Posted in Franklin, Science

Traitors or Heroes: Ben Franklin

Today is birthday number 313 for Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706.

Franklin is the only founding father to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Most people know about Franklin, the statesman and philosopher. Here are some relevant Franklin quotes for today…

THE NEWS MEDIA

Apology for Printers

If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

ON COMPROMISE

Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania

Has not the famous political Fable of the Snake, with two Heads and one Body, some useful Instruction contained in it? She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her Way was to pass thro’ a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct Course; one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on the left, so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the Decision was completed, the poor Snake died with thirst.

THE EMPIRE DIMINISHED

Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One

[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.

HEALTH CARE

Referring to private hospital funding alone:

That won’t work, it will never be enough, good health care costs a lot of money, remembering ‘the distant parts of this province’ in which ‘assistance cannot be procured, but at an expense that neither [the sick-poor] nor their townships can afford.’ … ‘[This] seems essential to the true spirit of Christianity, and should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our power reaches.’

LIBERTY

Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor
Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), pp. 19-21. [November 11, 1755]

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

WAR

Letter to Mary Hewson

All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting and destroying each other.

TRAITORS OR HEROES

Letter to Thomas Jefferson (March 16th, 1775).

In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes? That is the question we must ask.

 

Franklin was one of the most well known and well-respected scientists and inventors of his day. We have him to thank for (among other things)…

 

FURTHER EXPLORATION

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

VIDEO (30 minutes): Walter Isaacson: “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier post celebrating Franklin’s birthday. I’ve added some quotes and information and corrected some links.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, climate change, IN Gen.Assembly, poverty, Privatization, reading, special education, TeacherSalary, TeacherStrikes, Teaching Career

2019 Medley #1

Avoiding Special Ed Students, Charters,
Teacher Strikes, Teacher Pay, Guns in the Classroom,
Cheating Low-Income Students, Myths About Teachers, Reading Wars, Science Fact

 
PRIVATIZATION: STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES NEED NOT APPLY

Charter Schools More Likely to Ignore Special Education Applicants, Study Finds

Public schools accept every child who enters. The money to educate those most expensive to educate students comes from public funds. When the legislature allows public funds to go to private corporations in the form of charter and vouchers, that makes it more difficult for the real public schools to fulfill its mission. We can’t afford to pay for three separate school systems.

Public tax money needs to go to public schools.

The study found that charter schools were 5.8 percentage points less likely to respond to a query claiming to be from a parent of a student with severe disabilities.

So-called “no-excuse” charter schools, which serve predominately low-income minority students in a strict, college-prep academic environment, were 10 percentage points less likely to respond.

 

PRIVATIZATION: PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE FOR THE RABBLE

How to Teach Virtue? Start with a Charter School.

Chester Finn doesn’t understand (or support) the purpose of public schools and thinks that charter schools, with their history of corruption and failure, are the places to inculcate students with values. Finn’s single year as a public school teacher apparently qualifies him to judge all public schools to be valueless.

Privatizer Michael Petrilli, also mentioned in the article, is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,  a stronghold of ed reformers most of whom have no experience in actual education other than as students. Petrilli himself has never taught in a public school or studied education. His college degree (from a public university) is in Political Science.

Let us hope that the era of public education ruled by edu-ignoramuses is coming to an end.

Yes. The title is sarcasm.

But the idea must be acknowledged. It sprang from the mind of one of most venerable Famous Educators, a hoary pillar of the never-ending education reform movement, Chester E. Finn, known to his fellow reformistas as ‘Checker.’ Checker is currently paterfamilias of the Thomas Fordham Institute group, one of whom, Michael Petrilli, recently suggested that the education reform movement has been so successful in accomplishing its goals that it was currently fading into media obscurity. As if.

I have never been a fan of Finn’s approach to school reform. (Click here, for example.) Finn, whose teaching career spanned one full year, is one of those private-school, private-colleges, wordsmithy edu-pundits who look down—way down—on fully public education, seeing it as a hopeless tax-funded entitlement program for subpar youth.

PRIVATIZATION: TEACHER STRIKES

Is The Los Angeles Teacher Strike A Different Kind Of Strike?

Peter Greene writing in Forbes explains to business readers that the Los Angeles teachers strike is different than strikes of the past.

Teachers are striking to save public schools…and against those who believe that we can afford two, or even three different publicly funded school systems.

Public tax funds need to go to public schools, not private corporations in the form of charters or vouchers.

