Posted in Common Core, Early Childhood

CCSS: Where Were the Child Development Experts?

I knew that most the writers of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) weren’t educators. Then I read A tough critique of Common Core on early childhood education and learned that Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige…

…reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.

In the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative we’re told that…

  • …standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math. Young children learn best in active, hands-on ways and in the context of meaningful real-life experiences…the current proposal goes well beyond most existing state standards in requiring, for example, that every kindergartner be able to write “all upper- and lowercase letters” and “read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  • They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing. Current state standards for young children have led to the heavy use of standardized tests in kindergarten and the lower grades, despite their unreliability for assessing children under age eight. The proposed core standards will intensify inappropriate testing…
  • Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning. Young children’s learning must go beyond literacy and math. They need to learn about families and communities, to take on challenges, and to develop social, emotional, problem-solving, self- regulation, and perspective-taking skills. Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their later engagement in school and the workplace, not to mention responsible citizenship. And it interferes with the growth of healthy bodies and essential sensory and motor skills—all best developed through playful and active hands-on learning. 
  • There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success. While an introduction to books in early childhood is vital, research on the links between the intensive teaching of discrete reading skills in kindergarten and later success is inconclusive at best. Many of the countries with top-performing high-school students do not begin formal schooling until age six or seven. We must test these ideas more thoroughly before establishing nationwide policies and practices.

LISTENING TO PIAGET

In the following video, child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick, discusses specifically how the CCSS are developmentally inappropriate. One example…the CCSS frequently call for abstract thinking. We know from Piaget that children in the pre-operational stage of development (under 7 years old) are generally incapable of abstract thinking. This will lead to the failure of most 5 and 6 year olds to meet the standards — causing frustration for children who are not developmentally ready for abstract thinking as well as frustration for their teachers who can’t change human brain development.

Common Core and Developmentally Appropriate Instruction

“Why do we care if [Common Core standards] are age inappropriate? Well, you can answer that with one word – stress…Instead of thinking about what’s developmentally appropriate for kindergarteners, [those who wrote the standards] are thinking [college] is where we want this kindergartener to end up, so let’s back track down to kindergarten and have kindergarteners work on these skills from an early age…This can cause major stress for the child because they are not prepared for this level of education.”

All this, according to Stephen Krashen, for only a few billion dollars…

The cost of the new standards

The estimate of $1.19 billion to implement the Common Core Standards is a tiny percentage of the real cost (“Common Core Standards To Change State’s Education Landscape,” Sept. 21).

The new tests must be administered online. Many districts lack enough up-to-date or even working computers, and even if computers are in place, there will be continual upgrades and replacements as well as major changes as new technology is developed.

Taxpayers will have to pay for all of them. Because no evidence has been provided showing that online testing will benefit students in any way, this adventure is a boondoggle.

Whether or not the tests help students, computer and testing companies will make a lot of money taking no risk. If student achievement declines, we will be told that we need even higher-tech tests, and we will be presented with National Test 2.0.

The authors of the standards should have included early childhood and child development experts before they accepted the task of writing early childhood standards. This is another example of people who aren’t trained thinking that “anyone” can make decisions about schools, students and educational policy. Just like No Child Left Behind, the Common Core Standards are setting students up to fail.

See also:
The disturbing shift underway in early childhood classrooms
More on Early Childhood Education…

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in retention

Retention: Punishing Children

From the Polls

Polls (here and here) show that parents like the public schools their children attend, like charter schools, but don’t like vouchers. The latter is not surprising. When voucher programs have been on the ballot and citizens have the chance to choose one way or another voucher plans have been defeated. The voucher programs currently in existence have been set in place by legislatures.

Another very disturbing fact to come out of the polls is the public’s support of retention in grade (aka “being held back” or “flunking”) as a means to remediate children. We know that retention doesn’t work…over 100 years of research has shown that retention doesn’t work as a remediation technique and often has a negative effect on children — emotionally and academically.

The public likes retention because it has a certain common-sense feel about it. If a child didn’t do well in a grade give him another year to “catch up.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in practice.

Teachers might use retention because they are pressured to or just don’t want to “socially promote” children. They often don’t know what else to do or have no other alternative because of lack of funding. Some teachers claim that retention works because they have seen a retained student do well the following year. The research shows, however, that by the second or third year after retention, students who were retained have lost any gains they made.

