Posted in Politics

Hey, we could use some consistency, here!

ANOTHER MEAL INTERRUPTED

President 45’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a restaurant specifically because of her work in the current administration. According to a Sanders tweet, which the former head of the U.S. Government Ethics office called a violation of federal ethics law, the owner of the restaurant asked her to leave.

The New York Times reported,

The encounter is the third time this past week in which a Trump administration official was confronted over his or her political stance.

In my opinion, however, this incident was different from the other two.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, left a mexican restaurant after being heckled by protestors against the zero tolerance immigrant policy. White House senior advisor Stephen Miller’s dinner was disrupted (also at a mexican restaurant), by protesters calling him a fascist for his part in the current administration’s immigrant policies.

Nielsen and Miller were verbally attacked for their participation in what many believe is a policy lacking in basic humanity, which separates families, and punishes people seeking asylum in the U.S.

The incident with Sanders, however, seems to be different. She was asked to leave by the owner of the restaurant while Nielsen and Miller were not.

CONSISTENCY?

Here’s a Yelp review…from the New York Times

“Pathetic,” the next review read. “How dare you use politics to discriminate. Seems you will be the actual loser in this case, once the reviews really sink in. Good luck, pal.”

I wonder if the writer of that review was in favor of allowing the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop to use religion to discriminate against LGBTQ customers.

I’m not sure I see much difference between refusing to serve someone because of their political beliefs and refusing to serve someone because of their religious beliefs and the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Masterpiece Cakeshop incident doesn’t really help determine the legality of doing either.

But, if you’re ok with the baker saying, “I won’t make this cake for you because I don’t countenance your behavior. It’s against my religion.”

…then you ought to be ok with a restauranteur saying, “I won’t serve you a meal because I find your political behavior abhorrent.”

…and vice versa.

 

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Posted in Article Medleys, Immigrants, Personal History, Religion, SchoolShootings, US DOE

2018 Medley #16

Not Our Kids, Merging DOE and DOL,
Rising Above, My Youthful Promise,
The AMA and Gun Control, Fomenting Hate

SELFISHNESS IS THE NEW RELIGION

Fox Nails The Problem: These Aren’t Our Kids

Brian Kilmeade, one of the vilest humans on TV, reminded us what Fox News and the Trump Universe was all about when he explained that immigrant children aren’t worth getting all bent out of shape about since they’re “not our kids.” This is just another example of the “F**k you, I’ve got mine” attitude in the U.S. It’s an unfortunately common attitude about immigrants…and a common attitude about some of our fellow citizens as well (see The Price of an Incompetent President).

It’s also the same attitude which sends billions of tax dollars to voucher and charter schools at the expense of neighborhood public schools.

…understanding this aspect of tribalism explains a huge number of our problems in education.

We are happy to spend money on our kids. But those other ones, the children of Those People– these aren’t our kids, and we don’t want to spend money on them.

It’s not a new problem. Segregated schools were all about white folks saying, “I don’t want to spend my tax dollars on schools for these black kids, because these are not our kids.” They don’t belong to our group, our tribe, our family. If they want money for decent schools, then let them get that money from their own people.

These aren’t our kids. We have to take care of our own. I’ve got mine, Jack.

EDUCATION IS FOR CHILDREN

Why Merging DOE with DOL is Wrong! Education is for Children, NOT Corporations

Republicans have been trying to get rid of the US Department of Education since the day it was formed…one more way they show their hatred of public education.

Their view of education is as a pipeline for corporate workers. Contrast that with schools in Finland (go to minute 4:00) where students achieve at a much higher rate,

But school is about finding your happiness, finding a way to learn what makes you happy.

In the U.S. the schools are about passing the test, and getting a job. Individual teachers are concerned with their students finding happiness, of course, but the current test-and-punish status quo makes that difficult.

That’s sad, because, as a fellow teacher once told me, “Children are 25% of our population, and 100% of our future.”

While a good government should forecast the kinds of jobs that will be available in the future, its focus should be on the students themselves, and what will help them make the best career choice. It should be about helping students realize their interests and their hopes for the future.

That focus should include how to help young people get to college without incurring terrible debt.

We should quit trying to fund two education systems, charters and public schools, and shore up one dynamic public school system that serves the diverse needs of everyone.

