Well…I have few words. Luckily, others have more…
YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY
Let’s start with poverty since it’s from poverty that nearly all the major problems with American education begin.
Actress, Jennifer Garner tells Congress what they should already know, that poverty affects a child’s life. Will they accept their share of the responsibility for the embarrassingly high rate of child poverty in the U.S.?
“A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you. A child who is not touched, who is not spoken to, who is not read to in the first five years of his or her life will not fully recover.
“Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse.
“When many of these children enter kindergarten, they don’t know their letters or numbers. They don’t know how to sit in a circle and listen to a story. They don’t know how to hold a book — they may have never even seen a book!
“That’s shocking, isn’t it? That 1 in 5 children in this country live in the kind of poverty that they could enter kindergarten never having seen a book.
“It’s easy to escape responsibility for disgrace like that by blaming the parents.
“Who doesn’t talk to a child or sing to a child?
“I’ll tell you who: parents who have lived their whole lives with the stresses that come with food scarcity, with lack of adequate shelter, with drug addiction and abuse. Parents who were left on the floor when they were children — ignored by their parents who had to choose — as one-third of mothers in this country do — between providing food or a clean diaper.
“Poverty dulls the senses, saps hope, destroys the will.
HOW MUCH IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION WORTH
A year ago I might have said, “If a foreign power had poisoned the number of American children who currently live in lead infested environments we would consider it an act of war.” In today’s political climate of antagonism towards anything which would benefit the “have-nots”, however, I don’t know if I can truthfully say that.
The most recent data shows over 25,000 children were tested in Milwaukee. More than 2,000 had lead poisoning.
“That’s 8.6 percent of the children tested. In Flint, Michigan, it was 4.9,” said Senator LaTonya Johnson, District 6 (D – Milwaukee).
THE FALSEHOOD OF “FAILING” SCHOOLS
The delegitimization of public education began before Betsy DeVos…
…George W. Bush, Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, John King…
The language of “school choice” turns students into customers and schools into the marketplace. It turns public education into an oppressive, vaguely Soviet bureaucracy. In this framing, charters and vouchers represent freedom from oppression.
The papers that print these arguments don’t provide a definition of what they mean by “failing” schools—they don’t need to. Years of amplifying the pro-reform movements rhetoric has made “public schools” synonymous with “failing schools” when poor students of color are the subject. The words “failing schools” appeared in the New York Times 611 times between 2002 and 2014.
The rhetorical work of delegitimizing public education has already been done. While DeVos may be far to the right of the bipartisan vision of corporate education reform, the path towards privatization has already been paved.
What should the focus of preschool be?
Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.
…One major study of 700 preschool classrooms in 11 states found that only 15 percent showed evidence of effective interactions between teacher and child. Fifteen percent.
…It’s become almost a cliché to look to Finland’s educational system for inspiration. As has been widely reported, the country began to radically professionalize its workforce in the 1970s and abandoned most of the performance standards endemic to American schooling. Today, Finland’s schools are consistently ranked among the world’s very best. This “Finnish miracle” sounds almost too good to be true. Surely the country must have a few dud teachers and slacker kids!
And yet, when I’ve visited Finland, I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it. Having rejected many of the pseudo-academic benchmarks that can, and do, fit on a scorecard, preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.
SCHOOL FUNDING FOR HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS
Just because Mike Pence moved to Washington D.C., doesn’t mean that Indiana isn’t fully complicit with the new administration’s goal of stripping funds from anything which would support low income families.
The state legislature is continuing previous years’ process of transferring funds from poor public schools to rich ones…all in the name of “equality.”
For over 20 years, Indiana has used a school funding device called the Complexity Index to direct more money to high-poverty schools, which face more complex challenges in educating students. The House budget reduces Complexity Index funding by 15 percent, or $136 million.
The result: High-poverty school districts, those that rely for extra funding on the Complexity Index, could face financial challenges in the two-year period covered by the budget. The legislation is now being considered by the Senate, which could make changes in the House-approved school funding formula.
According to data from Libby Cierzniak, an attorney who represents Indianapolis and Hammond schools at the Statehouse, average per-pupil funding would increase three times as much for the state’s 50 lowest-poverty school districts as for the 50 highest-poverty districts under the House budget.
FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDING
Apparently “drain the swamp” means getting rid of anyone in the federal government who still tries to support anything or anyone other than wealthy nationalists.
Here are just some of the percentage losses reported by the NY Times for departments whose programs are likely directly to affect children and families: Education, -14 percent; Health and Human Services, -16 percent; and Housing and Urban Development, -12 percent. The cuts are likely to affect public housing and subsidies for housing vouchers, may affect support for homeless shelters, and will eliminate after-school programs. Being erased altogether are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps very poor people pay gas bills in the winter and the Legal Services Corporation. School lunch, school breakfast and summer feeding programs have been made into mandatory spending and are not covered by this budget. We’ll have to watch for a later, more detailed budget to observe these programs, and we can hope they will be spared. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is slightly reduced from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion in Trump’s proposed budget. There are also significant cuts to health programs and much debate currently about the future of the Affordable Care Act.
