Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, FirstAmendment, NAEP, retention, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

2018 Medley #10

Teacher Activism, Retention-in-Grade,
Charters, Testing,
First Amendment, Science

TEACHER ACTIVISM

The 9 states where teachers have it worst

According to CBS teachers have it pretty good, specifically because of pensions,  which they imply make up for low salaries…a debatable proposition at best. Why, if pension programs are so great, did we stop providing them?

In the meantime, Indiana teachers have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings drop by nearly 16 percent since 2000. Have Indiana legislators seen the same drop? What about the CEOs of Indiana’s Fortune 500 companies – Eli Lilly, Anthem, Cummins, Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, NiSource, and Simon Property Group? Have they seen the same loss of income? Would you like to hazard a guess?

As a sample, click here for the salaries of Eli Lilly’s executives.

So Indiana is having trouble finding enough teachers. What a surprise.

From CBS News

Pay for Indiana teachers has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since 1999-2000, according to the Department of Education. They now earn almost 16 percent less.

Average annual pay is about $50,500, slightly lower than the national average.

Indiana is having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill its classrooms, with some pointing to pay as a culprit.

“People won’t be as interested in going into a field where they will have to take a huge lifetime pay cut,” said Partelow of the Center for American Progress’. 

Bill Maher Zings Eric And Donald Trump Jr. As He Comes Out Fighting For Teachers

Perennially obnoxious Bill Maher comes up with a commentary in honor of the teachers on strike…

From Bill Maher

We pay such lip-service to kids…they’re the future, our greatest natural resource, we’ll do anything for them. And then we nickel and dime their teachers?

If we really think children are our future, shouldn’t the people who mold their minds make more than the night manager at GameStop?

…Here’s an idea. Don’t give the teachers guns, give them a living wage. 

‘I need a college degree to make this?’ asks Arizona teacher who posted salary online

Arizona teacher Elisabeth Milich reminds us that teachers are underpaid because school systems are underfunded. In what other job would you be forced to buy your own paper clips and tape? Do the CEOs in the article, above, have to buy their own sharpies?

From Elisabeth Milich

I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip i use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.

HOW DOES RETENTION HELP TEST RESULTS

Reforms that work: Worldwide data offer useful hints for US schools

Education “reform” in the United States requires us to use unfounded and even damaging education practices such as retention in grade. Dozens of U.S. states require third graders to pass a test in order to move to fourth grade. Research has found that retention in grade is ineffective in raising student achievement and retention in grade based on a single test is tantamount to educational malpractice.

In Indiana, however, retention of children in third grade is grounds for celebrating. With the lowest achieving third graders removed from the pool, those who did move to fourth grade scored a higher achievement average on the NAEP. High enough to brag about…

Want your students to score higher on standardized tests? Simply remove the low achievers.

From the Editorial Page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The IREAD 3 exam, which third-graders must pass to be promoted to grade 4, went into effect in 2012. As a result, 3 percent of Indiana students were retained that year.

“Those who weren’t held back took the fourth-grade NAEP tests in 2013, and got positive attention for how well they did,” Hinnefeld noted. “Advocates credited Indiana reforms like expanded school choice and limits on teacher collective bargaining. But a more likely explanation is that removing the lowest-performing students gave the 2013 fourth-grade scores a boost.”

CHARTERS AND TESTING

Indiana students’ scores lag after transferring to charter schools, new study shows

Another Educational “reform” popular in Indiana is the expansion of charter schools. When a district’s poverty levels rise too high, resulting in lower achievement on tests, the state moves in and hands the school over to private charter operators.

The only problem is…the charter schools are, as we’ve said so many times before, no better. In fact, a recent study shows that kids lose achievement points after transferring to charter schools.

From Shaina Cavazos at Chalkbeat

“Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

Never one to miss tossing in an excuse for privatization, Chalkbeat uses an excuse despite the fact that “no excuses” is the cry used by “reformers” to declare public schools “failing.”

ISTEP scores during this time, the researchers note, were not the most reliable. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, test glitches and scoring problems invalidated thousands of students’ scores. Also during this time, the academic standards on which the tests were based changed, as did the test itself and the company that administered it.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

DHS to Track Thousands of Journalists

Where are the people who were marching to protect the Second Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From Ed Brayton

Mr. Orwell, please report to your office immediately.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”…”

SCIENCE DEFIERS

Gang of Foxes

The science deniers in the current administration are trying to remove the barriers protecting us from poisoned air and water.

From Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama for Strategy and Communications.

We do sort of gloss over the f-ing insanity of the fact that one of our [political] parties not only doesn’t believe in climate change, but is actively trying to make it worse.

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Posted in Article Medleys, CommonGood, Lead, reading, reform, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers, writing

2018 Medley #9

Lead, Trump’s Spelling Problem,
Vouchers, Testing, School Funding,
The Common Good, Bi-partisan Privatizers

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

Less than a month after tests show elevated lead levels in Flint, state stops distributing bottled water

The State of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over even though some elementary school water tests still show high lead limits.

