Posted in Article Medleys, poverty, read-alouds, reading, Teaching Career, vouchers

2013 Medley #11

Poverty, Professional Educators,
Reading, Privatization

For Each and Every Child: A New Nation At-Risk Report for 2013?

Current “reform” isn’t “reform” at all…it’s the wholesale selling of America’s public schools. The promoters of the status quo want more high stakes testing, fewer professional educators, more money being diverted away from public education, and more privatization.

In addition to reforms of school funding and investments in preschool education and other services children need to be ready to learn, the report focuses heavily on how to ensure that teachers can enable our diverse student body meet 21st century standards of learning. These measures go far beyond the current obsession on teacher evaluation, which cannot, by itself, ensure that teachers have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.

Unfortunately, current federal policy focuses on identifying teacher deficits, rather than building up a vibrant, highly qualified and competent teaching corps. To build up an effective teaching workforce, therefore, it is clear that teacher preparation — even more than evaluation — may matter most for meeting the 21st century learning needs.

Child poverty is the real scandal

Where is the accountability? Why aren’t state and federal office holders accountable for the level of child poverty in the country? Why are “reformers” placing the blame on public schools and school teachers?

The scandal is that our public policy to deal with these children is as impoverished as their neighborhoods. You can’t address their challenges by shutting down a public school and opening up a charter. High-stakes testing can measure how they fall behind, but it provides no remedy.

Welcome to our Summer Literacy Initiative: A Message from Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction

  • Read with someone
  • Read to someone
  • Share with someone what he/she has read
  • Listen to someone read
  • Help others read
  • Read independently

In Pursuit of Happiness

Yet another teacher quits in disgust because of the destruction of public education by know-nothing “reformers.”

What’s wrong with school ‘choice’? Here’s what.

The choice most often belongs to the school rather than the parent.

But perhaps the most compelling fact is that private and religious schools would not have to accept all students—and could expel any student for just about any reason they choose. We know from school choice experiments in other states that students with disabilities or other special needs are most likely to be denied admission at voucher schools. Louisiana’s voucher schools could choose not to offer special education services.

…Local school boards are committed to providing each child—regardless of race or religion, family income, or special needs—with an outstanding education that will prepare them for higher education, the workplace, and a fulfilling life.

Rather than being sidetracked by school choice ploys, we must focus on our community public schools. We must ensure that our school leaders have the means to make every public school a great school, for the sake of all of our students and our country.

‘Choice’ Charade: Religious School Leaders Want Your Money But Not Your Oversight

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”- Benjamin Franklin

In March, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s voucher plan doesn’t violate a provision in the Indiana Constitution that bars tax aid to religion. In the wake of that ruling, legislators promptly approved an expansion of the program.

…So, just to be clear here: In some states that have choice plans, some Catholic schools still suffer from under-enrollment. Why is this so? Perhaps because even some Catholic parents don’t want to send their children to those schools. It seems that what the church wants here is not “choice” but a taxpayer-funded bailout of a school system that even many of its members no longer wish to patronize.

…But more to the point, many parents are waking up to the fact that private school tuition is often a waste of money. As Time magazine noted a few years ago, a rigorous study by the Center on Education Policy concluded that socio-economic factors are more important than where a young person goes to school.

Center President Jack Jennings observed, “Contrary to popular belief, we can find no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance. Instead, it appears that private schools simply have higher percentages of students who would perform well in any environment based on their previous performance and background.”

…Finally, the bishops are very clear about one thing: They want your money with no strings attached. Sister John Mary told Catholic News Service that the bishops often lobby for vouchers but do so with “their eyes open” and are careful to make certain that legislation does not result in government “reaching into Catholic education.”

…According to Education Week, the advocacy groups in Wisconsin charged that students with even minor disabilities were refused admission to voucher schools or, if they were admitted, were later expelled.

Khan Academy Receives $2.2 Million to Develop Common Core Lessons

A constant theme of “reformers” is that the public schools waste money…or have too much money and still can’t educate children…or the US has the most expensive (or nearly the most) school system in the world and our children test so poorly…or something like that.

One interesting fact…some charters* and private schools have millions of dollars from private donations which they use for staff development, staff benefits, equipment, buildings, educational materials, technology or some other educational use. These schools can’t rightly claim that they are competing with public schools since they have so much more money.