Helping children find their way in a difficult and changing world is reasonable. Steering children into jobs that meet the needs of a corrupt government, that does not treasure the dreams of its children, is not the America we believe in.

RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO LOWER YOURSELF

Some Suggestions on How to Engage People Online Without Losing Your Mind

I discovered Michelle Martin’s blog last week. In this post she gives some hints on how to treat others with respect, even when we disagree. Be better than what you despise.

[emphasis in original]

“The Left” is not a monolithic group of God-haters, who despise the military and cops, and seek to destroy the American way of life. And “the Right” is not a monolithic group of white supremacists who hate all immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities. But (and this is an important but) many politicians want us to think that. In this sense, we all need to become resisters.

    • Resist the temptation to demonize.
    • Resist the temptation to demoralize.
    • Resist the temptation to stereotype.

I NEVER FULFILLED MY YOUTHFUL PROMISE…THANK GOODNESS

“You’re a Doctor? I Thought You Were Stupid”: Stellar Grad Speech by Indy ER Physician

I can’t imagine anyone in my high school or college classes who would have mistaken me for someone who was smart. I was a poor student, unmotivated, and not likely to be on anyone’s list of most likely to succeed. In high school I was told that I needed to try harder…put forth some effort.

I was only accepted in college because I was a passable musician, but even that didn’t last and I barely made it through my first year, and was told that once I graduated (assuming I got that far) I should find something else to do.

I did graduate, eventually, and began my career selling sheet music. Then things changed, but that’s a story for another time.

In contrast to my unremarkable beginnings, I finally found some success at the other end of the classroom…as a teacher. Perhaps it’s because I was able to understand those who were unmotivated and not likely to succeed…

I found this graduation speech oddly reminiscent of my own academic history.

I got an F in high school chemistry, and an F in algebra and a bunch of C’s, a couple D’s and if it weren’t for gym and kings court singers, I doubt I would have gotten any A’s. Any kings court singers here? I was the jester in the madrigal dinner. I did a few other things. I was in junior spec, Reviewing the Situation, 1981 baby. I played trumpet in band — actually I was second to the last trumpet — which means I played exactly two notes in every song. Blaaamp blaaammp. Nobody ever saw my name on some academic kudos report sent out by the school and no parent ever uttered the words:

“Louis Profeta made honor roll, why can’t you?”

And if I had to apply to college today at Indiana University, I would not get in.

THE AMA’S COMMON SENSE PROPOSAL

Frustrated AMA adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence

Yet another professional group which has to deal with gun violence has come out with a list of rational gun-control proposals which the NRA will probably claim is trying to “take away your guns!”

Actually, that’s true. The AMA’s proposals will take away your guns if you’ve been found guilty of domestic violence or stalking, if you’re suicidal or if you’re someone who has threatened violence.

In the same way you can lose your drivers license if you’ve become a danger behind the wheel to society at large, you should lose your right to own a gun if you’re a danger to society.

AMA delegates voted to adopt several of nearly a dozen gun-related proposals presented by doctor groups that are part of the AMA’s membership. They agreed to:

— Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

— Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

— Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

— Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

— Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers.

ORGANIZED RELIGION — STILL FOMENTING HATE

Global Uptick in Government Restrictions on Religion in 2016

Lest you think I believe that it’s only Americans who are selfish and tribal, here are results from a recent Pew Survey reminding us how much humans hate “the other.”

Restrictions on religion around the world continued to climb in 2016, according to Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion. This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study.

The share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – rose from 25% in 2015 to 28% in 2016. This is the largest percentage of countries to have high or very high levels of government restrictions since 2013, and falls just below the 10-year peak of 29% in 2012.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Child Abuse, Child Development

2018 Medley #15: Separation of Children from Parents

Just four articles with excerpts. This is what we’re doing in the name of “border security” to the children coming to the U.S.

Separating kids from parents at the border mirrors a ‘textbook strategy’ of domestic abuse, experts say — and causes irreversible, lifelong damage

If you only read one article from this list, read this one. I’ve quoted extensively from it because it contains so much important, and disturbing information.