Teachers in many school districts and many states across the country find themselves in the unusual position of working in an institution led by people who want to see that institution fail. Back in the day, teacher strikes were about how best to keep a school district healthy, but these modern walkouts are about the very idea that public schools should be kept healthy at all. UTLA demands for smaller classes, more support staff, safer schools, community schools, and charter school oversight are not about making their working conditions a little better, but about keeping public education alive and healthy.

 

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WANTS SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

Lawmakers: Raise teacher pay by cutting elsewhere

I suppose we can’t really blame legislators for wanting something but not wanting to pay for it. Just like many Americans, they’re hesitant to invest in the common good. Someone may get something they (gasp!) don’t deserve.

We can’t have universal health care because we’d have to pay for it. We can’t repair our crumbling infrastructure because we’d have to pay for it. We can’t worry about climate change because it might cost money.

We’re Number One!!

Hardly. We’re a selfish lot. All our politicians claim that we’re “the greatest country in the world,” but are we? We’re not the wealthiest. We haven’t got the highest life expectancy, or the lowest infant mortality rate. There are other countries with fewer people living in poverty and other countries where people are happier.

On the other hand, our military spending is #1 in the world.

Perhaps if we spent a little more money on planning for our future, and less on blowing up other people, we’d be better off.

Indiana legislators want to give educators a raise, but they don’t want to pay for it. Their plan: Shame school districts into cutting spending elsewhere so they can target dollars to teachers.

Their tool for doing this is House Bill 1003, unveiled this week by House Republicans and presented Wednesday to the House Education Committee. It would “strongly encourage” districts to spend at least 85 percent of their state funds on instruction; it would subject them to public scrutiny if they don’t.

 

CONTROL GUNS, DON’T SPREAD THEM

When You Give a Teacher a Gun…

If you think we ought to be spending millions of tax dollars to arm teachers read this.

If you think teachers should have guns in school, you’re just wrong. It’s not “up for debate” any more than gravity.

If you’re a teacher who reads all of this and thinks, “Well, that’s not me. I’m different. I’ve had a gun for years. I’m a hunter, and a responsible gun owner. I’m all about gun safety. I was in the military. I just want to protect my students and colleagues”, then you are precisely the kind of person who should never be permitted to have a loaded weapon in a school. You’re exactly the sort of person that shouldn’t be allowed to carry a deadly weapon into a room full of children looking at you as someone who cares about their learning, and their well-being.

 

CHEATING LOW-INCOME STUDENTS

Kids In Disadvantaged Schools Don’t Need Tests To Tell Them They’re Being Cheated

They already know.

…I’ve never met a union official who believed schools in impoverished cities didn’t need improving. I never met anyone who works in a school or advocates for public education who was fine with the opportunity gap that plagues so many children in this country.

But I’ll set that aside and instead make this point: stories like the Trentonian’s give us clear evidence that kids who are in these schools themselves know full well what is going on. They are saying, with unmistakable clarity, that their instruction is unacceptably poor. They are telling us many of their peers have given up and have no interest in school.

What are multiple administrations of standardized tests going to tell us that these kids aren’t already telling us themselves?

 

CHALLENGING THE MYTHS ABOUT TEACHERS, PART 2

About that “Most public employee teachers are in these positions because they lack the talent to compete in the private sector” comment…

Greatest. Idea. Ever.

Put those people who believe that “those who can’t, teach” in a long term subbing position…in an underfunded school…with children who live in poverty…and then have their evaluation be based on test scores!

I could maybe respond by saying that the inherent ignorance displayed by this proves how valuable having an education really is and that the reasoning he/she attempts to use to put down teachers really is proof that public education is not respected as it should be.

Yet I will respond by saying that I would teach that person’s student if that was the case.

But first, I might ask this person if he/she would be willing to become a long-term substitute teacher in an underfunded school where many in the student population are affected by poverty and then have his/her name attached to the test scores.

Then I will just carry on – teaching.

 

THE READING WARS REDUX

Why The Reading Wars Will Never End

Peter Greene speaks truth. We haven’t learned how to quantify the skills of the human brain. Anyone who tells you that “this program will help every child read” is shoveling bullshit.

Every person who has ever tried to teach a group of six-year-olds to read understands that you have to use every tool you have.

The heart of the problem is that we don’t know how to tell what works. And that’s because we don’t have a method to “scientifically” measure how well someone reads.

