Posted in Privatization, vouchers

Indiana’s Privatization Plan: Vouchers…continued

Last week I wrote about the voucher expansion bill in the Indiana General Assembly…I went to Indianapolis to lobby against expanding it. This week the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld the current voucher plan…which was followed almost immediately by the Senate Education Committee passing the bill for expansion. The fight’s not over yet…it still has to be passed by the entire General Assembly, but with the voucher-supporting-party holding supermajorities in both houses it looks like a sure thing.

It’s not surprising at all. Of the three senators I talked to last week, none of them sent their children to public schools. The money supporting vouchers has a loud voice and is very powerful in this state…and the people voted for state senators and representatives who will support it as well. This is, once again, who we elected. Through our votes we chose to expand privatization in Indiana…and now we’re getting what we chose.

Karen Francisco, the pro-public education blogger for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette wrote in her blog that the decision was not an endorsement of the voucher program by the voters because the court said that the actual value of the program is a legislative issue. The ruling by the court specifically states that it isn’t endorsing the plan on educational grounds…only that it’s not unconstitutional.

Vote on vouchers? Yes, please

Some voters might have been expressing an opinion of school choice when they voted to elect Glenda Ritz as superintendent of public instruction, of course. Her opponent was Tony Bennett, the incumbent superintendent who was the face of school choice in Indiana (and elsewhere) until he lost handily to Ritz.

It would be a stretch to say voters were casting ballots in support of school choice when they elected pro-voucher Gov. Mike Pence, because John Gregg and the Democratic Party failed to make vouchers an issue in the November gubernatorial election. Pence’s campaign focused on jobs, not school choice.

Likewise, Republican candidates for the General Assembly were careful to downplay the issue, with many incumbents insisting they wanted to give the so-called education reform agenda a chance to prove its effectiveness before making any more changes. Many of those lawmakers – Reps. Kathy Heuer, Dan Leonard, Matt Lehman, to name a few – quickly reversed themselves once they were reelected, voting to expand the voucher program through House Bill 1003.

I agree that the voucher plan was not a big issue in any election other than Ritz’s victory over Bennett. However, it’s clear from Pence’s campaign material that he favored vouchers. On his campaign web site Pence wrote,

Our strategies to achieve these goals will include efforts to improve freedom for schools and teachers, expand school choice, access to quality schools, and parent freedom, and improve school accountability for reading and math skill development. We also will continue to see that Indiana is on the cutting edge of charter school development, and to ensure that every high school graduate is college or career ready by increasing our efforts to bring career, technical and vocational education back to every high school in Indiana. [Emphasis added]

The Republican legislators who were elected were bound to follow suit. So, maybe it wasn’t a conscious endorsement of the voucher program by the people…but it was an endorsement, nonetheless.

Constitutional? Yes, but…

…the lawsuit did not require defendants to prove school vouchers are good for Indiana children or taxpayers. That’s for lawmakers to determine before they vote to spend even more on the program.

“Now that the court has made the decision on the legal issues, it’s up to legislators to decide from a policy standpoint if the voucher program is effective,” said Terry Spradlin, director for education policy at Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. “For some kids it probably is, but we don’t know if that’s the case for all.”

The court has left the decision on the benefits of the program up to the legislature…a legislature which is overwhelmingly pro-privatization.

…and the goal is privatization. It’s no longer just for helping poor kids leave their struggling schools (struggling because of poverty and lack of resources from the state). The expanded voucher plan now being considered in the General Assembly no longer can claim that it’s goal is to help poor kids…or to save the state money. It’s about moving funding and support from the public schools to private schools.

Further, is there anyone who doubts that, given a larger amount provided by the voucher, the cost for a private school education will increase accordingly?

Dan Carpenter: Public schools take blow from Indiana Supreme Court

Sold as a ticket out of “failing” schools for modest-income families, the program under House Bill 1003 no longer would require prior attendance in a public school for many children, including kindergartners and siblings of voucher recipients. Thus, public schools would lose state money preemptively; and they’d lose more every year, as the bill removes the current cap on the already-fast-growing number to be issued. Private school lobbyists, meanwhile, are clamoring for a higher stipend.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who ran for election in opposition to vouchers, has asked the legislature to hold off on the huge expansion until the two-year-old program has been evaluated. But the Democrat has won little sympathy from the other party in her posture toward the brainchild of the man she defeated in November, Tony Bennett. Clearly, she views the “public” part of her title differently from her predecessor, an unabashed fan of private and parochial schools, which have turned out to be the beneficiaries of more than 90 percent of voucher money.

Why won’t the forces of privatization wait for an evaluation of the current voucher plan? Because private schools don’t do any better than public schools given similar students. To repeat, students attending private schools don’t do better, as a group, than comparable students in public schools. Vouchers don’t improve education. Waiting for an evaluation of the program would only reinforce that fact, and the privatizers don’t want that to become common knowledge. See here, here, here, and here.

Diane Ravitch clears away the smoke…privatization is a benefit for people who want to discriminate…politically, economically, religiously and academically.

Indiana Voucher Decision Allows Public Funding to Schools That Discriminate

The schools getting the vouchers may require students to participate in religious exercise, and they typically do.

The schools getting vouchers may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, “But they are free to discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, test scores, IQ, family income, parental politics or just about any other criteria you can imagine.”

It is hard to square this decision with the language of the state constitution.

The radical choice ideologues in Indiana don’t like public education. Left in power, they will destroy it.

