2019 Medley #10

Lead Poisoning, Segregation,
Charters are a Waste of Money,
Fearing Small Children, Testing,
Telling ADHD Kids to Try Harder,
Is it Achievement or Ability?

IT COSTS A LOT TO POISON OUR CHILDREN

American children are regularly exposed to lead at higher than safe levels, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control is ZERO [emphasis added]!

…There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

In some places, the exposure is long term due to governmental neglect.

7 years later, new study shows East Chicago kids exposed to more lead because of flawed government report

Kids living in two of the contaminated neighborhoods actually were nearly three times more likely to suffer lead poisoning during the past decade than if they lived in other parts of the heavily industrialized northwest Indiana city, according to a report unveiled last week by an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Written in dry, bureaucratic language, the mea culpa is the latest acknowledgement that federal and state officials repeatedly failed to protect residents in the low-income, predominantly Hispanic and African-American city, despite more than three decades of warnings about toxic pollution left by the USS Lead smelter and other abandoned factories.

New evidence that lead exposure increases crime

The point of all this? By not spending the time and money to clean up lead contamination in our cities and neighborhoods we’re losing money. We’re losing money in increased crime and decreased academic productivity. What are we waiting for?

Three recent papers consider the effects of lead exposure on juvenile delinquency and crime rates, using three very different empirical approaches and social contexts. All have plausible (but very different) control groups, and all point to the same conclusion: lead exposure leads to big increases in criminal behavior.

STILL SEGREGATED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Trump judicial nominees decline to endorse Brown v. Board under Senate questioning

Candidates nominated by the current administration for Federal Judicial posts — and this administration is nominating judges at a fast pace — don’t seem to endorse the 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Schools are more segregated today then they have been at any time since the 1960s. We have yet to fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. Segregated schools mean segregated opportunities. There is a $23 billion racial funding gap between schools serving students of color and school districts serving predominantly white students.

But the Federal judges now being appointed by the current administration decline to endorse Brown v. Board of Education. In fact, most of the entire country apparently disagrees with Brown…given the segregation present in our public schools.

The matter was especially pronounced in the nomination of Wendy Vitter, who was confirmed Thursday as a federal district judge in Louisiana without the vote of a single Democratic senator. “I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” Vitter said during her confirmation hearing. “If I start commenting on, ‘I agree with this case,’ or ‘don’t agree with this case,’ I think we get into a slippery slope.” “I was stunned by her answer,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who posed the question, said this week on the Senate floor. “Brown is woven into the fabric of our nation. How could anyone suggest disagreeing with Brown, as she did?”

Rucker C. Johnson is a professor of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley. His new book, Children of the Dream, explains how the school integration efforts of the 1970s and 1980s were not a “social experiment doomed from the start”. Instead, the integration of public schools in the 70s and 80s was overwhelmingly successful…until the advent of Reagan Conservatism which reversed the process.

A scholar revives the argument for racial integration in schools

The main argument of Johnson’s book is much bigger than racial integration. He says three things are essential for schools to give poor kids a chance to break out of poverty: money, preschool and desegregation. Johnson finds that black children make much larger academic gains when integration is accompanied by more funding for low-income schools. Similarly, the benefits of early child education endure when they’re followed by well-resourced schools. All three — money, preschool and desegregation — are a powerful combination in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. “Synergy has the power to take two policies that in isolation seem flat and transform them into one package of policies with profound promise,” Johnson wrote in his book.

Children Of The Dream: Why School Integration Works

An acclaimed economist reveals that school integration efforts in the 1970s and 1980s were overwhelmingly successful — and argues that we must renew our commitment to integration for the sake of all Americans

We are frequently told that school integration was a social experiment doomed from the start. But as Rucker C. Johnson demonstrates in Children of the Dream, it was, in fact, a spectacular achievement. Drawing on longitudinal studies going back to the 1960s, he shows that students who attended integrated and well-funded schools were more successful in life than those who did not — and this held true for children of all races.

Yet as a society we have given up on integration. Since the high point of integration in 1988, we have regressed and segregation again prevails. Contending that integrated, well-funded schools are the primary engine of social mobility, Children of the Dream offers a radical new take on social policy. It is essential reading in our divided times.