Yes, we have tests. But testing and pedagogy of reading are mostly locked in a tautological embrace. I think decoding is The Thing, so I create a test that focuses on decoding, then implement classroom practices to improve decoding skills and voila– I scientifically prove that my decoding-based pedagogy works. Mostly what we’re busy proving is that particular sorts of practices prepare students for particular sorts of tests. Big whoop.

…Reading, as much as anything in education, demands that we measure what cannot be measured.

 

SCIENCE FACT

Come To Miami, Florida’s Sea Level and Sewage Capital

The United States stands alone in denying climate change. Its impact is already being felt around the world…take Florida, for example. Guess who is being hurt the worst…

As nuisance flooding increases, the wealthy are moving to higher ground, formerly less desirable areas – and pushing out low income residents. Climate gentrification creating a new generation of climate refugees.

 

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Posted in Achievement, Brain Research, SchoolFailure, Shaming

Public Shaming: A Scarlet Letter

Fear blocks learning. Teachers who know this no longer use dunce caps. They don’t put test grades on the class bulletin board or punish the lowest achieving students for not succeeding.

Studies involving the neurological impact of shaming and frustration show that children need to feel safe in order to maximize learning.

…if students do not feel comfortable in a classroom setting, they will not learn. Physiologically speaking, stressed brains are not able to form the necessary neural connections.

The evidence is clear that when students feel unsafe, physically or emotionally, they do not learn as well. This isn’t anything new. Educational psychology classes cover Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We know that safety…as well as emotional security…must be established before higher levels of performance on Maslow’s hierarchy can be reached. When students experience humiliation in the form of failure at school, they usually aren’t spurred on to higher achievement. They are, instead, left trying to learn with a brain that is disrupted or impaired in its development.

Behavioral neuroscience research in animals tells us that serious, fear-triggering expe- riences elicit physiological responses that affect the architecture of the brain as it is developing. These experiences cause changes in brain activity and have been shown to have long-term, adverse consequences for learning, behavior, and health.

 

ACADEMIC SHAMING

This current knowledge of neuroscience has apparently been lost on the administration at Mingus High School in Cottonwood, Arizona. Students in their junior or senior years who are missing credits must wear a red badge instead of the standard grey badges assigned to upperclassmen. This has the humiliating effect of singling out students who, for one reason or another, have had academic difficulty.

My Child Has to Show Her Entire School That She’s Failing With a ‘Scarlet Badge’

Publicly shaming my child and countless of other students for falling behind academically is wrong. I know how hard my daughter is working to get her grades up, and I know how discouraged she feels when she walks into school every morning with the “scarlet badge.” Yet she knows that every time a teacher or fellow student sees her red badge they think less of her.

Fortunately, the author/parent of the above article contacted attorneys from the ACLU who have informed Mingus HS that the “scarlet badge policy” is in violation of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations.

 

The author continued…

This badge scheme subjects all students, particularly students with learning disabilities, to ridicule and discrimination. Students with learning disabilities, who may already struggle to keep up, have faced increased pressure in their academic performance knowing that other students will know what their grades are if they are given a “scarlet badge.”

 

LUNCH SHAMING

Shaming techniques are commonly used when children don’t have enough money to pay for their lunch. In such situations, children are forced to forego the school’s hot lunch and eat peanut butter, or some other meager substitute.

In June of 2016, with just days left in the school year, Jefferson County resident Jon Bivens neglected to reload the balance for his son’s cafeteria meal plan. The year was nearly over, and by his calculation, there was still enough money left in the account to get through the year. Then, one afternoon in the final week of school, his 8-year-old son committed the unspeakable act of buying himself some ice cream with his meal swipe card. With just $1.38 left on his balance, the boy was unable to pay for his next lunch.

The authorities at Gardendale Elementary School did the only logical thing in this situation. They branded the child’s arm with a rubber-stamped smiley face and the friendly message, “I Need Lunch Money.”

Of course, schools have other options besides branding. The New York Times reports that “in some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.”

Shaming, of any kind, has no place in education and thankfully, some states are forbidding it. Unfortunately, it hasn’t totally disappeared. Some students are still shamed for not having any lunch money…and others, like those students at Mingus HS, are shamed for not getting good enough grades.

So-called educators who shame children should be relieved of their licenses. Forcing students who are struggling in school to wear a “scarlet badge” or stamping the arms of children without lunch money with ink, is no better than branding them with a scarlet letter.

 

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Posted in Curmudgucation, Internet, Pensions, Public Ed, Teachers Unions, Teaching Career

Challenging the myths about teachers

It’s always dangerous to read comments on the internet. The anonymity afforded users makes it easy for them to rant, bitch, and promote myths and lies. The last week of 2018 was no different.

