Posted in A-F Grading, DeVos, Finland, library, Politics, Privatization, Teaching Career, Testing, vouchers

2016 Medley #30

Politics, The Teaching Profession,
Privatization, Testing, Libraries

POLITICS

My Letter to President-Elect Trump

Your entertainment for today consists of a teacher from Oklahoma, with no political or diplomatic experience, who has never traveled abroad, yet claims he is qualified to be the next US Secretary of State. How is this possible? If Betsy DeVos is qualified to be the US Secretary of Education, with no public education experience as a student, a teacher, an administrator, or a parent (has she ever even visited a public school classroom?), then the qualifications for other Cabinet positions should have similar requirements.

Maybe I could be appointed as the Attorney General. I’m not an attorney…never written a brief…never even appeared in court (although I have watched Lawyer shows on TV). Sounds like I’m perfect for it.

I know you are a busy man so I will get right to the subject of my letter. I would like to formally announce my strong interest in your administration’s open cabinet position as U.S. Secretary of State.

I think you will find my qualifications and experience to be exactly what you are looking for.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

There are so many articles and blog posts being written about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education (see above), that I thought it would be nice to collect them in one place. This is undoubtedly not all of them, but so far (as of noon ET on Nov. 29) I have listed about 80 and arranged them by date.

Full disclosure: Most of them are opposed to her selection as Secretary of Education. Someone else will have to collect those posts and articles which are in favor.

A collection of articles and information, sorted by date, about President-elect Trump’s choice for US Secretary of Education. Check back frequently for additional articles.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION

When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools

“Reformers” frequently claim that the US is “behind” the rest of the world in education. Finland, because of the high scores of its students on international tests, is often held up as an example of good education…until anyone suggests that we do the same sorts of things that the Finns do in education: no standardized testing, no privatization, 15 minutes of recess for every hour of school, teacher collaboration, and an investment of time. Then, “we can’t” duplicate it because education in the US is too decentralized and the population too diverse.

That is true. We also have four times the child poverty rate, less effective social safety nets for our children, and the future of our country, based on our interest in educating everyone in a free, uniform, public education system, is a low priority.

Learning about the Finnish school system is an eye-opening experience for anyone who understands public education in the United States. The experience of these teachers, who came to the US from Finland, was certainly eye-opening to them. They “don’t recognize this profession.”

“I have been very tired—more tired and confused than I have ever been in my life,” Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school students this autumn, said in an email. “I am supposedly doing what I love, but I don’t recognize this profession as the one that I fell in love with in Finland.”

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools (MA) has written an insightful piece about turning lemons into lemonade. The end of the piece, however, is where his comments really had an impact on me.

…it seems that every time those discussions arise the end results rarely align with what educators in the field believe is important to improve our system.

American educators are kept out of the room when public policy for public education is discussed. A mere three out of the eleven US Secretaries of Education (DeVos included) have had K-12 experience as a teacher. Most decisions are made by state legislators, governors, and school board members, only a few of whom have likely had public school experience. Medical decisions are made with the input of medical professionals. Legal decisions are made by those with experience in the US Legal System. Why is it different with education?

…all that educators are looking for is an accountability system that gives a fair and accurate picture of the health of a district. I still assert that standardized testing alone will not accomplish this goal and that we need a more comprehensive accountability system that takes a holistic approach based on more than test scores…

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Steven Singer, edu-blogger at Gadflyonthewallblog, has presented as good a case as I’ve ever read against school “choice.”

We have a large, functioning, public school system in the US which serves every child. If there are problems we need to fix them, not just throw the system away.

…school choice is essentially selfish. Even in cases where kids do benefit from choice, they have weakened the chances of everyone else in the public school system. They have increased the expense and lowered the services of children at both types of school. They have allowed unscrupulous profiteers to make away with taxpayer money while taxpayers and fiscal watchdogs are blindfolded. And when students return to their traditional public school after having lost years of academic progress at a substandard privatized institution, it is up to the taxpayers to pay for remediation to get these kids back up to speed.

Choice advocates talk about children being trapped in failing schools, but they never examine what it is about them that is failing.

Almost all public schools that are struggling serve impoverished students. That’s not a coincidence. It’s the cause. Schools have difficulty educating the poorest children. Impoverished children have greater needs. We should be adding tutoring, counseling and mentor programs. We should be helping their parents find jobs, providing daycare, healthcare and giving these struggling people a helping hand to get them back on their feet.

But instead we’re abandoning them.

See also

The Problem with Choice

We should improve our public schools, not close them.

If parents truly want choice, this is where we as parents and educators need to concentrate our efforts. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” should be taken literally and used to fix public education for all, not to give choice only to the wealthy and the fortunate.

If we want true education reformation, we need to make sure the public tax dollars are being used correctly to create an actual choice movement within the public school system itself: Increase money being spent on public education to improve ALL schools, regardless of location; increase teachers’ salaries to create a true competition for quality teachers; increase public school autonomy so that principals and teachers can use their knowledge and experience to innovate and create the right learning environment for their students.

Scores drop when students move to private, magnet schools

What’s the purpose of “choice?”

The Indianapolis study suggests more choice won’t boost achievement and may hurt it. But Waddington notes that families choose schools for a variety of reasons. Some may find a private or magnet school a better fit. Evidence from Indiana’s voucher program suggests parents choose private schools for religious instruction, raising questions about whether the state should support sectarian education.

