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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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.