Initial academic improvements may occur during the year the student is retained. However, many research studies show that achievement gains decline within 2–3 years of retention. This means that over time, children who were retained either do not show higher achievement, or sometimes show lower achievement than similar groups of children who were not retained. Without specific interventions, most retained students do not catch up. [emphasis added]

Polls show mixed report card for education reforms

The Education Next poll specifically asked whether state tests should carry high stakes. The answer was a resounding yes, with nearly 8 in 10 respondents supporting requirements that third graders pass a reading test before advancing to fourth grade and that high school students pass exit exams before earning a diploma.

What we know about schools — but choose to ignore

What we know now about grade retention: Grade retention is growing in popularity across the U.S., represented by accountability policies in Florida. But grade retention has been shown by four decades of research not to achieve the goals advocates claim, and to cause harm.

Just because the public says we should retain children doesn’t mean we should, but in order to prevent children from being punished by retention it’s up to us, as educators, to make sure that the choice to retain is made as infrequently as possible.

Alternatives to Retention: A False Dichotomy

Teachers, Parents, Administrators, and policy makers all denounce social promotion. Many will claim that retention is the only option left when students can’t or won’t perform. Are those the only two options? In today’s world of low budget schools, large classes, overtested students and overworked teachers it’s unrealistic to believe that an average school system would have the money to choose a different path. However, that’s what it would take if we were serious about student achievement.

Students who are retained are most often males, low-income, and minorities. The main deficit for students who are retained is reading. Reading is the one skill which needs to be nurtured before a child begins school. That’s why good preschool programs are so important for low-income children. Good preschool programs cost money.

The fact is that as a nation, we don’t really care about student achievement. We care about test scores. If we really cared about student achievement we wouldn’t be closing schools whose students are struggling. We wouldn’t be evaluating teachers using test scores and punishing those teachers who work with the most difficult to educate students. We wouldn’t be rewarding “successful” schools with more funding, and we wouldn’t be replacing experienced educators with trainees.

We would be investing more in the education of students who need the most help. We would be providing incentives for our most gifted educators to teach in the most difficult situations. We would be focused on the root causes of lower achievement — poverty and societal neglect.

While we as educators have no control over what we should be doing, there are some things that we can do. Retention and social promotion are not the only choices. Instead of retention or social promotion the following alternatives to retention are worth exploring and investing in…

  • Promotion or retention with additional instruction is more effective than either policy alone.
  • The issue is not what to adapt but how to provide appropriate instruction given student diversity.
  • Future research should denote attention to locating, developing, and evaluating effective organizational responses to differences in student abilities and competencies.
  • Utilizing the concept of “schools within a school,” have teams of teachers, who hold students to high educational standards and communicate the belief that all can succeed, while engaging all students in challenging, meaningful activities that range from authentic problems to explore real-world issues. Also, relating classroom activities to students’ culture, knowledge and experience are recommended as viable, instructional alternatives to retention.
  • Tutorial (i.e., peer, cross-age, and adult), extended “basic skills,” cooperative learning, extended year programs, multi-grade groupings, and individualized instruction through technology are additional alternative approaches recommended from the research.
  • Remedial help, before-and after-school programs, summer school, instructional aides to work with target children in regular classrooms, and individualized education plans can provide the support for students being promoted but still needing to improve academically.
  • Recruiting parents, university students, and community volunteers to work with students having difficulties is still an important source of support. Parent involvement continues to be needed for the success of all students.
  • Base eligibility for promotion on multiple measures rather than on a single test; develop measures of achievement that measure what is actually taught in class.
  • Avoid the tendency to teach only “the basic,” instead, provide a varied and challenging curriculum.
  • Include the average child while attempting to raise the level of the low achiever so that higher promotional standards mean higher achievement for all students.
  • Support a curriculum philosophy that is designed to meet the needs of the child.
  • Alternative placement programs should be considered for the over-aged middle school students to provide an instructional program and a support system based on acceleration rather than remediation.
  • Teachers and administrators should consistently resist parental and societal pressures to increase the academic demand of the curriculum to developmentally inappropriate levels, and resist enrollment, retention, and placement practices that are based on a single developmental or screening measure.
  • Implement pre-service and in-service training programs for teachers and administrators, emphasizing strategies that provide students additional time and individualized attention.
  • Consider adopting or adapting one of the model programs proven to help at-risk students on the basis of identified needs and a collective vision…
  • [emphasis added]

Early and intense intervention works better than retention or social promotion.