Berends and Waddington said the Indianapolis study provides more evidence that the key to improving student achievement doesn’t lie with a particular type of school. They said research suggests we should get past the “horse race” question of whether public, charter or private schools are better and seek a better understanding of the characteristics that make some schools more effective than others.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Recent Research Shows Vouchers Fail Children

The two most recent studies indicate that students do worse with vouchers.

TESTING

Feds say Indiana can drop its A-F system. But does it want to?

We’re still misusing standardized tests. Standardized tests are developed to evaluate the achievement of students, not teachers. Not schools. Not school systems. Not nations.

If Indiana wants to make changes to its A-F school grading system, new rules from the U.S. Department of Education announced today could make it much easier.

The question is: Does Indiana want to make a change? And what would an overhauled school rating system look like?

LIBRARIES

The value of reading and our neglect of libraries

Does your neighborhood public school have a library for its students? Did you know that there are schools in the US, the richest nation in the world, without a library or a full-time librarian for its students?

Isaac Asimov was right in 1995 and his insight is still valid: “When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.”

See also:

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Posted in ALEC, DeVos, Privatization, Trump, US DOE

And the Winner is…

BETSY DEVOS

Billionaire President-elect chooses billionaire amateur to lead the US Education Department.

REACTIONS AND COMMENTS

My reaction:

The losers are the 50.4 million children attending America’s K-12 public schools.

Betsy DeVos– Secretary of Education

…it was always only a question of what form the shafting of American public education would take.

…* She is a leader of the American Federation for Children, a dark money group that works school privatization. AFC is also a trustee-level member of ALEC, which means when you see ALEC pushing privatization, you will find the DeVos fingerprints on their work.

…* While it may seem that DeVos is a charterization fan, what she would really like is vouchers, with the prospect of shuffling public tax dollars to private religious schools, new for-profit charters, and pretty much anything except public schools.

…* In keeping with her Station in Life, DeVos has never held down an actual job.

…* It will be no surprise that DeVos has never worked in education, and her children never attended (as near as I can discover) public school.

…she would rather privatize public education than help it, she would like to make teachers unions a thing of the past, and she has a deep sense of her own rightness.

Betsy DeVos, billionaire donor and school privatizer, is the new EdSec.

The attack on public schools, teachers and unions will continue.

The union-haters and charter lovers can break out the champagne.

Trump Chooses Betsy DeVos For Education Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump has picked billionaire Betsy DeVos, a Michigan Republican activist and philanthropist who is a strong supporter of school choice but has little experience with public education, as his secretary of education.

Washington Post: Meet Betsy DeVos

The story says that some studies find that voucher students are more likely to go to college. Those studies show that voucher schools have high rates of attrition. The students who don’t transfer back to public schools are slightly more likely to go to college. The studies typically don’t factor in the students who leave when calculating the graduation rate. In Milwaukee, for example, 44% of the kids who started in voucher schools in 9th grade dropped out before graduation.

Trump selects DeVos as education secretary

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement that DeVos’ efforts have undermined public education.

“She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education,” Eskelsen Garcia said. “By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”

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ALEC, DeVos, Privatization, Trump, US DOE,

Posted in Bennett, Michelle Rhee, Politics, Spellings, Trump, US DOE

Amateur Hour in the Cabinet

Update: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Luke Messer was an Indiana state legislator. He is, in fact, the U.S. Representative for Indiana’s 6th district.

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Has there ever been an Attorney General who didn’t have a law degree?

Have we ever had a Surgeon General who wasn’t a medical professional?

Why has one administration after another installed non-educators – amateurs – as their Secretary of Education?

Since Jimmy Carter first appointed Judge Shirley Hufstedler in 1979 most subsequent Secretaries of Education had never seen the inside of a K-12 classroom since their childhoods. An educator as the Secretary of Education has been the exception instead of the rule.

How is it justified? One example is Margaret Spellings (B.A. Political Science, Univ. of Houston), Secretary under George W. Bush. She claimed that she was qualified for the position because she was a mom. [Apparently North Carolina thinks that is a good enough qualification and has made her head of the University of North Carolina system.] It’s the same mentality that presumes that “anyone can be a teacher” – the same mentality that has perpetrated the low status, poor pay and working conditions, and disrespect of the teaching profession for decades.

President-elect Trump is promising to continue this unfortunate tradition.

A BASKET OF AMATEURS

The people who have been rumored as candidates for the position of Secretary of Education in the new administration have all been not only unqualified, but every one of them is a “reformer”. Anyone of them would be, as the President-elect of Superlatives would say, “a total disaster.”

We began with Ben Carson. The fact that he’s not an educator and has never been an educator isn’t enough to reject him any more than it has been for any other President. However, in a moment of uncharacteristic clarity, Dr. Carson recognized his own lack of credentials for the job and removed himself from consideration. The parade of educationally challenged candidates for the most important education position in the country followed.

There’s Williamson Evers, a Libertarian turned Republican, and an “education expert” at the Hoover Institution. He has a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in political science. His only experience in public education is as a political activist working against public education.

The name of Tony Bennett was mentioned, probably on a recommendation from VP-elect Pence. Bennett is an authentic educator, trained at an actual university’s education school, and former head of the Education Departments in Indiana and Florida. He doesn’t, however, care much about public education, preferring to get campaign contributions from private and charter school operators. Of all the candidates mentioned, Tony Bennett is, at least on paper, qualified to do the job. However, his history of incompetence and alleged criminal activity during his tenure as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction would should disqualify him.