Long term effects of childhood lead exposure include learning disabilities, speech disorders, lowered IQ, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity. The city of around 100,000 is more than 50% African-American. 41% of its residents live below the poverty line.

Nestlé, on the other hand, gets all the crystal clear Michigan water it wants.

“Recent water tests at elementary schools in Flint have found an increase in samples showing lead levels above the federal action limit.”

That’s the opening line in an article in The Detroit News less than one month ago. Despite this, the state of Michigan, just days after turning control over the city back to local elected officials, declared the Flint Water Crisis over and announced that it is discontinuing providing bottled water to the city’s residents.

…the decision was announced a mere three days after the Snyder administration announced that it was approving a permit for Nestlé Waters North America to increase its withdrawal of ground water to produce Ice Mountain bottle water from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — 576,000 gallons per day.

…as of April 11, 2018.

IMPROOV YUR SPELING

Trump would be better at spelling if he read

Stephen Krashen has some advice for our president. Less tweeting. More reading.

The March 26 letter “B-I-A-S” suggested that The Post has reached a “new low” in commenting on President Trump’s spelling errors. I don’t think The Post went deep enough. Mr. Trump’s poor spelling reflects problems far more serious than a failure to proofread. My research on language acquisition shows that poor spelling is often the result of not having a reading habit. Studies also show that those who read a lot know more about history and science. They also have greater empathy for others and understand that the world is complex. Mr. Trump is a perfect example of a nonreader, and his lack of a reading habit has hurt all of us.

VOUCHERS

Cumulative effect: Individual district budgets don’t fully reflect vouchers’ drain

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1780 letter to Richard Price, wrote

When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

The same is true of religious schools, which is why tax dollars should be reserved for public schools.

98% of schools receiving vouchers in Indiana are parochial schools. The other 2% are non-religious private schools.

The impact of the voucher program is not based on how many vouchers are used in your district. It is based on each year’s voucher program cost to the Tuition Support budget across the state, regardless of the number of vouchers used within the district. For example, Lebanon Schools lost more than $530,000, Plainfield Schools lost more than $770,000, and Carmel Schools lost more than $2,365,000 this year. Currently, there are 23 school districts where no vouchers are used. They are small districts and the voucher program costs them more than $4 million this year combined. Peru Schools is the largest of these districts and it lost more than $321,000.

Here are this year’s losses in Allen County: East Allen County Schools, $1.38 million; Fort Wayne Community Schools, $4.47 million; Northwest Allen County Schools, $1.13 million; and Southwest Allen County Schools, $1.08 million.

To make this complicated issue much simpler, and in honor of Fiona and Pi Day (March 14), think of a loganberry pie. Indiana has baked a smaller pie and expects it to feed a larger number of people. More kids, fewer dollars.

TESTING

The Testing Thermostat

A standardized test is like a home thermostat. A thermostat measures one thing – the temperature in one room. It doesn’t measure the quality of the roof construction, though that may have an impact on the temperature. It doesn’t measure the quality of the kitchen appliances, though that, too, might have an impact on the temperature.

Standardized tests should be used, like thermostats, to measure that for which they were designed. Using tests for measuring other things is a misuse of the test, and, if done for an entire school or state, educational malpractice.

Likewise, we will fail if we try to use the thermostat read-out to evaluate the efficiency of the power generating and delivery capabilities of our electric company, or evaluate the contractor who built the house (in my case, almost a hundred years ago), or evaluate the health and well-being of the people who live in the house– or to jump from there to judging the effectiveness of the doctor who treats the people who live in the house, or the medical school that trained that doctor.

At the end of the day, the thermostat really only measures one thing– the temperature right there, in the place where the thermostat is mounted. To use it to measure any other part of the house, or any other aspect of any other part of the house, or any aspect of the people who live in the other parts of the house– well, that just means we’re moving further and further out on a shaky limb of the Huge Inaccuracy Tree.

In this way, the thermostat is much like the Big Standardized Test– really only good at measuring one small thing, and not a reliable proxy for anything else.

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn argues against tests…any tests.

Even allowing for variation in the design of the tests and the motives of the testers, however, the bottom line is that these instruments are typically more about measuring the number of facts that have been crammed into students’ short-term memories than they are about assessing understanding. Tests, including those that involve essays, are part of a traditional model of instruction in which information is transmitted to students (by means of lectures and textbooks) so that it can be disgorged later on command. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to find teachers who are proud of their student-centered approach to instruction, who embrace active and interactive forms of learning, yet continue to rely on tests as the primary, or even sole, form of assessment in their classrooms. (Some conflate the two ideas to the point that when they refer to “an assessment,” they never mean anything more than a test.)

SCHOOL FUNDING

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

Some students cost more to educate than others. That’s why charter schools and private voucher receiving schools work the system to avoid enrolling them.

Even among public schools however, there are some students who need more resources, specialized teachers, or specialized equipment. Those students will cost more to educate.

