Author Archives: Stu

About Stu

Retired after 35 years in public education.

2019 Medley #8

Grade Level, Student Achievement,
Society’s Mirror, Teacher Shortages,
Charter Accountability,
Disenfranchising the Voters

CHILDREN DON’T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

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

Food for thought: Students’ test scores rise a few weeks after families get food stamps

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.

Source: Food Instability and Academic Achievement: A Quasi-Experiment Using SNAP Benefit Timing

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

‘As society goes, school goes:’ New report details toll on schools in President Trump’s America

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.

Source: School and Society in the Age of Trump

TOMORROW’S TEACHERS

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought

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

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

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.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

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.

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Filed under Achievement, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Florida, IREAD-3, Legislatures, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, TeacherShortage, Testing

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Teachers Unions, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

2019 Medley #7: Things I didn’t get to edition

Accountability, School Time,
How to Teach Reading, Management,
30 Years of Charters

I often bookmark an article that I’d like to use as a basis for a blog entry…and then a week later, it seems like there are more important things I have to do so it gets pushed down the list until I forget about it completely. So today I’d like to look back at some still-relevant articles from the last few months that I found interesting, but got buried by other things on my to-do list.

HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE

Politicians Forget that Cut Scores on Standardized Tests Are Not Grounded in Science

The Every Child Succeeds Act still requires states to test every child every year. There are no longer federal consequences to “failure,” but the federal government still requires the states to tell them what the state-level consequences for low scoring schools are.

Here’s an idea…we know that test scores “correlate with family and neighborhood income” so why should all accountability be dumped on teachers and students? Why should third-graders who fail IREAD3 in Indiana be forced to repeat third grade when it’s possible that the child’s academic struggles are caused by the effects of poverty?

So how about if we put the accountability and consequences where they belong…on state and national politicians and legislators.

As John Kuhn wrote a few years ago

…where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”?

Politicians and legislatures are “failing” when poverty is unaddressed or when progress towards easing poverty isn’t enough to qualify as “adequate yearly progress.”

Politicians and legislatures are “failing” when they don’t spend enough on public education or waste money on mismanaged private schools (charter or voucher).

Politicians and legislatures are “failing” when they sign or pass laws such as third-grade retention laws, or laws which misuse standardized tests, which force educators into doing things that are educationally questionable.

It’s time to attach sanctions to states which allow their public schools to suffer while wasting billions of dollars on misused standardized tests, on vouchers, and on charters.

It’s time to attach sanctions to states which spend more money on wealthy schools that poor schools.

It’s time that we stop blaming teachers for things outside of their control and hold accountable those who can help change things…but don’t.

Decades of research show that, in the aggregate, standardized test scores correlate with family and neighborhood income. In a country where segregation by race and poverty continues to grow, it is now recognized among experts and researchers that rating and ranking schools and districts by their aggregate test scores merely brands the poorest schools as failing. When sanctions are attached, political regimes of test-based accountability merely punish the schools and the teachers and the students in the poorest places.

School Accountability Begins With the People Who Make the Rules: A Code of Conduct for Politicians and Test Makers

A code of conduct for the people making pronouncements on education…good idea.

-In fact, you know what? Don’t use standardized tests at all to assess student learning – especially not connected to high stakes. Instead rely on classroom grades and teacher observations for student assessment. Use indexes and audits of school resources to determine whether they are doing their best to teach students and whether lawmakers have done enough to ensure they are receiving fair and equitable resources.

TIME FOR SCHOOL

Squeezing the Clock

Blogger Peter Greene has retired from teaching and recently discovered that time in school is different than time outside of school.

As an elementary teacher, I had to learn how to use time to my advantage. The biggest problems were daily interruptions. One year I had to keep a list of where and at what time I had to send students out of the room.

Student A was diabetic and had to go to the nurse three times a day to have his blood sugar checked.

Student B had to go to occupational therapy three days a week and speech twice a week.

Students C, D, E, F, and G had to go to speech at a different time and different days than student B.

Students D, F, G, and H went to the reading specialist three times a week.