Luke Messer, is an Indiana congressman, who sits on the Education committee in the U.S. House. Messer formed the Congressional School Choice Caucus and has supported measures to allow federal funds to be used for “choice.” Messer is an attorney, not an educator.

Following in quick succession, we heard that Trump was considering…

  • Eva Moskowitz, a charter charlatan who’s trying to take over New York City’s schools one building at a time. She has a B.A. and a Ph.D. in History.
  • Michelle Rhee, who bullied her way into, through, and out of the D.C. schools leaving a poorly investigated testing scandal in her wake, and who has been the champion of charters and the Common Core. Rhee, who taught for three years under Teach For America, has a B.A. in Government, and a Masters in Public Policy.
  • Kevin Chavous, a former personal-injury lawyer turned politician who cofounded DFER and is intent on turning public schools into profit mills.
  • Betsy DeVos, a right wing, anti-union, anti-public education, religious right zealot who has spent millions trying to kill public education. DeVos attended a parochial school in high school, followed by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI where she graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration and Political Science.

Two of the previous eight candidates have actual public school teaching experience (Bennett and Rhee), and only one (Bennett) has a degree in education, but all eight of them are advocates for school privatization under the guise of “choice.”

HISTORICAL INTERLUDE

The latest threat for the position is Jerry Falwell Jr.

Before we talk about him, I just want to mention that his father, Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and blamer of terrorism on abortionists, feminists and gays, once said of public schools,

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

Contrast that with Founding Father John Adams who said,

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.

TEACHERS NOT PREACHERS

So, Jerry Falwell Jr. is the latest rumored candidate for the Secretary of Education. He, like most of the others has no experience in K-12 education, except as a student, but even that was not in public schools. Falwell Jr. went to parochial schools, then attended his father’s Liberty University where he earned a B.A. in Religious Studies. He then went to law school at the University of Virginia.

Trump Considering Creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. For Position In Department Of Education

Those “passions” include teaching creationism instead of evolution, teaching that being gay is a sin, promoting the idea of taxpayer money funding religious schools via school vouchers and repealing the Johnson Amendment so that tax-exempt universities such as his, alongside houses of worship, can endorse political candidates.

…So it comes as no surprise that Trump, who bases a lot of his decisions on who’s blindly loyal to him, is likely to make Falwell Jr. a part of his administration. However, it should worry anyone who cares about the future of our public school system.

Falwell and his gang have a plan for public schools: If they can’t turn them into fundamentalist Christian academies, they’d like to drain their funding away and move to a voucher system of taxpayer-funded private schools, most of them religious in nature.

Placing Falwell, or for that matter, any of the above candidates, in the office of Secretary of Education, would be a direct attack on public schools, and public school children.

Brace yourselves…

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Posted in Article Medleys, Michelle Rhee, Privatization, Racism, Trump, US DOE

Medley #29: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 3

The Education Plan: Teaching Our Children

See Part 1 HERE.
See Part 2 HERE.

BIGOTRY IN THE CLASSROOM

The bullying, bigotry, and harassment that permeated the recent campaign season has filtered down into our classrooms. One-fifth of the incidents described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, happened in K-12 settings.

Our children are watching us…

Update: More Than 400 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since the Election

Between Wednesday, November 9, the day after the presidential election, and the morning of Monday, November 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment.

…A Gwinnett County high school teacher said she was left a note in class Friday telling her that her Muslim headscarf “isn’t allowed anymore.” “Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself with it…,” the note said, signed “America!”

Teaching in the Era of Trump

Our kids are going to need a lot of resilience to weather the storm of hate and divisiveness we’re experiencing. This resilience can be cultivated by teachers who celebrate their students. It won’t happen by pretending we don’t see race (or gender or religion) or that everyone’s the same.

But, we don’t just want to build resilient young people, we want to dismantle the harmful forces around them. Anti-bias education teaches students they are powerful. It teaches them they can take action against injustice in their community. If we want to live in a world different than what we’re seeing in the news this week, it’s clear we’ll have to show the next generation another way.

Ultimately, culturally relevant pedagogy is one name for one part of a larger approach to teaching that celebrates diversity. When looking for resources you might also look for “anti-bias education” or “culturally responsive teaching”. These are not interchangeable, but they all work together to help teachers create a classroom environment where all students can succeed.

PRIVATIZATION

What Will a Trump Administration Mean for Supporters of Public Education?

Republicans haven’t been friends of public education since before Reagan pushed for both eliminating the US Education Department and private school vouchers. Today’s Republicans are no different. President-elect Trump has bounced the idea of getting rid of the USED and has stumped for “choice” whenever he mentioned K-12 education – which wasn’t very often.

For those of us in Indiana, a Trump Administration, coupled with the continued Republican control of the legislature and governor’s office, will mean more of the same. There will likely be a continued misuse and overuse of testing, more “choice,” more charters, more vouchers, and less for public schools and public school teachers.

One party rule in a two party system is dangerous.

One thing we do know for sure, however, is that every branch of our federal government will be dominated by Republicans—the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court.

A new President whose plans we do not know. The absence of checks and balances. Federal public education policy that has for years been undermining support for the institution of public education. Those of us who believe improving the public schools is important have good reason to be nervous, even afraid.

