Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Privatization, Public Ed, SGO, vouchers

2017 Medley #20 Privatization

Choice, SGOs,
Neighborhood Schools,
Vouchers, Wealth Privilege

Time to catch up on some reading 📖.

CHOICE

School “choice” is based on the lies that public schools are failing (they’re not. It’s our society which is failing our children), and that the private sector always does everything better (they don’t. Remember the banking crash in 2008?).

School “choice” is not-so-secret code for school privatization. There’s no proof that children do better in charter schools or with vouchers for private schools. There’s no proof that anyone benefits from privatization – except those who pocket the tax dollars earmarked for public education.

School Choice: An Ugly Idea

School “choice” began as a way of keeping “my” students away from students of other economic strata or races. If we could choose our school we’ll choose the one where “our people” are – it’s tribalism at its worst. And it has worked. Segregation has increased with privatization through both charters and vouchers.

I am talking about the ugly idea that school choice and competition will lead to better schools. School choice ideology is born in racism, sustained by a concerted disinformation campaign, and designed to develop a work force of compliant worker drones, while further enriching the wealthy and undermining democratic control of the schools. School choice, better called school privatization, will destroy public education. That is its purpose.

…In order to sell the idea of school choice, i.e., school privatization, choice champions had to first sell the false narrative of failing schools. Americans had a long tradition of valuing their public schools, in part because the schools were generally doing a good job and in part because all citizens had a voice in how they were run and how their tax money was spent. In order to change the narrative, privatizers pointed to international test scores, deteriorating schools in the inner-cities, and reports from economists that seemed to show that this could all be changed if we just fired the low performing teachers and rewarded the high performers. So in many cities, local elected school boards were replaced by appointed boards, the public lost its voice, public coffers were raided to open charter schools, who promised but mostly failed to deliver, improvement, and the public schools further deteriorated for lack of funds (See Philadelphia and Detroit).

SCHOLARSHIP GRANTING ORGANIZATIONS

Exclusive: Money diverted from public schools?

Money earmarked for public education is drained from the public schools using vouchers and charters. In addition, tax revenues are reduced through tax breaks for Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Here’s how…

But here’s what’s unusual, if not controversial, about the scholarship programs: Wealthy donors can potentially “profit” from their contributions through extensive tax benefits that can drain money from state treasuries which fund public services — including public schools.

The programs are available in 17 states and are being considered by legislators in several others. They are praised by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — a longtime school choice advocate — and are the focus of two congressional bills that seek to create a federal version of the program.

All the programs basically work this way: Individuals and businesses make cash or stock donations to scholarship granting organizations. The organizations award scholarships to qualifying families with K-12 students, primarily children in failing public schools or whose families’ income meets the state’s poverty threshold. Students can then attend a private or religious school of their choice. What makes these programs unique is that donors get a full or partial credit toward their state taxes, which they are not allowed when donating to most other charities, and this allows them to realize a sizable tax advantage when combined with a federal deduction on the same gift. Plus, in some states, donors also get a state deduction.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Here’s an Idea: Guarantee Every Child an Excellent Education

Instead of closing under-resourced public schools and opening charters which don’t improve on education, we should follow the lead of high achieving nations and invest in our children by providing every neighborhood a high quality public school.

So if we start from the idea that every student should get an excellent education, we start with the proposition to support and renew our public schools.

In doing so, we would need a national commitment to bringing every public school up to snuff.

Many of them already are – Hint: they’re found in rich neighborhoods. The ones that struggle are almost always found in poorer neighborhoods, and that’s no accident. It’s the result of savage funding inequalities.

VOUCHERS

In Two States, Vouchers Fail Once Again

Yet another series of studies showing that privatization does not improve achievement.

Two new studies of private school voucher programs – one in Indiana and the other in Louisiana – confirm that students using vouchers to attend private schools will see a drop in their academic achievement.

In both programs, students who use a voucher experience a decrease in math test scores in the first few years. This is in line with other recent studies we’ve seen of programs in Ohio and the District of Columbia, where students using vouchers are doing even worse academically.