“What they are doing to these children and parents is inhumane,” Cardoso told Business Insider. “If we just look at the research evidence, anyone can see that these tactics will have long-term consequences for children and families.”

Dr. Lisa Fortuna, medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, told Business Insider that “in situations of stress, the only way that children can cope is if they have a caregiver with them that’s taking care of them and that’s there to protect them.”

The removal of a caregiver can create acute distress that harms a child’s ability to cope and self-soothe, which can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In vulnerable developing brains, that can be especially harmful.



“Historically when things have happened like this — from the literature — when you have this accumulation of trauma and you break up families, you have a direct negative impact on the children, the caregivers, and potentially intergenerational bad effects,” Fortuna said.

The US and Canada have a long history of separating Native Americans from their families. Researchers have linked the experience of Native Americans who were pressured to relocate away from tribes and family groups in the 1950s to problems with substance abuse and depression. Depression and juvenile behavior issues even persisted through the next generation as well.



She said that using children to manipulate adults’ decisions — as Sessions’ policy is intended to do — “is an eerie mirroring” of a “textbook strategy of people who abuse their partners.”

In domestic abuse situations, one partner often uses control of children as a way to “manipulate their partner, maintain control over their partner, or coerce their partner,” Heffron said. “Except now it’s children being manipulated and being used as pawns to control a whole community of people, a whole population of people who are trying to seek safety.”



“We’ve heard from families that have said they would rather risk the plight of coming to the United States and possibly being detained than face sure harm or even death in their home countries,” McKenna said. “It’s a policy that’s just not going to be effective because it’s not addressing the core reasons of why these families and these children are coming to the United States. It’s just this pervasive violence that’s perpetrated by the gangs and narcotraffickers which control communities.”

Family separation also violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifically states that “a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.”

“I think we should be a society that understands that we need to take care of children. If they come to our borders and they are families, we can’t harm them,” Fortuna said. “We have to deal with policy and immigration issues, I understand that, but it cannot be policy that harms people directly, intentionally.”

What separation from parents does to children: ‘The effect is catastrophic’

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements against it — representing more than 250,000 doctors in the United States. Nearly 7,700 mental-health professionals and 142 organizations have also signed a petition urging President Trump to end the policy.

“To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma,” the petition reads.

Maltreatment and the Developing Child: How Early Childhood Experience Shapes Child and Culture

by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

Disrupted Development

While most children experience safe and stable upbringings, we know all too well that many children do not.

The very biological gifts that make early childhood a time of great opportunity also make children very vulnerable to negative experiences: inappropriate or abusive caregiving, a lack of nurturing, chaotic and cognitively or relationally impoverished environments, unpredictable stress, persisting fear, and persisting physical threat. These adverse effects could be associated with stressed, inexperienced, ill-informed, pre-occupied or isolated caregivers, parental substance abuse and/or alcoholism, social isolation, or family violence. Chronic exposure is more problematic than episodic exposure.

In the most extreme and tragic cases of profound neglect, such as when children are raised by animals, the damage to the developing brain – and child – is severe, chronic, and resistant to interventions later in life.

Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development

From the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

...contrary to popular belief, serious fear-triggering events can have significant and long-lasting im- pacts on the developing child, beginning in infancy. Science tells us that young children can perceive threat in their environment but, unlike adults, they do not have the cognitive or physical capacities to regulate their psychological response, reduce the threat, or remove themselves from the threatening situation. Research also shows that very young infants can learn to fear certain places, events, or people. These learned fear responses may disrupt the physiology of the stress response system, making it more difficult for the body to respond appropriately to typical, mild stress in everyday contexts later in life. Furthermore, when fear is learned, normal situations and circumstances can elicit responses that are harmful to a child’s development.

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #14

Testing Rules from Amateurs,
“Fixing” Brains, Public Education,
Teacher Shortage, Your Tax Dollars at Work,
Accountability Double Standards,
Retention in Grade

 LEAVE THE TESTING ANALYSIS TO THE EXPERTS

MI: When Legislators Don’t Understand Testing

When I was teaching, I administered individual diagnostic tests to students. The instructions for every one of the tests reminded me that the test was to be used for its intended purpose. No conclusions unrelated to that intended purpose were considered valid.