Waiting for Batman: Following the Money at the Harlem Children’s Zone

“Through charitable donations, both small and large, the HCZ has amassed a $145 million endowment as of 2008. HCZ’s website acknowledges that its annual operating budget for 2010 is over $75 million, which includes both its child and adult programs. And elsewhere on the site, it indicates that its annual budget for the HCZ Project (its charter school programs) is roughly $48 million, or ‘an average of $5,000 per child.'”

So we can see that some “reformer” schools have a lot more money to work with than regular public schools.

Jonathan Kozol said, “People agree with everything I say. They say, ‘Yes, it is unfair they don’t get as much per pupil as our children.’ Then they say, ‘Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?’ And I say, ‘You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.'”

Keep that in mind as you read the following…

The Khan Academy received a grant of $2.2 million from the Leona and Harry Helmsley Trust to create math lessons aligned to the Common Core.

Harry Helmsley was a real estate baron in New York City. When he died, his wife Leona inherited his huge estate. She was convicted of tax evasion and went to prison. She once memorably said, “only the little people pay taxes.” She was known as “the queen of mean.” Her only son died of a heart condition, and Leona sued her daughter-in-law and evicted her from her home. She left an estate worth billions and set aside $12 million for her dog Trouble. A court reduced the amount to $2 million, as adequate to the dog’s needs.

Will Teacher Prep Academies Replace Schools of Education?

Here’s another step towards de-professionalizing the education profession. In Indiana you don’t need to have a degree in education to be a teacher, principal or superintendent. You don’t need to have anything other than a bachelors degree to be a teacher.

So now, instead of improving teacher education programs we’re getting set to dump them.

Only someone who knows nothing about education would believe that anyone can be a teacher…that 5 weeks of training is long enough to learn about child development, classroom management, and learning theories. Those of us who have taught understand that there’s always more to learn…that inadequate university based education programs, taught by experienced teachers can be improved and should be improved, not closed.

Our children well trained educators…not temps.

All this talk of accountability and results suggests we are “raising the bar.” However, a closer look at this bill tells us it would be better described as the “No Fuss teacher preparation bill.” The bill removes teacher preparation from any sort of university setting, and allows anyone to establish teacher and principal academies with very minimal requirements.

…So anyone with a bachelor’s degree – actually it does not even specify that – can open a teacher preparation “academy.” They need no building, no trained faculty. The credential candidates need have no preparation whatsoever – all that matters is that they pass the state content exams.

…In response to concerns about the quality of teacher preparation programs, we are getting a market-driven solution, that removes requirements of quality and academic substance, and replaces them with market mechanisms that rely on test scores to determine quality.

…Our schools of education do not do a perfect job of preparing teachers. There are many ways in which they could improve, especially through closer connections to our schools, and more active use of experienced teachers. But they represent a source of scholarship for the teaching profession, a place where we can learn about child development and pedagogy. They are places where our culture’s obsession with data can be actively questioned – and perhaps that is why the reformers have developed a means to take them out of the equation.

The Meaning of Neighborhood Schools

The days of the neighborhood school are fast disappearing…

For poor families, neighborhood schools are not merely places for learning subject matter. They often provide safe havens for their children in the form of after-school activities. Although the schools may not always measure up academically, they meet a distinct need not measured by standardized tests. I’m not saying that all schools slated for closure fall into that category. Some have no business existing. But let’s not be so quick to assume that parents judge the value of public schools solely by test scores.

Closing Failing Schools Is Risky

I’d be the first to support school closures if there were assurances that the strategy would work as proposed. But the evidence so far does not engender confidence. To begin with, it is not new. In 2003, St. Louis hired a marquee-name New York bankruptcy firm to address falling enrollment and appalling test scores. William Roberti was named superintendent. During his 13-month tenure, he closed 21 schools, laid off more than 1,000 employees and privatized many school services. Roberti stepped down at the end of his contract, proclaiming that the district had made “tremendous strides.” But enrollment continued to plummet and parents complained about the closures.

…The history of education reform is replete with examples of the use of untested solutions to vexing problems. What were initially termed miracle cures ultimately turned out to be mirages. I have reference now to the dramatic gains in test scores in Houston more than a decade ago. Coincidently, Houston is once again in the news because the school district there is supposed to absorb students from the soon-to-be-closed North Forest Independent School District, which for six consecutive years has been identified as “academically unacceptable.”