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY

Charter Schools Will Always Waste Money Because They Duplicate Services

We live in a throw-away civilization. When something doesn’t work, we throw it away and get a new one. That throw-away attitude has found its way to the issue of the public schools. When public schools aren’t working, we abandon them and get new schools in the form of charters and vouchers. Instead of spending money to improve the schools we have, our money goes to privatized schools which don’t do any better than public schools.

Steven Singer also reminds us that most charter schools aren’t really needed…they’re not opened because public schools can’t handle the number of students in a district. They’re not opened because schools are overcrowded. They’re opened because someone decided to use public education as a money-making venture.

When a district’s public schools aren’t performing well, instead of abandoning them and opening charter schools, we need to spend the time and effort it would take to improve.

You can’t save money buying more of what you already have.

Constructing two fire departments serving the same community will never be as cheap as having one.

Empowering two police departments to patrol the same neighborhoods will never be as economical as one.

Building two roads parallel to each other that go to exactly the same places will never be as cost effective as one.

This isn’t exactly rocket science. In fact, it’s an axiom of efficiency and sound financial planning. It’s more practical and productive to create one robust service instead of two redundant ones.

However, when it comes to education, a lot of so-called fiscal conservatives will try to convince us that we should erect two separate school systems – a public one and a privatized one.

The duplicate may be a voucher system where we use public tax dollars to fund private and parochial schools. It may be charter schools where public money is used to finance systems run by private organizations. Or it may be some combination of the two.

But no matter what they’re suggesting, it’s a duplication of services.

And it’s a huge waste of money.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR…ARE SMALL CHILDREN?

Feds: No more education, legal services for immigrant kids

We have become a nation of cowardly, selfish, small-minded, ignorant, fools.

“By eliminating English classes and legal aid that are critical to ensuring children successfully navigate the asylum process, the Trump Administration is essentially condemning children to prison and throwing away the key until their imminent deportation,” Grijalva, who represents a district on the border, said in a statement.

TESTING: DOING IT WRONG SINCE 2001

Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers

I began teaching long enough ago to remember when the Big Standardized Test wasn’t so big. In the school system I worked in, we tested students in grades 3, 6, 8, and 10 instead of all of them. Back in 1976, I taught third grade. Our students’ scores were compared with other students around the country. Not only that, as the classroom teacher, I received a complete analysis of how each student did…and I got it a week or two after the test was taken. Yet, like tests today, the ones I gave didn’t really tell me anything that I didn’t already know. John couldn’t read but could add and subtract. Annie had to count on her fingers but was reading at a 9th-grade level. Michelle was an excellent all-around student. Paul and Stan probably needed special education services. The important information was not how each individual student scored. It was my understanding that the tests were used to help us determine if our curriculum was adequate. Were we teaching our kids things they needed to know? How did we compare to other schools around the country?

One big difference…we were told, specifically, not to teach to the test. In fact, as I recall, “teaching to the test” was a serious breach of testing etiquette. Our school district had developed a well-rounded curriculum and we wanted to see if teaching our curriculum yielded good scores. My classrooms of middle-class white kids generally did average to above average…just like today’s middle-class white kids.

It was interesting to see my students’ scores each year. But it was interesting because it reinforced what I already knew. Rarely did I see anything that surprised me. You could have ranked the report cards I made out for my class…and their standardized tests…and the rankings would have had a nearly perfect correlation.

One important difference compared to today’s tests; The tests didn’t determine student grade placement, school “grades,” teacher cash bonuses, or teacher evaluations. Standardized achievement tests — then and now — weren’t made to do those things. The tests were designed to test certain aspects of student achievement and nothing more. Misusing tests by using them to measure things they weren’t designed to measure invalidates the test. You wouldn’t use a teaspoon to measure the temperature. You shouldn’t use a student achievement test to measure teacher competence.

Imagine that you are a basketball coach, tasked with training your team for great things. Imagine that when game day comes, you are not allowed to be in the gym with your team to see them play, and that they are forbidden to tell you anything about how the game went. You aren’t even allowed to know about the opposing team. All you are allowed to know is how many points your team scored. And yet, somehow, you are to make efficient use of practice time to strengthen their weaknesses. You can practice the kinds of skills that you imagine probably factor in a game, but you have no way of knowing how they use those skills in a game situation, or what specifically you should try to fix.