After all, in 2000 and especially after we were distracted in September of 2001 by the attacks on the World Trade Center, we were unprepared to speak to the federal test-and-punish education law, No Child Left Behind. We failed to connect the dots between an accountability-driven, poorly funded testing mandate and the destruction of respect for school teachers and the drive for school privatization that lurked just under the surface of federal policy. And in 2008, we didn’t anticipate the collusion of government technocrats and philanthro-capitalists that emerged when the federal stimulus gave billions of dollars to the U.S. Department of Education for competitive experiments with top-down turnarounds to close and privatize schools and attack teachers.

POSITIVE NEWS

Anti-Privatization Education Victories We Can Rally Around

The election was not all bad news for public educators. A few states dodged threats to public education.

First, in Massachusetts, voters rejected a referendum called Question 2 that would have forced the expansion of charter schools in the state. Charter schools, which receive taxpayer money but are privately operated, have come to represent another example of the creeping privatization blob rapidly absorbing public infrastructure – transportation, schools, sanitation, prisons, and other essential services – into business pursuits for the wealthy.

…In Georgia, another progressive victory for public schools shone bright through the cloud of misery up-ballot.

…In the state of Washington, the threat to public schools appeared on the ballot in the form of a race for state Supreme Court.

…In Montana, charter school advocates had targeted Democratic Governor Steve Bullock for defeat. Bullock had the temerity to express, according to a state-based news outlet, “I continue to firmly believe that our public education system is the great equalizer. Anyone who says public schools have failed isn’t seeing what’s happening.”

…Of course, support for public education did not win everywhere. There were bad outcomes in state legislative races in California and New York.

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION – MORE NAMES

Names Floated for Trump Ed Secretary: Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee

In the “She’s baaaack” department, Michelle Rhee’s name was mentioned in connection with the US Education Department. Of course it was. Former D.C. Chancellor Rhee used the same sort of bullying during her rule as chancellor as has been prevalent during the campaign.

Two of the names in the mix for Trump-nominated US Secretary of Education are Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee.

Moskowitz is the CEO of New York-based Success Academies charter schools. Rhee is the former chancellor of DC Public Schools.

Both are very controlling, with Rhee having a bonus dose of sociopathy.

According to the New York News, a source stated that a Moskowitz appointment “is not going to happen.” This makes sense; in order to become US ed sec, Moskowitz would have to relinquish her tight control over her Success Academies empire– an empire that is heavily dependent upon one person– Eva Moskowitz.

As for Rhee: Congress would have to confirm her appointment, which means Congress would have to dismiss Rhee’s unresolved past regarding the DC cheating scandal as well as a seemingly endless stream of sexual scandal issues related to her husband, Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson. Rhee is, however, supposedly a Democrat agreeable to the usually-Republican preference for vouchers.

TEACHING CIVICS

Lacking Civics Education and School Privatization

Why were so many people ready to believe Candidate Trump when he promised things which a US President cannot do unilaterally? A US President has a lot of power, but it’s not unlimited. He can’t restrict the free press, deny citizens the right to an attorney, mistreat prisoners, or ask the military to engage in torture. Maybe it’s time to increase (or begin) the teaching of civics.

We have just come to the end of a long and contentious political season. Many of us are worried about America’s future. It’s never too late to ask how civics education is being addressed in our public schools.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Bennett, Charters, Indiana, library, McCormick, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, Testing, Trump

Medley #28: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 2

The Education Plan: Focusing on Privatization

THE INDIANA CONNECTION

Trump Rumored To Consider Tony Bennett, Luke Messer For Education Secretary

More possibilities for U.S. Secretary of Education…

Tony Bennett left Indiana, after losing his race for Superintendent of Public Instruction to Glenda Ritz, and went to work as the Education Commissioner in Florida. He resigned after evidence surfaced that he colluded with charter school operators to change school ratings in favor of the privately run schools. He also was charged with misusing public resources for political purposes…something he and other Republicans consistently blamed teachers for doing during the campaign.

If he’s appointed U.S. Secretary of Education we can be sure that he will support more privatization. How would he differ from recent Secretaries of Education? While he is no friend to public education, Bennett, if selected, would join Terrell Bell and Rod Paige as the only Secretaries of Education to have actually spent time teaching in America’s K-12 public schools.

Messer has never set foot in a classroom other than as a student, but has been active in “reform” groups in Indiana, most notably, Hoosiers for Economic Growth and School Choice Indiana. He favors charter and private school vouchers over public education.

These two, along with names previously mentioned, Ben Carson and Williamson Evers, would do their best to destroy the public schools in America in favor of private school vouchers and charter schools.

Indiana’s former school’s chief Tony Bennett and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer are two names swirling around Washington, D.C. as possible picks by President-elect Donald Trump to be the Secretary of Education, according to journalists and policy advisors at a forum Monday.

Ritz’s defeater: ‘Politics are not going to drive my decisions’

The new Superintendent-elect in Indiana claims to be against vouchers, too much testing, and the A-F grading system. During the election Jennifer McCormick denied that the money she got from former Tony Bennett supporters would determine her policies, and that, as a Republican, she can convince Republican legislators to favor public school needs over private schools and vouchers.

Outgoing Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, spent her tumultuous four years in office working against the Republican attack on public education. She fought against the A-F grading system, privatization, the junk-science behind teacher evaluation schemes, and the misuse and overuse of testing, and was punished by the Vice-President-elect and the legislature. Now that McCormick has defeated Ritz, we’ll see if she is willing and able to stand up to the piles of money pouring into legislative campaign coffers from pro-privatization organizations.

