Early Childhood Education, A-F Grading, Pensions, Poverty, Recess, Teaching
The teacher shortage is a nationwide problem, and it’s only going to get worse. Colleges and universities have seen a serious drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs. Hardest hit are the nation’s largest states — California, Texas and New York.
Is this what the “reformers” want? Fewer professionals in the classroom…more room for “education temps” like TFA…fewer career teachers? It’s hard not to feel paranoid when more and more state legislatures and governors’ offices are doing whatever they can to make teaching less and less attractive. Will your children and grandchildren be taught by professional educators, or by young, inexperienced, poorly trained college grads who use public classrooms as a stepping stone to a different, “real” career?
Massive changes to the profession, coupled with budget woes, appear to be shaking the image of teaching as a stable, engaging career. Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education’s postsecondary data collection.
Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit. The Golden State lost some 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, according to a report its credentialing body issued earlier this month.
There’s more at these links…
GRADING SCHOOLS A-F FAILS
Imagine this scenario…
You’re a teacher and your favorite student does poorly on an exam and, if you average that grade into his yearly total he would only get a C or a D. Do you revise your “curve” to raise his grade? Do you change the grading scale so that he’ll get an A? What would your supervisor do? How would the parents of other students in your class react?
A majority of members of the Indiana State Board of Education apparently think that changing grades like that is fine as they follow in the footsteps of scandalized former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and manipulate the state’s A-F grading system so that their “favorite” charter school gets a higher grade. Heaven forbid that voucher and charter schools, including the Republican favorite Christel House, get low grades.
In 2012 and 2014, the A-F supporters were wringing their hands over the low grades calculated for Christel House and similar schools they champion. Why? They are unequivocally convinced that the academy is exemplary, a model. Obviously, they reached that conclusion for reasons other than a state-issued letter grade. In their minds, it is an A school, regardless, and when too low a grade is assessed, they cite the ways it is “different” and round up valid reasons to dispute the C, D or F.
The 2,100 other Indiana schools could do the same thing. Year after year. Each is “different.” Parents who pick schools based on the Indiana A-to-F system are fooling themselves; those folks are better off talking with families in the district. Despite strident efforts by “The Board” to make it somehow work, its A-to-F program needs to be canceled.
INDIANA FAILS ITS CITIZENS
The Indiana Way, according to Mark Russell, is to cut more and more money from public schools — especially those with high numbers of students living in poverty. You get what you pay for in Indiana, and those who can’t pay get less…
The Indiana Way is to suggest that a major focus of the budget-writing 2015 General Assembly will be to “fix” the state school-funding formula so that suburban and rural districts receive more funding. This “fix” comes even while school districts, particularly urban districts, and local governments reel under constitutionally imposed property tax caps that have contributed to millions of dollars in revenue loss.
The Indiana Way allows for the potential of Gary Community Schools losing its transportation funding for its overwhelmingly poor students even while under state budget control.
The Indiana Way is being one of two states that charge textbook rental fees, disproportionately impacting poor and low-wage households, many of which are headed by income-limited single parents and custodial grandparents.
Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.
The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.
The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.
Are public sector pensions the cause of the nation’s economic woes?
Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.
Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.
Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.
Finding: The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are working together in states across the country to focus the debate over pensions primarily on slashing retiree benefits rather than on raising public revenues.
Finding: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is run by conservative political operatives and funded by an Enron billionaire.
Finding: The techniques used by conservative activists to gain public support to privatize the public pensions that public workers have instead of Social Security are, if successful, likely to be used in efforts to privatize Social Security in the future.
Stephen Krashen shouts this from every podium he can find. The problem with education in the U.S.A is not poor schools or “bad teachers,” it’s high poverty. Can we improve our schools and work to recruit better teachers? Of course, but we need to do what we can to reduce the impact of poverty at the same time or our efforts will be wasted.
The major problem in American education is not teaching quality, not a lack of standards or tests, but poverty: The US now ranks 34th in the world out of 35 economically developed countries in child poverty: when researchers control for the effect of poverty, US international test scores are at the top of the world, a clear demonstration that there is nothing seriously wrong with our teachers or our standards. Children of poverty do poorly in school because of the impact of poverty: Poor nutrition, poor health care, and lack of access to books, among other things.
The obvious first step is to improve nutrition through school food programs, improve health care through investing more in school nurses, and improving access to books through investing in school libraries.
LEARNING FROM SUCCESS
Linda Darling-Hammond knows that Stephen Krashen is correct. She knows that other advanced nations of the world have solved their problems of poverty (while ours is getting worse) and as such, have put themselves on the road to higher achievement.
Take time to listen to her presentation beginning at 59:30 in the video at the above link.
“The theory of reform behind NCLB – to test and apply sanctions to the failure to meet expected targets – has not made a major difference in student achievement in every one of the areas measured by PISA,”‘ she explained.
Darling-Hammond also pointed out that if you factor in only those schools where less than 10 percent of the students live in poverty, the U.S, actually ranks number one in the world on PISA. In schools where 25 percent live in poverty, the U.S ranks third. Even when you raise that number to 50 percent, our students rank way above the international average. The takeaway is clear, Darling-Hammond said.
“Those countries spend their money in highly equitable ways. If you spend more in schools on the education of children who have fewer socioeconomic advantages, you do better as a country. Other countries invested more money and that is what shot them up in the rankings.”
RESEARCH: EARLY CHILDHOOD
The children of Indiana are worse off since Governor Pence refused to apply for $80 million in federal funds for early childhood education.
Taking steps from an early age to improve childhood education skills could raise overall population levels of academic achievement by as much as 5%, and reduce socioeconomic inequality in education by 15%, according to international research led by the University of Adelaide.
In a study now published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Population Health and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the UK have modelled the likely outcomes of interventions to improve academic skills in children up to school age. They considered what effect these interventions would have on education by age 16.
RESEARCH: IN THE CLASSROOM
The Finns give their children a 15 minute break every hour. We should learn from their example…recess matters.
Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.
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.