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Alfie Kohn, Quotes, SchoolCrisis, Teaching Career

Random Quotes

You Want Heroes? by Frosty Troy, Oklahoma Observer, July 10, 2012 (Subscription Required)

No other American bestows a finer gift than teaching – reaching out to the brilliant and the developmentally challenged, the gifted and the average. Teachers leave the world a little bit better than they found it, knowing if they have redeemed just one life, they have done God’s work. They are America’s unsung heroes.

‘Good job, teach’: Educators emerge as heroes in Okla. tragedy

One survivor told KFOR-TV about how he worked to rescue a teacher stuck beneath a car that landed in the front hallway of one of the schools.

“I don’t know what that lady’s name is, but she had three little kids underneath her. Good job, teach,” he said, breaking into tears.

Remarks by the President at Teacher of the Year Event, April 23, 2013.

These folks did not go into teaching for money. They certainly didn’t go into it because of the light hours and the easy work. They walk into the classroom every single day because they love doing what they do, because they’re passionate about helping our children realize the best versions of themselves so that our country can become the best version of itself.

And I just want to say to all of them, I hope that in some small measure this award keeps them going. Because I never want our teachers to feel discouraged at a time of budget cuts, at a time when all too often problems in the schools are laid at the feet of teachers; where we expect them to do so much, and sometimes they get so little in return.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” — Carl Jung

“Families bring their children in bright and early because they want them to learn,” she said, “not because they want them to be test dummies.” — Zipporiah Mills, Principal of PS 261, Brooklyn, NY, when discussing field testing questions for new tests.

“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.” — Lee Iacocca

“I am a fortunate person: My work is my hobby. I think that being a teacher is the highest calling in life. One is trying to convey knowledge—I draw no hard distinction between being a teacher and being a researcher—but, more importantly than this, one is trying to infuse young people with a sense of joy of learning. Not just for its own sake, but for the lifelong results. Overall, the aim is to show and convince the student of the true worth of being a human being. And this is a moral quest. Not in some soft-sided fashion, but in a real, meaningful way.” — Michael Ruse

“The late W. Edwards Deming, guru of Quality management, once declared, ‘The most important things we need to manage can’t be measured.’ If that’s true of what we need to manage, it should be even more obvious that it’s true of what we need to teach.” — Alfie Kohn, Schooling Beyond Measure

“That hunger and malnutrition should persist in a land such as ours is embarrassing and intolerable.
Special Message to the Congress Recommending a Program to End Hunger in America” —- Richard Nixon, May 6, 1969

“Do not accept directives from or pay consulting fees to people who have never in their lives been shut up in a room with 28 seventh graders…Count how many times the phrase ‘joy in learning’ is used in any proposal to ‘fix’ any school…” — Susan Ohanian, Washington Post, Feb. 11, 2003

“The ‘bad teacher’ narrative as a way of explaining what’s wrong with our school system gets really old,” Ms. Cavanagh said. “Our union has taken a stance that we will collaborate and compromise and that is shortsighted when the other side seems bent on destroying you.” — Julie Cavanagh

“It’s hard to think of another field in which experience is considered a liability and those who know the least about the nuts and bolts of an enterprise are embraced as experts.” — Pedro Noguera and Michelle Fine in Teachers Aren’t the Enemy

“If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.” — Barbara Colorose

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in SchoolCrisis, Teaching Career

Teachers Save Lives While the Selfish Protect Money

The Courage of Teachers

Once again teachers are being given credit for saving the lives of the children under their care. The stories coming from Moore, OK tell of teachers who shielded children from falling debris and sang songs with their students to keep them calm. One report told of a teacher who refused to become “hysterical in front of [her] kids” even though her leg was impaled by a table leg.

Like in Newtown, CN, the teachers in Moore, OK put their students first. Of course they did. Teachers love their students.

It’s About Time…

…that someone publicly recognizes that teachers are entrusted with the lives of their students, despite being demonized by “reformers” and the press. In an excellent article titled Teachers: Heroes in a crisis–but otherwise under fire — at least from a teacher’s point of view — Ned Resnikoff hit the nail on the head.

“You don’t go into teaching for the money,” Oklahoma Education Association president Linda Hampton told MSNBC Tuesday. ”You go into teaching because you care about the kids. You spend more of your waking hours as a teacher with those children than anyone does, and they become your children. And just like any parent, you’re going to protect them at all costs.”

