Society’s Mirror, Teacher Shortages,
Disenfranchising the Voters
CHILDREN DON’T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL
This post isn’t about reading, but Mitchell Robinson brings up important information we should remember.
Last month, third graders in Indiana took the IREAD-3, a reading achievement test. Those who fail to achieve the arbitrarily designated cut score must take the test again during the summer. Those who fail it again must repeat third grade.
The concept of grade level should be flexible, not based on an arbitrary cut score. It should reflect the average reading level of a child in a particular grade instead of a goal for every child to achieve on a given test day. We should teach children at their zone of proximal development — the level just beyond the child’s independent level, not at the level the test insists upon.
Would we like all children to be above average? Of course, but we can’t ignore the math which renders that impossible. Additionally, we can’t ignore the detrimental impact of poverty on school achievement. Our job, as teachers, is to analyze a child’s achievement and make our plans based on what will help him progress as quickly as possible. That means starting where the child is…not at some vague “grade-level” determined by an outside source.
By setting a cut score on a test, and using the test to determine grade placement, the state is ignoring this basic concept of academic achievement and development, usurping the professional judgment of the classroom teacher, and ignoring the best interests of children in a misguided quest to get a number with which to label teachers, schools and school districts.
I agree with Robinson when he says that we can set “goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students.” We do that by understanding the reading process and observing our students. [emphasis in original]
Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”
So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.
But the only thing that measuring reading by “grade level” does is make a lot of kids–and teachers–feel dumb when they are not, and turn reading into drudgery instead of the life-long pursuit of joy, knowledge, and enjoyment it’s meant to be.
FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT
What’s this? Students learn better when they are well fed? Go figure!
…scores were highest around three weeks after families received benefits, and lowest at the beginning and end of that cycle. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.
It’s not fully clear why scores spike around that three-week mark, but the researchers suggest that the academic benefits of better access to food, like improved nutrition and reduced stress, take some time to accrue.
“Students with peak test performance (who received SNAP around two weeks prior to their test date) may have benefited from access to sufficient food resources and lowered stress not only on the day of the test but for the previous two weeks,” Gassman-Pines and Bellows write.
SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION
Children learn what they live. Guess what happens when they live in a society filled with hatred and bigotry…in a society where truth has no meaning…in a society where disagreements are solved by shooting those who you disagree with…
John Rogers and his colleagues (Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera) at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 500 public high school principals from across the country and found this:
* 89 percent reported that “incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.”
* 83 percent of principals note these tensions are fueled by “untrustworthy or disputed information,” and over 90 percent report students sharing “hateful posts on social media.”
* Almost all principals rate the threat of gun violence as a major concern, and one in three principals report that their school received in the previous year threats of mass shooting or bombing or both.
There’s more: In schools with a sizable immigrant population, principals report the significant negative effects that federal immigration policy and its associated anti-immigrant rhetoric have on student performance and family stability.
And schools that are in the areas of the country hardest hit by the opioid crisis are directly affected by addiction, overdose, and family devastation.
The right-wing war on the teaching profession is succeeding. Fewer young people are going into education. The number of uncertified teachers is increasing. Class sizes will increase.
As might be expected, this has the greatest impact on high-poverty schools.
What can we do? Who will be tomorrow’s teachers? Will there still be a well staffed, local public school for our children and grandchildren?
Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools…
Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools…
The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools…
Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession…
THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO
In the Public Interest‘s weekly privatization report for April 8, 2019, is all about charter schools. Fully ten of the fifteen education articles have to do with charters failing to do the job that taxpayers were giving them money to do. Charters should not be allowed to open in areas where an additional school isn’t needed. Charters must be fiscally and academically accountable, just like real public schools.
Louisiana officials are recommending to close a charter school amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a failure to provide proper special education services to the roughly 40 percent of enrolled students with disabilities.
What does it say about a political party which wins elections by preventing citizens from voting…by arranging districts so that politicians choose their voters, not the other way around…and by going against the will of the voters to divert money from public institutions to privatization?
Republicans in Indiana tried this during the 2019 legislative session and didn’t get away with it. I don’t doubt that they will try again.
Pinellas County voters reapproved a special property tax in 2016 to improve teacher salaries and arts programs, not to subsidize charter schools. Miami-Dade voters approved a property tax increase last year to raise teacher salaries and hire more school resource officers, not to subsidize charter schools. Yet now Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to change the rules and force local school districts to share money from local tax increases with privately operated charter schools. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries.