STANDING UP FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
It’s time to take the issue of public education equity to the nation. The US is one of only three advanced nations which spend more money on our wealthy students than on our poor students. Successful nations do just the opposite!
The Badass Teachers Association, representing a network of over 70,000 teachers and education activists throughout the United States, formally request a White House Conference on Education and Equity. Our organization stands firmly against the serious harm being perpetrated to public education by both corporate privatization and right wing fiscal starvation policies. The current political rhetoric strengthens our resolve to reclaim the rights of all children to a free public education.
Learn more *here*.
Our organization proposes that a White House Conference be initiated immediately. Like much of the American landscape, Public K-12 Education requires infrastructure overhaul that have been installed to insert barriers that inhibit authentic learning. We do not accept the mendacity that racial and ethnic minorities must fail due to a manufactured system that sets them up to do so.
Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, has spent the last four years fighting for education…not public education, but private education: vouchers and charters. The Indiana State Teachers Association highlights the falsehoods in his recent campaign commercial.
Gov. Mike Pence recently released a campaign commercial highlighting what he considers his positive record on education in Indiana. His wife, Karen, was the messenger.
One could argue that his commercial contains more electoral mythology than actual truth. Here are some facts clarifying Pence’s record on education…
A main target of Mike Pence’s anti-public education agenda has been Democratic State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. Pence and his cronies in the State Board of Education and supermajority packed General Assembly have done everything they could to make her job all but impossible.
Here Ritz emphasizes the importance of early childhood education. Earlier Pence refused a federal grant for Early Childhood to the tune of $80 million. Now, because it’s an election year, he’s jumped on the early childhood bandwagon…
Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz on Tuesday outlined her 2016 education policy priorities with a spotlight on expanding pre-kindergarten to all Hoosier children.
She wants to make high-quality pre-K available within the boundaries of every school district in the state regardless of income of the child.
“Through a combination of leveraging federal dollars, reverting state allocations and eliminating wasteful spending in the state’s budget, the funds are there if the political will exists,” she said. “With less than 1 percent of the state’s annual budget, we can ensure more of our children are kindergarten ready.”
MYTHS AND LIES
“Reform” propaganda focuses on “bad teachers,” public schools that are “failing,” and other myths about public education in order to encourage privatization. See also 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools by David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass.
In this report, Rutgers University Professor Bruce D. Baker and Rutgers Ph.D. student Mark Weber address the common myth that U.S. public schools are inefficient – that is, spend way more money than do other nations and get worse results. They begin with a discussion of the typical presentations of data on U.S. educational efficiency, particularly those comparing the U.S. with other nations, as well as a discussion of key concepts, approaches, and research in the evaluation of educational efficiency. They then go on to present a more refined analysis of the data by adjusting for student characteristics, inputs such as class size, and other factors.
Just like always…test scores mirror family income.
There’s nothing new or surprising here, of course. It’s just another illustration of the well-known fact that test scores are largely an indication of socioeconomic status and only secondarily a reflection of school effectiveness.
We were told that vouchers were the only way poor children could leave “failing” schools to attend “successful” private schools. Then the voucher program was expanded to children who weren’t so poor. Then the voucher program was expanded to children who were already in private schools.
Voucher programs are not a way to help children get a better education. They’re a way to take public money and drop it into the collection plates of religious institutions.
Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large. These studies used rigorous research designs that allow for strong causal conclusions. And they showed that the results were not explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers transferred out of above-average public schools.
Another explanation is that our historical understanding of the superior performance of private schools is no longer accurate. Since the nineties, public schools have been under heavy pressure to improve test scores. Private schools were exempt from these accountability requirements. A recent study showed that public schools closed the score gap with private schools. That study did not look specifically at Louisiana and Indiana, but trends in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for public school students in those states are similar to national trends.