…and so on. In addition, I had to get my students to Phys. Ed on Tuesdays at 9:47, Music on Thursdays at 9:47, and Art on Fridays at 10:02. Library was on Mondays at 9:47, and lunch was every day at 11:20.

I also had to make sure that I picked my students up from their classes on time. The Art teacher had my students from 10:02-10:42 and another class at 10:45, which gave him three minutes between the time my students left and his next class arrived. Time to go to the bathroom? Not likely.

I had to arrange my in-class schedule so that Students A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, didn’t miss anything important when they were at speech, occupational therapy, the nurse, or the reading specialist. And I had to make sure that when they came back — all at different times — I was ready for them.

Our days were scheduled down to the minute…

This is one of the things about teaching that non-teachers just don’t get. If you have an office job and someone says, “Hey, I want you to work in this little project some time this week– it should just take a half an hour or so,” then nobody gets excited because, hey, you can always find a spare thirty minutes here or there. But teachers are desperately sick to death of all the politicians, policy makers, administrators, and public spirited folks who propose, “Here’s a worthwhile thing to do– let’s just have teachers add it to their classroom. It won’t take much time out of their day.” If teachers are feeling polite or restrained (or just resigned) they’ll smile and say, “Sure. Sure. Just send me the materials.” If they’re feeling undiplomatic they will say, “Sure. Please tell me exactly what you want me to cut, because every damn second of my day between now and July is spoken for.” And we’re not talking about blocks of “an hour or so.” Teacher time is measured out in minutes. It is one of those things that you just don’t get if you haven’t been there.

HOW DO YOU TEACH READING?

Reading Instruction, The Attack on Teachers, and Two Areas of Concern

Do teachers not know how to teach reading? Are schools of education at fault for not teaching education students how to teach reading?

It’s my opinion that the one, proven “scientific” way of teaching reading, which works for every child, doesn’t exist. We don’t understand enough about how the brain works when it comes to reading and therefore it’s difficult, if not impossible, to develop a way to teach reading that works for every single child. The word “dyslexia” refers to “trouble with reading.” It’s not any more specific than saying “upper respiratory illness.” In other words, we know something is wrong, and we have seen this difficulty before, but we don’t really understand the exact source or a way to treat it that works for every student.

There are a host of variables which can come into play when a child learns to read; ability, environment, personality, temperament, socio-economic status, experiences, interests. Perhaps the best method for teaching reading is the “try this…” approach which is simply defined as, “Try this. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Repeat.”

What’s most important, however, is that the teacher is familiar with different ways of approaching the teaching of reading and familiar with her students.

The ability to teach reading consists of acquiring the understanding of a large number of ideas, techniques, and concepts related to the reading process, and the ability to choose the correct path at the right time, with specific students.

Almost every day there’s another report attacking teachers for how they teach reading. It divides parents and teachers. It’s also dangerous at a time when there’s a teacher shortage and teachers are banding together to try to save not only their profession, but public education.

I don’t like to see my profession criticized so harshly by those who don’t teach and who have never taught. I fear that with this animosity towards teachers, those with minimal teacher preparation will end up in classrooms pretending to be teachers.

However, I also know parents with children who have dyslexia or reading and writing difficulties. Having taught students with such disabilities in middle and high school, I understand how frustrating it is for young people to struggle with reading and writing.

But everyone focuses on phonics while there are many other variables that could be problematic for children when it comes to reading instruction.

TEACHER MANAGEMENT

Why You Can’t Fire Your Way To Excellence

“Reformers” love to complain about bad teachers and how the union ” protects” bad teachers, yet teachers don’t hire or retain other teachers. Administrators do that.

An administration’s number one job is to make sure that the district’s teachers are working in the conditions that make it possible for them to do their best work. Every bad teacher represents a failure by a principal and a superintendent. That teacher you want to fire is a sign that either your hiring process or your teacher management process is broken.

THIRTY YEARS OF CHARTERS ARE ENOUGH

Can charter schools be reformed? Should they be?

As Diane Ravitch recently said,

There’s only one pot of State money for K-12 schools. Dividing it three ways makes all sectors suffer.

Charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools which get funding directly from the state. A public school implies public oversight. In too many cases, charter schools miss that feature.

It is time to acknowledge that what may have begun as a sincere attempt to promote innovation has given rise to fraud, discrimination and the depletion of public school funding. Thirty years of charters have resulted in an increase in profiteering far more than it has resulted in innovation. Democratic governance is disappearing.

📚👨‍🎓🕰

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Filed under Accountability, Administrators, Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Public Ed, reading, scheduling

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

FLORIDA’S THIRD GRADE READING LAW IS JUST LIKE THE OTHERS

Florida has a third-grade retention law, just like Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, fifteen other states and the District of Columbia. Learning to read by third grade is so important, according to The National Council of State Legislators, that some states find it necessary to retain children who can’t read.

Learning to read by third grade is important because

Research has demonstrated that students not reading proficiently at the end of third grade are four times more likely to not finish high school. Further, the levels of reading proficiency for third graders are linked to specific long-term outcomes: 23 percent of below-basic readers fail to finish high school, compared to 9 percent of basic-scoring readers and 4 percent of proficient readers.

…not to mention the fact that…

Researchers have pointed out that unintended consequences of retention can include increased costs for school districts (national average of $10,700 per retained student).

So it’s an economic issue, too. [I would agree with that, although the problem is the economic status of the children.] And it’s almost as an afterthought that NCSL mentions that retention-in-grade can have detrimental academic results, as well.

Additionally, retention can negatively impact students’ long-term achievement (i.e. high school graduation rates).

The source for the statement that retention can have a negative impact on graduation rates is titled, New research suggests repeating elementary school grades — even kindergarten — is harmful. The authors of this 2014 article claim that the research on retention-in-grade is “muddied” and the research they report on makes it even “muddier.”

Is that true? Is the research “muddied?”

Not much.

RETENTION HAS QUESTIONABLE VALUE

Research going back decades is consistent that the long term impact of retention-in-grade is negative.

The National Council of State Legislatures has a concern about third graders going on to fourth grade without sufficient reading skills and they are ok with the assumption that retention-in-grade will help kids “catch up.” That assumption isn’t supported by research.

Third-grade Reading Legislation

To encourage local schools and districts to take this milestone seriously, several states have enacted legislation that requires students not reading proficiently by the end of third grade to be retained.

Note that third-grade retention states punish 8 and 9-year-olds as an incentive to get them to read better. Furthermore, the implication is that punishing children will “encourage” schools and districts to take the third-grade reading challenge seriously.

Why?

  • …because schools and districts don’t really worry when third graders can’t read unless they’re given some incentive?
  • Are teachers and schools somehow “holding back” their best effort to teach children to read until the state steps in and “encourages” them to teach better by threatening to punish their students with retention?
  • Are the children not learning to read because they aren’t given the incentive of “not flunking?” Will the threat of retention spur the students to learn more?

The answers to those questions and assumptions are the same. NO!

Teachers are doing their best to help children. Retention does not motivate children. Reading is a complicated process that can’t be improved by “incentives” or threats.

Do you want children to read better? Institute early interventions for children who are having difficulties in kindergarten and first grade. Establish high-quality pre-schools for all children. Pay for these improvements by eliminating the third-grade standardized reading tests used for placement decision. Retention-in-grade is a waste of time, money, and causes real emotional damage.

FLORIDA’S THIRD-GRADE PUNISHMENT LAW DOESN’T WORK EITHER

The Florida third-grade punishment law has yielded another study showing that holding kids back in third grade is not only not helpful, but downright damaging.

The Effects of Mandated 3rd Grade Retention: An Analysis of Florida’s A+ Plan

  • 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. 
  • 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

  • The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

  • Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.
  • Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.
  • There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and nonretained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).

(See the full report HERE.)

JUST STOP IT

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?

For more of my rants against retention-in-grade, including lots of references, click HERE.

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Filed under Florida, reading, retention, Testing

2019 Medley #6: WTF Edition

Dear Life: WTF, Shooting Teachers as PD, Children are Trying to Save the Planet, Intelligence: Not a Plus for Presidential Candidates

WTF! Some days are like that.

DEAR LIFE: WTF

A lifelong teacher

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog knows by now that our BFD of NEIFPE, Phyllis Bush, passed away last week. Last year Phyllis gave me a tee shirt that said, “DEAR LIFE: WTF.”

I agree. The children of Indiana have lost a champion in the fight to save public education.

You can read some of the many tributes to Phyllis HERE.

“Whether it is taking a kid to the zoo or to Zesto for ice cream, whether it is writing a letter to your legislators, whether it is running for office, whether it is supporting your favorite charity, DO IT! Monday morning quarterbacks are of little use to anyone. Whatever you do, live your life to the fullest. Do what matters to you.”

Godspeed, Phyllis. You were a teacher. You did what matters.

SHOOTING TEACHERS AS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: WTF

Teachers were ‘shot’ with fake bullets ‘execution style’ during active shooter training, ISTA says

There aren’t enough WTF’s for this news. The idea that teachers need to “learn” how terrifying it is to be in an active shooter situation is just WTF insane.

The problem is not that teachers (and students) don’t know how to react in an “active shooter” situation…the problem is that there are too many f#%@ing weapons in the hands of lunatics.

During active shooter training, some Indiana teachers were “shot execution style” with “projectiles” that caused welts and blood, according to the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA).

The ISTA addressed their concerns about these drills in a series of tweets on Wednesday as members of the association testified in front of the Senate Education Committee.

“The teachers were terrified but were told not to tell anyone what happened. Teachers waiting outside that heard the screaming were brought into the room four at a time, and the shooting process was repeated,” the ISTA said.

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

This comment should not have to be said…WTF is wrong with people?

“Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training,” said Dan Holub, executive director of the ISTA, talking to WISH-TV.

THE CURRENT WORLDWIDE EXTINCTION: WTF

Let the children strike as a lesson to all who live on this planet

Instead of ignoring nearly all the scientists in the world and continuing to do damage to the only home in the universe humans can inhabit, one would think that an entire species of intelligent beings would understand that fouling your own home is simply stupid.

The children who marched last week — all over the world — trying to get the adults in their lives to pay attention are the ones who are going to have to pay the price.

…young people enjoy similar rights and freedoms as we all do. Therefore, we should listen to children carefully when they speak to us about their lives. In fact, increased depression and anxiety that have led to dramatic erosion of children’s mental health and well-being around the world is, at least partly, due to their worries about the state of our planet. Active citizenship means having a voice about things that affect their lives.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. science spending

WTF!

At the Environmental Protection Agency, the administration is again proposing to take an ax to climate and research programs. Overall, the agency’s budget would shrink by nearly one-third, from about $8.8 billion to $6.1 billion. Its science and technology programs would be funded at about $440 million, nearly 40% below the current level of $718 million. The budget line for air and energy research, which includes climate change science, would drop by more than $60 million, from about $95 million to $32 million. Congress has repeatedly rejected such proposed cuts.

FYI

The Constitution of the United States
Article. I. Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN ACTION

Pete Buttigieg is smart, but if you like him you won’t dwell on it

Ok…so when there is someone who is intelligent we need to pretend that he’s not so smart because intelligence will lose him votes! WTF!

…I cringed a bit when I saw a tweet making the rounds talking about how he’d learned Norwegian to read more books by a Norwegian author for whom he could not find translations. I mean, that’s obviously very impressive, but talking about how smart he is doesn’t do him any political favors.

In a blog post about him I wrote about nine years ago when he was running for Treasurer, I mentioned, “we have an anti-intellectual streak a mile wide in this country where we want politicians to go with their gut and not any silly book-learnin’.”

…I suppose it’s some sort of progress that I think his educational achievements are likely to cost him more votes than the fact that he’s gay.

❗️❗️❗️

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Opposing Mediocre Minds: Einstein on Education

Today, March 14 is Pi day (3.14) and the birthday (#140) of Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein is remembered as the physicist who developed the theories of special, and general relativity.

the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers…

…that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity.