Standardized achievement tests, however, are frequently (at this point, more frequently than not, I would wager) used for making conclusions unrelated to their intended purpose.

The reason? Legislators and politicians have taken over the responsibility of choosing how to evaluate children…and, for the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing.

Tests should not be given for any purpose other than that for which it was intended. To do so, as most states are doing, is invalid, irresponsible, and a form of educational malpractice.

In this post we learn of Michigan legislators who consider a bill which requires teachers to “pass the SAT” before earning a teaching certificate. If that sounds odd to you, it’s because you cannot “pass” the SAT. Nor can you “fail” it. It’s not a spelling test, or a final exam.

Pass the SAT? What does that even mean? The SAT gives you a score, which as I told my students every year, is neither “good” nor “bad” until the college you’re applying to says so. I talk to someone on line with ties to the testing and data biz and she absolutely hates it when people talk about passing or failing test. And yet, here we are, demonstrating once again that civilians (even elected ones) don’t understand that tests are produced for very specific purposes and can’t just be swapped to whatever purpose you like as if all tests are fundamentally the same. And instead of seeing some rich source of nuanced data that can be carefully decoded for a wealth of information, these citizens just see a thing that you either pass or fail. No more nuance or richness than a light switch.

And these are the people who legislate how tests must be used and what rewards and punishments will be doled out because of them. Yes, one of the biggest problems with modern ed reform is that it’s amateur hour in education. Knowing what the heck you’re talking about– that’s the test that people in power keep failing.

 

BILLIONAIRES WANT TO “FIX” BRAINS RATHER THAN ADDRESS POVERTY

Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

Gates and his billionaire friends are determined to find the cause of low achievement anywhere but with poverty (just like DeVos, and other NRA shills, look for the answer to gun violence anywhere but with the actual guns). The billionaires are afraid that the solutions might cost money (see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

They want to fund research in executive functioning and why students who live in poverty have such trouble. How about if they start with these reports of actual research already done…

The U.S. does not have an education problem. It has a poverty problem.

…the billionaires reason that not only can executive malfunctioning cause substantial classroom learning problems and school failure, it also can adversely affect socio-economic status, physical health, drug problems, and criminal convictions in adulthood. Consequently, if teachers of poor students know how to improve executive function, their students will do well academically and reap future “real-world benefits.” For Gates, who is always looking for “the next big thing,” this can be it in education.

Most people looking at this reasoning would likely think, “If executive functioning is poorer in poor children, why not eliminate the apparent cause of the deficiency, i.e., poverty?” Not so for the billionaires.

 

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATORS

Our Schools Are Not Failing; Our Policy Makers Are : Raleigh’s Amorphous Way of Measuring Schools

With the exception of “class size caps” the words “North Carolina” in the following quote (and its source blog post) can be replaced with “Indiana” (or any number of other states).

And when you are the North Carolina General Assembly that is trying to privatize the public school system, you undertake a series of actions that weaken public schools such as school performance grades aligned with achievement, intentionally not fully fund schools, create class size caps with no funding of new classrooms, and throw millions of dollars into vouchers.

You try and disenchant the teaching profession by removing due-process rights and graduate degree pay from new teachers to a point where state education programs have experienced a significant drop in candidates.

And yet public schools are still doing the job.

 

PAYING FOR EDUCATION: THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

Fact Sheet: Yes, Increase the Salaries of All Teachers

Indiana and other states need to do something to reverse the growing teacher shortage. The number of students enrolled in teacher education programs in Indiana in 2015-16 has dropped by half since 2010-11. In 2010-11 there were 13,493 students enrolled in teacher training programs. That number was 6,813 in 2015-16.

For the last few decades public school teachers have been made the scapegoat for the failure of students to achieve.

The state government under Mitch Daniels began the punishment of teachers in 2011. Since then

  • collective bargaining rights for teachers have been restricted.
  • the state began what is now the largest private/parochial school voucher program in the nation, and increased funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.
  • the state passed a property tax cap amendment to the constitution, and shifted state funding of public education to the state legislature.
  • teachers have lost tenure (due process) and seniority protections.
  • the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries has been reduced.
  • accountability measures requiring teacher evaluations to be based on student test scores despite lack of validity have been instituted.