She’s skeptical of the money Indiana spends on private school vouchers. She doesn’t like that schools are rated based on a single A-F grade. And on the campaign trail, she distanced herself from Tony Bennett, the GOP schools chief who lost to Ritz in 2012 and left a controversial legacy that included tying teacher pay and school ratings to standardized test scores.

NO EXPERIENCE. NO CLUE.

Post 2016 Election Post

President-elect Trump obviously knows very little about public education, and what he knows has been twisted by “reformers” and the erroneous “common knowledge.” For example, he believes that “our students perform near the bottom of the pack for major large advanced countries.” This is demonstrably false.

As a group, American students scored “average” among OECD nations in Reading and Science, and “below average” in math. In total score the United States did better than 49% of other countries among the 61 nations and 4 (Chinese) cities who administered the PISA…not the best score in the world, but definitely not “the bottom of the pack.”

When student social class is taken into account, the U.S. does a lot better. Nearly all the OECD countries have lower child poverty rates than the U.S. and poverty is what drives down test scores. When low poverty American students are compared with low poverty students in other nations, the U.S. moves to a much higher level on international rankings. Poverty has been ignored or dismissed when discussing U.S. student achievement, but “social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, [so] the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.”

Privatization inevitably results in a class-based education system where underfunded public schools will be left with the hardest and most expensive to teach students.

Public education will be improved by investing in, and improving the lives of the students living in poverty, not in closing public schools.

And education is a matter that is largely left to states and localities. Trump has indicated that he would leave education to the states and localities to a even greater extent than ESSA does. However, at the same time, he has said things such as that he wants to abolish Common Core, which is a state matter. He has no record of governing (he has never held office), has no demonstrated expertise or knowledge of policy, is unpredictable, is, and is especially interested in amassing power. Education does not appear to be much on his radar screen. So some of what happens will depend upon his education-related appointments, but otherwise, who knows how much he will leave education to states and localities and how much he will want to control himself? Who knows what he will do?

THE DUMBING DOWN OF THE AMERICAN VOTER

President Trump and Public Education

John Merrow discusses how the test-and-punish education of the last four decades has led to the lower ability of American students to problem solve. He blames the resulting lack of problem solving skills for the election of Donald Trump after a campaign of “xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, anti-intellectualism and denial of science…”

The election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, after a campaign of xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, anti-intellectualism and denial of science, is proof positive that we are now paying the price for having denied generations of children an education built on inquiry and respect for truth.

The country can survive four years of Donald Trump, but our democracy cannot afford schools that fail to respect and nurture our children. It is within our power to create schools that ask of each child “How are you intelligent?” and then allow and encourage them to follow their passion. If we fail to change our schools, we will elect a succession of Donald Trumps, and that will be the end of the American experiment.

CHARTERS

Loosely regulated, charter schools pose fiscal risk

The Trump administration promises to increase vouchers and charters. Will that help improve student achievement, or just help improve the corporate bottom line?

In an article published earlier this month, Business Insider observed: “We just got even more evidence supporting the theory that charter schools are America’s new subprime mortgages.” The magazine wrote: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released the results of a damning audit of the charter school industry which found that charter schools’ relationships with their management organizations pose a significant risk to the aim of the Department of Education.

The findings in the audit, specifically in regard to charter school relationships with CMOs, echo the findings of a 2015 study that warned of an impending bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis one of the authors, Preston C. Green III, told Business Insider.

With more than 6,700 charter schools spread across 42 states and the District of Columbia, fraudulent activities associated with the publicly funded, but privately owned, charter school industry have become the fodder for almost daily news stories.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

What can educators and concerned citizens do to counteract the damage already done to our students by the hateful language of the past campaign?

In the articles below we hear from authors, librarians, and an educator who encourage us to 1) help children learn to be understanding and tolerant of differences, 2) help adults examine their own motivations, and 3) remind us all to continue to resist the cash-driven effort to privatize public education.

A Declaration in Support of Children

Therefore we, the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators, do publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.

On Safety Pins, Advocacy, Whiteness, and our field

So let’s start communicating in clear, non-bullshitty ways. Here are my expectations for White people in the field (and to be even clearer, I am a White woman, and much of this I’m writing down to hold myself accountable).

Adieu, Core Warriors: The Post-Election Realignment

Second of all, if it’s okay with you, some of us are going to keep Resisting. Common Core was always only a highly visible symptom of a bigger problem– the destruction and privatization of American public education. And that issue is still ongoing, has in fact gathered steam, despite its occasional set-backs, because it is fueled by the most powerful force in 21st century politics– giant heaping piles of money.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Privatization, Public Ed, Racism, Trump, US DOE, vouchers

Medley #27: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 1

The Education Plan,
Helping our Students Understand,
The U.S. Education Department

THE EDUCATION PLAN

Donald Trump Releases Education Proposal, Promoting School Choice

President-elect Trump has a school choice plan…to send $20 billion, the source for which is still unknown, to the states as block grants to encourage school choice.

Continuing his efforts to attract minority voters, Donald J. Trump visited an inner-city charter school on Thursday, where he promised to direct $20 billion in federal grants for poor children to attend a school of their family’s choice.