Yet the role of protector during the hours in which children are in their care sometimes seems to have been lost in the public debate about education. Rarely recognized as champions of their students, public educators are more often targets of small-government conservatives and education reformers. Teachers across the country have watched their profession chipped away by school closures, mass layoffs, budget cuts, and other measures. Pressure to deliver top test scores has led to backlashes in some areas of the country. And cheating scandals, in which some educators altered scores to help advance their schools or protect themselves, harmed the reputations of teachers nationwide just as many were struggling to keep their jobs.

Teachers are praised for their courage in a crisis, yet are accused of being union thugs, not caring about anything but their paychecks, and only going into teaching because of the time off in the summer. The number of bad teachers, according to some “reformers” or their mouthpieces, must be enormous. So they espouse unproven solutions such as evaluating teachers using student test scores, privatizing public education and removing teachers’ job protections while ignoring the fact that struggling schools are struggling not because of “bad teachers” but because of the unresolved social conditions associated with poverty.

Yet we’ve seen over and over again that the first duty gladly accepted by teachers is to their students.

Selfishness

In stark contrast to the love that teachers exhibit for their students during a crisis…and every day…are those who are selfish enough to let nearly a fourth of our students struggle along while living in poverty…the second highest poverty rate among “wealthy” nations. While tax breaks get renewed for the wealthy, the selfish ones complain that we shouldn’t provide health care for our citizens and that taxes are just a form of government theft. While the disparity gap between rich and poor increases, the selfish ones fight against jobs programs, choosing instead to let the wealth trickle down from above. While teachers put themselves in harms way to protect their students, the selfish ones fight against providing help in the form of federal relief for disaster victims.

It’s the “I’ve got mine. Go get your own” attitude which only seems to disappear when there’s a crisis…but not completely.

[NOTE: the following quote had incorrect casualty figures. The author’s update is included in italics at the end.]

Pathetic Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn Says Cuts Must Be Made Before He’ll Support Tornado Relief

Before the final body count has even come in…a pathetic excuse for a human being, GOP Senator Tom Coburn, will apparently require offsets to spending before he votes in favor of disaster relief for the areas of Oklahoma devastated by tornadoes on Monday.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Even with 20 children confirmed dead, along with 31 others (as of 12:30 am CDT), and countless others with their lives destroyed, this sorry excuse for a human is already playing politics with the lives of Americans who are in desperate need of help.

Updated death toll as of 4:30 pm CDT 5/21, the medical examiner’s office has said that earlier reports were erroneous. The current death toll stands at 24 confirmed, including 9 children.

The selfishness of some people is amazing.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, poverty, Privatization, read-alouds

2013 Medley #10

Poverty, Private Schools for the Rich,
Myths, Reading Aloud to Children

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

The most important problem facing American children today

The most important problem facing American children today is poverty. Nearly a quarter of our children live in poverty…one of the highest rates in the developed world. Of the world’s “wealthy” nations, only Romania has a (slightly) higher child poverty rate than we do. Where are the “reformers” of the economy? Where are the demands to fire the failing legislators and economists? Instead the “reformers” focus on public sector unions, “bad teachers,” so-called “failing” schools, privatization and testing.

The social safety net for children is virtually non-existent in the United States – universal health care, food security, adequate housing, jobs for unemployed parents – other wealthy nations help their children survive by taking care of them. Here, in the richest country in the world, we cut poverty programs, preschool funding, and taxes for the rich.

Blame the parents. Blame the states. Blame the classrooms. Blame the welfare system. Blame the bureaucracy. There’s enough blame to go around. The fault is really with a system that rewards wealth with more wealth…rewards policy makers who help the wealthy…and punishes people for being hungry. Meanwhile, almost a fourth of our future is at-risk. Is it short-sightedness or just plain selfishness?

What is the most important problem facing American children today?

According to the Academic Pediatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is the effects of poverty on the health and well being of young people. But, they concede, there is no sustained focus on childhood poverty, or a unified pediatric voice speaking on the problem, or a comprehensive approach to solving it.

To try to remedy that, the American Pediatric Association Task Force on Childhood Poverty is beginning a long-term effort to address the problem by looking for solutions that will be effective, sustained and “protected from retrenchment,” according to this brief about the work of the panel.