Another look at Indiana voucher study

Steve Hinnefeld explores the Indiana study more closely…

Maybe the message isn’t that voucher students who stick with private schools do OK academically, but that voucher students who do OK academically are more likely to stick with private schools.

THE PRIVILEGE OF “CHOICE”

Is School Choice Just Expanding Privilege?

School choice promoters claim that “choice” allows children to attend the “good” schools despite their zip codes. Is that true or is “choice” just another way (as if we really need another way) to separate the “haves” and the “have nots?” – a false promise to lower classes and un-priviledged minorities (or are they majorities now?) in order to lull them into a sense of complacence about the economic deserts to which they’ve been relegated.

In a perfect world, all parents would be able to locate themselves in a neighborhood with a school that meets all of their needs. Those who advocate for “school choice” would have you believe that using tax dollars to build for-profit charter schools and vouchers will result in more students having access to better schools. “School choice” is one of those things that sounds good in theory, but the evidence suggests that choice policies most often do not result in better options for the students who need it the most.

…There is little evidence that [charter schools and vouchers] help young people in urban areas, where parents aren’t able to transport their kids to “better” schools in other parts of town.

Is it ethical to give your child “every advantage”?

We all want the best for our own children. One way to make sure that our children get “the best” is to make all public schools “the best.” That way every child gets the “advantage” instead of just the children of the wealthy.

Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high.

I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?

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Posted in Indiana, Indiana DOE, ISTEP, retention, Testing

Society’s Commitment is Reflected in Tests

We continue to punish students, teachers, and schools with punitive standardized testing. One could argue that all this testing is worth it if it actually made a difference, but the truth is, testing only makes things worse.

A valid purpose for standardized testing might be for determining what students have learned. Yet despite the arguments against it such as the limitations of its content (reading and math, and not much else) and the cultural limitations putting some children at a disadvantage, we judge students, teachers, and schools, by this inadequate and often inappropriate measure.

For the most part, standardized tests are an excellent tool for determining students’ economic backgrounds.

As for invalid purposes…we have those as well.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate schools and to give them grades A through F and call it “accountability.” Yet there’s rarely “accountability” for the adults in legislatures and policy groups around the country who don’t seem to understand that public schools don’t choose their students. A school which is filled with poor children will have lower test scores. That doesn’t mean they’re not learning. It means that there’s likely neglect on the part of the governing body (the city or state) to adequately fund and maintain the school. It means that standardized tests don’t measure the arts, physical education, emotional development, and strength of character. It means that standardized tests don’t take into account trauma, hunger, lack of medical care, environmental toxins, and housing insecurity. It means that one size does not fit all.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate teachers calling them “effective” or “ineffective” based on a child’s score. Schools filled with wealthy students have “effective” teachers. Schools filled with poor students have “ineffective” teachers. Why? If a school doesn’t use test scores to evaluate teachers, then ignorant politicians will question how “failing schools” could have “effective” teachers without the slightest understanding that the “failure” is as much their fault as anyone else’s. Instead, we continue to punish the teachers who work with the children who are the most difficult to teach.

Invalid: We use tests to punish students for not learning at the speed we want them to learn. How many eight and nine year olds around the country are retained in grade because they haven’t mastered reading? How many policy makers have ever read the research on retention and its damaging effect on children? This is institutional child abuse based on faulty data.

ISTEP+ tossed for hundreds

Now comes the incompetent testing industry draining billions of tax dollars from public schools every year…using the wrong kinds of tests…in the wrong kinds of ways.

The company charged with administering Indiana’s standardized tests, and sucking millions of dollars from already minimal budgets, has failed in its task…putting the burden on schools to beg the state not to hold them “accountable.”

“It’s so discouraging for the children. It’s discouraging for everyone,” said Lori Vaughn, assistant superintendent at DeKalb Central United School District. “It is what it is. I hate that expression, but we’re going to move on. It’s a black eye when DOE puts (scores) out.”