The students most in need will remain in the public schools, and the state, through the legislature, is willing to let them remain in need. One of Pence’s proposals is to reward (with increased funding) “successful” schools (READ: higher income) and punish “failing” schools (READ: schools with high levels of poverty.

Voucher decision sad but no surprise

After this year, there will be no limit on the number of students who can participate. It’s open to children from middle-income families, not just poor families. And there’s no requirement that students first attend a low-performing public school in order to qualify.

As Indiana University School of Education school law expert Suzanne Eckes suggests, the program flies in the face of conceptions of freedom of religion and fair access that we’ve come to expect under the federal and state constitutions.

For example, Indiana’s law is unusual in that it lets parochial schools compel voucher students to take part in religious activities. “Interestingly, no other voucher program in the country includes this type of requirement,” Eckes says. And voucher schools get a pass from the usual state rules against discrimination. They can’t bar students because of “race, color or national origin.” But they are free to discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, test scores, IQ, family income, parental politics or just about any other criteria you can imagine…

…The court makes clear at the outset that it’s not endorsing vouchers as public policy. “Our individual policy preferences are not relevant,” it says. In other words, if we don’t like it, we should take it up with the legislature. Indeed we should.

The politicians, pundits and policy makers haven’t been able to — or haven’t chosen to — solve the problems of poverty, increased social stratification, and an increased income gap. The expanded voucher program will not solve this problem…nor will it help Indiana’s children.

If you live in Indiana, contact your legislators HERE and urge them to vote against HB 1003, the bill to expand the state’s voucher plan.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Chicago, Corp Interest, Evaluations, poverty, Teaching Career, Value-Added

2013 Medley #6

Economic Inequity, VAM, Evaluations,
Chicago, Profession of Education, ALEC



ECONOMIC INEQUITY

Teachers Make Handy Scapegoats, But Spiraling Inequality Is Really What Ails Our Education System

The achievement problems in the US are problems of economics, not education. The schools are not the cause…but a reflection of what is happening in the nation. The extreme — and growing — gap between the haves and the have-nots in America is reflected in its children and their classrooms. Until we begin to address poverty and its related societal problems, we won’t solve the achievement gaps. Testing, charters*, vouchers, teacher evaluations, closing schools…none of those things will help neighborhoods struggling with unemployment, low wages, lack of health care, violence, stress, hunger and other life situations which are the result of poverty.

You get what you pay for…and we’re not paying for the social safety nets our children need. The economic hardship so many in our nation face is our national selfishness in the form of tax cuts at work.

…the United States has more children living in poverty, by a long shot, than any other industrialized nation. Right now about one in four children are living in poverty. In most other industrialized nations we’re talking about well under 10 percent, because there’s so many more supports for housing, healthcare, employment, and so on.

With that very high poverty rate, our average scores on international tests look a little above the average in reading, about at the average in science and somewhat below the average in math, and a lot has been made out of that in the United States. But in fact, students in American schools where fewer than 10 percent of the students live in poverty actually are number one in the world in reading. Students in schools with up to 25 percent of kids living in poverty would rank number three in the world in reading, and even schools with as many as 50 percent of kids in poverty scored well above the averages in the OECD nations – which is mostly the European and some Asian nations. Our teachers are doing something very right in terms of educating kids to high levels in much more challenging circumstances than children face in other countries.

The Reformy Argument, And The Response

We continue to do what hasn’t worked…our most vulnerable students are getting shuffled around like so many pieces on a chess board, while the legislators and billionaires protect their own children by selling off the public school system and deflecting money for public schools into the private sector.

My friends at NEIFPE and I spoke to three state senators last week…all of them support privatization…none of them sent their children to public schools.

We will never equalize educational outcomes until we provide a basic standard of living for every citizen of this country. We could rapidly implement plans to provide universal health care, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, make taxes truly progressive, and get monied interests out of politics and our media. So why don’t we?

…There is no evidence that charter expansion, test-based teacher evaluation, vouchers, de-unionization, gutting tenure, merit pay, or ending seniority can be scaled up to provide meaningful improvements in student achievement.

It’s really this simple…

VAM and EVALUATIONS

Now We Know Why Obama Doesn’t Understand VAM

For some numbers provide the answer to every question related to teaching children. Do you understand VAM? Why shouldn’t we use student test scores to evaluate teachers? Here’s a quality answer.

That’s right. Banker and former director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Obama administration Peter Orszag has written an enlightening piece for Bloomberg.com explaining that VAM really does work. According to Orszag, VAM can determine “which teachers are best.” Now, mind you, I’m no banker, but I would like to offer my thoughts on Orszag’s very positive article on the value of the value added.

…as an expert in statistics and as one who has written detailed accounts of the problems with VAM such as this discourse to Louisiana legislators, I did not (I could not) limit my discussion to only two flaws. VAM is replete with problems, not the least of which is the problem of data integrity and management of the so-called pilot studies purporting to support VAM. No study is ever better than the quality of its data. Neither will be any “testing” of teachers using VAM. Data collection for a high-stakes measurement situation must be flawless.

CHICAGO

Chicago closing 54 schools; union leader blasts ‘outrageous’ plan

While the mayor was on vacation the city announced it was closing 54 schools. These will, most likely, be replaced with charter and private school opportunities for students who can afford it. The others will have to get on city buses and pay for a trip to a school…because their local school within walking distance of their house, was closed.

Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscience will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS school actions are African-American. And this is by design…

…The city has already raised CTA fares and now they expect parents to put their five-year-old on a crowded city bus in order for them to get to school, when they used to be able to walk to a school in their neighborhood. The way this is being done is an insult and it is disrespectful.

…School closings will not save money and taxpayers will not see cost benefits in two years. Why? Because vibrant school communities will be quickly transformed into abandoned buildings, neighborhood eyesores and public safety hazards.

STUPID QUOTE OF THE DAY

Chicago closing 54 schools; union leader blasts ‘outrageous’ plan

(same article as above)

What am I missing here? Valerie Strauss blogs about Karen Lewis’s press conference about the school closings in Chicago. A comment from someone on 3/22/13 said the following…

2:03 AM EDT
Let’s face it Karen Lewis, your schools are broken because your families are largely broken there. But keep voting for democrats, that’ll solve the problem, not……..

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Rahm Emanuel a Democrat? Aren’t Dems at the federal level just as anxious to close schools and destroy public education as Republicans?

Other comments reflect the same lack of understanding, the same anger at teachers, the same disrespect for others. According to some of the commenters, gang and turf wars are the same as high school sports rivalries…it’s the union’s fault…teachers’ make too much money…

A TEACHING CAREER

I Miss Teaching — A Late-Night Musing

There are still moments of joy in the classrooms I visit as a volunteer. The teachers I work for make it happen, but all over the country classrooms are focused on test-prep, scripted lessons, and a lack of curricular variety which threatens to kill the desire to learn for millions of our children. Discipline problems increase. Attendance decreases. This is not education.

I miss the feeling of knowing that I’m going to do something great today. I miss the feeling of watching middle school students glow with pride because they figured out how something works, or came up with a new way of doing something. I miss watching kids discover their world and learn how to interact with it effectively. Hell, I even miss bus duty.

But I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken to countless teachers–actual, working teachers–who miss it just as much as I do. There are so many ridiculous and meaningless mandates and policies that have completely strangled this profession. Teaching is supposed to be a journey, where you get to join several young people as they move through the complexities of the world, stepping in to help them correct the path or encourage them to keep moving. For many, though, it has become worse than just a job. It has become a painful spectatorship of the goals of the wealthy and the powerful.

A message to parents from your child’s teacher

We become teachers because we want to teach…not because we want to make a lot of money…not because it’s easy (nearly 50% of all beginning teachers leave because it’s not easy!), not because we get the summer’s off, and not because we can’t do anything else. By an overwhelming margin — more than 75% nation-wide and more than 80% in Indiana — people with children in public schools are satisfied with their children’s teachers. Those parents need to join with us in fighting the privatization of public education.

This teacher makes a strong statement. Click the link above to read her letter to parents…or watch the video below.

I have chosen to devote the better part of what will be the years that make up my life to educating your child. I take it very seriously and I should; I am a stakeholder in your child’s future…

…how willing would you be to allow some other parent to take over this role for you –someone who claimed to know “better” than you about what was right for your child?

…that is what is happening in my classroom. And it isn’t because they know “better” than I do how to educate your child –the undertaking I have chosen to devote my life’s work to becoming better at doing. It certainly isn’t because they have spent months getting to know the individual you have raised in an effort to better understand what your student needs to thrive in a responsive learning environment. It has nothing to do with the relationship they have formed with your child in order to show respect and care for him/her as a person and as a learner. It doesn’t, for a second, reflect the passion I have for the subject I teach –passion that I pass on to your student in every way I can and at every chance I get.

It simply has to do with money.

…My life’s work. The countless hours I spend with your child presenting new material, creating on-going formative assessments that are authentic and based on your student’s individual needs at a given moment in time, the active learning and knowledge-construction happening in my classroom on a daily basis, the time I spend creating lessons which require students to build upon and re-evaluate prior knowledge and the work that reflects the relationship that I have worked diligently to foster with your student: is it worth putting all of this hard-won expertise on the back-burner so that someone can divert money intended for your child?

ALEC

Legislation from ALEC is popping up in states around the nation targeting collective bargaining and teacher rights, vouchers, charter schools, testing, and more. Go to ALECExposed.org

*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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Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, vouchers

Indiana’s Privatization Plan: Vouchers

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

On Tuesday I attended the ICPE Rally for Public Education in Indianapolis. Our goal was to persuade legislators to reject expanding Indiana’s voucher program. Vic Smith, of ICPE, has done an excellent job of explaining what the drawbacks of expanding the voucher program are in clear, objective terms. It will be expensive, draining much needed funds from the public schools in our state. See his Statehouse notes.

Before the rally began members of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (myself included) visited with three of our local state Senators to discuss the issue. All three senators, David Long (R-16), Dennis Kruse (R-14) and Thomas Wyss (R-15) were very gracious, very welcoming, and willing to spend time talking with us. I have to admit that made me nervous.

All three indicated their support for Vouchers and “choice.”

Long said that competition helped schools perform better. He also said that polls show that 70% of Indiana citizens support vouchers.

Wyss also supported vouchers. He was, however, more willing to wait to see what happens with the law we currently have than to rush into a new, more extensive voucher program. He emphasized his support for public schools and public school teachers and even let us know that he was dating a former public school teacher.

Kruse, who is my local senator, is also supportive of choice.

My guess is that all three will vote for the expanded voucher program. This is who we elected. “The people” knew what they were getting when they voted for them. “The people” will get what they voted for.

Poll Numbers – 70%?