Students who grow up in high-poverty schools are often among those who are more expensive to educate. They need wraparound services not usually found in wealthier suburban schools. Their schools will need more teaching assistants, transportation options, nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. States which fund schools equally are short-changing their students who grow up in poverty. Equality does not necessarily mean equity.

The majority of states have unfair funding systems with “flat” or “regressive” funding
distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional funding in high-poverty
districts. In 2015, only eleven states had progressive funding systems, down from a high
of twenty-two in 2008.

THE COMMON GOOD

If Not Now, When?

The common good stems from “promote the general welfare.” Government has a responsibility to take care of all the people, not just the wealthy. Public water systems, government maintained roads, highways and bridges, public parks, public libraries, and public schools are benefits for all. Even if you don’t drive the roads provide a way for goods and services to reach your home. Even if you don’t have children the public schools support the growth of the next generation of citizens. The common good, by definition, is good for everyone.

Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

CORPORATE ED REFORM IS BIPARTISAN

Would Democrats Really Do Better Than Betsy DeVos on Education?

Are the Democrats in Indiana against the Republican privatization agenda because they believe in public schools, or just because they’re the opposition party? If the Democrats ever become the majority will they be able to resist the lure of corporate/privatization campaign dollars?

So THAT’S their game!

CAP is playing the long con here. They are putting forward a bunch of puppy dog and teddy bear proposals to contrast with Trump and DeVos.

These aren’t policies as much as they are advertisements for the Democratic party. It’s the equivalent of saying, “We promise we’ll do good things like THESE if you elect Democrats – despite the fact that we mainly focused on standardization and privatization when we were in power.”

Look. Maybe I’m being too cynical.

Maybe the Democrats really, really are going to do a better job this time, cross their hearts and hope to die, if we give them just one more chance.

But words aren’t nearly enough.

I like many of these policy suggestions. But I just don’t trust the Democrats.

The brand has been tainted for me by the Clinton and Obama administrations – by leadership from the same people who are making these suggestions.

In short – I’ll believe it when I see it.

Former Secretaries of Education Duncan (Obama) and Spellings (G.W.Bush)
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Posted in DeVos, Oklahoma, SchoolFunding

DeVos Doesn’t Understand “what’s right for kids.”

[This post is being republished. The original post had an erroneous quote. I appreciate all the “proofreaders” among readers who keep me focused and offer corrections when I make an error.]

Teachers in Oklahoma (and Kentucky, West Virginia, perhaps Arizona, and maybe your state, next), are up in arms about low pay, poor working conditions, and the general lack of support for public schools. Tax breaks for the wealthy means reduced state revenues and less support for public schools, public school teachers, and public school students.

So teachers have walked out.

Cue Betsy DeVos, the billionaire who never worked a day in her life, who knows nothing about public education (having never experienced it as a student, teacher, or parent), and who bought her job as Secretary of Education by bribing senators with campaign contributions.

Betsy DeVos to Oklahoma teachers: ‘Serve the students’

“I think about the kids,” DeVos said Thursday, according to The Dallas Morning News. She had been touring a middle school and meeting with leaders of an anti-violence initiative in Dallas. “I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.”

DeVos is conveniently able to compartmentalize adult and child…to keep them separate. If she had any experience with public education, however, she’d understand that separating the needs of children and adults in an educational setting is damn near impossible.

She seems to think, for example, that adults who work in a school work in a vacuum into which the outside world doesn’t reach. She fails to understand that every cut in funding, every increase in testing (and accompanying costs), every job lost, every incident of gun violence, every increase in ICE detentions, every dollar lost to corporate tax breaks, has an impact on our classrooms.

Perhaps she believes, like Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, that teachers are just striking so they can get a better car.

IT’S MORE THAN JUST SALARIES

Most news reporting, while sometimes mentioning the lack of school funding, focuses on teachers salaries, because, in the past, when a group of workers has gone on strike, it’s been for higher wages and better working conditions. Workers have rarely, if ever, gone on strike to improve conditions for their clients.

So it’s hard for selfish, “I’ve got mine, get your own,” anti-common-good, no-more-taxers (on the rich) to understand that there are reasons for the current teacher actions that go beyond teacher salaries.

Teachers across the country have finally had enough of the teacher pay penalty

Teachers are concerned with a range of issues, from books and supplies to safe buildings.

These crumbling textbooks show why Oklahoma teachers are walking out

Scarberry is one of several teachers and parents in Oklahoma who have shared photos and stories via social media of crumbling, outdated textbooks as part of their plea for more education funding. Some are posted on the “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout — The Time Is Now!” Facebook page.

The state of the textbooks go a long way toward explaining why thousands of teachers in Oklahoma left their classrooms and rallied at the state capital on Monday and Tuesday, asking for teacher and support staff raises, as well as better funding for their schools and students.

Would you want your child sitting on one of these broken desks?