See also

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in 1000 Words, GradingSchools, Teaching Career, Testing

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – September, 2013

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

Why We Teach

All of the below…

The Cost of Education

Stapler Not Included

The 2013-2014 school year is only a few days/weeks old. How much have you already spent?

…I explained that there was not a supply room and that she could use a requisition form to order $50 worth of supplies, her eyes grew wide. When she realized that she was further limited by being required to place this order from an overpriced catalog, her shock increased. I quickly explained to her that when her $50 was exhausted that she should look for deals at “Back to School” sales…I welcomed her to the world of an underfunded, public education.

Schools Without Libraries — Not for the Rich.

Would any “reformer” send their child to a school without a school library?

Testing…ad nauseum…

“F” Schools or “F” Society?

What is an “A” school? What is an “F” school? Are letter grades for schools really reflective of the ability of the school to educate children, or are they an indication of the average socio-economic level of the students or the school neighborhood?

Phyllis Bush, co-founder of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education wrote in The A-F Grading System,

Since buildings are not people, I wonder how a building can receive a grade, unless of course, it comes from a building inspector. I also wonder how it must feel to students and teachers who go to a C school in a nearby neighborhood? I also wonder how it must feel to be a valedictorian at a school which receives a C, D, or F rating? Does that mean that all of the work that that student has done to excel academically is for naught? I also wonder if my neighborhood school receives a lower grade, what does that rating mean to my property value? What does it mean to my community?

Is there really such a thing as a failing school, or are there simply schools and neighborhoods which we, as a nation, have failed? This isn’t to say that there aren’t schools or teachers which need improvement, just that, in general, lower test scores (that from which school grades are figured) mean lower incomes. When will policy makers be held accountable for their part in the lower achievement of poor children? When will policy makers be held accountable for nearly 25% of America’s children living in poverty?

Unfortunately, private and privately run schools are using the public’s lack of understanding to denounce neighborhood schools for the purpose of increasing their bottom line.

What does it mean when public schools are forced to spend money which should be used to educate our children, on advertising?

Back to School

For Sale: Legislators.

Do you know who owns your state or federal legislator? The Gates Foundation? Broad Foundation? Walton Family Foundation? ALEC?

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Play Kid's Work

Play is More Important Than Tests

Sometimes I feel like everything I put on this blog could be titled, “Coming Soon to a Public School Near You.” Once again people who don’t “get it” are making decisions about children and education…based solely on test scores. This time it’s folks who ought to know better…

Elementary schools phasing out recess

“If you have a 15-minute recess scheduled you spend five minutes getting (students) to the playground, another five getting back and then five more minutes getting them calmed down and ready to learn back in the classroom,” said Agustin Orci, deputy superintendent of instruction for the district. “You end up blowing 30 minutes of potential instructional time to gain the limited benefits of having recess. It’s become a luxury we can’t afford.”

Recess is equivalent to “…blowing 30 minutes of…instructional time?” Since when is children’s play a “luxury?” Oh, right…since the “test and punish culture” made school all about test scores.

I remember when the “abuse of testing craze” started a couple of decades ago…that was when we were required to use “research-based instruction.” A group of us got together and found a research basis for everything we did. Every teacher in our school system needed to be ready to justify what they did based on research.

Later, (2002) the US Department of Education started the What Works Clearinghouse so teachers could find teaching techniques and methods which were (supposedly) supported by research.

But now the truth has come out…when research goes against what the “reformers” want it’s ignored…or denied.

The overuse and misuse of testing has resulted in children being denied time to play even though research shows that play is vitally important to a child’s social, emotional, physical and yes, even academic growth.

Here’s a video from the UK that addresses the value of play (listen carefully…some strong Scottish dialect in this video!).

Let the Children Play, It’s Good for Them!

…pretend play is not only important for kids; it’s a crucial part of what makes all humans so smart.

More about the positive value of play…

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Personal History, Teaching Career

Making a Difference – Blogoversary 2013

My main blog location is on Blogger at http://bloom-at.blogspot.com. This wordpress blog is like a “mirror” site. Things here are posted a few days after the one at Blogger.

I started blogging 7 years ago today…and in honor of my “blogoversary” here is what I wrote.

Last year, on the sixth blogoversary I chose quotes from some of my blog entries. Most of the quotes were bits and pieces of angry tirades against privatization and against the damage being done to public education by so-called “reformers.”

This year I have some questions to answer…

WHY DO TEACHERS LEAVE EDUCATION?

Nearly 50% of teachers never make it beyond their fifth year. In addition, in recent years, many veteran teachers — like me — retire early because of the constant barrage of insults coming from the “reformers” and their friends in the media, and among policy makers.