 

The Wall Street Journal posted the following article on Dec. 28th…

Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record by Michelle Hackman and Eric Morath.  (Note: This article is behind a paywall. You can read a review of the article at The Hill, Teachers in America quitting jobs at record rate)

The authors discussed the teacher shortage, last year’s state-wide teacher strikes, and the lack of support that teachers get. You can read about all that on your own…today I’m going to focus on the comments the article generated.

Now, I know that the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is very conservative so it’s not surprising that many of the people who comment are similarly inclined. For one reason or another, some of those conservatives, seem to hate public education, public school teachers, and public sector unions (surprise, surprise!). Many left angry and ignorant comments about teachers and public schools (comments on The Hill report are similar). Not all, of course. There were people who were defending public schools, teachers, and unions, but they were in the minority and fought a losing battle against ignorance and envy.

The anti-public education comments fell into three general categories focusing on teachers, teachers unions, and failing schools.

  • Teachers are the cause of school failure: Teachers aren’t very smart, make a lot of money, only work part-time, and get plenty of benefits.
  • Unions are the cause of school failure: Unions have destroyed the teaching profession, the union bosses make huge salaries, and unions protect bad teachers.
  • Other causes of school failure: Parents, students, administrators.

Most of the comments were based on myths and popular media images of public schools and teachers. Every public school teacher/parent should be ready to challenge those myths.

MYTH: AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The basic assumption for nearly every anti-teacher/public education comment is that America’s public schools are failing.

Wrong.

They’re not.

Over the last couple of years, I have written, read, and reported on posts that explained that America’s public schools are generally successful. Please read one or more of those before proceeding. I’ll wait…

Now that we understand that America’s public schools are among the best in the world and that poverty along with the neglect, ignorance, or avoidance of the effects of poverty are the cause of low student achievement, let’s address the first set of comments, those about teachers.

 

MYTH: TEACHERS’ SALARIES AND BENEFITS MEAN HIGHER TOTAL COMPENSATION

Teachers are not paid too much compared to other college graduates when you factor in their benefits. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high

The teacher pay gap is growing. From 1996 to 2017 weekly wages for teachers dropped by $27. For other workers, weekly wages grew more than $130. The weekly wage penalty (not including benefits) for teachers reached more than 18% in 2017. The weekly wage gap varies by state, but in no state does the teachers’ weekly wage equal other college graduates. In Indiana, the difference in 2017, was -21%!

Benefits do not make up the difference, either. The total compensation penalty for teachers reached 11% by 2017. In other words, teachers, on average, make 11% less than other equally-educated workers even when you include benefits.

What about pensions? Don’t teachers get fabulous pensions which suck taxpayers dry?

Different states have different rules regarding teacher pensions, and those rules change frequently. Some states, like Illinois, have been fighting over teacher pensions for years. Other states have good pension plans…some have terrible plans. You can check out this article for an overview. If you’d like to see what the average monthly pension is for teachers in your state, read What Is the Average Teacher Pension in My State?

 

MYTH: TEACHING IS JUST PART-TIME WORK

How about the teaching year…do teachers work only 6 hours a day, for only 8 or 9 months? Do “summers off” and vacation days mean that teachers work only a fraction of what the average American worker does?

In Indiana, teachers teach at least 180 days a year. In most school systems teachers are required to be in school between seven and eight hours each of those days. Before I retired, my school system’s contract required that we work 7 3/4 hours a day. We also had an additional 5 days each year that we had to work…classroom preparation, in-service days, etc. Our contracted days and hours each year were 185 days at 7 3/4 hours a day which (when divided over the entire year) comes to about 27.6 hours a week ((185 x 7.75)/52=27.572).

The average American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 2018), works 34.5 hours a week. So, is it true that teachers work an average of seven hours a week less than the average American worker?

Actually, no.

Most teachers work more than the required daily hours. Some come in early to prepare for the day’s lessons or tutor students, some stay late grading or, again, tutoring. Some do both. The actual number of hours the average teacher spends working each day varies, but it’s almost always more what’s written in the contract. When I was a classroom teacher, I averaged about nine hours a day, plus another hour or two at home grading and planning…and sometimes on weekends…

Furthermore, many of the “vacation days” during spring break, summers, winter break, etc., are work days for teachers, who spend several weeks each year in continuing education (required in Indiana), curriculum planning, and classroom preparation.

