Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Duncan, Indiana, library, Obama, Pence, Privatization, Teaching Career, Testing

2015 Medley #14

Duncan’s Accomplishments, Private Schools for the Wealthy, Libraries, Accountability, Teaching Reading, Indiana, New Teachers, Testing

DUNCAN’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Arne Duncan’s Record of “Accomplishments”

To be fair, it’s not just Duncan. He’s doing what his corporate handlers want him to do…demonize public schools and public school teachers to ease the transition to a privatized education system. His reign as national school chief is following in the footsteps of Margaret Spellings and the Bush administration. The surprising thing is that politicians still pay lip service to “supporting public schools.” Actions speak louder than words…

My prediction…like Tony Bennett in Indiana, when the Obama administration leaves office, Arne Duncan will find his way to some high paying job in the “privatizing education” field.

TWO TIERED EDUCATION

Obama: Wealthy Ignore Poverty by Sending Kids to Private Schools

Wait…what? Barack Obama, who sends his kids to one of the nation’s most elite private schools (to the tune of about $38K@yr), who supports defunding public education at the expense of privately owned and run charter schools, is suggesting that the wealthy (like him) are ignoring poverty?

Obama’s secretary of education, who famously remarked that poverty wasn’t destiny, has spent the last 6 years telling us that poverty is just an excuse for failure. Duncan, as Obama’s education spokesperson, is one of the nation’s cheerleaders who expects schools filled with high poverty students to overcome all the out of school factors associated with poverty…things like

  • low birth weight
  • toxic environments like lead poisoning
  • lack of medical, mental health, and dental care
  • food insecurity
  • housing insecurity
  • lack of adequate preschools

Now, President Obama wants us to believe that he is concerned with poverty…that it’s a real educational issue…that the rich are ignoring poverty by opting their children out of the public schools? This is something which his policies have encouraged.

Ok, I get it…as president it’s probably necessary for him to send his children to a private school like Sidwell. There are security issues at stake and public schools are likely not equipped, nor could they tolerate the security arrangements necessary, for the children of the U. S. President to attend. So maybe I’m being unreasonable. Still, if public education was so important, wouldn’t the president’s policies, if not his actions on the part of his daughters, reflect that support?

Obama insisted that there needed to be more investments in public schools, public universities, public early child education and public infrastructure, insisting that funding these organizations both “grows our economy and spreads it around.”

In the past, Obama explained, these economic barriers existed for people of color, but he warned that the growing economic inequality was slowly creeping into the lifestyle of the middle class.

“What used to be racial segregation now mirrors itself in class segregation and this great sorting that’s taking place,” he explained.

LIBRARIES

To the editor

Krashen nails it…complete with references.

Libraries are especially important for children of poverty: The school library and the public library (especially during the summer) are often their only source of books.

We complain about our children’s reading levels, but fail to provide the means for improving it.
— Stephen Krashen, USC Professor Emeritus

ACCOUNTABILITY

Should We Hold Arne Duncan and Every Other Reformer Accountable for Every Child They Hurt?

Yes we should.

  • Has the “test and punish” system of education helped our nation’s students? 
  • Has closing and defunding neighborhood schools in favor of spending millions of dollars without public oversight on charters and voucher schemes helped the most vulnerable students in our nation?
  • Has the “reform” of public schools led by billionaires like Gates and the Waltons eased poverty, reduced the “achievement gap,” and increased learning?
  • Has the obsession with test scores given us higher achieving students?

The answer to all those questions is, of course, no. We are, in fact, hurting our most vulnerable students more. Those who are responsible ought to be held “accountable.” As President Bush (II) said when talking about No Child Left Behind, “…an accountability system must have a consequence; otherwise, it’s not much of an accountability system.”

Those who have supported the status quo of “reforming” the nation’s public education system since 2001 ought to now take responsibility for what they’ve done.

A new era of accountability should begin with reformers taking the log from their eyes before trying to remove the mote from educators’ eyes. It should start by holding accountability systems accountable. We could then proclaim to policy makers, school patrons, and other stakeholders that we have met the challenge, reinvented accountability and shown that education is worthy of increased investments.