A raise in teacher pay is only the first step towards restoring the teaching profession.

Note that the legislature, policy makers, and politicians are not held accountable for societal issues leading to lowered achievement such as funding, class size, and the effects of poverty.

The annual pay for teachers fell sharply from 1995 to 2015 in relation to the annual pay of similar workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, public school teachers are paid less than other comparable workers in every state, and they earn 11 percent less on average, when accounting for nonwage benefits. This calculation is based on comparable weekly wages [emphasis added].

 

MONEY LAUNDERING FOR SCHOOL “CHOICE”

FL Schools Using Taxpayer Money to Teach Ridiculous Lies

Should tax dollars be used to fund schools which teach that “dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not.”

This report from Florida discusses what’s taught in private schools using textbooks from Abeka, BJE Press, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Some of Indiana’s parochial schools use the same books.

Where is your educational tax dollar going?

The constitutional issues here are rather complex. There are two arguments that can be made here on either side. On the one hand, giving taxpayer money to religious entities seems like a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, especially when it’s used to teach things that advocate very sectarian ideas, something the government is clearly forbidden from doing.

On the other hand, the voucher is not aimed specifically at religious schools. Parents get a voucher and can use it to send their kids to any kind of school, religious or secular. The fact that the money is “laundered” through parental choice does make a difference constitutionally because it’s akin to someone getting public assistance and then using a portion of it to tithe at church, or buy some religious product or service. The government is not funding the religious activity directly, so that does mitigate, at least to some degree, the Establishment Clause problem.

Either way, we can be appalled by the fact that our tax dollars are used to promote vile and dishonest ideas like this.

 

THE DOUBLE STANDARD IN SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

‘Wild West of education’

Where is the accountability for all non-public schools which receive state tax dollars? You know that if a public school was avoiding accountability the “reformers” in the state would be all over them. Yet accountability somehow doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to F rated charter or voucher schools.

Indiana grades schools with an A-F system, and according to the state grades, IVS is a failing school. In fact, all virtual charter schools in Indiana received F grades from the state in both 2016 and 2017, according to the State Board of Education’s recent report. Any one of them could be closed by its authorizer, only to be replaced by yet another virtual school.

As Cavazos’ recent explorations of the peculiar origins of the new Indiana Agriculture and Technology School show, Indiana is the Wild West of education. There are few rules for virtual schools to follow, but lots of money to be made.

This past session, our legislators killed three bills regarding accountability for charter school authorizing, even though Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick called for improved accountability in virtual charter schools.

 

LA FINALLY ACCEPTS YEARS OF RESEARCH INTO RETENTION

Louisiana ends policy that held thousands of students back a grade or more

Being forced to choose Social Promotion or Retention is a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other. Investing in education and providing students the help they need (not just what they can afford), is the answer. Not every child will succeed…but many, many more children won’t fail.

“But then when I got the numbers for New Orleans and for Louisiana – and you know a lot of Louisiana was not affected by Katrina – New Orleans was a little bit worse but Louisiana was still really bad on retention,” she says. “And as I talked to more people it was clear that it was an effect of standardized testing.”

Reckdahl recently wrote about overage students in Louisiana and investigated the impacts of retention for The Hechinger Report. So many students have been held back due to mandatory retention that in 2017 the Louisiana State Legislature decided to end it. Now, schools offer summer classes, online classes and help from specialized teachers as alternatives for students who don’t pass the LEAP test.

Reckdahl says there’s one big takeaway from the state’s “experiment” with retention.

“It’s not enough to scare a kid into performing,” she says. “You can’t just say I’m going to hold you back.”

 

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

Father’s Day 2018: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father’s Day post…with updates and additions.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from the very first day I taught at an elementary school beginning in January 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.

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.

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

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book (2013), Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud. He focuses on fathers reading aloud to sons because fewer fathers than mothers read aloud to their children, and sons are the ones, according to statistics, whose academic achievement could use the read-aloud boost. Obviously, this does not mean that fathers should not read aloud to their daughters. The point is to get fathers to read aloud to their children.

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 positive 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,” Trelease 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 all your kids every day.