So, do teachers work fewer hours than other college graduates? No. If you want more information on this topic, read this…

Teachers work more overtime than any other professionals, analysis shows

 

MYTH: THOSE WHO CAN, DO. THOSE WHO CAN’T, TEACH

It’s true that in past years the average SAT/ACT test scores for teachers has been higher. There was once a time where teaching was one of the only careers open to bright, young women. Now that other occupations are open to those women who achieve higher test scores, the average test score of teachers in the U.S. is…well…average, at about the 48th percentile. Teachers are not the top test takers in the nation, but they well within the average range. The old canard about teachers coming from the bottom third of their graduating classes is not true. Some do, of course, but that’s true in every profession. Did you ever stop to think that your family physician might have finished in the bottom third of her graduating class? What if the pharmacist who fills your prescription scored the minimum on his licensing test?

What about the course of study for teachers? Is the teacher preparation program at state and local universities easier than other courses of study?

Peter Greene, who blogs at Curmudgucation, wrote that asking whether the classes are hard or easy is the wrong question (emphasis added).

I agree that college teacher training programs are, at best, a mixed bag, and at the bottom of that bag are some truly useless programs. Talking about “hard” or “easy” is really beside the point; we’d be better off talking about useful or useless, and some teacher prep programs really are useless. Some programs involved a lot of hoop jumping and elaborate lesson planning techniques that will never, ever be used in the field; this kind of thing is arguably rigorous and challenging, but it’s of no earthly use to actual teachers.

Some classes are very difficult but useless. Other classes may seem easy, but have a lot of practical use for pre-service teachers.

When I look back at what was useful in my own preparation I can acknowledge that The History of Education wasn’t that difficult. Neither were some of the other courses I took like Math for Elementary Teachers or Children’s Literature. On the other hand, when I was a student I learned something that served me well as a pre-service teacher.

I got out of my courses what I put into them.

So, while The History of Education wasn’t all that useful when I started teaching, Educational Psychology and Child Development were…Math for Elementary Teachers was…Curriculum Development was (at least it was back in the day, when teachers actually had an impact on curriculum)…as were my “methods classes” and many of the other courses I took.

The most useful courses, however, were the ones in which I spent time with children, learning to relate to them and learning how to explain things to them. And, like most teachers, once I started teaching, I understood that being an educator is not easy.

Since I put some work into my courses, my college teaching preparation was useful even if some of the classes weren’t very difficult. Other teachers often talk about what a waste of time some of the classes were. Perhaps for them, they were. Maybe I was just lucky.

Those young people who go into education because the preparation is easy, or go into education after they graduate in order to pad their resume, find out quickly that teaching is not as simple as your third-grade teacher, your middle school math teacher, or your high school English teacher made it look. That’s why so many beginning teachers leave the field within their first five years. That’s why the ones who make a career in education are the ones who are willing to work…the ones who love what they do enough to invest their time, energy, and passion.

So, do people become teachers because it’s an easy course of study? Possibly. But those who do, usually don’t last in the field of education. Perhaps some of them even become state legislators

 

🙋🏽‍♂️👨‍🏫🙋🏻
Posted in Article Medleys, Election, Jim Trelease, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Testing

2018 Top Ten: Medley #25

We’re coming to the end of another calendar year so it’s time for resolutions and “best of” lists. Here’s the list of this blog’s Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.

#10, MARCH 29

What’s Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance – RTFM

The Children’s Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America’s eighth-graders were reading “below grade level” which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America’s eighth graders are reading at or above “grade level.”

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.”

 

#9, MARCH 4

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.

Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests — the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation — is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional, your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that was important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn’t be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that’s not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.

 

#8, SEPTEMBER 14

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

After nearly 13 years of ranting against the corporate-led destruction of public education, I lament that not much has really changed.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

#7, JUNE 16

Fathers Day 2018: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

My annual Fathers Day post with the same message each year: 1) read aloud is important and 2) dads should do it!

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] 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.”

 

#6, OCTOBER 10

Education is NOT an Expense

Corporate reform is slowly changing public education into a consumer good. It’s not and shouldn’t be. It’s a public good. An investment in public education is an investment in our future.

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.

It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

 

#5, JUNE 9

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Privatizing public schools doesn’t help children. Learning doesn’t improve. The impact of poverty isn’t eliminated.

We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.

What about “failing” public schools?

What “privatizers” call a “failing” public school is, in fact, a “failing” municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.