She said 34 students in third grade at Waterloo Elementary and 19 students in fourth grade at the school will receive “undetermined” scores. This results in passing rates of less than 1 percent for third grade and 17 percent for fourth.

“It’s horrific,” Vaughn said. “And that’s what’s going to be put out with no explanation. It will impact our participation rate and our accountability grade.”

Test scores are a large factor in the A-to-F accountability grades that schools will receive later this year.

Department of Education officials told Vaughn there is nothing that can be done now but schools can appeal those A-to-F grades when they are issued.

Discouraging? It’s discouraging that after all this time we’re still using these tests to punish students, teachers, and schools.

Politicians and policy makers will denounce public schools as “failures” blaming parents and teachers for low test scores. They don’t realize that what standardized tests truly measure is a society’s commitment to its children.

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Posted in Bennett, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz

Tiny, Decent Things

PART I: THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

I began my whine against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing when No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 and Indiana doubled down on student testing.

I complained to my principal, the school corporation, my local legislators. I became an officer in my local teachers association, and a delegate to the state teachers association representative assembly, but we couldn’t change things either.

I retired in June of 2010 and two years later joined a public education advocacy group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Since the Save Our Schools March in 2011 in Washington D.C., our members have been working to end and undo “education reform” in Indiana and the U.S.

2011 was a watershed year for privatization in Indiana. Mitch Daniels and his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, along with help from the Indiana General Assembly, hit hard at public schools and public school teachers.

2011 was the year that Indiana…

  • cut $300 million from public school funding while at the same time they…
  • passed a voucher law which drained even more public tax dollars from public schools
  • reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • introduced test-based evaluations for teachers
  • increased funding for charter schools

The privatizers haven’t backed off since then…they’ve continued to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and strip funds from public education to support the ravenous appetite of an ever-expanding privatization plan consisting of vouchers and charter schools.

Each year, when the Indiana legislature is in session, we do our best to minimize the damage done to public schools. And each year we lose a little more ground. We had a bright light of hope in 2012, when Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, beating Tony Bennett on a platform which supported public schools, but that was short-lived. Governor Pence, the legislature, and state school board, worked together to make sure she was unable to slow down the damage to public education by the privatizers.

It’s not just Indiana. A few days ago Nancy Flanagan wrote…

The War on Teachers and the End of Public Education

Three days ago, Diane Ravitch wrote this:

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly.

She’s right. The end of public education as we know it is in sight. And there’s a war on public school teaching toward that end, with Betsy DeVos as Field General.

It keeps happening even though privatization has increased segregation and hasn’t improved instruction or achievement.

PART II: ENCOURAGEMENT

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. It’s hard not to give up. We need frequent inspiration to help reenergize ourselves…to remind ourselves that public education is worth saving, and no matter how many times the politicians and privatizers damage public education in Indiana (and across the nation) we need to keep trying. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we need to get up again. No matter how many times we’re silenced, we need to speak out again.

Public schools are open to every child in the state, not just the wealthy or the able. Public schools are an investment in our future…and support for public education means an educated citizenry, a lower incarceration rate, an improved economy, and happier lives. Public education is not just for me…not just for you…but for us, because we are all responsible for, and dependent upon, each other. The students we serve are not just mine – or yours – or even their parents’. They are ours. Within each child is the future of our society.

In order to save America’s public schools it’s necessary for each of us to do what we can. All of us are important…from those who run for the legislature, to those who work quietly in the background registering voters, to those who convince a friend to support public schools. We must, as Danusha Veronica Goska wrote in ‘Political Paralysis’ From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, do “tiny, decent things” to support the public education system. With enough of those “tiny, decent things,” we can give public education the support it needs to survive.

…when we study the biographies of our heroes, we learn that they spent years in preparation doing tiny, decent things before one historical moment propelled them to center stage.

Moments, as if animate, use the prepared to tilt empires.

Be one of the prepared.