…or using these Government and History books circa 19?? and a dozen books doesn’t seem like it’s enough for a whole class, does it?

Teachers know it’s not just about salaries.

  • Teachers want clean, up-to-date textbooks – enough for an entire class.
  • Teachers want to stop spending an average of $500 a year on classroom supplies (that’s a national average, so the actual amount spent in high-poverty schools, and schools without adequate funding, is probably more).
  • Teachers want to work in schools where they – and their students – have clean, working bathrooms.

Teachers are not the only ones affected if schools don’t have supplies, adequate facilities, up to date learning materials, and safe classrooms.

It has an impact on our children…the children who will make up the citizenry of the future…so, by extension, all of us.

On the other hand, perhaps DeVos understands this all too well. Improvements in public education would sabotage her efforts to have all public schools labeled as “failing” which would, in turn, sabotage her dream of nation-wide school privatization.

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Posted in Adams, Article Medleys, Douglass, Franklin, Oklahoma, Public Ed, sexism, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #8: Teachers Finally Stand Up

Teachers Stand Up, Speak Out

Why are public schools, and public school educators, such an easy target for abuse in terms of wage stagnation, underfunding, and worker disrespect? Why is it so easy for legislators and policy makers to treat teachers like enemies of the state?

Oklahoma teachers on strike.

WHO ARE THE TEACHERS?

One possible answer to the questions, above, is the relative value given to work done by women in our society.

Three-fourths of American teachers are female, and despite the fact that teaching is a difficult job, needing training and experience, it’s still considered “women’s work” by the patriarchal society at large. In nearly every job, at every level, in every area where both men and women are employed, women earn less – even when men and women are doing the same exact work.

The assumption has been, even among educators, that women who work will (or ought to) have a higher-earning spouse at home, so they don’t need to earn as much. There is rarely an assumption that women are the “bread-winners” of a family or that a woman might need to earn more than their partner of either sex. The tradition of women as teachers leads to teachers being disrespected because women are disrespected.

To the extent that work done by women is denigrated in our society, teachers are denigrated.

To the extent that work done by women is disrespected in our society, teachers are disrespected.

To the extent that work done by women is shortchanged in our society, teachers are shortchanged.

Blogger Jan Resseger has a similar response…

Kentucky: Teachers Stand Up for a Decent State Budget, Their Pensions, and Public Responsibility

Maybe part of our forgetting about teachers comes from gender bias. As we have all noticed in West Virginia last month, and now in Oklahoma and Kentucky, most of these teachers are energetic young women. All the old messages come into play: Teachers do their work because they love our children; the money isn’t so important to them. They’re probably married and have another income to depend on in addition to whatever they can bring in from teaching. These women should be good sports as they do more with less. And the worst: Teaching is really just glorified babysitting.

TEACHER’S MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD

Finally…thankfully…teachers are speaking out in large numbers. They have been taking the brunt of the political, legislative, and social war on public education that has been waged for the last four decades. The war has been fought on several fronts…the most notable being funding. Public school funding has taken a hit from the poor economy as have other areas, but with the recovery, those who control the money have not seen fit to increase funding for schools.

In Indiana, teachers have seen a loss of earning power adjusted for inflation of over 15% in the last 15 years. Add to that, larger classes, media bashing, professional demoralization and fewer benefits which have resulted from the recent recession, tax cuts, and political pandering. Most teachers are doing more with less…and less…and less. Policy makers assume that teachers will pick up the slack, which, of course, they do…at a rate of about $500 per teacher, per year. There are more than 3 and a half million teachers in the United States. In other words, teachers subsidize our public schools by more than $1 billion a year.

Salaries are not keeping up with inflation…funding is not keeping up with inflation…teachers are donating money, as well as time, for their students…it all adds up to…

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Teachers have had it. Why they’re revolting against low pay and inadequate school funding.

…Underpaid and under-resourced teachers have had enough. Tired of struggling to pay their bills and educating students without sufficient resources — or, in some places, heat to keep kids from freezing in the winter — teachers are suddenly rebelling in places not known for union activism.

The protests are coming in states that have seen the country’s deepest funding cuts for public education by Republican legislators, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona…

Arizona teachers rally at the statehouse.

No Wonder Teachers Are Saying Enough Is Enough

Teachers have long been underpaid. Their average salary is a little over $58,000 a year. While that’s just below the national median income, teachers have the kinds of qualifications that should mean they bring home more than the average employee. About half of public-school teachers have a master’s degree, and nearly two-thirds have more than 10 years of job experience. And yet they make 17 percent less than other similarly educated workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Compensation for all college graduates rose over the last two decades, adjusted for inflation, but for teachers it actually declined.

Oklahoma teachers are protesting 10 years of low pay. Here’s what their walkout looked like.

Thousands of teachers returned Tuesday to the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City to protest low teacher pay and years of cuts to school funding, continuing a strike launched Monday.