Children in America are the poorest members of society. One in five children live below the federal poverty line, and almost one in two are poor or near poor, with a disproportionate burden falling on the very young, racial and ethnic minorities, Native Americans and children from immigrant families. The task force plans to pay special attention to helping these groups of children.

Gov. Snyder: Your Child Can Be Educated For $6K Per Year, But $20K Per Year Not Enough To Educate My Kid

Politicians, pundits and policy-makers are taking care of their own…while trying to justify destroying the public education system which has to accept everyone.

As the debate over deep cuts to the state’s per pupil allowance in education funding continues, Greenhills School in Ann Arbor has released a fundraising video in which school officials say the $20,000 per year tuition per student is not enough to keep the school running.

The video features students and faculty from the school, where Gov. Rick Snyder sends his daughter, reading from a script and saying that money raised from an annual auction was necessary to keep the school going. One student, who is not identified, says, “Tuition alone does not cover the costs of a Greenhills education.”

Myths about Public Education in Indiana

“Reformers” are obsessed with fixing a problem that doesn’t exist…and ignoring one which does.

MYTH: Public Schools are Failing our children.
FACTS: National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test scores are the highest in the history of the Federal tests. On basic NAEP scores, Indiana has outperformed the nation on all 41 NAEP assessments since 1990. Indiana Graduation Rates are the highest in history. 85.7% graduated in four years or less in the Class of 2012, up from 84.1%, 81.5%, 77.8%, 76.4%, and 76.1% in the last five graduating classes.

MYTH: Charter Schools provide a better education.
FACTS: Public schools outperformed charter schools on 2012 ISTEP tests. IREAD-3 results for 2012 show 85% of public schools passing but only 70% of charter schools passing. Public schools can and do offer creative and successful programs; for example, Montessori, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, New Tech, Language immersion, and dual credit courses.
Public schools serve ALL students.

MYTH: Poverty does not affect a child’s educational performance.
FACTS: Family income is the single most reliable predictor of student test scores. The correlation of poverty and academic achievement is one of the most consistent findings in educational research. ISTEP scores confirm that poverty negatively impacts student achievement and performance.

MYTH: Teachers’ unions use tenure to protect poorly performing teachers from dismissal.
FACTS: Teacher in K-12 do not have tenure. They have never had a guaranteed “job for life”. Teachers remain subject to the same disciplinary actions as employees in other fields. Teachers did have the right to due process under state law which goverened the dismissal process; however, the legislature changed the law and eliminated due process. Termination of ineffective teachers was and is the responsibility of the school administration.

Reading Opens Doors

Reading Aloud

No matter how old your children are…no matter how old your students are, reading aloud increases vocabulary, improves comprehension, and fosters a love of reading.

In 1985, the Commission on Reading’s report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, presented among its findings that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The commission backed up its conclusion with research that indicated reading aloud in the home is an essential contributor to reading success, and that reading aloud in the classroom is “a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Parent Trigger, Politics, Privatization, VirtualSchools

The Push Towards Privatization

What do public schools, airports, prisons, hospitals, parking services, state parks, and municipal water supplies have in common?

They’re all being considered for privatization in one state or another.

Apparently privatization is the cure-all for society’s ills. The movement to privatize all public sector institutions and jobs is based on the assumption that government is always inefficient and bad…the private sector (free market) is always more efficient and good.

In The History of the School Privatization Movement Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall writes

Neoliberal Republicans and Tea Partiers (and now Barack Obama and Department of Education director Arne Duncan) give lip service to improving achievement levels for students in inner city schools. However instead of improving funding to these struggling schools, the one intervention supported by statistical research, they continue to aggressively shift education funding from public schools to private charter schools – despite the Stanford study showing that charter programs don’t improve achievement levels (see previous blog). In my mind, this is totally consistent with what I believe is their real agenda – namely privatizing public education.

Neoliberalism seeks to privatize all public services (education, social security, water, prisons, public transportation, welfare services) – leaving a bare bones government with a strictly security and military role. Neoliberals argue that public provision of these services is inefficient and wasteful – problems that can only be corrected by subjecting them to free market competition. But as we have seen in the case of prison, water, and welfare privatization, there are always windfall profits for businesses and corporations when billions of public, taxpayer dollars are transferred to private hands.

In other words, privatization isn’t just for education…it’s for everything.