CHANGE THE WORLD

Write your legislator. Write for publication. Run for office. Support and/or contribute to pro-public education candidates. Learn about the issues facing public education and share what you have learned with others. Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends. Volunteer in a public school. Help a child learn. Donate a book to a school or a family. Organize or join with others to support public schools. Join the PTA. Send your children to public schools. Call into a talk show. Write a letter to the editor.

Get involved.

Do something.

Don’t give up.

Goska ended her essay…

I suspect that we all have our three-in-the-morning moments, when all of life seems one no-exit film noir, where any effort is pointless, where any hope seems to be born only to be dashed, like a fallen nestling on a summer sidewalk. When I have those moments, if I do nothing else, I remind myself: the ride in the snow; the volunteers at the food bank; the Nepali peasants who fed me. Activists like the Pole Wladyslaw Bartoszewski who, decades before he would earn any fame, got out of Auschwitz only to go on to even more resistance against the Nazis, and then the Soviets. Invisible, silent people who, day by day, choice by choice, unseen by me, unknown to me, force me to witness myself, invite me to keep making my own best choices, and keep me living my ideals.

If all of us do “tiny, decent things” to support public education, we can slow or even stop the takeover of public education by those who would destroy it.

Alone, each one of us might not be able to “tilt the empire” of the privatizers, but perhaps we can preserve public education long enough for our cumulative efforts to gather strength and eventually succeed.

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Posted in Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

A Father’s Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father’s Day post…with changes.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from my very first day as an elementary school teacher beginning in 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors. I had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I’ve referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains…it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains…and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What’s the score?

In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.

  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.

(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads….Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America’s “male” culture has been dominated by politics, sports and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It’s more important than ever that fathers exert role-model influence over their sons.

The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.

“Is there a connection,” he asks, between the “decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?”

Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.

The question is…do they? Do fathers take part in their children’s, and specifically their sons’, intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.

Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father’s Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.

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Posted in Broad, David Berliner, Gates, Gerald Bracey, MLK, technology, WaltonFamilyFoundation

Money for Nothin’

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

For the past two decades Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have been dropping millions of dollars into education schemes the billionaire was sure would transform America’s schools. Gates tried small schools, teacher incentives, and the Common Core to try to influence the achievement of public schools – all to no avail. (Further reading: Anthony Cody’s, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation)

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has invested millions of dollars into training managers to run school systems like businesses. They’ve put money into large scale teacher merit-pay experiments in school districts. They’ve supported legislation, including the so-called “Parent Trigger” which would allow a majority of a schools current parents to transfer a community owned public school to a for-profit charter company.

The Walton Family Foundation, run by America’s wealthiest family, has invested millions of dollars in the privatization of public education. They have supported the creation and expansion of voucher programs in Indiana and other states.

The attempts to improve America’s education by billionaires, none of whom have any training in education, have several things in common.

First, none of the schemes have been successful enough, or been replicable on a large enough scale to improve the country’s public education system.

Second, the money used to fund the projects hasn’t been sustainable. Some programs have failed when grants ended, because of the inability of the school systems to continue to pay for it.

Third, nearly all attempts to improve schools measure that improvement with standardized test scores which are often inadequate.

Fourth, America’s low international test scores are often cited as the reason for the billionaires’ interference in education. I have explained in detail why our students’ average scores are lower on international tests in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools.

Finally, none of the attempts by these wealthy families, even if we assume that they are altruistic in their desire to help children succeed, attack the root cause of low achievement in America. Poverty.

POVERTY: THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM

The late Gerald Bracey wrote,

When people have said “poverty is no excuse,” my response has been, “Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

David C. Berliner, professor and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education at Arizona State University, presented a brief titled, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. The report explains how improvements of schools are not enough to overcome the out-of-school factors faced by children who live in high poverty areas.

…the negative effects of many [out-of-school factors] are concentrated in the schools that serve poor and minority children and families. This increases the burden on these schools in such a way as to make broad reductions in the achievement gap nearly impossible.