Mr. Trump offered his most detailed education proposal to date, embracing principles that appeal to school reformers on the right as well as to many poor African-American and Hispanic parents, who have helped drive the charter school movement.

“As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty,” Mr. Trump said. “If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”

“Choice” means private schools.

Over the last few years, child poverty in the US has decreased. It is, however, still shamefully high. More than 50% of American public school children live in poverty. There are about 50.4 million K-12 public school students in the U.S which means that there are about 25.7 million public school student who live in poverty.

The average cost of a private school in the U.S. is $7,770 per school year for elementary schools, and $13,030 for high schools. Block grants to states don’t divide up evenly among children, but just for fun, let’s see how much $20 billion will buy. If we divide $20 billion by the number of students living in poverty in the U.S. we find that each student would get about $778. That means that those families would have to come up with an additional $6,992 for elementary school or an additional $12252 for high school.

President-elect Trump didn’t say anything about why someone would want to send their children to a private school, but we can assume that one reason someone would make that “choice” would be because private schools are better. But, are private schools actually better than public schools? When one removes the advantages that private schools have of refusing admission to students who are, in some way, difficult to teach (either through academic disability, English language learners, or some other reason), we find that private schools do no better than public schools.

A second reason would be to provide a religious education for their child. Should we allow people to use public tax funds, meant for public schools, to teach religion? No, and here’s why not.

“Choice” means charter schools.

Charter schools won’t cost the family because charter schools are privately run schools paid for with public funds. So, perhaps some of that $20 billion would go to encouraging the growth of the charter school sector. Unfortunately, there’s no “choice” there since, when one balances the demographics, charter schools don’t perform any better than public schools. A recent study (2013) said that charter schools comparisons to public schools had improved since a similar, earlier study (2009), however, the majority of charter schools still performed no better than public schools.

There are other serious problems with charter schools. Some charter schools have learned how to “choose” their own students, restricting their enrollment to students with higher potential, more parental support, or fewer disabilities. Too many charter schools have no public oversight opening the door to frequent financial scandals or schools closing in the middle of the year leaving students without a school to attend (Spoiler Alert: Students abandoned by charter schools return to the public schools). The poster-child for corruption in the charter school movement is Ohio. The president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Melissa Cropper, comments,

“Unregulated, unaccountable for-profit charter schools — like the one Trump is visiting today — have destabilized our public districts, defrauded taxpayers and left our kids and educators worse off, not better.”

The Trump plan, then, is just to increase the amount of “choice” because “the money should follow the child.” This shortchanges the vast majority of students who attend public schools to subsidize a “choice” plan which often mixes church and state, has no public oversight of public funds spent, and doesn’t do a better job of educating children.

It would be nice to invest some of that $20 billion, once we find a way to raise it, in the public schools in high poverty urban and rural areas. After all, we are still a nation which spends more money to educate its wealthy children, than its poor children.

Donald J. Trump’s *Vision* for Education

From Mercedes Schneider.

Indeed, it is clear that Trump has given no thought to any downside to school choice. A good place to start would be in reality, with the NAACP’s October 15, 2016, charter school moratorium resolution, followed by the details of the attempted purchase of charter school expansion that was voted down in Massachusetts on November 08, 2016. Add to that Georgia voters’ nixing the idea of a state-run school district that would have become a open door for public-school-defunding charter school expansion, also on November 08, 2016.

It seems that Trump is also calling for the dissolution of the US Department of Education (USDOE). This is not a new idea, but it is a Republican idea. (The USDOE came into being in October 1979 under Democratic president, Jimmy Carter.) In 1980, Ronald Reagan called for the then-year-old department’s dissolution as part of his presidential campaign platform. In 1995, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wanted to abolish it. Others have followed. However, it would take an act of Congress to abolish the USDOE.

In his Contract with the American Voter, Trump vows to end Common Core. Language is already written into ESSA to prevent Common Core as a federal requirement, and Trump cannot halt Common Core on the state level. So, a Trump vow to end Common Core means nothing.

President Donald Trump: What NOW for Public Schools?

For those of you who are saying, “What should we do instead?” check out Nancy Bailey’s comprehensive list of things to do which would actually help America’s students instead of diverting public funds into private pockets. It’s long, but well worth it.  Here’s a sample…

President-elect Trump should not decrease support when it comes to civil rights issues in our schools. He should reach out and work to bring people together…

He could surprise us by appointing Diane Ravitch or Stephen Krashen to be Secretary of Education. Both have the experience and the know-how to lead America and our schools in a new—better direction…

President Trump could turn troubling education reform upside down by returning to the old Republican notion that he alluded to in the beginning of his candidacy—local control!…

Public schools should be run by real teachers and principals. They should be connected closely to parents and those from the community…

The USDOE ought to be a clearinghouse for good practices—a beacon of hope for education in the rest of the world…

Isn’t it time America gets behind its schools? Shouldn’t we look to countries that succeed with their students, like Finland, and treat children, all children, with kindness and dignity?

HELPING OUR STUDENTS UNDERSTAND

Peter Greene and Russ Walsh are not optimistic about the condition of the nation under a Trump presidency. How can we keep our students safe? How can we focus on teaching when the hate and bullying engendered by the Trump campaign permeate the world outside? It’s bound to creep into the classroom…

Teaching in Trump’s America

From Peter Greene

In the meantime, how I do I do my job in this version of America, where might makes right and abuse is a virtue, where folks have really, truly lost sight of what Jesus had to say, who are not even trying to understand then intent of the framers and founders.