Even so, America’s public schools perform well. We don’t have a “failing” school problem. We have a child poverty problem.

Public funds should be reserved for public schools.

 

#4, NOVEMBER 30

Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

Who would have thought that demoralizing teachers, cutting their salaries, eliminating benefits, and reducing job security would have a detrimental impact on the profession of teaching?

“I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”

#3, AUGUST 3

LeBron James and the Promise of Public Schools

If we cared about the future, we would provide the same services to all schools that LeBron James is providing. These are the schools all children deserve.

LeBron James is a millionaire…but unlike others among the super-rich who stick their wallets into America’s education infrastructure, The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with community partners, is helping to fund a public school run by a public school system, and staffed with unionized public school teachers. The taxpayers are paying for the school, teachers, and the usual expenses just like they do for all public schools, while the Foundation and its partners are providing funds for building renovations, wraparound services, and other extras.

This kind of investment is what all our children need and deserve

 

#2, AUGUST 15

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

Underpaid. Overworked. Is it any wonder that there’s a serious teacher shortage in Indiana (and the rest of the U.S.)?

A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new…

THE #1 POST OF 2018, SEPTEMBER 27

Don’t Bother Me With Politics. I Just Want To Teach.

The turnout for the last election was higher than in previous midterm elections. Too many teachers, however, still voted for the Republican legislators for the Indiana legislature who have done their best to damage public education.

Many teachers from Indiana are one-issue voters. Unfortunately, the one-issue is not education. It’s time teachers stood up for their own profession and voted for the interests of their students.

Teachers must become the political voice for their students.

Teachers who don’t vote allow others to make decisions about what goes on in their classrooms. As the former first lady, Michelle Obama said this week, “Democracy continues, with or without you.” If you don’t vote, it goes on without you.

 

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Posted in ADHD

What’s Bugging Me Today: ADHD Denial, Misdiagnosis, and the Harvard Study

The parents of a young child with a summer birthday asked the pediatrician if their child was ready to start school. The pediatrician told them, “Go ahead and send him. It’s never too early to start them in school.”

Even if I hadn’t been a teacher involved in early education when I heard this, I would have known that this was bad advice. Starting school too early can be damaging. I knew because…

STARTING SCHOOL IN CHICAGO

In Chicago, in the early 1950s, the Kindergarten entrance date cutoff was October 1. My mid-September birthday made me eligible for entrance to Kindergarten which, back then, started the day after Labor Day, about two weeks before my 5th birthday.

I struggled all through school. I made progress…now and then good progress, but I had trouble paying attention; I didn’t always know what was going on at a given moment during class; I couldn’t focus on the task at hand; I couldn’t remember what I had read.

Every year I would start the school year with high hopes. I promised myself that I would keep up with the work, pay attention, and stay organized. And every year, by about the second or third month, those promises would be lost.

While in Elementary School I was diagnosed with Minimal Brain Damage, the horrifying 50s term for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My treatment consisted of therapy with a child psychologist of which I remember very little other than the fact that I assumed that there was something “wrong” with me. At some point, and without any memorable closure, the therapy stopped. Nothing more was done for my MBD/ADHD, and I continued to struggle with the social and academic aspects of Elementary School.

 

MOVING ON TO HIGH SCHOOL

At various times my parents and teachers said things like this to me (note the mixed messages):

  • What were you thinking?
  • Why didn’t you think before you [insert behavior]?
  • You could do so much better if only you would try harder.
  • Did you even try?
  • You’re just lazy.
  • You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on.

and my parents heard things like this from my teachers,

  • He’s just not bright enough to do the work.
  • He’s smart enough and can do the work, he’s just lazy.
  • He could do so much better if only he put forth some effort.
  • He needs to learn to pay attention.

In high school, I learned that words have power. One day during my senior year, my English teacher kept me after class. She was a good teacher who clearly cared about her students (think: Professor McGonagall). She said to me, “You could do so much better if only you would try harder.” Once again, I knew something was “wrong” with me…because I did try, but each year I would “forget” to pay attention. I would procrastinate. I would lose things. At that time in my life, I wasn’t really sure what “try harder” meant. I ended up with a “C” in her class, and I have dragged her words around with me ever since then.

Still, I somehow managed to get by and survive Elementary and High School. High school band and orchestra helped – I always got an A in each.

College was the same. I got into college because of my musical ability (though I only stayed in the music school for one semester) and barely made it through my freshman year. I was allowed to come back for a third semester as a freshman, on the condition that I improve. I did, slightly, but continued the same pattern from elementary school and high school. I managed to graduate with a bachelors degree using several rounds of summer school to make up for classes I missed or failed.