That’s wrong. Instead of destroying public institutions we should support them and improve them where necessary. Public oversight is essential in a democratic society.

The privatization efforts discussed in the articles below are from Privatization Watch, a web site which tracks privatization efforts throughout the country. Several times a week it lists articles from newspapers, blogs, web sites and other media outlets covering attempts to privatize America. The articles below specifically refer to public education.

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Bill opens up funding for private virtual schools

There is so much money spent on public education…edupreneurs are chomping at the bit to get some of it. The “product” is education…and they’ll jump in without any previous experience using “business” methods (think: Enron) to run their “schools.” The result has not helped children learn. The motive is profit…not the education of our youngest citizens.

May 13, 2013

Private online learning companies will get a better shot at Florida public school funding under a bill that won approval on the final day of the legislative session.

Though the vote garnered little attention from outside observers, Republicans hailed it as among the year’s most important victories for school choice.

…”If you want to get at the largest portion of the state budget that has not been privatized, it is education,” said Jeff Wright, who oversees public policy advocacy for the Florida Education Association, the state teachers union. “That’s what this is all about. This is about allowing outside vendors to get a piece of the action.”

How School Privatizers Buy Elections

It takes money to win an election. This is true at local levels as well as national. More and more state legislators are taking money from wealthy donors to win their local elections, thereby aligning themselves with the policies of the donors. The citizen legislators envisioned by the founding fathers has given way to professional politicians.

“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” – James Madison

May 8, 2013

A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.

…So it was fascinating when investigative reporter Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ripped the veil off a secretive organization and its hidden political activities by publishing a copy of the American Federation for Children’s “2012 Election Impact Report.”

The report, which was clearly meant only for members and donors, outlines how the American Federation of Children pours millions of dollars into state races around the country to back candidates who support school vouchers and other measures that siphon public money into private schools.

Evidence doesn’t support choice program expansion

Supporters of public education must understand that the goal of “reformers” isn’t improved education. It’s privatization. The “reformers” will use the promise of improved education to get their policies adopted, then, when the education doesn’t improve (and privatization schemes haven’t improved the education of our children), they’ll abandon that reason and switch to another…usually choice. The argument is that parents deserve “choice” in where they send their children to school, just like they do when they buy groceries or shoes. The choice, however, ends up belonging to the corporate bottom line of the school…to profit, not to parents. Children who are hard to educate or who don’t toe the line will often be asked to go elsewhere.

Charter* schools, vouchers, firing teachers and administrators, closing neighborhood schools, misuse and overuse of testing, removing teachers’ job securities, decreased funding…none of the privatization schemes have resulted in improved student achievement.

Fact: Public. Schools. Accept. All. Children.

April 30, 2013

Legislators should be skeptical of a proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to sharply expand the school voucher program. There isn’t much evidence that students in voucher schools are better educated; in fact, they seem to perform at about the same level as their peers in mainline public schools.

Louisiana’s Great Education Giveaway

No Child Left Behind, when adopted, was touted as a plan which would help those children whose needs were being systematically ignored. The rationale for the law was laudable, however, in actual practice NCLB, along with it’s successor, Race to the Top, has done the opposite. More and more children are left behind as schools are closed and resources are eliminated.

April 26, 2013

A writer recently hailed federal and state education reform as a new civil rights movement. But the word reform, which means “the improvement . . . of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory,” can hardly be applied to the recent changes in educational law. Most of these changes are not for the better. Instead, they create a separate and wholly unequal educational system masquerading as choice, which serves to destabilize and discredit public schools in the name of improvement and to make state funds accessible to a wide range of individuals and corporations with little or no oversight.

This article examines recent legislation that dramatically expanded state takeover of schools after Hurricane Katrina, shows how the changes are contrary to educational research on effective schools, and points to some examples of schools and programs gone awry under this new regime.

The Parent Trigger Bill: A shot at privatization

Parent trigger bills provide for a small number of people, who happen to be parents of current students in a school, to give away a public institution paid for through years of taxpayer investment. Millions of public dollars go into building, maintaining and staffing public schools. Fifty-one percent of this year’s parents shouldn’t have the right to give that away. We need to support and improve public education…not destroy it.