In a weird way, I suppose the last fifteen years have been a sort of warmup, a sort of dress rehearsal of that new show, “How To Keep Teaching When A Top-Down Prescriptive Bureaucracy Is Trying To Force You To Commit Malpractice.” We’re teachers, and many of us already know how to defy authority. Maybe we were getting ready for this.

And of course for some folks, literally nothing has changed at all. There is no new ugliness– just the same old ugliness without a pretty mask or snappy suit. Just ugly and vicious like always, but now naked of any pretense. We can probably learn some lessons from those folks.

To my Trump-voting friends and associates, I’m not mad– well, yeah, actually, I am pretty pissed at you right this moment, but it will probably pass. But please– when it turns out he’s lied to you about, well, everything, do not expect me to sympathize. Over the next four years I will have ample opportunity to say I told you so, and it’s unlikely that I’ll hold my tongue. But at the moment, my anger does not run as deep as my heartbreak (which, as I said, has been grinding away for the last two years) and loss and confusion, because I just don’t know what country I live in any more. I don’t know what this country stands for. I don’t know what we value as a nation or a culture.

I don’t know how to teach my students about us. I don’t know how to prepare them to go out into this new, uglier America.

The next days are going to be awful, ugly, just plain bad. Keep your heads down, brothers and sisters. Watch out for each other, and cast an eye toward the future. I don’t know who we are any more, but we have to be better than this.

The Racist Genie is Out of the Bottle (again)

From Russ Walsh

This morning the New York Times published an editorial asking that the President-elect directly and immediately denounce the hate and let his supporters know that this targeting behavior is not OK. But once you let the hate genie out of the bottle, it is devilishly difficult to put it back in. Racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are never far from the surface in this country and when these baser instincts of humans seem to have the imprimatur of the leader of the country, it may take a lifetime to tame them.

As teachers, we need to be on guard and vigilant. We must re-double our efforts to make sure the classroom, the hallways, the cafeteria, the locker room, the campus are safe for all people, including Trump supporters, who will almost certainly be the targets of backlash as well.

In 1992, Rodney King, the African-American victim of a brutal police beating in Los Angeles asked, “Can we all get along?” Apparently not, Rodney. Not yet, anyway. There is still a lot of work to be done.

EDUCATION SECRETARY

Finally, there’s the U.S. Secretary of Education. Whoever President-elect Trump chooses, they will more than likely follow in the footsteps of the Duncan/King Education Department (which followed in the footsteps of the Paige/Spellings Department)…encouraging privatization, favoring charter schools over public, and generally following the “reformist” plan to test and punish public school children in order to prove that public schools are “failing.”

One name mentioned is Ben Carson, former candidate for the Republican nomination and someone who, like Trump, has absolutely no experience in public service.

Ben Carson as secretary of education?

Stephen Krashen, who volunteered for the job of Education Secretary, gives his opinion about Carson (which would have worked equally well for nearly all our past Education Secretaries as well)…

Sent to the New York Times
Zapatero a su zapatos

Re: Donald Trump is picking his cabinet: Here’s a short list” (Nov. 12).

If Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon,, is qualified to become US Secretary of Education, I am qualified to be appointed surgeon-general.

Stephen Krashen, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California

Note: Zapatero a su zapatos = stick to your area of competence.
Hat tip: Viviana Bonafede

I would agree with Krashen. Ben Carson is a science denier and a creationist who thinks that the pyramids were built to store grain. During the campaign he promised to monitor liberal speech on college campuses. How is this man qualified to be the Secretary of Education? At least Arne Duncan watched his mom teach…

Donald Trump Is Picking His Cabinet: Here’s a Short List

Another choice on President-elect Trump’s short list for Education Secretary is Hoover Institution Fellow, Williamson M. Evers. The NY Times identifies him as an “Education expert.” That means that he has absolutely no education experience at all, although he did, as a member of HOLD (Honest Open Logical Debate) on Math Reform, once ceremoniously flush a math curriculum he didn’t like down the toilet.

Education Secretary
Mr. Trump has said he wants to drastically shrink the Education Department and shift responsibilities for curriculum research, development and education aid to state and local governments.

  • Dr. Ben Carson Former neurosurgeon and 2016 presidential candidate
  • Williamson M. Evers Education expert at the Hoover Institution, a think tank
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Posted in Election, Politics, Teaching Career

No Group is Ever Made Stronger by Division

America’s teachers showed up to school on Wednesday morning just like they do every school day. They did their best to help their students make sense of the events of the previous evening.

In many classrooms teachers had to ease the worry of children who feared the backlash against tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and for misogyny, bigotry, and xenophobia. They used the election, as teachers have used elections for decades, as a teaching moment…to explain how our nation’s version of democracy works…to focus on the obligations of citizenship…and to highlight the diversity that strengthens, and divides, the nation.

Like many others, history teacher Jim Cullen approached his Wednesday classes thinking about his response.

…necessity requires me to put aside my own unease and confusion as I try to help adolescents process an event that is necessarily unprecedented for them…

My role is to help them feel better as a matter of trying to alleviate despair, anxiety or indignation, but also to feel better in the sense of thinking more clearly, to bring their hearts and their heads into greater alignment…

Bringing hearts and heads into alignment is an often unconscious goal for many teachers. Below is an exchange between a retired teacher friend of mine and a former student (now adult) about the election. In her response, the teacher uses yet another former student’s letter about the election. Both students express in their own way, how they have, as they have grown, aligned their hearts and heads. Both students have learned what every teacher hopes to instill in their students: Life is a series of learning experiences.