It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death. Betsy DeVos is the tip of merely one crumbling iceberg. Dismantling America’s essential social services is highly profitable for an oligarchy of corporate billionaires and their political cronies. Shock and Awe methods assure that multiple targets are hit fast and hard to keep people divided, to avoid mass resistance for a single cause. Ask Naomi Klein how this works.
For 24 million American men, women and children, a death panel looks like President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – with the smiling approval of the majority of Congress. “Healthcare” that condemns 24 million Americans to slow and painful premature deaths is NOT healthcare. If a third world country’s leaders did this while dismantling public education, America would invade it and overthrow its corrupt governing officials.
FOOD OR TESTING? WHAT’S IMPORTANT?
The first sentence in this post from Peter Greene hits the nail on the head. We still focus almost exclusively on test scores. Anything that doesn’t improve test scores – as if a raise in test scores was actually evidence of “improvement” – isn’t worth doing, apparently.
There is no evidence that food helps raise test scores.
Mind you, this is from the administration that wants us to believe that three million votes were cast illegally, that Obama wiretappppped Trump Towers, that microwaves can be used to spy on us– all this and more, without a shred of evidence. But children doing better in school because they have gotten food to eat– that is some wildass crazypants conspiracy nutbaggery. You think being able to eat food helps children do better in school?? Woah– just let me check you for your tin foil hat.
Reformsters, this is at least partly on you. This is the logical extension of the idea that only hard “evidence” matters, and only if it is evidence that test scores go up. We’ve dumped play, understanding of child development, and a whole bunch of not-reading-and-math classes because nobody can prove they help raise test scores to the satisfaction of various reformsters. It was only a matter of time until some literal-minded shallow-thinking functionary decided that there was no clear linkage between food and test scores.
FED’S VOUCHER PLAN
This morning, President Donald J. Trump revealed his skinny budget, and it’s both skinny on details and in its support for public education. The Trump plan would cut the Department of Education’s budget by 13.5 percent, which according to The Washington Post, would be “a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to low-income and first-generation college students.”
At the same time, the budget would funnel $250 million of taxpayer dollars into a private school voucher program and use an additional $1 billion to fund a reckless experiment called “portability” that could be a stepping stone to even more voucher plans.
There are so many reasons to oppose Trump’s $250 million voucher program. Vouchers divert desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students. They are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and threaten religious liberty, among other things.
SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY
Politicians and policy makers need to step up and accept their share of the responsibility for fixing the problems which beset America’s public schools. Closing schools, diverting funds, or punishing students and teachers, won’t help to relieve the high rate of poverty in the U.S. It’s time to face the facts. Poverty impacts a child’s ability to learn and numerous out-of-school-factors can’t be controlled by teachers no matter how good they are. The best teachers in the world can’t help children learn if they are hungry, sick, or lack access to books.
The rhetoric about “fixing” failing schools is only political posturing until the real discussion about what is happening in the communities and homes of those students is addressed. EVERY CHILD should have access to equitable education – that was the intent of the Education and Secondary Education Act originally authorized in the 1960’s (now called Every Student Succeed Acts), and that is the belief of EVERY TEACHER I ever met. However, there are many influences impacting schools that are not being considered by these tests. The teachers cannot fix all of the societal issues plaguing these schools.
RETENTION HASN’T AND DOESN’T WORK
Invest in preschool and early intervention instead of wasting time and damaging children with the failed “intervention” of retention-in-grade.
Students who struggle with reading in third grade are more likely to get into issues down the road, like academic failure, discipline issues, poor attendance, drop-outs, etc. These problems might be connected to reading issues, or both the problems and the reading issues could be related to some other factor like – oh, let’s just go out on a limb and say … poverty.
…As Stanford researcher, Linda Darling Hammonds, has written:
“We have had dozens and dozens of studies on this topic. The findings are about as consistent as any findings are in education research: the use of testing is counterproductive, it does not improve achievement over the long run, but it does dramatically increase dropout rates. Almost every place that has put this kind of policy in place since the 1970s has eventually found it counterproductive and has eliminated the policy. Unfortunately policy makers often are not aware of the research and they come along years later and reintroduce the same policies that were done away with previously because of negative consequences and lack of success.”
THE STATE OF THE NATION
Hate crimes against Jews (and Muslims, Latinos, other immigrants of color, the LGBT community) continue to rise. Nationalism rears its ugly, bigoted head. Those who say, “It’s not me because I’m not [insert ethnicity],” do so at their own peril.
My grandparents came here to escape the Tzar’s pogroms in the early 20th century. This could be their cemetery.
“The thing that’s most painful, the thing I keep thinking… is, they came to America, they had so much hope,” she said. “And I just keep thinking about the shattered gravestones and the shattered hopes.”