He came to the U.S. in the early thirties and, with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and the accompanying anti-semitism, he decided to stay (after short stays in both Belgium and England). He was already internationally known, having won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect.

Princeton offered him a job and he became a U.S. citizen in 1940 (while also retaining his Swiss citizenship).

MORE THAN PHYSICS

Einstein was more than a world famous scientist. He was also someone who examined philosophy, religion, and politics and much of his writing has applications for students and teachers.

The quotes below (from Wikiquote) reflect the universality of Einstein’s thought and apply to education and learning.

THE SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE

It is ironic that the first quote I’ve listed here is one on the value of science institutions to nations. This week I read that our current administration has requested deep cuts in science funding.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. funding for science.

The administration is asking for…

  • a 13% cut for the National Institute of Health.
  • an 8% cut for NASA
  • a 12% cut to the National Science Foundation
  • 17% less for the Office of Science in the Department of Energy
  • A cut of 1/3 for the EPA overall and cuts of 40% for science and technical programs and 66% for air and energy research (climate change)

It would be nice if someone would stop the war against knowledge.

Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If therefore, we wish to promote culture we have to combine and to organize institutions with our own power and means.

As long as we’re looking at the behavior of our current government, here are a couple of things Einstein said that are important to our current national atmosphere.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

Force always attracts men of low morality.

TESTING ISN’T LEARNING

Here are three thoughts from Einstein that relate directly to our overuse and misuse of testing. He understood that testing isn’t learning. Schools ought to be places where opportunities are provided for learners to explore the wonders of personal and intellectual growth, not the learning of facts for a test.

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

ON TEACHERS, TEACHING, AND LEARNING

Einstein’s experience reinforces the fact that relationships in education are as important as the content.

School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave…I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement.

After reading the following quote I thought it would be nice to be able to gather all my former students together in one place and apologize (on behalf of myself and the state’s curriculum) for not letting them have more personal involvement in their growth.

It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.

Teachers want to be paid enough to live on, but for the most part, we follow our career in order to help the next generation through the life-bumps on the way to adulthood. I don’t like the word “calling” when it comes to teaching, mostly because this gives legislators the idea that we don’t care about getting paid enough to live on. But teachers are, for the most part, “called” to do their work because they love children and learning.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

The beauty of science is that, not only does it begin in wonder, it also ends in wonder. Often non-science teachers are afraid to teach science. This is, in part, becuase their own sense of wonder has been lost…and that is too bad.

All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.

It’s often said that children become less curious as they go through school. Is that because we teachers do something to stifle their curiosity?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

WHY IS THERE SCHOOL?

What is the very purpose of schooling? Do we teach students so they can “grow up to be something” or so they can grow as human beings?

It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person.

ON BALANCE

If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.

🔬📚⚗️

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2019 Medley #5: Privatization

VOUCHERS

The Cost of Choice

Choice numbers

School privatization is once again on the block for the Indiana General Assembly. The House Budget bill includes increases for both charter schools and vouchers.

The “choice” for vouchers, as this article explains, belongs to the school, not necessarily the parent. If a private school chooses not to take your child because he is a behavior problem, she is not the right religion, or your family is not “the right fit,” then the school can “choose” not to accept your voucher.

The cost of school vouchers affects all schools in Indiana, not just the schools whose students go to voucher-accepting private schools. As Southwest Allen County Superintendent Phil Downs explains it,

The voucher money is not taken from the local school, it is taken out of the Tuition Support budget, (there is not a simple transfer of funds between the two schools) thereby decreasing the dollars for all public schools.

From a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial…

“The (Department of Education) continues to be diligent in compiling and reviewing the trend data as it relates to the Choice Scholarship Program,” [Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick] told The Journal Gazette in an email statement. “Knowing the K-12 budget proposals are inadequate and given the House budget proposal adds an additional $18 million to the Choice Program, we are committed to the full transparency of data to better inform communities and policymakers. Our travels across Indiana have revealed a lot of confusion and questions from taxpayers regarding the intent, expense and impact of the program as it relates to our most vulnerable students.”