MONEY FOR NOTHIN’

Silicon valley billionaires are dumping their tax write-offs into America’s schools in the hopes, they say, of increasing test scores…and, if they can get a few bucks themselves in the process, so much the better.

The New York Times has a long article detailing ways that projects from tech entrepreneurs, like Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are influencing America’s schools. Once again they aren’t focusing on the real problem.

The influx of money from rich technology-king benefactors has an influence on what teachers are teaching…and how they teach. After all, when a teacher or school gets a grant for a half million dollars in hardware and software they generally don’t turn it down. The students, then, become the “de facto beta testers” for the billionaires’ ideas.

But does it actually help?

The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools

Tech companies and their founders have been rolling out programs in America’s public schools with relatively few checks and balances, The New York Times found in interviews with more than 100 company executives, government officials, school administrators, researchers, teachers, parents and students.

“They have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power,” said Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “It does subvert the democratic process.”

Furthermore, there is only limited research into whether the tech giants’ programs have actually improved students’ educational results.

Once again we have billionaires dumping money into schools, and often into privatization schemes, without regard to actual research and often without public oversight.

Technology can be a powerful educational tool, when used correctly. Where did Mark Zuckerberg get his teaching credentials? Who is determining how these programs are used? Who is monitoring them to see if they work? Will the money disappear if the programs fail?

ANOTHER WAY: A LESSON FOR THE BILLIONAIRES – FROM SOME MILLIONAIRES

A New Jersey family won a lottery of nearly a half billion dollars…guess where it’s going?

Family in New Jersey Wins $429 Million Lottery, Uses Money to Fight Poverty

Last year, the Smith family in Trenton, New Jersey, won the $429 million Powerball lottery, and they planned to use all that money to help fight poverty. Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children meant what they said at a press conference when they promised to give that money back to their community.

…They used the money to pay off bills and student loans before they put it back into their community with the Smith Family Foundation. “We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty,” Harold Smith told NJ.com. “Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”

The foundation will work with the city in order to provide both long- and short-term grants for Trenton. [emphasis added]

Imagine if Gates, Broad, The Waltons, and the rest tried to improve education by donating their billions to help fight poverty, like the Smiths, in cooperation with municipalities and states. If we reduce poverty we can reduce the negative effects of out-of-school factors that get in the way of student achievement.

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

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Posted in Accountability, bullying, Internet, Politics, Privatization, Teaching Career

2017 Medley #19

Politics of Privatization, Bullies,
Accountability, On Teaching,
June is Internet Safety Month

THE POLITICS OF PRIVATIZATION

As Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence made no attempt to hide his preference for private education. His school-based photo ops were nearly always at parochial schools. His state budgets favored private schools and charters, and his friends in both the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education followed his lead.

Betsy DeVos joins Pence in the current administration as an unapologetic advocate for privatizing education and the destruction of public schools. She doesn’t hide the fact that her intent is to provide as much money for private schools as possible. She couches her preference in terms which imply support for students, but when we dig deeper we find that she doesn’t consider all students worthy of support.

Her budget cuts millions from programs designed to help the neediest students. She passes the buck to the states and private donors to pick up the monetary slack. The fact that the states don’t have the money doesn’t matter. With the continued tax cuts for America’s wealthiest citizens, money for education is scarce and DeVos prefers to direct it towards the children attending private schools rather than those attending public schools.

In her recent appearance before a Senate committee, DeVos refused to take a stand against discrimination. Instead she repeated the same inane statement about supporting federal antidiscrimination laws. Would she take a stand against discrimination when the federal laws were vague? No…

This is what happens when a know-nothing, anti-public education billionaire, buys her way into the highest education office in the land.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Again Fails to Say Voucher Programs Shouldn’t Allow Discrimination

From American’s United for Separation of Church and State

At a minimum, DeVos’ answers reveal that she knows her desire to let private schools discriminate with federal dollars is unpopular. Students deserve better than private school vouchers that undermine civil rights protections.

The issue of discrimination is one of the many reasons Congress should reject any efforts to impose a federal voucher program. Rather than diverting funds for private schools, we should be funding the public school system, which educates all students.

Betsy’s Choice: School Privatization Over Kids’ Civil Rights

From Steven Singer

Betsy DeVos seems to be confused about her job.

As U.S. Secretary of Education, she is responsible for upholding the civil rights of all U.S. students.

She is NOT a paid lobbyist for the school privatization industry.

Yet when asked point blank by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) whether her department would ensure that private schools receiving federal school vouchers don’t discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, she refused to give a straight answer.

She said that the these schools would be required to follow all federal antidiscrimination laws but her department would not issue any clarifications or directives about exactly how they should be doing it.

“On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle,” DeVos said at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education yesterday.

“I think you just said where it’s unsettled, such discrimination will continue to be allowed under your program. If that’s incorrect, please correct it for the record,” Merkley replied.

DeVos did not correct him.

The Demolition of American Education

From Diane Ravitch

The most devastating cuts are aimed at programs for public schools. Nearly two dozen programs are supposed to be eliminated, on the grounds that they have “achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness.” In many cases, the budget document says that these programs should be funded by someone else—not the US Department of Education, but “federal, state, local and private funds.” These programs include after-school and summer programs that currently serve nearly two million students, and which keep children safe and engaged in sports, arts, clubs, and academic studies when they are out of school. They have never been judged by test scores, but the budget claims they do not improve student achievement, and aims to save the government $1 billion by ending support for them. The budget assumes that someone else will pick up the tab, but most states have cut their education budgets since the 2008 recession. No mention is made of how other sources will be able to come up with this funding.

BULLIES

Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It

President Trump has made bullying great again.

Donald Trump’s campaign and election have added an alarming twist to school bullying, with white students using the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.

ACCOUNTABILITY

State Board Votes to Allow Voucher Schools to Bypass Accountability

The accountability laws in Indiana are a waste of time and money. The criteria used to judge a school, its students’ test scores and attendance, are inadequate and invalid. Tests and attendance do not indicate the quality of a school. The school climate and the involvement of parents are equally, if not more important to a school than how high the students score on a given achievement test. Student achievement tests should be used (if they’re going to be used at all) to assess student achievement, not the quality of a school or its teachers. Student attendance has very little to do with a school’s quality, and more to do with the economic status of the families of the students (for that matter, so do the achievement tests).

For decades, “reformers” have used poor test scores as the basis for claims that America’s public schools were “failing,” and to lobby for charters and vouchers. Now that they have charters and vouchers, the state rules about “accountability” are getting in the way of the smooth flow of tax dollars into private, parochial, and corporate pockets. The solution? Get the corporate stooges on the state board of education to “suspend” accountability for private, parochial, and corporate schools.

Just because Mike Pence is no longer in the Governor’s seat doesn’t mean that the state preference for privatization is gone…

Kudos to my former colleague, Steve Yager, for being one of the two votes against this.

Four private voucher schools previously cut off from accepting new voucher students because of academic failure, have been given a reprieve from the Indiana State Board of Education.

Due to receiving a grade of D or F for two consecutive years, the private schools had lost their ability to take on new voucher students. The schools can retain their current population of voucher students.

The schools were given permission to bypass accountability laws created for failing private voucher schools thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Holcomb. ISTA strongly opposed the bill throughout the legislative session, because it gives failing voucher schools a pass for low performance and allows a new voucher pathway via new school accreditation – schools with no track record.

ON TEACHING

On Teaching Well: Five Lessons from Long Experience

From an experienced teacher and teacher educator…Russ Walsh gives us the benefit of his years as an educator. You’ll notice the five lessons he presents have nothing to do with teaching to the test. Instead he deals with relationships between teacher and student, teacher as coach, pedagogical content knowledge, using student errors to guide teaching, and teacher self-reflection. This, along with his book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child, are essential reading for parents, teachers, and anyone who is interested in improving public schools.

