Charters, Vouchers, Special Education, Democrats, Elections
THE ABUSE AND MISUSE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS
I apologize for not having the link for the following quote. Someone named oakspar77777 left this comment at the end of an article. In it, the commenter discusses detrimental changes to America’s public education system. 1) the loss of community schools and 2) the misuse of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and schools. This is an excellent description of the damage that obsessive testing has done to our nation’s schools. (If anyone knows where this is from, please leave the link in the comments)
The tests and the resulting testing industry, however, are only the symptom of the problem.
The problem is two fold. First, it is the movement from community schools to state schools and now (with things like NCLB/RTTT and Common Core) to national schools.
The bigger the “system” the less personal it becomes. Like a business, at the family level it is personable and about relationships but at the corporate level it is about margins. Testing is a means for identifying margins and produce “profit/loss reports” for the CEOs to spin to the stockholders (the citizens of the US).
Second, it is the movement from testing being used to measure student ability and mastery to testing being used to measure teachers and schools.
Test scores used to tell us which kids needed advanced classes and which needed remedial. Now they are used by parents to know which school to put their kids in.
Test scores also used to tell us which kids mastered the material or not, holding those who did not accountable to try again until they did master it. Now they are used to measure teachers, so that teachers are the ones actually being graded.
So, this lack of trust in the teaching profession, lack of willingness to realize that students are not identical and do have variance in both aptitude and motivation, and desire to make the family/community relationship of teaching a national political concern ALL have led to standardized testing being worthless as anything other than a political football.
THE SELLING OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Here is how investors plan on cashing in on public schools…schools purchased and supported for years by public funds.
It goes like this:
- Compliant legislatures reduce funding for public education.
- Weakened by fewer funds, the schools who serve the poor and have more social problems to address begin to struggle the most, first.
- Use compliant, big corporate media to convince the public that the underfunded schools that serve the poor are wild, dangerous places. Editors love “teacher knocked out by student” stories.
- Once the public is convinced that those scary urban “jungle” schools are hopeless, pass legislation that allows corporate charters to take over and convert public property to their profitable use.
- Pass laws that allow charters to be black boxes where the public has no idea how their tax money is being used.
- Charters regiment children of the poor in ways that prepare them to be compliant service workers who don’t expect to have a voice.
- Use big corporate media to convince the public that charters are doing better even though they are not.
How can we stop it?
The big “if” in all of this is the question of whether or not educators, concerned parents, and concerned community members can rally to maintain local, democratic control of public schools. Any degree of standardization that comes from beyond the state only serves large, nation-wide investor interests.
IF educators can successfully counter the investor propaganda that parents are the only true stakeholders in a child’s education, then raiders can be opposed successfully. The oldest to the youngest and richest to poorest members of every community are the true stakeholders in public schools and public education.
IF local, democratically elected school boards can stay empowered to make decisions for the local public schools, then this raider process can be resisted.
IF all stakeholders can successfully press legislators to listen to them instead of paid, professional lobbyists hired by large, investor-owned charter corporations, then we can resist the raider attempts.
Research shows that when the demographics of students are comparable, privately run schools do no better than public schools.
Charters are not public schools. They are private schools which get public money. When push comes to shove and charters are forced to provide complete transparency of operation they claim that they are private businesses. They shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.
The main idea behind charter schools was that giving them greater freedom to innovate while also making it possible to close them for poor performance would lead to better education for students.
But, at least by one measure, that doesn’t appear to be happening.
The percentage of Marion County charter schools receiving a D or an F from state regulators has spiked from 30 percent two years ago to 54 percent this year.
The percentage is slightly lower statewide, but has also increased the past two years.
Indiana grades its schools using a simplistic A-F rating, with a complicated formula. Tony Bennett lost his job over the fact that he changed the grade of one of the favored charter schools — owned by someone who just happened to donate thousands to Republican campaigns.
Now, some private schools have escaped the grading. What do you think would happen if a public school escaped its grade designation? The privatizers would scream “accountability” so loud the state’s borders would rattle. Meanwhile, a leader of a pro-voucher group, the Institute for Quality Education, is just so pleased that the selectivity of their schools allowed them to choose students whose test scores yielded A’s and B’s for the ones which were graded.