Nearly 200 of the state’s 550 school districts remained closed, according to a tally on the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Facebook group. An estimated 30,000 teachers and educators had gathered at the capitol on Monday, joined by hundreds of state employees.

Teachers are demanding that state legislators come up with $3.3 billion over the next three years for school funding, benefits, and pay raises for all public employees. On Monday, lawmakers didn’t give an inch.

That made teachers even angrier.

Kentucky teachers.

And We Will Rise: Day 3 of the Oklahoma Walkout

Don’t try us, Oklahoma legislatures. We work in classrooms of 30-35 children, seven-plus hours a day, with very few supplies, no restroom breaks, kids who are out of hand, kids who are hungry, kids who are angry, kids who have horrible home lives, kids who have broken hearts. And we still get up every school day, ready to work, ready to do everything necessary to help our kids, in conditions that are not suitable for what we need to do with pay that barely pays our bills and feeds our families.

Go ahead, try to reduce us to ashes.

The Phoenix will continue to rise.

TEACHERS ARE QUITTING

While many teachers are taking to the streets, others are leaving. Teachers are moving to other states to seek better conditions for themselves and their own children. They’re looking for places where public schools are publicly supported.

Others are walking away from the profession completely.

The biggest loss, however, is with pre-service teachers. There are fewer and fewer young people choosing teaching as a profession…and with good reason. The pay gap between teachers and other similarly educated professionals is still large.

It’s hard to recruit young people to a career which doesn’t pay well and is regularly insulted and figuratively spat upon by the national media and politicians.

Teacher Exodus, Plummeting Enrollments and Teacher License Deregulation: I don’t feel fine.

As a dean of a school of education I have watched our undergraduate enrollments take a nose dive (55%) in the last 3 years. I meet with prospective students and parents who actively encourage their sons and daughters to avoid becoming a teacher. I know teachers that actively advise their students to avoid teaching. And I have talked to high school students who tell me they’ll never go into teaching. When I ask why, I get this response, “I’ve seen what my teachers go through. They’re not allowed to teach. So many of them are miserable. No thank you.”

PAYING FOR THE COMMON GOOD

The anti-taxers – or more accurately, anti-taxers-of-the-wealthy – have convinced Americans that all taxes are always bad. But that’s not true.

We’re not the highest taxed nation on Earth, contrary to what some political leaders would have you believe. And our businesses and wealthy fellow citizens could pay more than they do, especially after the latest tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Our taxes pay for the physical infrastructure of our cities and counties which benefit everyone. It pays for roads and their upkeep, water and sewage systems, transportation, libraries, parks, and support for the elderly and needy. Taxes also pay for public schools.

When we refuse to pay taxes, we refuse to pay our membership fee for living in a free society.

When we shortchange public education we shortchange our future. That is something Americans throughout history have understood…

Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1749

The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country. [emphasis added]

Letter to John Jebb from “The works of John Adams, second President of the United States : with a life of the author, notes and illustrations”

by John Adams, Second President of the United States, 10 September, 1785.

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. [emphasis added]

Address to the National Convention of Colored Men, Louisville, Ky.

by Frederick Douglass, African American writer and abolitionist, speech at the National Convention of Colored Men, 1883

[T]he fact remains that the whole country is directly interested in the education of every child that lives within its borders. The ignorance of any part of the American people so deeply concerns all the rest that there can be no doubt of the right to pass laws compelling the attendance of every child at school…

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Posted in NAEP, Testing

What’s Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance – RTFM

What’s bugging me today is people who interpret standardized test results without understanding what the scores, and the labels attached to those scores, mean.

Even from people I agree with…

THE STATE OF AMERICA’S CHILDREN

Late last year, the Children’s Defense Fund issued its 2017 report on the State of America’s Children.

The State of America’s Children® 2017 Report

This is a very challenging and scary time for America’s children. As new policies threaten to eliminate the safety net that millions rely on to survive, the reality is millions of America’s children today are still suffering from hunger, homelessness and hopelessness. The Children’s Defense Fund’s new report, The State of America’s Children® 2017, provides a comprehensive look at the status of America’s children in 11 areas: child population, child poverty, income and wealth inequality, housing and homelessness, child hunger and nutrition, child health, early childhood, education, child welfare, juvenile justice and gun violence.

Indiana’s numbers in those areas are as disturbing as the numbers for the nation as a whole. It’s shameful that a nation as wealthy as the United States allows one-fifth of its children to live in poverty. It’s horrifying that more children have been killed by guns since Sandy Hook than U.S. soldiers in combat since 9/11. We need to make the children of our nation, and locally, of Indiana, a priority. Our future, literally, depends on it.

You can click either of these links to reach the Children’s Defense Fund website to download

WRONG ABOUT THE NAEP

I agree with the Children’s Defense Fund about the state of children in the U.S., but they’re wrong about testing. They’re not wrong that schools need to improve, but they’re wrong about how they interpret the need for improvement based on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

The report’s section on education begins with this graphic:

The statement that 67% of eighth graders are unable to read at grade level is based on results from the NAEP, the “Nation’s Report Card.”