“This program continues to be a choice not for students, but for the schools receiving them,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. “If a (voucher) school doesn’t feel like accepting a student for whatever reason, they don’t have to. Oftentimes, that means students who are in need of special education services or special discipline aren’t welcome there. Often those families turn to us, and we’re happy to take them – because they are our children. Not all schools feel that way.”

DeVos: Let’s Voucherize the Nation

Betsy DeVos Backs $5 Billion in Tax Credits for School Choice

There are people who disagree with the Madison/Jefferson concept of the separation of church and state. They want your tax money to spend on their churches.

[I wonder how pro-voucher folks would handle a voucher for a school sponsored by the Church of Satan, a Jedi Church school, or a school run by Pastafarians?]

They believe that since they pay taxes they should be able to put their tax money anywhere they choose.

They can’t.

We don’t give taxpayers a voucher to use at Barnes and Noble if they don’t want to go to the public library. We don’t give taxpayers a voucher for the local country club because they don’t want to mix with the “riff-raff” at the public park. You can’t get a voucher for a private police force for your gated community. You can’t get a voucher simply because you choose to drive and not use public transportation. We don’t give vouchers for any other form of public service…just education.

Secretary DeVos is fond of calling vouchers a parental “choice.” That’s not always the case. It’s not the parents’ “choice,” because when a student doesn’t fit the criteria required by the private school (race, religion, achievement level, the cost to educate, the ability to pay extra for the difference between the voucher and tuition, to provide transportation, to pay for the uniforms), it’s the school that makes the choice.

While the program is meant to offer a more politically palatable alternative to budgetary proposals by the Trump administration to create a national voucher program by diverting federal funding from public schools, public school advocates denounced it as a backdoor way to generate voucher dollars if states choose to primarily use the program for private school tuition scholarships.

JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, called the proposal “particularly tone deaf” as school leaders across the country struggle to retain teachers who are fed up with low pay and declining work conditions.

“Mobilizing behind a scheme to further starve public schools and nine in 10 American students of the resources they need is not only unresponsive but insulting, and it reflects this administration’s persistent disdain for public education,” she said.

Vouchers as Entitlement

Voucher program serves the top 20 percent

In 2011, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and other voucher supporters told us that vouchers were needed to help “save” poor children who were “trapped” in so-called “failing” schools. Indiana’s voucher plan is now, however, an entitlement for the middle class.

Over 1,300 households that participate in Indiana’s school voucher program have incomes over $100,000, according to the 2018-19 voucher report from the Indiana Department of Education.

That puts them in the top 20 percent of Hoosier households by income. So much for the argument that the voucher program, created in 2011, exists to help poor children “trapped” in low-performing schools.

Like previous state reports on the voucher program, the current report paints a picture of a program that primarily promotes religious education and serves tens of thousands of families that could afford private school tuition without help from the taxpayers.

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Indiana blogger Doug Masson comments on Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld post (above). The voucher plan wasn’t about saving poor children after all…[emphasis in original]

…the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

The Fight Over States’ Private School Voucher Proposals Is Heating Up

Legislatures bring up vouchers every year.

Private school vouchers are bad public policy for so many reasons, including the fact that they funnel desperately needed funds away from public schools to private, primarily religious education. Taxpayer dollars should fund public schools – which 90 percent of students in America attend – not unaccountable private schools that can limit who attends them. Nonetheless, there have been 121 bills filed this year in states across the country to expand or create new voucher programs. So far these bills have seen mixed results.

PRISONS AND SCHOOLS

Privatizing Public Services | Prisons and Schools

Published on the Knowing Better YouTube channel.

An interesting discussion on the privatization of prisons and (mostly charter) schools. If you don’t want to watch the entire video, the section on schools starts at 9:15.

Privatizing public services has rarely ever worked out for the taxpayer. We’ve looked at prisons, infrastructure, emergency services, and now schools, and it’s the same story every time. But every time we seem to think that this will be the one where it works.