[Note: I have edited all three letters for brevity and clarity, and to remove identifying information.]

STUDENT ONE

…I have thought a lot about you this election season. Believe it or not, the unit we did on the election between Dukakis and Bush nearly 30 years ago taught me much and I wanted to thank you so very, very much. If not for you, I may have continued basing political views on just abortion. I’ll never forget the day that you turned to me and said, “He’s not FOR abortion. No one is FOR abortion!” I finally thought to myself, “she’s right! Baby murderers wouldn’t be wandering around the countryside. What the heck is this really about?” My parents had gone through such a bad spot when my sister had died 2 years before, abortion and euthanasia was all they ever discussed as far as politics during that time in my life. Thanks to you, my eyes were opened. Trade deals, global warming, social security, etc. – I had no idea those things even existed. I have made it my goal in life to learn as much as possible about issues and never accept the easy and emotional answers.

My family eventually healed and after we moved north…I started meeting friends from all over the world and expanding my views…

Today was painful for me, like many Americans. One of my best friends is Syrian and her family is stuck back there. She is terrified that even though she is an ICU doctor at a major university, she is going to be deported. Today I comforted a mother who was terrified that if Obamacare is repealed, her 4-year old son with leukemia will never qualify for insurance again. One of my students asked for permission to leave early so that she could go marry her girlfriend because she is afraid she will lose that right. I’m lucky – I’m an upper, middle class white woman with a doctorate. [The results of this election] will not have much impact to my life. But thanks to the seed that you planted nearly 30 years ago, I can see how devastating this was for others…thanks for teaching me a big part of what has made me who I am!

TEACHER

…Thank you so much for writing.

I tried to keep my own political views to myself when I was teaching, especially the election units. It seemed important to present things and let you students do your own thinking. But it pleases me no end to see that you took what we did and became a person with not just a strong mind but also with a big and good and loving heart.

I am trying not to panic or to prophesy. I have lived through many disappointing elections and this feeling, while deeper this time, is familiar. People talk trash during a campaign and while it sets a tone, their promises aren’t easy to keep. I do believe in the power of our Constitution and its checks and balances. I do believe that there are plenty of good people in Congress who will not just sit there and let everything fall apart. He (can’t say his name yet) passed the first test with his victory speech. That wasn’t at all like the ugly campaign talk. It was rather…Presidential.

My heart goes out to the people you talk about in your last paragraph…the Syrian doctor, parents of sick kids and also kids with disabilities, gay people. I am hoping and praying that these fears stay only that – fears but nothing more.

[Another former student] wrote something yesterday that helped me. Here is what she said…

STUDENT TWO

I have mulled over my thoughts and feelings all day, and while I feel political posts are kind of just white noise at this point, I feel I must say my piece (perhaps if only for a little bit of peace for myself.) No group is ever made stronger by division and there are lessons to be learned in every situation. Yes, I voted for Hillary, this is no big surprise, but I am coming to terms with the Presidential race outcome and starting to open my heart and mind to what can be learned. I think that what we can learn is that we have a long way to go as a country. I think if HRC had won, it would have eased our “liberal minds” to think that change is upon us, but now, the tolerance of intolerance that America feels has light shed fully upon it.

When I think about those who voted for Trump, I have been digging deep to understand how so many people that I know and love, work alongside, and get along with, could look the other way at such a blatant display of negativity towards women, both in action and words, minorities, poor people, the LGBT community, immigrants, and on and on… and it is hard not to take it personally. You have to get to the core of WHY a compassionate, caring person could look the other way and choose someone like Trump as a representative for them, for their country. And the core issue that I have heard time and again is something I can whole-heartedly agree with – change in the political arena…desperate times call for desperate measures. Those that chose to vote for Trump are just so disenchanted with the way politics are run in this country, they were willing to overlook the other issues with him as a candidate.

And I get it, in a big way, I get it…I understand the desire for some change, some big change. And I am going to try to keep an open mind, as HRC and President Obama have encouraged. I am looking for silver linings and I am going to revel in the opportunity to talk about changing what we are tolerant of, to think about what ugliness has surfaced and to have respectful discussions with people about this topic. I am not naive enough to think that there weren’t some people who did in fact vote for Trump BECAUSE of his racism and misogyny. And it’s time we deal with this elephant in the room, bring it to the surface, because that is the only way we will ever weed it out for good.

…So, while the outcome was not what I wanted, perhaps it was actually what we needed as a country to grow and learn. Don’t threaten to move away from the country if the outcome isn’t what you wanted…threaten to stay and make a change. For now, I will try to continue to spread love, and compassion, and a thirst to understand my fellow man without judgment. I think we are all a lot closer the middle ground than we think we are and it is time we stop letting the media divide us with fear and finger pointing, and portray all politics as “us vs. them”. It is time that we engage in more civil discourse to try to compromise and learn. I love people for their differences as well as their similarities. Life would be boring if we all held the same beliefs, so I want to embrace differences while working towards kindness. Always working towards more kindness…

TEACHER

With former students like you two, didn’t I have the best job in the world? You are such a dear. We can do this. Thank you.

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