The number, 67%, is reported on page 59 of the Children’s Defense Fund full report. Below is the table from page 59, cropped to show the national results…

Note that the table purports to display, according to its title, the percentage of eighth graders who were performing below grade level.

You can see that 67% is listed under All Students on the Reading side of the table. Below the table, we’re told that the source for this data is the

U.S. Department of Education. 2016. “2015 Mathematics and Reading Assessments Report Card: Summary Data Tables with Additional Detail for Average Scores and Achievement Levels for States and Juristictions.”

This is followed by a link to the information

https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015/#reading/scores?grade=4

If we dig a little deeper, however, we find that the authors have mistakenly equated the term Grade Level with scoring Proficient on the NAEP. This is incorrect. Proficiency, on the NAEP, has nothing to do with “grade level.”

Misrepresenting the achievement levels leads to graphics like the one above, and headlines like the one below. Fortunately, the article below also explains that the achievement level, proficient, doesn’t equal grade level. I only hope that the Senator read the article.

See also: What Does ‘Proficient’ on the NAEP Test Really Mean?

PROFICIENT vs BASIC

The NAEP Glossary of Terms defines NAEP’s three achievement levels, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.

Basic is defined as…

…denoting partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade assessed…

Proficient is…

…representing solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter…

In the pamphlet, A Closer Look at NAEP, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB, an independent, bipartisan organization that oversees the NAEP) debunks myths about the NAEP.

Myth: The NAEP Proficient level is like being on grade level.

Fact: Proficient on NAEP means competency over challenging subject matter. This is not the same as being “on grade level,” which refers to performance on local curriculum and standards. NAEP is a general assessment of knowledge and skills in a particular subject.

When Diane Ravitch, a former member of the NAGB, discussed this topic in her book Reign of Error, she wrote,

From what I observed as a member of the NAGB who reviewed questions and results over a seven-year period, a student who is “proficient” earns a solid A and not less than a strong B+.

“Basic,” as defined by the NAGB, is “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” In my view, the student who scores “basic” is probably a B or C student.

This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”

A more serious issue, is that, while 85% of white students scored at Basic or above, the number of black, hispanic, and other minority students scoring Basic or above is much lower. That should be the focus of the Children’s Defense Fund’s report on Education…

For further reading on this issue see:

THE DANGER OF MISUSING WORDS

The Children’s Defense Fund is not entirely at fault, however. When the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) releases scores and reports, they use the “proficient” level as the default level of discussion which makes education in the U.S. – as measured by the NAEP – sound much worse than it really is.

This is a serious problem and at least one educator, James Harvey, has suggested that NAEP change the wording of the achievement levels to prevent further distortion of our students’ achievement levels [emphasis added].

The Problem with “Proficient”

…recommends replacing the terminology NAEP currently applies to its performance levels (Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced) with the performance levels employed in international assessments: Low, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior. This simple change in terminology would go a long way toward reducing the confusion the term proficient has introduced into the national discussion of school performance. And we should educate the public about the flaws embedded in these benchmarks and emphasize to everyone the caution that Congress has always assigned to them. It would also be highly desirable if the views of independent psychometricians and assessment experts guided NAEP’s thinking about other technical judgments that could improve NAEP.

In the meantime, the Children’s Defense Fund, and everyone else who reports U.S. students’ achievement based on NAEP test results, should take the time to learn what Basic, Proficient, and Advanced, actually mean.

In other words, before you try to interpret test scores…

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Jim Trelease, Privatization, Public Ed, read-alouds, SchoolShootings, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #7

Public Education, Testing, 
Arming Teachers, Privatization, Jim Trelease

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Our Public Schools Are Better Than the NCGA Would Want You to Believe

Here’s a good summary of the reasons we shouldn’t rely on test scores to compare education in the United States with other countries. Simply put, if the U.S. didn’t have one of the highest rates of child poverty among advanced countries, our test scores would be higher because test scores reflect family income.

This isn’t news…(see here and here).

  • “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
  • “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
  • “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
  • “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
  • “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

10 Reasons To Support Public School

Peter Greene reminds us that public schools are expected to be everything for everyone. We aren’t always successful, but there are very few places where public schools try to help every child achieve to his or her highest potential.

10) The promise of public education

…Our dream is to provide every single child with the support and knowledge and skills and education that will allow each to pursue the life they dream of, to become more fully themselves, to understand what it means to be human in the world. We do not always live up to that dream, but US public schools have lifted up millions upon millions of students, elevated communities, raised up a country.

