NOT JUST FOR PARENTS
Walsh is a literacy expert, Coordinator of College Reading at Rider University, and blogger at Russ on Reading.
A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century isn’t just for parents. It’s for anyone who wants to understand the “reform” agenda and what it has done to American public education. Call it “reform” 101. Walsh clearly outlines the ways that the “reform” movement has damaged the nation’s public education system and harmed the education of children.
It’s not misnamed, however. He includes chapters for parents (of benefit to teachers as well) on identifying a good school, good instruction, and helping children succeed.
The book begins with his Bill of Rights for School Children…which ought to be posted in every public school in the nation…and includes informative chapters on standardized tests, the privatization of public education, and the Common Core. A must read…
For example, from Chapter 3: Readiness For School
It is not your child’s job to be ready for school; it is the school’s job to be ready for your child, and to meet your child’s needs through rich curriculum, highly trained teachers and a system of learning supports.
…and from Chapter 11: School Choice: Charter Schools and Vouchers
In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. It would be wise to spend our public tax monies on providing good local public schools. In public education, as with smoking and seatbelts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.
The distribution of public tax money ought to be under the watchful eye of the public. Elected school boards, no matter what their limitations, are held accountable to the public through elections. Every penny in every public school in Indiana is accounted for. Why, then, is money awarded to private schools through vouchers or to SGOs to award “scholarships” to private schools, with no public oversight whatsoever?
What happened to the $116 million that Indiana spent on privatization in 2014-2015 (and even more for the current year)? Was it used for instruction? If so, how did the students perform? Was the money used for building additions, church steeples, or CEO salaries?
For taxpayers, however, there’s a gaping hole in accountability. Reports are available for public schools, including charters; not for voucher schools. The state awarded almost $116 million to private and parochial schools in 2014-15, but the General Assembly does not require posting and publication of voucher school performance reports.
The Democrats in Maryland have abandoned public education in favor of vouchers. Which of the two main political parties do public educators turn to now?
After years of resisting, and over the objections of the state teachers union, Maryland lawmakers have agreed to state-funded private-school scholarships.
The decision to create a $5 million grant program was part of the negotiations on the state’s $42 billion operating budget, which received final approval in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly on Tuesday.
I was trained in Reading Recovery in 1999 and taught in the program for seven years. I used the techniques and knowledge I gained even after the program was canceled. I still use the skills I learned as a Reading Recovery teacher in my volunteer work with first graders.
Reading Recovery is a one-on-one tutoring program for at-risk first graders. It works, but because it’s a program for individual students, it’s expensive. A Reading Recovery teacher can only work with a few students during the school year. Most school systems in my part of the state have stopped using it because of funding shortages.
Yet, how important is teaching reading to a first grader? How much is it worth? Is it worth the cost of a $2 billion mobile cannon which was never used? Is it worth the tax we ought to be, but aren’t, collecting from GE, CBS, or Mattel? Is it worth the money spent to (over)compensate Wall St. Execs who caused the Great Recession?
Would it be worth it if we could pay the salaries (at @ $90,000 salary and benefits) of more than 2,000 Reading Recovery teachers for the next 10 years with the money we spent on the cannon that was never used? My guess is that the city of Flint, Michigan might need some extra help for the next few years.
Instead we’re spending billions of dollars on standardized tests, vouchers, and charters…as well as cannons, tax write offs, and exorbitant salaries.
Priorities, America. Priorities.
“…in schools throughout the United States and in other countries, there is a well-defined group of struggling readers that can readily be taught to read. The evidence establishes, beyond any doubt, that nothing about these children means they are doomed to fail in reading.”
…“In a country as wealthy as the United States,” he says, “why should every struggling reader not have access to Reading Recovery or a tutoring program with equal evidence of effectiveness? The reading success of first graders is far too important to leave to chance, yet in this as in many other areas of education reform, vulnerable children are left to chance every day. Why can’t educators use what they know to solve the problems they can solve, while working at the same time to expand their knowledge?”
Here’s a second shout-out to Russ Walsh. Along with his Bill of Rights for School Children, this list of non-negotiables for a good reading program ought to be required reading for parents, teachers, and school administrators.
Here he lists components of a true reading program instead of the prepackaged test prep and constant assessment that is strangling the joy of reading in our schools. His list includes things like shared reading, self-selected reading, rereading, and word work, complete with research to back everything up.
Here’s what he says about my favorite part of the teaching day, Reading Aloud…
One of the more disturbing aspects of current trends in literacy education is the reports I keep getting from classroom teachers who tell me that reading aloud is being discouraged because it is not “rigorous” enough or because more time needs to be devoted to test prep. So, let me state this as clearly as I possibly can, read aloud is a central part of effective literacy instruction and should be happening daily in every classroom. This is not open for debate. Don’t take my word for it, here is a list of 13 scientifically based reasons for reading aloud to children. Among these well researched benefits are exposing students to a greater variety of literature, encouraging students to view reading as a part of their daily life, building background knowledge, providing a model of fluent reading, encouraging student talk about text, increasing vocabulary and helping students view reading as a pleasurable activity. Here is another resource on the importance of reading aloud.
When choosing a read aloud, I would encourage teachers to choose the very best that literature and informational text has to offer, whether that be picture books, novels, histories or scientific texts. When reading aloud, we can aim high because kids listening comprehension outpaces their reading comprehension by about two years and because we can easily scaffold their understanding by “thinking aloud” about the text as we read. Read aloud also provides a great opportunity for teachers to model important comprehension strategies. Just do it.
Need more resources for reading aloud?
BILLIONAIRES ARE NOT EDUCATION EXPERTS
When are we going to stop taking education advice from Bill Gates? When are we going to quit letting him experiment with America’s students?
Just because Bill Gates is rich doesn’t mean he knows anything about the education of children.
[Superintendent] Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”
Here’s an Australian radio interview with Fulbright Scholar William Doyle about Finnish education. He talks about the strong teaching profession, and the focus on how to help children learn, rather than how to be #1 in educational assessment.
A Finnish teacher quoted by William Doyle
Our job is to protect children from politicians.