Sullivan High School (Chicago) Orchestra, c.1966

TURN-AROUND

After college, I worked in retail and, much to my surprise, I did very well, becoming the head of a sub-department in less than a year. When my first child was born I became interested in child development so I decided to go back to school. With the help of adulthood, marriage, and the responsibility of a child, I was able to get a teaching certificate and was even inducted into an education honor society. I followed this with a masters degree and a Reading Recovery certificate.

I spent my teaching career engaged in what was, ironically, the source of my childhood shame, embarrassment, and failure: elementary school education. I had some success and some failures as a teacher, but I kept at it and kept trying to improve. I eventually learned about ADHD (and ways to compensate for my own ADHD symptoms). In the middle of my career, I started working with children who were struggling in school…children who were like I was.

ALLEGED ADHD?

Last week I read a comment on a popular education blog that suggested that mental health diagnoses were quackery. The commenter accepted that there are mental health problems, but the diagnoses, at least to the commenter, were fake. The comment even referred to “alleged ADHD kids.” I can only assume that there is some painful mental health problem to which the writer was exposed which was misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, left untreated, or incorrectly treated.

Are all mental health diagnoses quackery? Absolutely not.

We can’t just deny that something exists because people screw up in their diagnosis. Medicine, like education, is not an exact science (there is no such thing as an exact science!), and the medicine of the brain is no different. We do the best we can with the knowledge we currently have, but we have to use that knowledge correctly.

JUMP TO HARVARD STUDY 2018

Harvard study: Children who start school early more likely to get ADHD diagnosis — even if they don’t have it

Harvard University researchers have found that children who start school up to a year sooner than many of their peers are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD — even if they don’t really have the condition. As a result, large numbers of children may be improperly labeled with the disorder when, instead, they are just immature.

In other words, those younger children were misdiagnosed with ADHD. That doesn’t mean ADHD doesn’t exist…or is “alleged.”

WHAT IF…

What would my experiences in school have been if I hadn’t started kindergarten at the age of four

Would I still have been diagnosed with ADHD (Minimal Brain Damage) as a child and then rediagnosed with the same as an adult?

Would I still have felt inclined to work with children who were struggling in class?

Would I have had a completely different career?

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers looked at the records of more than 407,000 children from every state and found that younger children in the same grouping of students had a 30 percent higher risk for an ADHD diagnosis than older students.

 

Was I part of that 30%?

A 30% higher risk does not mean that everyone diagnosed with ADHD who has a summer birthday has been misdiagnosed.

ADHD does exist…and some people live with it even if they didn’t start school at four years old. My lifelong experiences with the side effects and comorbid conditions related to ADHD suggest that I would have had the diagnosis anyway.

But the claim that ADHD is overdiagnosed is not new. Neither is the claim that ADHD is underdiagnosed. The truth is somewhere in between; ADHD is often misdiagnosed.

MISDIAGNOSIS

Schools and teachers shouldn’t diagnose ADHD, a medical condition. However, a classroom teacher is often the first to notice a problem with the behaviors associated with ADHD. Primary Care Physicians are also not necessarily qualified to diagnose ADHD and many of those who do, often do not follow the diagnostic guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Misdiagnoses and overdiagnoses are caused by poor medical practices — either by non-medical lay people (educators), slipshod work by untrained or overworked physicians, or mistakes by fallible, though well-meaning human beings.

That’s why I wrote, above, and would like to emphasize…

Medicine, like education, is not an exact science, and the medicine of the brain is no different. We do the best we can with the knowledge we currently have, but we have to use that knowledge correctly.

The DSM has specific criteria which must be followed if ADHD is to be diagnosed. In order for a condition to be considered ADHD, the symptoms must occur…

…to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities…

and are present

…in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).

Misplacing your keys does not mean you have ADHD.

Occasional daydreaming does not mean your child has ADHD.

Excitability and clumsiness are normal human traits and do not mean that you or your child has ADHD.

ADHD in children is only ADHD if the suspected behaviors are “inconsistent with developmental level,” have a serious negative impact on the child’s life, and are present in more than one setting…otherwise, it’s just “childhood.”

 

WHAT TO DO…

Don’t automatically enroll a child with a late-summer birthday in kindergarten the moment they become eligible. The later in the year a child is born, the more parents ought to consider preschool instead of Kindergarten.