Need more convincing? Read these…

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Posted in Personal History, retention, Teaching Career

What Being a Teacher Has Taught Me

Thoughts on teaching…

LEARNING

As a student in education I learned about curriculum development, child psychology, child development, teaching methods, formal and informal assessments, and literacy. I developed communication skills and learned how to read educational research. I practiced/interned in different schools, with different students, and different age groups.

EXPERIENCING

After years of university classes and field experiences I became an educator. I spent more than 40 years as a paraprofessional, a certified teacher, and a volunteer practicing the skills, applying the knowledge I gained as a student, and learning about education through my experiences.

During those years I…

  • taught 5 year-old kindergartners, 30 year-old graduate students, and those in between.
  • counseled students and parents.
  • analyzed the behavior of students as they read difficult material and while they played at recess.
  • deciphered standardized test scores and used assessments to understand children’s abilities, preferences, and achievement.
  • wrote lesson plans, revised them in the middle of the lessons, and reflected on unsuccessful as well as successful interactions with students.
  • daily rehashed events in my classroom in an attempt to improve on my own failures or identify what it was which sparked my successes.

I continued to learn as a graduate student throughout my career, earning certifications and endorsements in three additional areas.

I have…

  • conferred with colleagues about ways to improve our practice and developed in-service presentations which I shared with teachers to inform and support them.
  • worked with administrators to help them find ways to support teachers so they could support students.
  • spent evenings checking and examining student work which helped me decide whether to reteach concepts for students who needed it, or move ahead to new material when students were ready.
  • comforted students who were afraid during tornadoes and fire drills or who experienced psychological or physical trauma at home.
  • cheered students who, after struggling, learned to read a difficult passage or solve a confusing problem.
  • told parents the sometimes difficult truth about their children’s achievement and comforted them when their own guilt was misplaced or overwhelming.

I had successes as a teacher which provided life-changing experiences for my students…and I had spectacular failures with students who I was unable to reach, some of which still haunt me. I cared about all my students, even those who were the most difficult to reach.

…especially those who were the most difficult to reach.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TEACHING

I learned that

  • You probably won’t learn to be an effective educator with just five weeks of summer training.
  • You don’t know about how children learn just because you were a child and a student.
  • You don’t know about Education just because you have a lot of money. Founding Microsoft, Netflix or Facebook doesn’t qualify you to make education policy. Neither does buying politicians with your family’s fortune. (Betsy DeVos…this means you.)
  • Just because you are elected to a governmental position doesn’t mean you are an expert on education. 

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT LEARNING

  • Children who believe they can grow, will grow. Adults who believe they can grow, will grow. No one ever “finishes learning.” Some people stop learning because 1) they don’t think there is anything left for them to learn or 2) they don’t think they are able to learn more. Both are wrong.
  • A “lazy” child (usually after fourth grade) probably got that way not because he decided he didn’t want to do hard work, but because he found it too painful to face failure. It doesn’t hurt as much to be seen as lazy as it does to be seen as incapable. The same goes for the “class clown.” Being singled out for misbehavior is less painful than being singled out for being “less smart.”
  • All children can learn, but children don’t learn at the same rate. Expecting all children to grow at the same rate academically is as foolish as expecting all children to grow physically at the same rate. Not everyone learns to walk at the same time. Not everyone learns to read at the same time. Punishing (and retention is punishment) children by retaining them based on a third grade reading tests (IREAD-3) is expensive and ineffective.

Teaching is more than just providing students with information. It takes specialized training and experience to be a good teacher – just like every other profession!

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Posted in Charters, Privatization, Public Ed, vouchers

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Alas, there’s nothing new in this post, because, privatization still does not help America’s student achievement improve. It does, however, transfer public funds to private and corporate “schools.”

VOUCHERS FAIL AGAIN…

According to its proponents, the voucher program in Indiana began (by legislative fiat, not by popular demand) as a way to provide poor children in “failing” schools the chance to go to “good private schools.”

Back in 2011, former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels saw the passage of the voucher program as a huge victory.

“Social justice has come to Indiana education,” Daniels said at the closing of the 2011 session.

Once reformers realized (but would never admit) that private schools are no better than public schools, the argument changed to “choice” for “choice’s” sake.