TESTING

The Lone Voice of Dissent Against Standardized Testing

For years I felt like the lone voice against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing in my school, and school district…in fact, I started this blog in 2006 because I wanted a place to vent about that very topic. Perhaps other teachers in our district felt the same way, but were afraid to speak out. Most of the teachers in my building just sat quietly while I ranted about wasting all the time with tests that didn’t help anyone. No one ever thanked me, but no one ever objected. Our principal would sometimes say, “Now is not the time,” or “Just do it.” I understand that he was under pressure from the central office, who, in turn were under pressure from the state, to administer tests. Still, it would have been nice to have some support from other educators (perhaps there was, and I just didn’t see it). It would have been nice to hear from an administrator, “I agree, but we have no choice.” Something would have been better than nothing.

And it’s still going on. American teachers and students are being forced to administer and take tests which are being misused…to rank schools, to determine teacher pay, to rank students. It’s unprofessional, educational malpractice, and child abuse.

I’ve seen some of these people reduced to tears by administrators unfairly manipulating them based on their students’ test scores.

Yet none of them have the guts to stand up and be counted when the moment comes.

I say again – everyone wants to fight. But no one wants to do the fighting.

They want someone else to do it for them.

Does that make you angry?

It makes me furious.

But if you feel that way, you’ve got to do something about it.

You think teachers are too cowardly? What have YOU done to fight corporate education reform today?

Do Impacts on Test Scores Even Matter? Lessons from Long-Run Outcomes in School Choice Research

Almost every major education reform of the past 20 years at both the state and national level has rested on a common assumption: Standardized test scores are an accurate and appropriate measure of success and failure. It has followed that programs or policies that increase student scores on standardized tests are “good” and programs that fail to do so are “bad.”

TEACHERS DON’T WANT TO CARRY GUNS

Poll: Most U.S. Teachers Want Gun Control, Not Guns To Carry

The last thing on my mind when I was a pre-service teacher was where I would keep my gun to protect my students from killers shooting up schools with assault-style rifles. My goal as a classroom teacher was to help children achieve as much as they could, academically and personally, while they were in my class. My goal as a reading specialist was to help children who were struggling to overcome the obstacles standing in their way.

It’s time to change our rules about guns. There’s no need for us to be the one country in the world where mass murders are frequent events. We need to require universal background checks, close gun acquisition loop-holes, and remove assault weapons from the catalog of civilian weapons. If trained soldiers at a military base could not prevent a soldier armed with two handguns from killing a dozen people how do we expect a teacher with a handgun to survive against a shooter with an assault rifle?

There are reasonable restrictions to the First Amendment. It’s time to adopt reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.

As I put the finishing touches on this post, I read the following two articles on the Guardian. Must Reads:

The Parkland teachers provide graphic and convincing reasons for keeping guns out of classrooms. The students provide the reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in school, and they overwhelmingly favor gun control measures over security steps meant to “harden” schools, according to a new Gallup poll.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE AND COMPETITION DON’T WORK

Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’

Charter schools and parochial/private schools that accept vouchers do not provide a better education than public schools.

…I didn’t find charter schools to be, on balance, more innovative than public schools. Some of the most remarkable innovations I observed were in the very public schools that choice advocates dismiss — in places such as Charlotte, Newark, Coachella and Waipahu. And while some charter schools are deeply innovative, many grind away on test scores, with innovation limited to cute test-prep jingles. Free of regulation, you might think private schools would lead the way in innovation, but most are focused on the college application process, a serious impediment to innovation.

Still Waiting for Convincing Evidence

People don’t want vouchers because private schools are better than public schools. People want vouchers because they want to use tax money to pay for religious education. They want to use tax money to shelter their children from those who are “different.”

The voucher debate, therefore, is a question not just of values but also of effectiveness, and research should play a significant role. So how should we interpret the available evidence? At most, only one of the more than two dozen states that have tried statewide vouchers and tuition tax credits has yet to demonstrate convincing, measurable success with them, Given this reality, it is hard to make a case for substantially replacing our system of public schooling on a national scale. The American workforce continues to be the most productive and creative in the world. This does not mean we cannot do better, but it does indicate that we should proceed with caution and care.

The Truth About Charter Schools

Not all charter schools are as bad as the one described in this post, but before we continue the charter school experiment we need to put in place safeguards to insure that charter schools are held to the same accountability standards (including financial) under which public schools are required to operate.

…I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

Today, March 23 (actually, yesterday, by the time I get this finished and posted) is Jim Trelease’s birthday. My last post, Carved in Stone, was about reading aloud to children…Jim Trelease’s life work.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet from the Weekly Reader Book Club titled The Read-Aloud Handbook. Three decades later, the 30-page pamphlet had grown, in the seventh edition, to a 350 page book complete with a bibliography of several hundred read aloud book suggestions spanning a third of the book.

I read to all my classes…kindergarten through 6th grade…Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can’t remember ever missing a day. It was my belief — and it still is — that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.

If there is one person who influenced my teaching more than any others, it’s Jim Trelease.

And how exactly does a person become proficient at reading? It’s a simple, two- part formula:

The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

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Posted in Jim Trelease, library, read-alouds, Walsh

Carved in Stone

What we learn in childhood is carved in stone.
What we learn as adults is carved in ice.