The Hoosier Survey, an annual opinion poll by Ball State University, found that 70% of parents in Indiana are satisfied with their public schools. An even larger percentage (82%) of citizens who had children in the public schools were very or somewhat satisfied with their local public schools. This is consistent with national surveys as well…those people who know the schools and who are invested in them with their children are overwhelmingly supportive of them. The same poll reported that the people’s number one choice for helping schools improve – was increased parental involvement…not vouchers, not charter schools, not more testing.

Perhaps it was support for public schools that Senator Long was referring to when he tossed out the number 70% because the same poll showed that only 28% of citizens supported the expansion of Indiana’s voucher program (down from 34% last year). A slightly larger percentage of citizens are against expansion of the voucher plan…and the largest group, 39%, have no opinion. Clearly, the last group shows that expanding the voucher plan in our state is an answer without a question. It has no reason for being other than the political transfer of public funds into private hands.

Competition and Choice

The largest urban voucher program in the nation — in Milwaukee Wisconsin — has been studied during its 22 year history. The latest study confirms that there is no academic advantage achieved by using voucher programs. Competition, as most teachers will tell you, doesn’t help improve public schools. Teachers are not holding back until there’s competition down the road. Vouchers and competition take attention from the real problem facing public education, poverty.

the data and the reports simply fail to demonstrate that voucher schools are associated with improved outcomes.

our analysis finds little or no indication that pupils in those Milwaukee public schools that have more school choice possibilities nearby made significantly greater year-to-year gains in primary school tests than pupils in other Milwaukee public schools. The effect of other variables, such as staying in the same public school from year to year, seem to have a more consistent (albeit small) positive impact on student performance, particularly on language arts test score gains.

Decades of research confirm that poverty has a huge impact on student learning. Many studies show that more poverty means lower scores on all measures of school achievement. There are also many studies that show us just how poverty negatively impacts school performance.

Representative Behning (R-91) is also in favor of “choice” and “competition.”

More school choice, he said, is good for all schools.

“It improves all when you have choice,” Behning said. “Everybody is going to be more competitive for children and try to meet their needs.”

The facts, however, don’t seem to agree.

Welfare for Privatization

As of this writing there’s a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current voucher program pending before the Indiana Supreme Court. Senator Long, during our conversation said that “everyone” expects the law to be upheld, so expanding it is not premature…

…which doesn’t change the fact that, according to Vic Smith, more than $20 million will be diverted from public to private, mostly religious, schools.

If voucher expansion (HB 1003) is passed, at least $21 million of the $132 million next year – one- sixth! –would not go to the 1.04 million public school students who need it but instead would pay for vouchers for private school students who are already in private schools.

People have had enough. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, of the Monroe County affiliate of the ICPE, received cheers when she told the crowd in Indianapolis that, “…enough is enough.”

We are here because we are sick to death of the constant draining of our funds to private interests…

We are here because we think it is wrong that our PTAs and PTOs have to hold bake sales and put pretty baskets up for auction while politicians redirect MILLIONS of our tax dollars to private schools with their talk of school choice.

The expansion of the voucher program is a welfare plan for private, mostly religious schools…a handout…a giveaway of public funds to corporations and churches. Add this to the “turnaround” plan which transfers public schools to private corporations and we can see a clear pattern of privatization. Despite their comforting words the senators we talked to on Tuesday don’t seem to be interested in supporting public education at all. Based on their actions, their goal appears to be nothing less than the complete privatization of Indiana’s education system.

This is who we voted for, Indiana. Is this what we want?

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Michelle Rhee, Tenure

Maher vs. Rhee

AN EDUCATION FAILURE

I don’t like Bill Maher. I think he’s obnoxious, pompous and rude. However, just because I don’t like his style doesn’t mean I don’t agree with him on a lot of things. So, despite my dislike for the man, when I heard that he had interviewed “reformer” Michelle Rhee I decided to listen. The interview with Rhee took place on March 15 (not posted as of this writing on the Real Time with Bill Maher site). Below is a amateur youtube of the interview. The visual is not so good, but you can hear the interview.

[WARNING: the following contains offensive language. Don’t blame me if you decide to listen.]

We could choose a variety of places where Rhee spouts incorrect or misleading information, but Kris Nielsen did some of that for me in his @The Chalk Face post titled Michelle Rhee Needs a Head Shrinker…

Neilsen reminds us of the fact that Rhee is a failure at education.

As I mentioned in previously articles, Michelle had a really tough go at it in the classroom. I would even go as far as to say that her teaching career was a total bomb. Then, her rough-and-tumble methods as the D.C. Chancellor got her and her boss fired. In the eyes of several kids and adults, over those five years (or whatever), she was a failure.

Nielsen also reported on Rhee’s almost obligatory anecdote about how “good teachers” can save everyone.

She told some lame, anecdote about how one teacher in a school in a tough neighborhood was so much better than everyone else. Bill even called her on it, reminding her that it was anecdotal.

THE MYTH OF TENURE

At the end of the interview Maher brings up tenure, the basis of one of the biggest myths about public education and “the bad teacher.” Here’s my transcript of the last few minutes (beginning at about 6:10 in the video)…

Maher: I think what bothers a lot of people in America is why do teachers get this…this perk that the rest of us don’t have? We can all be fired. But let me give you an answer that might make sense.

[laughter]

Maher: The Supreme Court has tenure…you can’t fire a Supreme Court justice because they have to make very hard decisions and you wouldn’t want to hold them accountable and say well…we didn’t like the decision…you’ve gotta go. It’s kinda the same thing with teachers. I mean, A teacher has to be able to say to parents, “Your kid is dumb…”

Rhee: [laughing] No, not that.