By the way, too many reformers escalate the political battles, claiming that we need smarter accountability systems where everybody holds everybody else accountable. But I wouldn’t even contemplate systems where both sides hold each other accountable and risk the blame game spinning out of control. If reformers want to hold us accountable for each child, wouldn’t we have to hold them accountable for every child damaged by their policies? Wouldn’t we end up in an even greater education civil war?

Or maybe we should…

CAN YOU TEACH?

Don’t Teachers Know How to Teach Reading?

Do you know how to teach reading? Do “teachers today” not know how to teach “anymore?”

Teachers, how did you “learn” how to teach reading?

So why don’t teachers seem to be able to teach reading like they used to? Why do they have to go through all kinds of professional development like they never learned anything before they entered the classroom?

  • Has this been an intentional plan to de-professionalize teaching by those who want to privatize schools? Is it because of exaggerated claims that students weren’t reading well enough 30 years ago? Has the authority over how to teach reading been stolen from teachers?
  • Have the education schools sold out to commercialized companies and not provided the right kind of reading instruction to teachers? Is there too much concern about making a profit on reading programs?
  • Are the Teach for America types, or the online fast-track programmed teachers, ill-prepared to teach reading? Who’s monitoring those programs?
  • Did NCLB and RTTT change the way teachers are supposed to teach? When there is so much concern about high-stakes test results, teachers will find it difficult not to follow the program that will appear to help them succeed.
  • Is it because wealthy parents are pushing children too hard, to read too early and poor parents don’t push hard enough?
  • Are there more children with disabilities in the regular class who need remediation? Are regular education teachers required to learn how to teach special education? If so, how is that fair to the students in their classes who don’t have disabilities?

INDIANA

Mike Pence’s 2015 education agenda: Wins, losses and consolation prizes

Here’s a summary of the damage done to public education in Indiana by the Pence Administration and his lackeys in the legislature.

…here’s a bill that addresses every one of Pence’s priorities: more money for schools in general, an extra funding boost for charter schools and career and technical education, an expanded the voucher program, more flexibility for teachers and schools to try innovative techniques, added bonus pay for highly rated teachers and big changes to the roles of the Indiana State Board of Education and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

NEW TEACHERS

New Teacher Attrition And The Recession

The good news: it’s not true (at least according to this study) that 50% of all new teachers leave the field of education by their 5th year. On the other hand, fewer college students are opting into the field of education, and morale is still a problem.

The Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS), a terrific project by the National Center for Education Statistics, tracks a nationally representative cohort of beginning teachers (those who started in 2007 or 2008) through their first five years and documents their turnover outcomes. Results from this survey have been trickling out every year (see our post here), but the most recent report presents outcomes from these teachers’ first four years.

The headline story, as reported in the Washington Post, was that roughly 17 percent of these new teachers had left the profession entirely within their first four years. A number of commenters, including the Post article, hastened to point out that the BTLS estimates are far lower than the “conventional wisdom” statistic that 40-50 percent leave the profession within the first five years (see here for more on this figure; also see Perda 2013 for a similar five-year estimate using longitudinal data). These findings are released within a political context where teacher attrition (somewhat strangely) has become a contentious political issue, one which advocates tend to interpret in a manner that supports their pre-existing beliefs about education policy.

…new teacher attrition during these years was far lower than is often assumed, and certainly that teachers are not fleeing the classroom at a greater clip than in previous years. This is important, and cannot be “explained away” by any one factor, but we should still be careful about generalizing too strongly these findings beyond this particular time period, given that the BTLS cohort of teachers entered the classroom almost precisely at the time that the “great recession” began. This is, of course, not a new or original point – it was, for instance, mentioned briefly in the Post article. And it’s hardly groundbreaking to note that labor market behavior does not occur in a vacuum. Still, given all the commentary about the BTLS results, it may be worth reviewing briefly.

TESTING

A True Testing Reminder

Individualize instruction…and then hold everyone to the same “standard.” Loosely translated this means, “allow everyone to be different, then punish them for not being the same.”

No one can understand the pressure of a high stakes test unless you are personally involved. The weight that is tied to your heart grows heavier and heavier as April and May approach. You completely relinquish control of your class to the state or testing company. They create the test, you cannot see it, they decide when you can give it and how long the kids have to take it, and you cannot even be in the same room with them. You spend every day with your students, you have learned their strengths and weaknesses, and you have differentiated instruction and followed IEPs, now every test is exactly the same. Oh, the irony of it all.

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.