A teacher should not be relied on to diagnose ADHD. If you’re a teacher, remember that the youngest children in your classroom might have different behaviors than the older ones. It’s also important to note that other conditions might “look like ADHD” such as childhood depression, some learning disabilities, oppositional defiant disorder, and bipolar disorder. Leave the medical diagnoses to medical professionals.

Perhaps it’s time to let go of age-based grade grouping. No matter where we place the cutoff date for entrance into Kindergarten, there will be some children who are almost a year younger than the others. How about multi-age classrooms? Do the positive benefits of multi-age classrooms outweigh the negative?

Finally, it’s essential that we end the trend towards curriculum push down. Developmentally appropriate practice is needed for our preschools and elementary schools. Children, even gifted children, are not just small adults. Physical and emotional development have an important part to play in learning. Children will not learn before they are ready and we can’t depend on all students in a class learning the same thing at the same time.

In the meantime, we need to be responsible and use the best knowledge that we have to identify the problems and conditions of children in order to prevent misdiagnoses.

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Links to articles dealing with the science of ADHD:

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ADHD, Personal History, Neuroscience, Science

Posted in climate change, Equity, Finland, poverty, Quotes, reading, Segregation, TFA

Listen to This

Recent quotes and comments…

IT’S POVERTY

Public schools didn’t cause poverty, but policymakers expect schools to overcome all the out-of-school factors related to living in poverty. When was the last time legislators were graded A-F by the state government?

The Columbus Dispatch

Some might argue that poverty and family problems aren’t the province of public schools. But they most certainly are the burdens of public schools, and schools won’t get better without addressing them. — The Columbus Dispatch

Stephen Krashen

Until poverty is eliminated, school must protect students from poverty’s impact by investing more in food programs, health care, and libraries. — sdkrashen.com

Steven Singer

Living in poverty means less access to healthcare, neonatal care, pre-kindergarten, and fewer books in the home. It often means fewer educated family members to serve as a model. And it often means suffering from malnutrition and psychological trauma. Impoverished parents usually have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet and thus have less time to help with homework or see to their children. All of this has a direct impact on education. — Gadflyonthewallblog

 

SCHOOL SEGREGATION

Schools still segregated even after Brown vs. Board of Education? Here’s why…

Nikole Hannah-Jones

“Schools are segregated because white people want them that way. … We won’t fix this problem until we really wrestle with that fact.” — Vox.com

Nikole Hannah-Jones at NPE 2017.

WE ALL MUST BE READING TEACHERS

If every teacher gave this article to their personal doctor…

The Hechinger Report

Nearly four years ago, a baby boy named Anselmo Santos sat in his doctor’s office in Oakland, California, chewing on a cardboard children’s book. The book came from a specially designed tote bag of literacy tools that Anselmo’s doctor had just handed his mother. While the chubby infant chewed, Dr. Dayna Long explained the importance of talking, reading and singing with young children to encourage healthy brain development. — Hechinger Report

EDUCATION BASED ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT

What’s the most valuable resource in the U.S.?

Valerie Strauss

After World War II, the Finns realized their human beings are their most valuable resource. Their budget reflects this belief. In spite of having three major political parties, all factions agree that human development is paramount, and the educational program has had consistent attention over decades…

When you think your people are important, it shows. — The Answer Sheet

INEQUITY IN EDUCATION

UNICEF

What can be done to reduce educational inequalities?…

• Reduce the impact of socio-economic inequalities – Through a combination of family allowances and public services, rich countries can ensure that all children are able to enjoy learning, develop varied interests and achieve their full potential. Reducing the segregation of children with different family backgrounds into different schools can also help to ensure that all children have equal opportunities. — An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries

SAVE THE ECONOMY – ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE

Which are you more concerned about – the U.S. economy or climate change? Hint: They’re the same.

The U.S. Government

Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century. — U.S. Global Change Research Program

 

EDUTOURISTS

Teaching is – or should be – a job for professionals…not for privileged Ivy League graduates as a resume booster on their way to the boardrooms or law offices of corporate America.

Mitchell Robinson

I now refer to the people that go the TfA route as “edutourists”–because they think playing at being a teacher will be fun, and look good on their resumes when they apply to business school, or law school, or for an internship on Capitol Hill. The vast majority of TfA edutourists have no intention of remaining in the classroom for more than a year or two, and have “bought in” to the notion that TfA experience is best seen as a “stepping stone” to other, “more important” career choices. That’s simply not how teachers view teaching. — Eclectablog

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