Maher: …because…and not get fired for it because that’s very often the answer…is that…because to parents, it’s never their precious child that’s the problem.

Rhee: Teachers do have to make hard calls and they have to have protections to make sure that, you know, when they are making those tough calls, the ones that are right for kids, that, you know, they have what they need. The problem in public education is tenure has become a job for life regardless of performance. And so we have some people who are not doing the right things for kids…where kids…you know, children are going into their classroom year in and year out and are sort of losing ground…or you even have here in Southern California, you know, sexual predators, and they cannot be fired.

Maher: That’s the church. You’re mixing the two up.

[laughter]

Maher; Alright, well, I gotta go…

[interview ends]

Some basic assumptions here are incorrect…from Maher’s claim that teachers have a perk (tenure) which guarantees them a job for life to Rhee’s incredibly offensive reference implying a relationship between “bad teachers” and “sexual predators.”

Teachers can, and do get fired. Tenure for public school teachers in K-12 education does not mean a job for life…it means due process. Period.

Due process means that a teacher cannot be fired for no reason. The school leaders, school board, or administrators must show that a teacher is either incompetent, immoral or behaves illegally. Monster.com lists 10 ways teachers can, and do, get fired.

Due process, frequently misnamed tenure means that proof of one of these behaviors must be presented before a teacher can be fired. Once that is done, then the teacher can be fired no matter how many years they have taught. If, during my last year of teaching, I decided that I liked the school computer and wanted it for myself so I took it home for my personal use, the school system would have been entirely within their rights to fire me. I would have been within my rights to ask for due process. Just because you might not have this guarantee at your job…and you can be accused of stealing from the company and fired without any proof at all…doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. Due process simply requires school leaders to be fair…and not fire teachers on a whim.

Rhee, as well as other “reformers,” usually focus on bad teaching. Can bad teaching get you fired? Yes, but, again, the administration has to prove it. That’s where we are right now and that’s where there are problems. What constitutes a “bad teacher?” “Reformers” tend to think that low student test scores reflect bad teaching — even though using test scores to evaluate teachers is (IMHO) invalid.

A “reformer” might even agree that due process is good, in theory, “but,” she might say, “in actual practice it takes a lot of time and a great deal of money to get rid of a ‘bad teacher’ and the reason for that is due process.” To that I say…”yes, that may be correct.” My follow up to that, however, is probably different from that of your average “reformer.”

Here’s a plan. Instead of eliminating due process – like the legislature in Indiana did – let’s improve some things.

  1. Make sure that every person in a supervisory position (e.g. Principals) is an experienced educator with training sufficient to analyze teaching and to fairly evaluate teachers.
  2. Make sure that supervisors of principals (e.g. Superintendent) are similarly experienced and trained.
  3. Make sure that evaluations are done when scheduled and/or required by the contract, records kept, visitations documented, attempts to help the teacher improve made and recorded, etc. 
  4. We need to establish fair and effective evaluation methods such as the Montgomery County Maryland’s Peer Assistance and Review evaluation procedure (which has been destroyed by Race to the Top) or procedures described by Linda Darling-Hammond.
  5. I don’t have any objection to streamlining due process so it proceeds more quickly. There’s no reason for teachers to sit for months or years waiting for a hearing…and there’s no reason a school system has to wait that long to have the option of getting rid, with adequate proof, of a bad teacher. However, I would insist that the procedure be fair and require proof. We don’t want to go back to the era of firing teachers to make room for a state senator’s nephew or a school board member’s cousin, or because the principal just doesn’t like someone.

As long as education failures/faux “reformers” like Rhee continue to promote false myths like “the bad teacher” and “job-for-life tenure” the real work of education will be sidetracked by wasted resources, attacks on teachers, and the continued privatization of public education.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, Parent Trigger, poverty, retention, Teaching Career

2013 Medley #5

The Profession of Education,
Parent Trigger, Retention, Poverty.

THE PROFESSION OF EDUCATION

Teachers are getting tired of battling the corporate takeover of education. What goes on in classrooms around the country is being controlled more and more from the corporate offices of places like Pearson and McGraw-Hill. Teaching to the test is the norm, instead of the exception…and the big publishing companies are responsible for not only the tests, but supplementary materials which prep students for the tests.

School systems are being forced by state departments of education (who are being forced in turn, by the US DOE) to focus on test scores above all else. In the trenches, students and teachers spend ridiculous amounts of time testing. Less time is spent teaching…and much of the teaching time is devoted to test prep. The joy of learning is being replaced by a painful and damaging system of brain-stuffing that I can’t bring myself to call education or reform.

Teachers are pilloried in the press by politicians, pundits and policy makers who know nothing about education (see Argue with Some of the Logic?: The Expertise Gap, below). The myth of America’s failing public schools still persists (see PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid, below) despite the facts to the contrary. Charters* and vouchers are taking the public out of public education, despite the fact that they don’t improve the education of our children. Meanwhile 1/4 of America’s children live in poverty, the single most important out-of-school factor in academic achievement.

Here is yet another letter of resignation from a tired teacher printed recently in Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet Blog. In ‘I have had enough’ – veteran teacher tells school board, Abby Breaux writes,

If you think getting rid of experienced classroom teachers is the answer, then shame on you! It takes experienced teachers to help new, inexperienced teachers with the overwhelming burdens of classroom management, helping with background knowledge of the information being taught, and learning how to build relationships with the students and the community that these students come from. There is SO much more to teaching then getting in front of a class and giving a lesson!