At its most basic, teaching is about building individual relationships with children. If children trust you, they will be willing to follow you in your flights of instructional fantasy and if they follow you they will learn from you.

STAY SAFE ONLINE

Be Internet Awesome

June is Internet Safety Month. Share these tips from Google with your family.

To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

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Posted in REPA, Teaching Career

There’s More to Teaching Than Telling

It’s important for teachers to have content knowledge before they try to teach. Peter Greene – Curmudgucation – wrote,

Expertise

Yes, teaching is both a skill and an art and to do a good job, you have to know the skill and the art of teaching. But just as you can’t have waves without water or air, you cannot have “teaching skills” without content knowledge– and all the teaching skills in the world will not make up for lacking knowledge. You cannot make an awesome lesson about adding two plus two if you do not know that the result is four. You cannot lead your students through an illuminating and inspiring study of Hamlet if you have never read the play yourself.

This is true, absolutely.

It’s also true for teachers of young children. Early childhood educators and elementary teachers need to understand the reading, math, social studies, and science they teach, just as much as a physics teacher needs to understand physics. Curmudgucation agrees…

Content knowledge is the foundation of everything else. You cannot be an expert at teaching without being an expert at subject matter. Yes, even teachers of the littles, who in particular need the security of knowing they are in the hands of a grownup who Knows Things.

However, what is often misunderstood by non-educators who think they know all about teaching (I’m looking at you, “reformers”) is that content knowledge is only one part of the teaching skill set.

Elementary teachers – and most educated people in general – are already experts in elementary school content. The average college graduate, for example, can already read, do basic arithmetic, and is familiar with basic science and history. This is the likely reason that non-educators think teaching elementary school is “easy.” As one parent said to me when I was explaining why his son was struggling in first grade, “Just tell him. Just tell him what he needs to know.”

Indeed, many people think that you “just tell” children information and they learn it. They don’t understand that learning is more than information. They don’t understand that teaching is more than simply teaching content. Elementary students need more than someone who “tells” them stuff.

In the early 1980s I had been teaching for about 5 years…and had started on my masters degree. I was discussing this with a group of people and someone asked, “When you get your masters, will you be able to teach high school then?” I tried to explain that teaching elementary school was more than just telling kids stuff. The misunderstanding was, and still is, pervasive.

This ignorance about learning has led to things like REPA III (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) in Indiana which allows people with no education training to start teaching content areas in high school. If you have a degree in biology (and a B average), for example, you can teach biology. According to REPA III, there is no education degree required…no need for pedagogical training…no need to learn about classroom management, child development, teaching methods or student discipline. Those are things you can apparently pick up while you’re teaching.

The same sorts of rules are now in force in other states like Arizona and Utah.

But that’s wrong. Teachers need training before they can take on the sole responsibility of a classroom. That’s why legitimate educator training programs include a significant amount of time in classrooms as well as a full semester (or more) of student teaching.

Of course, content knowledge is important, but it’s only part of the teaching story…

One of the comments to Expertise contained an excellent list of what knowledge is necessary to teach…

NY Teacher June 6, 2017 at 7:39 AM

…Might I add, the importance of knowledge goes beyond subject area content:

Knowledge of pedagogy and methodologies
knowledge of child and adolescent psychology
knowledge of mob psychology (Ha!)
knowledge of cognitive learning theory and brain development (and damage)
knowledge of local community and families
knowledge of school community and happenings,
knowledge of your students – as people
knowledge of your limitations
knowledge of classroom management techniques and policies

And that’s just the knowledge side of of being a good teacher.
Work ethic, professionalism, judgement, personality and many more come into play. Maybe the clueless tweeter and all the other know-nothing reformers that came very late to this 150 year old party will begin to understand just how complex and nuanced the skill set required to a “good” teacher. It’s no wonder they don’t grow on trees.

A child is more than a test score. A teacher is more than a purveyor of information.

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