Posted in Article Medleys, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, poverty, Privatization, Testing, Texas, vouchers

2013 Medley #3

Vouchers, Charters, Corporate “Reform,”
Texas, Privatization, Testing, Poverty.

VOUCHERS

Expanded Vouchers in Indiana Pass House Committee

The Fort Wayne News Sentinel is beside itself with glee since the expanded voucher program supported by Governor Pence passed the House Education Committee yesterday (along party lines). The goal is now obvious…support for private schools over public schools. The fact that this hurts public schools, according the the Sentinel, is a plus. Their suggestion to public schools? Work harder…without any reference to the fact that vouchers suck money away from the public schools. The plan is simple. Blame public schools for the failure of children in poverty. Divert money from the public schools to private and parochial schools, leaving the hardest to educate children in the public schools.

Here’s what they said in their editorial.

The best argument for the changes is that the voucher system would be big enough to encourage more private schools in Indiana…vouchers likely hurt public schools or at least give them more stress than they would ordinarily have. And if the current system hurts, the expanded one would hurt more.

Indiana residents’ tax money is now going to support religious institutions…whether they want it to or not. Choice? Not really.

This is not about “choice.” It’s about funding religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars and ultimately destroying the public school system.

If you think the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos are in this just to help to some poor kid in the inner city, they’ve got a privatized bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you.

See the section on POVERTY, below.

STOP CALLING IT “REFORM!”

Is school reform making America less competitive?

The so-called “reformers” are bent on privatizing America’s public education system. The goal is control and money…not student achievement.

And the results of obsessing on standardized tests are hurting kids in suburban districts, just like it is in urban schools. Why? Because they fall short in imparting 21st century skills, most especially critical thinking skills.

…High-stakes standardized tests are pushing functional schools in the wrong direction. These schools need to change by catering to diverse learning styles, scrapping the lectures and emphasizing interactive projects, building critical thinking skills, and allowing kids, over time, to specialize in subjects that most interest them. Judging these schools and their teachers on how they do on standardized tests only locks them into ineffective and outmoded educational practices.

CHARTERS*

Charter Schools That Start Bad Stay Bad, Stanford Report Says

Charters are not the magic bullet…not the one size fits all solution. There are good charters and bad charters just like there are good traditional public schools and bad ones. We need to keep public money with public schools…not give it to corporate charters.

The report, “Charter School Growth and Replications,” found that, with some exceptions, charter schools that start strong are likely to stay that way, just as low-performing schools usually remain at the bottom. The study ranked charter schools within five levels based on performance, and found that 80 percent of schools in the bottom level during their first year remained there for five years. Similarly, 94 percent of schools that started at the top remained there. The only schools that changed levels were elementary schools and those in the second-lowest group, with half becoming worse and half becoming better.

“Substantial improvement over time is largely absent from middle schools, multi-level schools and high schools,” the authors wrote. “Only elementary schools showed an upward pattern of growth” if they started out in the bottom two levels.

TEXAS

Texas Schools Inadequately Funded, Court Rules
Things are changing in Texas…

First, a state district judge ruled that the public schools are being short-changed by the state.

In a decision certain to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Monday in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state’s school finance system. With a swift ruling issued from the bench shortly after the state finished its closing arguments, Dietz said that the state does not adequately or efficiently fund public schools — and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level.

Second, Texas is the birthplace of No Child Left Behind…and the testing insanity that’s been forced on the nation. Now, the legislature is pulling back on the tests.

Senate, House committee move to roll back high-stakes testing in Texas schools

The Senate launched its effort to roll back high-stakes testing in Texas schools on Wednesday, passing a bill to scrap the current rule that new high school end-of-course exams count as 15 percent of the grade in each subject tested.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Public Education Committee introduced legislation that would sharply reduce the number of state end-of-course tests that high school students would have to pass to graduate — from the current 15 down to five.

Action in both chambers follows months of complaints about high-stakes testing from school superintendents, parents and students across the state. It also virtually guaranteed that testing requirements in Texas will be less rigorous in the future than they are today.

PRIVATIZATION

Why America’s Prep Schools Aren’t Following Arne Duncan’s Public School Education Reforms

Would [insert wealthy person’s name here, for example, Rahm Emanuel] send his/her children to [insert expensive private school name here, for example, University of Chicago Lab School] if they spent weeks and weeks of the school year on test prep and testing? Of course not. What if the school had non-certified teachers? TFA and test prep are not for the rich. As Diane Ravitch said, “In schools for the rich, children get taught. In schools for the poor, children get tested.”