Insults like…

  • forcing teachers to teach to “the test”
  • judging children on the basis of one test or alternatively, forcing teachers to give more tests than are appropriate
  • evaluating and paying teachers based on student test scores
  • firing veteran educators and replacing them with novice teachers who have virtually no training
  • closing schools and replacing them with charter or voucher supported private schools
  • the inequality of funding at schools with high levels of student poverty
  • giving preferential treatment to charter and private schools
  • blaming teachers and/or their unions instead of out-of-school-factors for low student achievement caused by poverty

and so on…

I sometimes despair over the “reformers'” progress in their quest to privatize and otherwise destroy America’s public education system, but the video below is hopeful. In it teachers respond to “Why I stay in education.” I have a similar question “Why do I still teach even after I’ve retired?”

When I decided in March 2010 that I was going to retire the following June, I wrote a blog entry titled, I’m ready. I had been debating whether to stay in teaching…or to leave and I was reflecting on what I was about to do.

I still have a lot to offer my students. I understand, through first hand experience, the difficulties of learning to read, ADHD, and the related emotional baggage that accompanies those problems…

I believed…and still believe…that teachers were important and that teaching was a worthwhile contribution to the community.

I can’t imagine a job other than teaching, in which you get to know so many people, so well. I can’t imagine another job in which you can influence another human being the way you can as a teacher. The responsibility is awesome…as is the satisfaction.

WHY I STAY, EVEN AFTER RETIREMENT

Eventually, I decided in favor of retirement, but the very next year, I realized that I missed working with children. So I contacted a former colleague and asked if she wanted some help in her classroom. I started working with children who were having difficulty…the same types of students I worked with when I was being paid to teach. I was essentially doing the same work as a volunteer that I did as a reading specialist/Reading Recovery teacher. I was still teaching…and it felt good.

Why do I want to keep teaching even though I’m retired…even though I don’t get paid…even though I only work with a few students?

Because…

  • I can still help students who struggle with reading and I still enjoy the challenge of teaching struggling readers.
  • I feel an obligation to help students who are having trouble in their classes…just like I did in elementary school. I want to help them understand that their difficulty with school is not a lifelong brand. I want them to know that someone understands how they feel.
  • I believe that I can still make a difference, one student at a time.

In the video below teachers from all over the country tell why they stay in education despite the frustrations caused by privatization and “reforms.” (You might need to press the pause button to read some of the answers.)

Why I Stay in Education

Why do you stay in education?

Use Your Outside Voice: Because Teachers Deserve to be Heard.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Corp Interest, poverty, Privatization, read-alouds, Teachers Unions

2013 Medley #19

Charters, Teachers Unions, Privatization
“Reformers”, Read-Aloud, Poverty

CHARTERS

Bennett is gone, but charter school problem persists

“An $80 million gift to charter school sponsors.” This looks like payback for political services rendered. Why isn’t the apparent favoritism in this situation obvious to everyone?

So, with Dr. Bennett gone, is the special treatment for charter schools over? Hardly. Not known to most Hoosiers is the fact that the 2013 Indiana Legislature, with the governor’s signature, enacted into law the HB 1001 budget bill, including a provision added in the Senate that forgave all Common School Fund debts owed by charter schools in Indiana.

Based upon a printout dated Jan. 2, 2013, that provision forgave charter schools $81,828,253.30. Some reports have placed the value at $93 million. With the passage of this legislation, the forgiven debt and the assets purchased by the borrowed funds became the assets of the individuals and/or corporations that sponsor the charter schools — an $80 million gift to charter school sponsors.

Public school districts with low assessed valuation borrow from the Common Schools Fund, which assists them by providing low-interest loans for capital expenditures, such as facilities and equipment. A report on Jan. 2, 2013, shows $85,508,760.18 is owed by Indiana public school districts. Their debt was not forgiven.

Indiana forgives charter school loans

State Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said,

traditional public schools just want more money.

Well…yes! Isn’t that what we pay taxes for? Why are privately owned public schools treated differently than traditional (publicly owned) public schools?

Many local educators and politicians are calling outrageous a recent law forgiving $91.2 million in loans to charter schools, in light of tight finances faced by public schools across the region and districts that have had to raise taxes to maintain programs and quality teachers. Moreover, they say, they must pay back any loans provided by the state’s Common School Fund.