Personally, I was hoping to teach for at least 30 years, but because of all these new evaluation policies, fear of retirement issues, and feeling constantly threatened that if I don’t do “this or that” I will lose my job, I and many others have had enough and feel the need to leave. I LOVE TEACHING and never thought this day would come. I love working with kids. You have basically pushed me and many excellent, effective teachers out of the education field or into the private sector with all of your useless paperwork and lack of follow through. I know I may get some “recoil” for what I am saying today, but what I am saying is the truth, and it is something that most teachers say and think every day. Many are afraid to speak up and this is something that I too have been holding in for years because of the same reason. Please, sit down with the CLASSROOM teachers and work with them. But above all, GO TO A CLASSROOM! Don’t choose a “favored, high scoring” school. Go to a struggling school and observe a classroom. Better yet, since you are supposed to be people of “service”, substitute in a classroom. Your eyes will be opened to how difficult it is to do this job on a daily basis.

THOSE WHO CAN, TEACH…

Would you trust your grocer to mend your clothes…your attorney to straighten your teeth…your doctor to write your will…or your insurance agent to remove your appendix? Why do we allow politicians with no educational expertise or experience to set education policy? Why isn’t the Secretary of Education an educator?

Argue with Some of the Logic?: The Expertise Gap

The education debate, specifically the education reform debate, currently confirms Gladwell’s concern because politicians with little or no educational expertise or experience control education policy and journalists with little or no educational expertise or experience report on both the claims made by those politicians and the education reports coming from think tanks and advocacy groups posing as scholars.

The list could be almost endless, but recent education reports on charter schools, for example, have all been represented inaccurately by the media—essentially since journalists tend to report on the think tank press release instead of analyzing the claims or quality of the study itself. (See Baker on the misrepresented KIPP study, Baker on the misrepresented NYC CREDO study, and Di Carlo on the garbled charter school debate as just a few examples.) [Emphasis in original]

PARENT TRIGGER

Public schools belong to the entire community, not just 51% of the parents whose children currently attend them. Public schools were paid for and maintained using public dollars. A small group of parents shouldn’t be given the right to sell the school to a private corporation. Schools need to be improved…not closed.

School ‘parent trigger’ bill supporters peddle divisive, unproven reform

UCLA’s Rogers is not entirely convinced that parent trigger backers are motivated solely by the desire to make profits at taxpayer expense. Nevertheless, he said, there exists “certain substantial financial backers” and legislators who are driven by their zeal against educator-led unions and a “broader political agenda.”

Most problematic about parent trigger, said Rogers, is the “lack of accountability” on the part of outside groups who parachute into communities. “It undermines trust between schools and communities,” he said, “and it sucks up the energy and attention from addressing [the lack of] school resources and other critical issues.”

Parent Trigger – False Promises, Divided Communities and Disrupted Young Lives

The video tells the story of Adelanto, California where a well-funded, outside group “Parent Revolution” came to town and instead of working to improve the schools tricked parents with false promises, bitterly divided the community, and disrupted the education of young children.

“The video makes clear that parent trigger laws, pending in 14 states, are not a magic wand that improves education — there is no magic wand,” said Roger Hickey of the Education Opportunity Network. “Schools need better resources, engaged parents, good teachers and a supportive community. What schools do not need is divisive campaigns that mislead parents and disappoints parents,” he said.

RETENTION IN GRADE

Retaining students because they can’t read isn’t “tough love.” It’s educational malpractice. More than a hundred years of research has shown that retention in grade does not help children “catch up” and it’s time for us to try something else. Retaining students in a grade is not supported by research. Often it’s done because “we have to do something” and the other options cost too much money or are too difficult — or even worse, because we don’t know what else to do (see Research on Retention in Grade).

All over the country legislators have decided they know more about education than educators and have passed laws which deny years of academic research and damage children.

States draw a hard line on third-graders, holding some back over reading

Advocates of the new tough-love policies say social promotion — advancing students based on age and not academic achievement — results in high-schoolers who can barely read, let alone land a job or attend college. Literacy problems are best addressed at an early age, they say.

Critics say the policies reflect an accountability movement that has gone haywire, creating high-stakes tests for 8-year-olds. The child, not the school, bears the brunt of the problem, they say, pointing to research that shows that the academic benefits of repeating a grade fade with time while the stigma can haunt children into adulthood.

Testing and Grade Retention

Research has consistently shown that retention can result in long-term negative consequences to student achievement. At the same time, other approaches to ensuring student achievement work better than either “social promotion” or retention”.

POVERTY

The myth of America’s failing public schools is false…what has failed is America’s economy. We allow a huge percentage of our children to live in poverty and then blame educators when they can’t overcome it. The plan is to blame the victims and then sell off the public schools to the highest bidder. Charters don’t do better than public schools with children in poverty. Vouchers don’t help. Firing teachers and administrators doesn’t help. We need to work together to support struggling schools, not close them.

PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid

Truthfully, you and I know all too well that Secretary Duncan, who led schools in Chicago, is aware of the relationship between poverty and student achievement, but he doesn’t trust us enough to tell us the truth. He is afraid that we will use poverty as an excuse and that we will forget about our disadvantaged students. Ironically, by not acknowledging poverty as a challenge to be overcome, Duncan is forgetting about our disadvantaged students. Duncan needs to deliver the message that all our students deserve not only access to an education, but access to an excellent education. He needs to repeatedly remind us that, when it comes to school improvement, it’s poverty not stupid.

