abusive. Is he? I don’t know. Maybe he is.

His speeches are filled with language such as “it’s a disaster,” “this is tremendous,” “we are in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” “it’s unbelievable,” and “it’s the greatest.” He also loves to use language of “everyone” and “always.” He cushions many of his egregious claims with statements like “everyone tells me” – a claim that is very difficult to prove or disprove or fact-check.


…a rhetorical device wherein the speaker or writer brings up a subject by either denying it, or denying that it should be brought up.

Trump’s Definition of the “High Ground”

Donald Trump claimed the high ground after the September 26th Presidential Debate.

“I’m very happy that I was able to hold back on the indiscretions with respect to Bill Clinton, because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton and I just didn’t want to say what I was going to say.”

He Would Never Say It, But This Is Donald Trump’s Favorite Rhetorical Device

“I was going to say ‘dummy’ Bush; I won’t say it. I won’t say it,” Trump said in January.

Trump referenced then-GOP hopeful Carly Fiorina’s rocky tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in a similar way.

“I promised I would not say that she ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground, that she laid off tens of thousands of people and she got viciously fired,” he said. “I said I will not say it, so I will not say it.”

…“I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct,” he wrote on Twitter. “Instead, I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

And of the former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Trump stated that, “unlike others, I never attacked dopey Jon Stewart for his phony last name. Would never do that!”


Posted in CTU, Public Ed, reform, Walsh

The Schools All Children Deserve


There’s a battle going on in Chicago for the future of the Chicago Public Schools. It mirrors the national education story in at least one way…it’s a battle between vocal parents and teachers against a “reform” movement led by the rich and powerful at the expense of public education.

The Chicago Tribune, owned by the same company that owns other “reformist”-leaning media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, has been a strident voice against the teachers and for the mayor and his hand picked “school board” (which includes a member with ties to Teach for America, a charter school co-founder, a CEO of one of Chicago’s largest banks, a supporter of parochial schools, as well as a couple of former CPS principals).

Wednesday, for example, the Tribune came out against the CTU because they didn’t approve of the way in which the union was conducting their open strike vote – a second strike vote this year because the anti-union forces are working to negate the secret-ballot strike vote taken earlier this year. Of course, the Tribune, which compares what they claim is an undemocratic CTU to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, operates in a city which refuses to hold elections for school board members – Irony alert!


Earlier in the week the Tribune published their “Schoolchildren’s Bill of Rights,” a list that Chicago teacher and blogger Mike Klonsky said,

…has little to do with schoolchildren or their rights–except, that is, for their right to have their schools closed or privatized and their teachers debased.

Klonsky’s article described the editorial…

The Tribune’s so-called ‘Schoolchildren’s Bill of Rights’

The Trib’s Bill of Rights includes not a single right for students, but instead includes things like:

  • Merit Pay for teachers, a oft-tried initiative which, according to researchers, produced no gains in measurable learning outcomes.
  • Using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Already the law in IL.
  • Widespread school “choice,” the Trib’s code word for school vouchers and privately-run charters. Trib editors write: “The public education industry should view ethnic, parochial or other private schools not as threats but as alternatives that enrich and diversify a community’s educational offerings.”
  • An end to collective bargaining, including the right to strike.
  • Parent Trigger Laws which enable a small and temporary group of parents to take over a school and hand it over to a private, for-profit company to operate. As you might expect, there’s nothing about parents’ right to opt-out of the plague of standardized testing.
  • Mass closing of black and Latino neighborhood schools and leaving boarded-up buildings to further blight communities or sell them off to condo developers. Again, too late. They’re already doing it.

With high sounding vocabulary in the genre of “think of the children!” the Tribune succinctly gathers every “reform” practice and rolls it into one “reformy” editorial. We’re supposed to have “high quality teachers” which really means teachers who teach to “the test” because “the test” is everything. We’re supposed to support “choice” for parents, which really means “choice” for private schools to reject your non-standardized child. And, if that’s not good enough, they want “Even more choice than that” which really means, privatize, privatize, privatize.



Here’s a “Student Bill of Rights” which would actually help students and improve education in Chicago…and the rest of the country.

It was published during the last CTU strike (2013) and is called The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. It includes actual “proven educational reforms,” not just “reformist” talking points.

  • smaller class sizes
  • education aimed at the whole child which includes recess, libraries, PE, the arts, and world languages in every school
  • wraparound services such as nurses, counselors, and social workers where needed
  • equitable funding and services
  • age-appropriate education including pre-K services and full day kindergartens
  • teachers treated as professionals with comparable salaries, adequate planning time, and professional autonomy
  • fully supported programs for students with special needs
  • well maintained and safe school buildings
  • partnerships with parents
  • full funding

Note that it assumes that others have a responsibility for public education in addition to teachers – parents, policy makers, legislators, administration.

Every student in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) deserves to have the same quality education as the children of the wealthy. This can happen, but only if decision-makers commit to providing research-based education that is fully-funded and staffed in an equitable fashion throughout the city. [emphasis added]


A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, by Russ Walsh

Finally, here’s a Bill of Rights for children from Russ Walsh’s book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century (also available on his blog, here).

1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public education
2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe neighborhood school.
3. Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person.
4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.
5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.
6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well planned, engaging, and collaborative.
7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.
8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.
9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.
10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses.

Note that Walsh’s Bill of Rights, as well as the CTU’s, focus on the rights of children – on what children need. There’s nothing about busting unions, closing schools, or transferring tax money from public schools, which operate under public oversight, to private corporations or parochial schools. Why? It’s simple.

Members of the CTU and Russ Walsh are educators. The editors of the Chicago Tribune are not. Educators know about education.