You can only benefit from competition when you’re able to increase demand. which you’re not able to do for schools and I would hope you wouldn’t want to do for prisons, though they seem to find a way.

So the next time a politician tells you that “this time it’ll work, I promise,” hopefully now, you’ll know better.

CHARTERS

The Wild, Wild West of Charters

Ohio charter schools want more tax dollars

Charter school operators find out eventually that low student performance has more to do with the social, physical, economic, and political effects of poverty than it does with bad teachers and poor teaching. Years of neglect by municipal and state governments can’t be overcome by a few changes in technique and curricula. That’s why “a third of charter schools close their doors before they are a decade old.” Education is harder than they think…and it’s even harder when they are in it for the profit.

Ohio is home to some of the weakest charter laws in the country…and they’re asking for more money.

If there is no need for an additional school in a neighborhood, then there won’t be enough students to support one (see the video above). States can’t afford to support two parallel school systems when only one is needed.

…supporters of school districts, who often view themselves as competing with charters for students and dollars, scoff at that argument. The whole original justification for charter schools, they note, was that privately-run schools would get better results at less cost.

“It seems like the charter schools have figured out that it’s harder than they thought,” said Howard Fleeter, who analyzes finances and school funding for Ohio’s school, boards, school administrators and school business officials. “Now they want every last dime that school districts get.”

There’s also an accountability issue. The state has been fighting with several charter schools the last few years over what it calls overstated attendance counts, which then lead to more money going to schools than should. The battle over ECOT’s attendance and funding was the most public, though several fights with smaller schools are still ongoing.

The state also has a reputation nationally of having too few controls over charters and allowing profiteering managers to fill their pockets by offering low-quality schools. A few years ago, a national charter official referred to Ohio as the “Wild, Wild West” of the charter school world.

And four years ago, Stanford researchers found that Ohio’s charters performed far worse than traditional public schools, showing less academic growth than similar students in districts.

ICYMI: The Cost of Charter Schools

Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

Charters are often called “public schools.” But, they don’t follow the same rules as public schools…they don’t have to accept all students…they don’t have the same requirements for teachers…and they aren’t run by publicly accountable school boards.

They also drain money from the local school districts. This report describes what happens when charters move into the neighborhood.

Reasonable people may disagree about education policy. What reasonable people should not do, however, is pretend that unregulated charter school expansion comes at no cost. For public officials to plan for community education needs in a rational manner, two policy innovations are critical:

  • First, each school district should produce an annual Economic Impact report assessing the cost of charter expansion in its community, and more targeted analyses should be a required component in the evaluation of new charter applications.
  • Secondly, public officials at both the local and state levels must be able to take these findings into account when deciding whether to authorize additional charter schools. Thus the state’s charter authorization law must be amended to empower elected officials to act as effective stewards of the community’s education budget in balancing the potential value of charter schools against the needs of traditional public school students.

FIGHTING BACK

The Oakland Teachers Strike Isn’t Just a Walk Out—It’s a Direct Challenge to Neoliberalism

The recent teachers strike in Oakland was about more than teacher salaries. It focused on the damage done to public education through privatization, underfunding, and school closures.

Yet press briefings by the Oakland Education Association (OEA)—the union representing the teachers—and a website created by a community supporter, show an extraordinary shift: a fusion of attention to racial and gender justice alongside labor’s mission to defend the dignity of work and workers. “It’s really, really exciting—a movement that is connecting the dots” observed Pauline Lipman, whose research on the racial significance of neoliberal school reform in Chicago helped inform the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) widely-adopted template for union demands: “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”

The Oakland school district, like the Chicago Public Schools and urban school systems in most blue states are, as CTU researcher Pavlyn Jankov explains, “broke on purpose.” Local and state politicians, in conjunction with the corporate elite, have refused to pursue progressive taxation for public services and public employee pensions. In Oakland, these actors have trapped the city and its school system in the pattern Jankov identifies as “a cycle of broken budgets and a dependence on financial instruments” that exploit residents.

💰⛪️📓

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