Twenty-eight private schools that have educated hundreds of Hoosier students and received at least $10.6 million in taxpayer dollars did not receive a grade this year.
That means about 10 percent of the schools accepting state-paid vouchers skated through without public accountability because of a statistical anomaly.
“I don’t think that’s good practice for taxpayers or parents. If we look at the whole landscape of letter grades and accountability every school that receives those dollars should have to be held accountable,” said Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis. “No one should be exempt. We need to be truthful and forthright about schools.”
DISABILITIES AREN’T REAL
Peter Greene called it “quite possibly the stupidest thing to come out of the US DOE” which is saying quite a bit, considering all the stupid things coming from that Federal department. Arne Duncan’s office has announced that the test scores of students with disabilities are too low. Students with disabilities, the secretary’s spokesperson says, “do not have significant cognitive impairments that prohibit them from learning rigorous academic content.”
The posting for the US DOE was written by Michael Yudin, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. He is not, and never has been, an educator.
Peter Greene discusses the State of Washington’s decision to follow the U.S. DOE…
Following in the footsteps of one of the dumbest initiatives to come out of the US Department of Education, Washington state has arrived at some destructive fact-free findings regarding the education of students with special needs.
The Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds has created and released a report that…well, I will let the conclusion speak for itself:
The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.
So there you have it– as previously suggested by the federal Department of Education, the disabilities that students claim to possess do not actually exist in any meaningful way. Any limitations that they appear to have are simply the result of the system’s (i.e. teachers) low expectations:
But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.
The State of Washington agrees with Arne Duncan that students’ disabilities aren’t real. According to the report, it comes from low teacher expectations and students not receiving “proper” support.
THE MYTH OF “FAILING SCHOOLS”
The myth of America’s “failing schools” persists. The truth is that the bold-faced sentence in the below quote is incorrect in its implication. Our overall scores on international tests are lowered because of the high rate of child poverty in the U.S. American students, when poverty is taken into account, score at the top in international tests.
The following is a quote from an editorial which denounces the anti-science members of the Texas State Board of Education.
Scientific know-how has been responsible for half of all U.S. economic progress since World War II. Texas — as the wellspring of many great advances in agricultural science, electronics, aeronautics and much more — knows this well. Sadly, children in other parts of the world now outperform U.S. students in mathematics and science. [emphasis added]
DEMOCRATS ARE PRIVATIZERS TOO
The next two links should be taken together. The President talks a good game…promoting teachers, and support for schools, but the appointments to the U.S. Department of Education tell a different story. This president, like his Republican predecessor, is a privatizer, plain and simple.
Great educators and administrators deserve all the tools and resources they need to do their job, including chances for professional development and pay that reflects the contributions they make to our country. They are the most critical ingredients in any school, and my Administration is working hard to support them as they empower our Nation’s youth.
President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so. Sure, the White House offers a decorative promotional on K12 education; however, if one reads it closely, one sees that the Obama administration believes education (and, by extension, those educated) should serve the economy; that “higher standards and better assessments” and “turning around our lowest achieving schools” is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leftover casserole, and that “keeping teachers in the classroom” can only elicit prolonged stares from those of us who know better.
All of these anti-public-education truths noted, the deeper story in what the Obama administration values regarding American education lay in its selection of US Department of Education (USDOE) appointees. Their backgrounds tell the story, and it isn’t a good one for the public school student, the community school and the career K12 teacher.
Election day registration would help increase the voter turnout, but, as Bernie Sanders suggested, making election day a national holiday would do a better job of it.
“It’s impossible to say for certain, but it’s likely that the single biggest change … to increase turnout would be to adopt election-day registration,” he wrote in an email. “Research has generally demonstrated that one of the biggest obstacles to turnout is a requirement that registration occur about 30 days prior to the election.”
While he noted that same-day registration might present slightly higher potential for fraud, Pitts said there are ways to reduce it, including requiring a photo ID. “Again, like all election laws, there are typically upsides as well as downsides, and one’s views of each tends to correspond with underlying philosophies about how easy and convenient it should be to vote,” he wrote.
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.