That’s the situation with the standardized test. (Well, actually, it’s worse. To really get the analogy right, we’d also have to imagine that as soon as the ball left the players’ hands, a blindfold slammed down over their eyes, so they don’t really know how they’re doing, either.)

TRY DIFFERENT

10 Things People Need to Stop Saying About Children with ADHD

I grew up hearing this. No matter how hard I tried my efforts were rarely recognized. I was always “lazy” and “unmotivated.”

After struggling through four years of high school my senior English teacher told me “You have so much potential if only you’d put forth some effort.” She obviously cared about my success, but couldn’t see the effort that I was already putting forth.

One of my professors in college suggested that I stick to retail, at which I was very successful, by the way. After I graduated (before I went back for my teaching credentials), I made a mark in the retail business I worked at. Each month, it seemed I was given more and more responsibility. The difference was that the work was hands-on, and didn’t take the same kind of mental concentration that school work (K-12 or college) took. By the time I left my first job after two years, I had been given the responsibility of an entire sales department.

If you have a child or student who you suspect of having ADHD, saying, “just try harder” doesn’t help. Instead, help them “try different.”

3) “He just needs to try harder.” If you’ve ever worked one-on-one with a child who suffers from ADHD and who is trying to complete a homework task that they find challenging or tedious, you will see just how hard these kids try. It is a heartbreaking thing to witness.

ACHIEVEMENT OR ABILITY?

Why Streaming Kids According to Ability Is a Terrible Idea (Oscar Hedstrom) 

Streaming is what we used to call tracking…grouping kids by their class achievement. Years and years of research has shown that, while it’s more convenient for teachers, it doesn’t really help students achieve higher…and the author acknowledges that in the second paragraph below.

In the first paragraph, the author quoted British PM David Cameron who said, “Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.” I’m not sure about parents, but teachers know it’s easier. What teacher wouldn’t like a fourth-grade class, for example, where the range of reading levels is grade 4 through 6, instead of a class with reading levels from first-grade through ninth-grade. Planning would be easier, teaching would be easier. But, as already mentioned, the evidence doesn’t support doing that.

My main focus for this article is the tendency of education writers and teachers to conflate ability with achievement. Once in a while, the difference is understood, such as this explanation from the NWEA Map Test,

MAP Growth tests measure a student’s academic achievement, not his or her ability.

But in the article below, and in so many more discussions among educators, the difference is either not understood or just plain ignored and the words are used interchangeably. In the first paragraph below the author refers to mixed-ability classes, while in the third paragraph he refers to the meta-analysis of student achievement.

Here is what we need to remember. Ability refers to one’s potential, whereas achievement reflects what one actually does.

Mixed-ability classes bore students, frustrate parents, and burn out teachers. The brightest will never summit Everest, and the laggers won’t enjoy the lovely stroll in the park they are perhaps more suited to. Individuals suffer at the demands of the collective, mediocrity prevails. In 2014, the UK Education Secretary called for streaming to be made compulsory. And as the former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2006: ‘I want to see it in every single school. Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.’ According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 98 percent of Australian schools use some form of streaming.

Despite all this, there is limited empirical evidence to suggest that streaming results in better outcomes for students. Professor John Hattie, director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, notes that ‘tracking has minimal effects on learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects’. Streaming significantly – and negatively – affects those students placed in the bottom sets. These students tend to have much higher representation of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Less significant is the small benefit for those lucky clever students in the higher sets. The overall result is relative inequality. The smart stay smart, and the dumb get dumber, further entrenching social disadvantage.

In the latest update of Hattie’s influential meta-analysis of factors influencing student achievement, one of the most significant factors – far more than reducing class size (effect: 0.21) or even providing feedback on student work (0.7) – is the teachers’ estimate of achievement (1.57). Streaming students by diagnosed achievement automatically restricts teacher expectations. Meanwhile, in a mixed environment, teacher expectations have to be more diverse and flexible.

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