Posted by Mel Riddile on December 15, 2010 12:13 PM

*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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Posted in Duncan, Gates, Michelle Rhee, Obama

Four Know-Nothings Who Dominate Education Policy in America

It’s clear to me now. The nation’s education policy is under the control of people who are afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Simply stated, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is a mistaken belief in one’s own competence. Someone who is unskilled believes that they are skilled. Those with no ability believe their ability is not only adequate, but above average. They lack the ability to recognize their own mistakes. This is caused by Illusory Superiority, common among politicians and professional athletes, which causes people to overestimate their own importance relative to others.

Some people who suffer from this Effect are: Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee (also Jeb Bush, Tony Bennett, Rahm Emanuel, Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Indiana’s Republican majority, Oprah Winfrey and others…but this is already long enough).

These four people have some things in common…

  • a desire to replace public schools with privately-run-with-public-money charters*.
  • a willingness to overuse and misuse standardized tests.
  • little or no experience as an actual teacher in a public school or, for that matter, as a student in public schools. All spent most or all of their early years at elite private schools. Gates, Obama and Rhee were all in private schools by 7th grade. Duncan attended private schools exclusively. Rhee is the only one who ever actually taught real students in a public school.
  • wealth. All four of these people are either independently wealthy or, as in Rhee’s case, receive money and donations for their activities from wealthy people.

None have expertise in education. Obama, Duncan and Gates have never had any training in education. Rhee was trained by Teach For America. They all support “turning around public schools” which means, converting public schools to for-profit charter schools. None, but Rhee will admit it, but they all probably hope that the teachers unions would just go away since they’re filled with, you know, actual teachers. None of them seem to understand that…

  • Closing schools doesn’t improve education.
  • Privately-run-with-public-money charter schools don’t do any better than regular public schools.
  • standardized tests shouldn’t be used to rank schools or students. Standardized tests shouldn’t be used to evaluate teachers.
  • States with strong teachers unions score as high, or higher than states without strong teachers unions.

No “reformy” strategy has actually helped children learn better than traditional public schools. Some charters and private schools do better (usually those which serve wealthy children or have huge influxes of cash from corporate donors), some do worse, but on the whole the “reform” movement hasn’t changed much in the world of American education — other than closing neighborhood public schools, making teachers’ jobs harder and sucking the joy out of learning for children.

None of the four want to talk about poverty and its impact on achievement.

Let’s get to know them…

BARACK OBAMA: Currently President of the United States (Net Worth: >$2.5m) – law degree from Harvard. Tells teachers what they want to hear and convinced the president of NEA that his policy of closing and privatizing schools was good for education. Cheered when all the teachers at Central Falls High School in RI were fired. Education experience – none. Education expertise – none.

We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.

What about the people who don’t have the grades, the desire and the will? Do we just let them fade away? Do we forget about their possible contributions if given an opportunity? Do we just write them off and start saving money for prisons and welfare? We need to support the schools with these most difficult to educate students…and find ways to pique their interest and motivate them.

Don’t label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test…You didn’t devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do.

As President, Obama has thrown up his hands and walked away from the public schools. His program, Race to the Top, doesn’t target the neediest schools and children in the country. It targets those who play the “Race to the Top” game (more: see Duncan). Furthermore, while saying that we shouldn’t “teach to the test” or that teachers didn’t devote their lives to testing, he supports the US DOE which is forcing the overuse and misuse of testing on America’s schools.

ARNE DUNCAN: Currently US Secretary of Education (Net Worth: >$1.5m)> – a professional basketball player (Melbourne’s Eastside Spectres), with a degree from Harvard in Sociology. He believes that observing his mother tutor students qualifies him to make education policy. Along with his boss, cheered when all the teachers at Central Falls HS in Central Falls RI were fired. Education experience – none. Education expertise – none.

Surveys show that many talented and committed young people are reluctant to enter teaching for the long haul because they think the profession is low-paying and not prestigious enough.

Encouraging states to use invalid evaluation methods in order to get Race to the Top money…encouraging the demise of public schools at the hands of corporate charter operators…forcing states to use unproven methods in order to get needed funds to keep schools running is not the way to improve the teaching profession.

States should not balance their budgets on the backs of students.

Race to the Top provides funds only for those states who want to use unproven methods. Other states — if there still are any — who want support for their public schools don’t get it from the federal government.

BILL GATES: Currently retired busybody and rich person (Net Worth: $66bn) – a college dropout with extremely high technology and business skills. He believes that having money makes him an expert in everything. Education experience – none. Education expertise – none.

In American math classes, we teach a lot of concepts poorly over many years. In the Asian systems they teach you very few concepts very well over a few years.

Wrong. Our students from low-poverty schools score at the top of the world when compared to other countries. It’s the high poverty schools which skews our average scores down and gives the impression that American schools are mediocre.

If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

Teachers don’t have tenure. They have due process (although some states, like Indiana, have even eliminated that). Due process means that administrators must prove that teachers are not doing their jobs before getting rid of them. Due process provides teachers with a right to a hearing. Due process means that teachers have the right to improve before their fired.

There is no tenure.

MICHELLE RHEE: Currently CEO of the New Teachers Project (with funding from Bill Gates) and StudentsFirst (with funding from the Broad Foundation) – a holder of degrees in government and public policy from two high quality, Ivy League institutions (Cornell and Harvard). She believes that after 3 years experience teaching with minimal training, and serving unsuccessfully as chancellor of D.C. public schools, she now knows all there is to know about education. Education experience – 3 years as a TFA teacher in Baltimore. Education expertise – fund raising.