In education as in medicine, ‘first, do no harm’ is a powerful guiding principle. A case to use taxpayer funds to send children of low-income parents to private schools is based on an expectation that the outcome will be positive. These recent findings point in the other direction. More needs to be known about long-term outcomes from these recently implemented voucher programs to make the case that they are a good investment of public funds. As well, we need to know if private schools would up their game in a scenario in which their performance with voucher students is reported publicly and subject to both regulatory and market accountability.
Why turn over public funds to private organizations if they don’t do better than real public schools? Wouldn’t it be better for us to support our already existing public education system?
If a charter school can’t perform better than a conventional public school, there is no point in having the charter school.
After all, Ohio embarked on the charter-school experiment to see if there is a way to improve on the dismal results being achieved in many urban and poor school districts, not simply to replicate their failure. The idea was that if student outcomes improved in charter schools, then the schools would continue. But if charters failed to improve on the performance of conventional schools, they would be closed.
Now, years after the experiment began, some schools are persistent failures, but instead of being shut down, they want to change the performance measuring stick so that they can remain in business.
A school library without a certified librarian is like a classroom without a certified teacher. A school without a library is a travesty.
Simply put, students suffer when they don’t have adequate resources—and, in particular, we’ve found that student achievement suffers when schools lack libraries that are staffed by full-time librarians. “Nearly every public school in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties has a library with certified staff, which has been proven to increase student reading and comprehension,” notes Kintisch. “In contrast, most public schools in Philadelphia do not employ a certified librarian, and more than 140 do not have a library.”
Teacher effectiveness grows with experience. It is common sense, and it’s fact.
Based on a review of 30 studies published within the last 15 years, the authors find that as teachers gain experience throughout their careers, their students’ achievement gains increase. Although the steepest gains in effectiveness are in the first few years of teaching, this improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers, especially when they work in collegial work environments.
Read the report *here*.
TESTING: A New Level of Third Grade
[Note: See the update following this]
In Florida, like Indiana and elsewhere, third grade students must pass a test to be promoted to fourth grade. The utter stupidity and abusiveness of this policy is part of America’s “Learn or be Punished” mentality developed by “reformers” who don’t know anything about children and education. It proves without a doubt (in my mind) that legislators who pass these sorts of laws don’t care about children (other than their own, perhaps), and are just interested in lining the pockets of their testing company campaign donors – because you know that’s who is bankrolling their election campaigns.
In addition, Florida education policy punishes students who attempt to opt out of the test. This would be an example of “choice,” except of course, parents are not allowed to “choose” something that “reformers” don’t like. Choose charter schools? Yep. Choose vouchers? Absolutely. Choose to opt your child out of a developmentally inappropriate high stakes standardized test? No way!
The result is that students in third grade whose parents choose to opt them out of the test – it’s the parents who decide because, let’s face it, most eight and nine year olds don’t know much about the opt out process – may be retained in third grade.
This year a third grader can have great grades, the recommendation of her teacher and principal, and the admiration of her peers– but if she didn’t take the BS Test, she will fail third grade.
Let me say that again. An eight year old child who had a great year in class, demonstrated the full range of skills, and has a super report card– that child will be required to repeat third grade because she didn’t take the BS Test.
This is what happens when the central values of your education system are A) compliance and B) standardized testing. This is what happens when you completely lose track of the purpose of school.
Now comes word courtesy of the Gradebook at the Tampa Bay Times, talking to the Florida Department of Education–
“Our primary guidance to the districts is to follow the law,” spokeswoman Meghan Collins said Tuesday. “Obviously, the law says participation on the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) is mandatory. But we never said you must retain a student who doesn’t have an FSA score.”
Collins also elaborated that there was no requirement to take the test before an alternative assessment could be used.
Collins also told Jeffrey Solochek at the Times that the department would not be sending out a letter of clarification. “We’ve already made ourselves plenty damn clear enough for supposedly educated people who can read and speak English,” she did not actually say, but I thought I’d paraphrase. “Local decisions are to be made locally, particularly if they are so glaringly dumb that the fallout will be terrible,” she only sort of approximately continued. This is, honestly, better than I expected, given that Florida is the state that once insisted a dying child take the Big Standardized Test.