Jim Trelease used the above quote from poet David Kherdian to begin chapter 2 of his Read-Aloud Handbook. The first line is as good a reason as any for parents to read aloud to their children – from birth.

Unfortunately, that’s not happening as much as it ought to…

READ-ALOUD SURVEY

In a recent survey on Read-Aloud the percentage of parents who read to their children from birth had increased to 30%, up from 15% in 2015. That number is still way too low. In addition, it was noted that even though there was an increase in the number of parents reading to their children from birth, only 14% of parents spent at least 15 minutes reading with their children. This also is an increase (from 8%) but, again, still pathetically low. Sadly, the increase is not across the board when it comes to reading aloud to children.

• 2018 data shows a slight decrease, from 46% to 42%, in the frequency with which children ages 0-8 are being read aloud to every day. This decrease is driven mostly by parents of children ages 6-8. (Page 23)

• Only 30% (of total parents) say their child is currently read aloud to every day, for at least 15 minutes. This too is down slightly from 2016 (34%). (Page 24)

The survey catalogued reasons for the decline which included such things as,

  • doing other things which are just as good as reading aloud
  • the inability of the child to sit still long enough to read aloud
  • parents don’t have time
  • the child doesn’t like to be read to
  • the child is read to at school, so they don’t need to be read to at home

I accept all those reasons (and the others given in the survey) as completely legitimate, unless the family (parents and children) spend at least 15 – 30 minutes a day watching TV.

THE IMPORTANCE OF READ ALOUD

What’s the big deal? What good is reading aloud, anyway. Back to Jim Trelease [emphasis added]…

The [1983 Commission on Reading, funded by the U.S. Department of Education] spent two years poring through thousands of research projects conducted in the previous quarter century, and in 1985 issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

“It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom.

In their wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than work sheets, homework, book reports, and flash cards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better tool than anything else in the home or classroom—and it’s so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma to do it.

In other words, 1) reading is one of the most important tools for children and 2) reading aloud is positively correlated with learning to read. Meanwhile, as the previously mentioned survey reveals, less than half of the parents of 0-8 year olds in the U.S. read aloud to their children.

Trelease explains why reading aloud helps children learn to read…

…in reading aloud, we also:

  • build vocabulary
  • condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • create background knowledge
  • provide a reading role model
  • plant the desire to read

[For an in-depth study of why these points are important to reading see two series of blog posts by Russ Walsh. The first, an eleven part series on When Readers Struggle, which begins with Background Knowledge. The second, a four part series (so far) on Building Vocabulary which starts with an Overview.]

If language development, gaining background knowledge, instilling a desire to read, building literacy skills, and personal bonding aren’t enough to convince you that reading aloud is important…try these two…

FIGHT POVERTY

Reading aloud to your children can help offset some effects of poverty [emphasis added].

Families Armed With Books Repel The Effects Of Poverty

The important fact is that parents who insert themselves most firmly into early literacy activities—participating in reading, conversation, and writing—and bring those activities into the home regularly provide the best academic foundation for their children. Parent involvement makes a greater difference than money. And children love to listen to books, especially when parents read, and the act of reading together promotes lifelong literacy because people enjoy it. It continues to be fun at any age, long after a child learns to read fluently. We all love a well-spun story.

[See also Reading aloud to children: the evidence]

The more a child is exposed to reading, the better they become at reading. As an elementary school reading specialist, I tried to help the parents of my students understand that reading was one of the most important skills learned in elementary school and quantity was important. Kids should read a LOT.  As Jim Trelease wrote…

The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.

Even as adults we recognize that reading is an important skill, which brings us to…

A LIFE-LONG LOVE OF READING

Adults who read continue to learn throughout their lives, are better informed, and live longer. Reading aloud to children helps them become life-long readers as this book review attests to. [Full disclosure: the “dad” in the review below, refers to me!]

There is No Life I Know to Compare with Pure Imagination

As an adult I have realized that it is not just the books I read as a child, but those that were read aloud to me when I was little, that mean the most to me. They are the ones I have the strongest memories of and the ones that can evoke the strongest emotions. I never read My Side of the Mountain or Hatchet, but my 3rd grade teacher read them aloud to us, and I’ll never forget them. The Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Ramona books, all the Roald Dahl books–my parents read them all to me, plus countless others, and these are the books that I remember most fondly. There is nothing better than sharing a story with someone. It was not unusual in my house to be reading a book and find certain passages were bracketed or had notes in the margin–my dad read aloud to all his classes, and would use these notes to guide his reading. When I read these books now as an adult, it’s not my own voice in my head that is narrating, but that of my parents. This adds an extra element of pleasure to rereading childhood favorites.

WHAT TO DO

Help your children live longer lives! Read to them from birth. Continue until they are at least 8 years old – longer if you can.

If you know someone with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors, let them know the value of reading to their children from birth.

Get books at the public library. Ask librarians for suggestions, or check out The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. You can find it at the library, get your own copy, or use an abridged version online.

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