Indiana’s General Assembly approved a provision in last session’s budget bill calling for the state to forgive the Common School Fund loans made to charter schools, erasing nearly $92 million of their debt to the state.

UNIONS

Evidence Says That Students Do Better In Schools With Strong Teachers’ Unions

Union bashing is a tried and true political tool. Especially now, when unemployment and a low minimum wage are making it harder and harder for the average person to keep up with expenses. Rich politicians will blame unions for negotiating a livable wage and benefits package for their members. In Illinois, for example, politicians are currently blaming the public employee pension funds instead of the hedge fund managers, millionaires/billionaires and their corporate cronies, friends, and investors — many of whom don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

The fact is that unions are not the cause of poor school achievement. Poverty and its accompanying out of school factors are the main problem facing America’s public school students. More than one fifth of our children live in poverty. Shouldn’t shame and embarrassment be the appropriate response to that particular statistic instead of blaming their teachers?

Unions such as the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been blamed by politicians, think tanks, and the public for everything from low student achievement to blocking proposed education reforms.

However, despite claims from some quarters that unions are a large part of the problem with American public education, there is ample evidence that teachers’ unions are a vital piece of the education puzzle, and that students benefit from their existence.

“nea hearts arne” or “WTF? are you crazy!!!”

The NEA has sold out for a “seat at the table.” NEA now supports the Common Core…and has refused to publicly denounce the damage that the Democrats in Washington are doing to public education. Could this be because they want to keep the Gates Foundation money flowing? (Full Disclosure: I’m an NEA Life Member, and have been a member since August, 1976)

If Dennis Van Roekel and the NEA leadership had any courage they would be organizing a nation-wide strike against No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the misuse and overuse of testing, closing traditional neighborhood schools and opening charters, vouchers (by any name), the use of untrained novices in classrooms needing the most experienced teachers, and the general privatization of public education. Instead they’re writing blogs supporting the Common Core.

New Business Item 36 called for the removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Despite several well-informed speeches in support of this NBI, it was defeated. It is a mystery to me how a room full of educators, all of us victims of Duncan’s horrific education policies, could continue to support Arne Duncan. His policies are harming our nation’s non-elite children and the majority vote seems to send a message that that’s OK with the majority of teachers. WTF? Either there’s not much critical thinking going on among the delegation, or people are just plain stupid.

PRIVATIZATION

Privatization Watch tracks the selling of America’s public sector…

August 27, 2013

OH: New state report card proves Ohio’s charter school experiment has failed. After 15 years of charter school expansion, the new Ohio school report cards provide the strongest evidence yet that this method of using charter schools to supposedly reform education in our state is a complete failure. The latest results from the state make it clear that the large urban districts are not dramatically improving and the charter schools that are supposed to be transforming educational practices while being given every advantage (including a greater amount of state funding) are doing no better. Plunderbund

August 30, 2013

PA: Charter operator owed its schools millions, but no one’s checking its books. The Philadelphia School District will spend a projected $729 million on charter schools in the coming fiscal year. But, if the past year at one charter operator is any indication, not all of those funds will actually go toward serving students. Philadelphia City Paper

“REFORMER” POLITICS

“Education Summits” Without Teachers

Would anyone ever hold a medical conference without inviting medical professionals to attend? Who would hold a Hardware convention without having hardware manufacturers, jobbers and retailers in attendance? Would the Southern Baptist Convention hold it’s annual meeting and not include any ministers?

Yet, time after time we read about conferences on education which are held in the absence of any practicing public school educators.

Words and phrases like “insulting,” “slap in the face,” and “disrespectful” aren’t adequate any longer. This is insane.

…When Barack Obama held an education summit several years ago, no teachers were invited so it is not surprising that Florida Governor Rick Scott is taking the same approach in his state by organizing his summit during school hours. The result is the nightmare we are all living with- K-12 testing and teacher evaluation based on those tests, with added pressures imposed by the full court press for the imposition of Common Core Standards…

In Our Shoes

Those politicians, policy makers, and “reformers” who hold those conferences spoken of above are afraid to invite real teachers. They might hear this…

Come walk in our shoes. See what you’ve left us with, and let’s see if YOU can ensure that every third grader can read, that every student graduates high school college and career ready. Because we can’t. And we aren’t a group people that often admit there’s something we can’t do. We can cause light bulbs to turn on inside little minds. We can inspire a love of historical facts. We can make any math concept relevant to real life. We can love a child who doesn’t know what that feels like, and we can show them that they can learn. But to do all of this without sufficient funds, sufficient staff, and, most of all, sufficient appreciation and respect, is simply becoming too tall of an order. So you give it a try. Then let’s talk.