April 19, 2013

Careful analysis of this legislation reveals its clear but unstated goal, public dollars for private companies and a diversion of resources from the public education system. Since 1991 the Legislature has reduced state funding for our schools from 62 percent to 49 percent. They have created charter schools that take money out of the public school system and are currently considering allowing charter schools to receive capital outlay dollars. These taxpayer dollars are designated to be used for maintenance and repair of public school buildings. Now, we are considering giving taxpayer dollars and buildings to private corporations.

This is all a strategy implemented and promoted by charter companies and conservative think-tank groups. If you think public education cannot be taken over by the private sector, remember there was a time when we had a Department of Labor and a Department of Commerce. Those two agencies no longer exist, and their responsibilities have been taken over by private organizations. In the process, Florida has lost millions of federal dollars that once flowed through the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor.

Editorial – Legislators’ ‘fixes’ for public education may inflict irreparable damage

The goal is weaker public schools. The goal is the elimination of public education. The goal is privatization.

April 18, 2013

For a group of politicians who claim they want to strengthen our public schools, the Honorables have a strange way of going about it. In their world, better public schools can be had only by siphoning off students and money into charter and private schools, and by eliminating the cap on class sizes in the lower grades, a factor that has been shown to improve academic achievement. At the same time, the same group of lawmakers is working to put tight caps on preschool education, another success story in education.

No, the way the Honorables in the General Assembly are going, the result can only be weaker public schools left with fewer resources to teach the very students the so-called educational improvements were designed to help. Is that their actual intent?

*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 1000 Words, DAP, Play Kid's Work, Preschool, Teaching Career

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – May 2013

Here are some pictures, graphic images and cartoons from around the net — plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

This month’s topic is early childhood education.

It’s a Wonder I Can Think at All

Children learn by using their senses. They hear, see, touch, smell and taste things and use the data they gather to make sense of the world.

I had always been offended by Paul Simon’s Kodachrome line,

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school,
it’s a wonder I can think at all.

However, we have become a nation which publicly equates education and testing. Children will learn that “school” is a place for testing and has nothing to do with learning. They’ll understand that “thinking” isn’t something you do in “school.” The definition of “school” will be…or has been…changed forever.

The Love of Learning

Written language is what makes the human species unique among all the Earth’s creatures. Developing a love of reading is one of the primary purposes of education and early learning. That’s why I am a big fan of Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook. He rightly points out that a love of reading is something which needs to be taught from the time a child is conceived.

Reading expands our minds both literally and figuratively. Instilling a love of reading in a child is the first and most important task of a parent after basic survival. One of the best ways to foster and grow that love of reading is to read aloud to your children…no matter how old, or young, they are.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)

A developmentally appropriate curriculum is essential for all early learning. We should test a child’s achievement to see where he/she is, rather than to pass judgment. Tests are simply reflections of a child’s developmental process and shouldn’t be used to make high stakes decisions about the child…and the younger the child is, the more important this is. The old adage is very true…”You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” We can’t make children learn something if they’re not ready.

Non-educators who make education policy need to learn this.

Lifelong Learners

No teacher exists who can handle every moment of the teaching experience expertly without error or fault. There is no such thing as someone who can’t learn more.

Good teachers must never stop learning. Why?

  • A good teacher is better if he/she understands what it’s like to be a learner.
  • No one knows everything. There are always ways we can grow and improve.
  • A good teacher makes sure students know that learning is a positive action….the Master Teacher let’s his or her students see them learning.
  • To paraphrase John Holt, “Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.” Every teaching day/moment is different. How you handle — and learn from — unexpected situations is an indication of your strength as a teacher.

Playing

Children…indeed, humans of all ages…use play to learn and grow.

The Value of Play…

Play in our species serves many valuable purposes. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavors.

Preschool Matters

We know that students who attend preschool achieve at higher levels. Ignoring this fact means that we are not looking to the future. The shortsightedness of our policy makers will catch up to us eventually.

Long Division: The Debate Over the Value of Preschool

In June, another study, also published in Science, found that children who participated in a state-funded preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., saw gains of nine months in prereading skills, seven months in prewriting skills and five months in premath skills, relative to their peers. Internationally, the PISA project, or Program for International Student Assessment, overseen by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, has found that high math achievement is associated with attendance at preschools. Gains from preschool attendance have been recorded as far afield as Argentina, Uruguay and Bangladesh. Today, more than 95% of toddlers attend preschool in England, which, along with Scandinavia and France, has a universal preschool system in place.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in David Berliner, IREAD-3, poverty, retention, Ritz

Share the Responsibility

Nearly a hundred years of research has provided us with enough information so that we know retention-in-grade (aka flunking) is not an effective remediation technique. The research consistently shows that, with few exceptions, long-term success of students is not improved using grade retention.