The problem is the public is force-fed these ideas of standardized curriculum, teaching, and assessment as the best tactics education science has to offer. They tell us that this is how we must educate our children. Wait, whose children are we talking about? Not the kids at Trinity School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—41 percent are in that Ivy/MIT/Stanford pipeline—or Philips Exeter in New Hampshire, which educated Mark Zuckerberg. As someone with more experience in education than those whose voices are most prominent, I can also assure you that mainstream reform ideologies are not the best anyone has to offer. In fact, they are the cheapest and easiest to control. That’s it.

N.M. Schools Chief Overrules Panel, Clears Path for Virtual School

All over the country people who are charged with the support and success of America’s public schools are selling out to the privatizers. Money is fueling this short sighted move which is slowly but surely destroying our public schools.

New Mexico state schools chief Hanna Skandera has overruled her state’s public education commission and approved a new statewide online provider, arguing that the panel’s rejection of the virtual program relied on faulty logic and a misreading of the law.

The online provider, Connections Academy, seeks to operate a full time, virtual charter school in New Mexico.

The state’s public education commission, an elected body, in September rejected the academy’s application by a 6-3 vote, after raising doubts about whether New Mexico state law allowed the panel to approve the online program. The commission questioned whether full-time online education could be used a substitute for in-person, student-to-teacher interaction, without approval from local boards of education.

TESTING

Heard the One About Old Teachers Resisting Tests?

Veteran teachers know enough to object to being evaluated using student test scores.

Newer teachers accept and embrace evaluation by test scores. Veteran teachers are skeptical, resistant. Dividing line? Eleven years of experience or more.

The views point up sort of a generational split among teachers nationally when it comes to sweeping changes in teacher evaluations, according to an online survey by Teach Plus, which says it promotes quality teachers in urban areas. In general, teachers with 10 or fewer years in the classroom embrace the changes, including reviews that link the growth of student achievement to teacher performance, and ultimately whether they keep their job, according to the group.

Teach Plus, in addition to their focus on urban schools–where there are lots and lots of eager newbie teachers–was behind a campaign to eliminate seniority-based layoffs in Indiana. They are Gates-funded, and they recruit and train early-career teachers as “policy fellows.” Other foci? Retaining effective teachers in staff reductions. Assessments teachers can believe in. Reforming teacher evaluation. Sense a pattern?

POVERTY

Poverty and the “achievement gap”: Some new data

The politicians, pundits and policy makers find it much easier to blame schools, school teachers and teachers unions for low achievement than to take their share of the responsibility for the level of poverty in the US.

A larger percentage of students in the US live in poverty, as compared to the top-scoring countries, and poverty level is consistently associated with school performance. Carnoy and Rothstein attempted to control for this.

They calculated that if the US had the same social class distribution as the average of the top three countries, the average US reading score on the PISA would be 518…Social class (poverty) thus accounts for about half the reading gap, as measured by the PISA. Carnoy and Rothstein also concluded that social class accounts for a about a third or more of the math gap table 1B, p. 14).

…This data suggests that dealing with poverty, at least protecting children from some of the effects of poverty, will have a strong impact on achievement.

Here’s a link to the report…

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

  • Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.
  • A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample. This error further depressed the reported average U.S. test score.
  • If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.
  • A re-estimated U.S. average PISA score that adjusted for a student population in the United States that is more disadvantaged than populations in otherwise similar post-industrial countries, and for the over-sampling of students from the most-disadvantaged schools in a recent U.S. international assessment sample, finds that the U.S. average score in both reading and mathematics would be higher than official reports indicate (in the case of mathematics, substantially higher).
  • This re-estimate would also improve the U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries, bringing the U.S. average score to sixth in reading and 13th in math. Conventional ranking reports based on PISA, which make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors, and which rank countries irrespective of whether score differences are large enough to be meaningful, report that the U.S. average score is 14th in reading and 25th in math.
  • Disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform better (and in most cases, substantially better) than comparable students in similar post-industrial countries in reading. In math, disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform about the same as comparable students in similar post-industrial countries.
  • At all points in the social class distribution, U.S. students perform worse, and in many cases substantially worse, than students in a group of top-scoring countries (Canada, Finland, and Korea). Although controlling for social class distribution would narrow the difference in average scores between these countries and the United States, it would not eliminate it.
  • U.S. students from disadvantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the three similar post-industrial countries than advantaged U.S. students perform relative to their social class peers. But U.S. students from advantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the top-scoring countries of Finland and Canada than disadvantaged U.S. students perform relative to their social class peers.
  • On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.

Because not only educational effectiveness but also countries’ social class composition changes over time, comparisons of test score trends over time by social class group provide more useful information to policymakers than comparisons of total average test scores at one point in time or even of changes in total average test scores over time.

  • The performance of the lowest social class U.S. students has been improving over time, while the performance of such students in both top-scoring and similar post-industrial countries has been falling.
  • Over time, in some middle and advantaged social class groups where U.S. performance has not improved, comparable social class groups in some top-scoring and similar post-industrial countries have had declines in performance.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.