Once Gov. Mike Pence took office in 2013, the program experienced a dramatic change, putting enrollment in the tens of thousands. In his first State of the State address after being elected, Pence praised the program and encouraged the legislature to expand it.

“Indiana has given parents who previously had few choices the ability to choose the public or private school that best meets the needs of their family,” Pence said.

Yet, other “choices” don’t receive public tax support. We don’t get vouchers for the “choice” of shopping at Barnes and Noble instead of using the public library. We don’t get vouchers for the “choice” of joining a country club instead of visiting public parks. We don’t get vouchers to hire our own fire departments and police departments. What is it about school “choice” that makes it different?

“CHOICE” IS AN EXCUSE

➤ School “choice” is an excuse to subsidize religion and give their schools (99% of the vouchers in Indiana go to religious schools) public money. Is it the public’s job to support religion? Ben Franklin implied that it is not. The Civil Power should not be responsible to fund a religious school.

When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

➤ School “choice” is an excuse to preserve both economic and racial segregation. That was the excuse for “choice” after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

After Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered segregation of public schools, many Southern states established voucher schemes to allow white students to leave the education system and take taxpayer dollars with them, decimating the budgets of the public school districts. Today’s voucher schemes can be just as harmful to public school district budgets, because they often leave school districts with less funding to teach the most disadvantaged students, while funneling private dollars to unaccountable private schools that are not held to the same academic or civil rights standards as public schools.

Privatization increases segregation. See also

➤ School “choice” is an excuse to line private pockets with taxpayer money. For examples (these are a few of the most recent, published from May 21 to June 1)…

Vouchers for private religious schools do not improve student learning. It’s the public’s responsibility to provide schools for all children using public tax dollars. Public money should be reserved for public schools.

…AND AGAIN

Yet Another Study Shows Federally Funded D.C. Voucher Program Is Failing Students

The current administration loves vouchers despite the evidence.

…At an event last year hosted by the White House, Vice President Mike Pence called the D.C. voucher program “a case study in school choice success.” But how can the administration deem the program successful when it has been shown time and again to fail students?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education released a study on the effects of the D.C. voucher program. The study looked at the voucher program’s impact on students and parents two years after students applied to the program. The department found that, once again, students in the D.C. voucher program are performing worse academically than their peers not in the program. And what’s more, students’ negative scores were worse this year than they were last year.

CHARTERS – PUBLIC, YET PRIVATE

Listen, not all charters are bad. Some charters are not-for-profit. Charters are ostensibly public schools. But for-profit or not-for-profit…good or bad…all charters have one thing in common; they drain resources from real public schools.

➤ Some charters have perfected the skill of student skimming. They have learned to manipulate their clientele so that they get more high achievers, fewer students with special needs or behavior issues, and more students with supportive parents.

Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.

➤ For some charters, the main goal is the profit.

As a result of this change to the tax code, banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit. They are permitted to combine this tax credit with other tax breaks while they also collect interest on any money they lend out. According to one analyst, the credit allows them to double the money they invested in seven years.

➤ Charters claim to be public schools when it comes to taking public funds, but whine that they are private institutions when they’re confronted with the threat of teacher organizing.

…in 2013 the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of a Chicago charter school and deemed it a private institution. Therefore, teachers at the school must organize under laws governing private-sector rather than public-sector employees.

➤ Charter schools often choose the students they want.

Charter schools take resources away from the public schools, harming public schools and their students. All charter schools do this – whether they’re opportunistic and for-profit or presenting themselves as public, progressive and enlightened.

Charter schools are free to pick and choose and exclude or kick out any student they want. They’re not supposed to, but in real life there’s no enforcement. Many impose demanding application processes, or use mandatory “intake counseling,” or require work hours or financial donations from families – so that only the children of motivated, supportive, compliant families get in. Charter schools publicly deny this, but within many charter schools, the selectivity is well known and viewed as a benefit. Admittedly, families in those schools like that feature – with the more challenging students kept out of the charter – but it’s not fair or honest, and it harms public schools and their students.

END THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.

What about “failing” public schools?

What “privatizers” call a “failing” public school is, in fact, a “failing” municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.

Even so, America’s public schools perform well. We don’t have a “failing” school problem. We have a child poverty problem.

Public funds should be reserved for public schools.

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