People don’t understand where we stand right now on international rankings on academics. We are behind countries like Hungary and Luxumbourg.

Rhee is one of those people she describes. She doesn’t understand where we stand right now internationally (See above under Bill Gates).

She also doesn’t seem to see any conflict between this statement…

Part of what we outlined was that teachers who were highly effective could get paid twice as much money as they could under the old system. The ineffective teachers stopped teaching and the minimally effective were given one year to improve – during which there was a freeze on all pay increases.

…and this one.

Teachers have integrity. And if money was the motivating factor, they wouldn’t be in education.

People exhibiting the Dunning-Kruger Effect have no business making public policy of any kind, especially in education. Educators need a voice. Teachers, principals and superintendents need to speak out against the corporate drive to privatize American schools.

*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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Posted in Anthony Cody, Bennett, Duncan, Teaching Career

What Does it Mean to be an Educator?

Yesterday Anthony Cody blogged about the drama unfolding in New Mexico where teachers are expressing a desire to have an educator as state Education Secretary. The quote below from Cody’s piece, New Mexico Education Secretary’s Hearings Bring More Light to Corruption in Education Reform, is from Larry Langley, the head of New Mexico’s Business Roundtable.

“Please understand that to be a highly qualified educator doesn’t require you to be in front of a classroom,” Langley said. “Every one of us in this room, I hope, are some kind of qualified educator. I’ve certainly learned things from the chair of this committee. I have learned things from the ranking member of this committee, and from many others. You have been my educators, and you have been qualified educators.”

[UPDATE: Diane Ravitch has some information about Hanna Skandera, the acting secretary of education in New Mexico. You can read it HERE.]

Now, being a former teacher is no guarantee that one will be a good state education leader. Many of us in Indiana (and now Florida) recognize that former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, who was a career teacher, was not a friend to public education. The same is true on the Federal level. Rod Paige, who was Bush II’s first Secretary of Education was a high school Health and PE teacher for a few years. It was under Paige’s watch, you remember, that No Child Left Behind became the law of the land. Paige is also famous for calling the NEA a “terrorist organization.”

So, while I think it’s important that a state (and federal) education chief be an experienced educator, experience alone is no guarantee that a trained educator will be able to resist the call of politics and work for the benefit of the students under their care. That being said, it’s insulting to have the public school chief of the state or federal administration making policy for public schools when the newest graduate of an accredited education school (note: this does not include TFA) is more experienced in the field.

According to Langley, above, anyone who’s taught something to anyone is an educator. The person who taught me how to use the cash register at Carl Fischer of Chicago when I started working there in 1970 was, by that definition, an educator. Does that mean that since I have bandaged a child’s cut finger I’m a doctor? I’ve removed a splinter using tweezers…does that make me a surgeon? Obviously not…and teaching someone how to be a politician or run a cash register does not make one an educator.

What does it mean to be an educator?

Why is being a “teacher” something that many people consider easy work? Why is education something that you don’t need experience in or background in before you are allowed to make policy for students, teachers and schools? Why do lawmakers in Indiana think that almost anyone can be an educator?

Most Americans have gone or are currently going to school. Teachers are everywhere…and have influenced nearly all of us. Most people, even poor students such as I was, can name a teacher or two who had a positive influence on their lives. Furthermore, most teachers are very good at what they do. They make the job of teaching look easy. It looks easy…so therefore, the conventional wisdom goes, anyone can do it. We’re all, as Langley says, “educators.”

Here’s an example.

Q: Why does Arne Duncan (I’ll use Duncan as an example because, as Secretary of Education he’s the nation’s “top educator.” The same holds true for any non-educator who thinks they know-it-all about education) think he’s qualified to make policy for teachers and public schools?

A: He had good teachers when he was growing up. He went to well resourced schools with well-trained teachers. He learned his lessons, from identifying letters of the alphabet to learning how to “find x” to learning how to write a term paper for his 400 level Sociology class at Harvard. He watched his teachers as they skillfully led him to understanding and knowledge. It’s likely however, that he didn’t see the amount of work they put into their daily lessons or the preparation they needed to deal with the problems children bring to their classrooms every day.

Teaching is not easy, at any level. Teaching a classroom of students is hard, demanding, sometimes grueling, work. It is not, as a parent of one of my students once said to me, “simply a question of telling them” what they need to know. Arne Duncan was never trained in pedagogy, child development, psychology, curriculum development and design or any of the other things a teacher must know in order to be a teacher. Imparting knowledge is just one aspect of teaching…and I would maintain that it’s not the most important.

Duncan doesn’t realize (and neither, obviously, does Langley) that it takes knowledge and skill to be a teacher because his memories of being in a classroom are immature memories. Does he really have any idea what his first grade teacher did to help him learn to read? Does he understand how his fifth grade teacher helped him memorize the Gettysburg Address? Does he really understand how his high school History teacher inspired him? Does he know all the work his English teacher did to prepare a lesson on Shakespeare?

No. He doesn’t. He was a child…and he viewed his teachers through a child’s eyes. To use eduspeak, he didn’t have the “background knowledge” necessary to understand the amount of effort it took to educate him. He still doesn’t and neither do most other “reformers” who are making education policy in America, today.

Teachers need to speak out. What does it mean to be an educator?

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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