READ ALOUD

Babies Learn to Recognize Words in the Womb

Read aloud to your baby in utero…

Be careful what you say around a pregnant woman. As a fetus grows inside a mother’s belly, it can hear sounds from the outside world—and can understand them well enough to retain memories of them after birth, according to new research.

POVERTY

How Poverty Taxes the Brain

“Reformers” claim that even mentioning poverty is making excuses. That’s because they, and the politicians they have purchased, don’t care to do anything about it. Poverty may not matter to millionaires like Rahm Emanuel, billionaires like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg or Eli Broad, “reformers” like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, Politicians like George W. Bush and Barack Obama…but it matters to the child who comes to school hungry.

Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journal Science have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time…

…“When your bandwidth is loaded, in the case of the poor,” Shafir says, “you’re just more likely to not notice things, you’re more likely to not resist things you ought to resist, you’re more likely to forget things, you’re going to have less patience, less attention to devote to your children when they come back from school.”

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Charters, Legislatures, Public Ed

Share the Responsibility

Read this article…then come back and take the quiz.

Charter schools’ failed promise

QUIZ

1. The Ohio charter school law was established by

A. district superintendents
B. educators
C. legislators
D. students

2. The article didn’t list, but implied who the responsible parties are for improving the “Big 8” urban school districts performance. They are:

A. legislators
B. students
C. educators
D. parents
E. all of the above

3. On the whole, how are the charter schools in this article performing?

A. Better than public schools.
B. Worse than public schools.
C. Approximately the same as public schools.

If you answered C to all three questions give yourself a perfect score for comprehension.

It’s simple, really. Legislators, most or all of whom haven’t worked in a public school since they were students (assuming they actually went to and worked at public schools), decided that charter schools were the answer to the low achievement of the “Big 8” Ohio urban districts. Educators were given sole responsibility for improving schools. This is the status quo pattern in American public education today: The “reformers” — legislators, millionaires and billionaires, edupreneurs, and their underlings and mouthpieces — are responsible for making the rules about public education. Educators are responsible for student performance based on those rules.

Fed up with persistently poor student results in Ohio’s eight largest urban school districts, Republican state legislators enacted a law in 1997 allowing charter schools to locate exclusively within the boundaries of the “Big 8” systems.

Sixteen years later, charters statewide performed almost exactly the same on most measures of student achievement as the urban schools they were meant to reform, results released under a revamped Ohio report-card system show. And when it comes to graduating seniors after four years of high school, the Big 8 performed better.

…But what started as an experiment in fixing urban education through free-market innovation is now a large part of the problem. Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.

I’m going to take a chance and make a wild assumption that those schools which performed the lowest also had the highest levels of poverty among their students, which means that schools are, once again, charged with the responsibility of single-handedly raising test scores and overcoming the effects of poverty on students and their families.

Has the entire country swallowed a vat-full of stupid? This series of events has been repeated across the country over and over again and no one seems to notice that it doesn’t work.

Let me spell it out for you, America…

1. Charter schools (or other privately run schools) won’t solve all the problems facing public education.
2. Holding educators solely responsible for student achievement is, at this point, insane. School districts, schools and educators can’t do it alone. Public policy must reflect a commitment to ending poverty, unemployment, and lack of health care.
3. The private sector is not always better than the public sector. Privatization, while beneficial in some instances, is not the answer to everything.

I want to say that one again…louder.

3. The private sector is not always better than the public sector. Privatization, while beneficial in some instances, is not the answer to everything.

You can’t make children learn just by raising or changing “standards,” increasing test cut scores, belittling and de-professionalizing teachers, while at the same time ignoring out-of-school factors. Spending millions on test-prep, test administration, and test result analysis is not investing in education. No amount of testing, and union bashing is going to help students who come to school hungry, sick, cold, terrified, and/or homeless.

Here are some ideas for legislators — Ohio and elsewhere…

1. Spend as much time on solving the issues surrounding poverty (homelessness, mental health problems, health care, unemployment, etc.) as you do campaigning or listening to lobbyists.
2. Make sure that every child in your state has adequate food, health care, housing and safety.
3. Fully fund classrooms, and not just your state’s test and punish program.
4. Let teachers teach.

And here’s another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind

Legislators, other politicians, and policy makers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.

If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America’s public school system would become the envy of the world.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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