For years educators and pundits have been arguing about which works, retention or social promotion. I have heard teachers support retention because,

  • it gives the child another year to grow
  • it gives the child a chance to catch up
  • social promotion doesn’t work
  • we have to do something

The first two reasons have been proven to be false. The second two are, indeed, a reason to try something but just because educators can’t think of anything (or can’t afford anything) other than retention as an alternative to social promotion doesn’t mean those are the only two choices.

For too long the argument has focused on two bad approaches to solving the problem of low student achievement and neither of them improve children’s learning.

On the other hand we do know what works. We do know how to keep many at-risk children from failing. Unfortunately, we don’t want (or can’t afford) to invest the money, time or resources to get it done.

What works in school is early and intensive remediation.

It’s with this in mind that Glenda Ritz, the Indiana State School Superintendent, has proposed changing the requirement that students who don’t pass the third grade reading test, IREAD-3, repeat third grade.

Ritz Pushes For Alternative To Holding Back After I-READ

Indiana‘s requirement that third-graders pass a reading test before advancing to fourth grade could be short-lived. State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz will ask the State Board of Education next month to make it a last-resort option for schools to hold back third graders who flunk the I-READ test.

…Ritz wants to replace the high-stakes aspect of I-READ with a commitment to test reading throughout the school year.

“We’re not going to wait until the end of the school year with a pass/fail test and say now let’s remediate,” Ritz says. “We’re actually going to provide interventions the whole time.”

The important aspect of this proposal is not whether retention doesn’t work or social promotion doesn’t work, it’s the commitment to providing interventions for students who are struggling.

Because of the limitations of her job, Ritz can only deal with what’s possible under the auspices of the Department of Education. Since out-of-school factors account for a significant part of student achievement, a comprehensive approach to improving achievement must include out of school interventions.

In order to improve achievement of students most at risk — those who live in poverty — we need to look at the research in that area. David C. Berliner, in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, identifies 7 areas which significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children.

…(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

Also discussed is a seventh OSF, extended learning opportunities, such as pre- school, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.

Policies which affect students living in poverty, nearly 25% of America’s children, must be in place to help alleviate out of school factors in addition to research based in-school interventions. If we focus on in-school interventions only, no matter how good they are, or how hard we work, the effects will be hindered by the out of school factors listed above.

Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.
Therefore, it is recommended that efforts be made to:

  • Reduce the rate of low birth weight children among African Americans,
  • Reduce drug and alcohol abuse,
  • Reduce pollutants in our cites and move people away from toxic sites,
  • Provide universal and free medical care for all citizens,
  • Insure that no one suffers from food insecurity,
  • Reduce the rates of family violence in low-income households,
  • Improve mental health services among the poor,
  • More equitably distribute low-income housing throughout communities,
  • Reduce both the mobility and absenteeism rates of children,
  • Provide high-quality preschools for all children, and
  • Provide summer programs for the poor to reduce summer losses in their academic achievement.

The current tendency of “reformers” to blame “bad teachers” and “failing schools” is short sighted. The single-minded focus on school based solutions like vouchers and charter schools, ignores the fact that schools can’t solve all problems.

  • Privatization is not going to change the fact that we have nearly one-fourth of our children living in poverty. It will increase (and already has increased) economic segregation. 
  • Lowering standards for educators (teachers, principals and superintendents) will not improve student achievement. It will simply weaken the teaching profession and discourage “the best and the brightest” from choosing a career in education.
  • Blaming teachers unions and teachers for “bad teachers” doesn’t change the fact that children come to school with problems outside the ability of schools to overcome. We don’t have a crisis of “bad teachers” in America. We have a systemic societal crisis which has a negative impact on the achievement of our children.

This doesn’t mean that schools need to keep teachers who aren’t doing their job. It doesn’t mean that schools shouldn’t improve instructional approaches…and it doesn’t mean that we should ignore appropriate evaluations of students, teachers, and administrators.

It does mean, though, that we need to expand the concept of “school reform” to include social, health, and economic reform. Politicians, pundits and policy-makers need to accept their responsibility for the factors which contribute to low school achievement.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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