Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Evaluations, Florida, John Kuhn, Michigan, poverty, reform, special education, TeacherShortage

2017 Medley #32: The Teacher Shortage

The Teacher Shortage: Poverty,
Special Education, Evaluations,
Untrained teachers, and Accountability

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

The poverty problem

Why it’s a big problem that so many teachers quit — and what to do about it

As with most other results of the corporate “reform” movement in education, the most damage is done to students, teachers, and schools in areas that can least afford it: low-income areas and special education.

Linda Darling-Hammond and researchers from the Learning Policy Institute report on research detailing the effects of the current teacher shortage, and how it damages the education of low-income students in particular. The shortage is advanced by anti-teacher and anti-public education legislation and a bipartisan, public campaign against teachers that is ubiquitous. There no longer needs to be any discussion about which state is “the worst” for public education – Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan – it’s everywhere.

Our research on teacher shortages and the turnover that contributes to them emphasizes how much these conditions vary across teaching fields, types of schools, and locations. We document how they are much more problematic in some regions, states, and districts than others; more widespread in particular subjects; and most pronounced in schools that serve students of color and those from low-income families.

Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement for all the students in a school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom. These rates are highest in schools serving low-income students and students of color. [emphasis added]

Caring for ‘the least of these’

Funding cuts spell trouble for special education in Indiana

Indiana’s particular brand of “reform” has resulted in an education funding shortfall. Budget cuts would, of course, hurt the students most, who need the most help. The shortage of special education teachers, who are the strongest advocates for their students, makes this especially troubling.

Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: “Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding.”

Evaluations

There will never be enough bad teachers to satisfy some people (The Chicago Tribune).

Illinois “reformers” wonder how there can be so many highly-rated teachers when there are so many “failing” schools?

The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune is still unhappy with the way teachers in Illinois are evaluated because the current system still has too many teachers rated in the top two tiers of the ranking categories.

We had the same problem here in Indiana a few years ago.

Study finds 87 percent of Indiana teachers “effective”

Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 97 percent of those teachers who were rated have been classified in the top two categories of effectiveness? Today’s data simply does not correlate with the student results we’re seeing in the classroom.

The data does, indeed, correlate, because student test scores are not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. The “failing schools” narrative is more complicated than “reformers” will admit. Schools can’t be judged by test scores alone and the quality of teachers isn’t the only variable that has an impact on student achievement.

“Reformers,” however, are interested in damaging the teaching profession in order to lower salaries and increase profits. Blaming teachers is good for the privatization business.

Once the profession is damaged, and fewer young people seek a career in education, the lowering of standards (and consequent increase in profits) can continue. Florida, for example…

Damaging the profession

Florida’s Teacher Gap Is No Mystery

Florida is “solving” the problem by opening up alternative paths, because the way to get better teachers and fill teaching jobs is by making it possible to slap any warm body into a classroom. My favorite bar-lowering idea― Florida Atlantic University will give Palm Beach Schools a list of students who flunked out of medical and science programs so that those students can be recruited to teach. And meanwhile the remaining dedicated, qualified teachers of Florida wonder how much longer they can hold on.

…and Michigan…

We don’t need no education

The Michigan legislators and governor are a match for Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and the rest of the nation by showing how easy it is to cause a teacher shortage.

Snyder seems to show few actual emotions of any kind. But his fellow Republicans in the legislature are vindictive and nasty. They seem to hate teachers, even more than they hate most in the public sector, and especially hate teachers’ unions.

Five years ago, they passed a law preventing local districts from paying more than a certain percentage of health care coverage for their teachers.

Republican lawmakers also rammed through right-to-work in a lame duck session at the end of 2012, gloating as they did it that this was bound to weaken the MEA and other unions who traditionally give money to try and defeat them.

If that weren’t enough, they also promptly passed a law that would make it so public school districts are no longer required to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks, as had been common practice for decades.

Nor were they done humiliating educators:

New teachers traditionally started at a low salary, then advanced year by year on a negotiated schedule till they reached something like a middle-class life style. But the benevolent legislators also pulled the rug out from under teachers in that way too, passing another law in 2012 that allowed school districts to not move teachers up on the salary schedule.

“As a result, we have teachers across the state in many districts who haven’t seen a raise in five years,” the MEA’s Crim says. Couple that with inflation and the rising cost of benefits, and it’s no wonder that a lot of students have had second thoughts about going into the profession.

How do you think the state of Michigan will deal with the lack of teacher? Again, like Indiana and Wisconsin…

Others have suggested we just drop the requirement for a teaching certificate and let retired professionals take a crack at the classroom.

That might make some sense at the university level, though being able to do a job doesn’t automatically mean you can teach others the subject matter. But it doesn’t work at high school and especially for elementary school.

Who will accept responsibility?

Label the Lawmakers

Accountability measures for public school achievement are universally aimed at teachers, students, and school systems. Sometimes parents are part of the mix, but rarely are one of the most important stakeholders in public school achievement included in accountability legislation and provisions.

Those unaccountable stakeholders? They are the legislators and policy makers who control the funding for education and the out of school conditions in which children live.

John Kuhn, superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, wrote this letter several years ago. Nothing has changed. 100% of the blame for low achievement is still being heaped on teachers and schools. Legislators and policy makers are still doing their best to damage the teaching profession and avoid their own responsibility.

It’s time to revive this post…

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, 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”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

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Posted in Accountability, class size, Gadflyonthewall, Legislatures, NancyBailey, poverty, research, retention, Walsh

Who is Accountable?

RESEARCH-BASED EDUCATION

In the 1990s my school system demanded that our teaching be research-based. This was pre-NCLB, so the purpose had nothing to do with “the test.” Rather the goal was to make sure all teachers were using “best practices” for their teaching. I was reminded of this recently when I read this post by Russ Walsh…

Knowledge, Belief, and the Professional Educator

…as I have talked to teachers over the years about instructional practice, I have heard a lot of faith-based language.

  • “I don’t believe in homework.”
  • “I believe in phonics.”
  • “I don’t believe in teaching to the test.”
  • “I believe in independent reading.”
  • “I believe in using round robin and popcorn reading.”

For about 2,000 years doctors “believed” that blood-letting was an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments. Today, I would bet if you encountered a doctor who recommended blood-letting for your flu symptoms, you would run, not walk, out the office door screaming. Science, and mounting numbers of dead patients, caught up with blood-letting. So, as professionals, we need to hold ourselves to the same standards. We need to follow the science and stop talking about our beliefs and start talking about the scientific research behind our instructional decision making.

Scientists understand that science isn’t static. It changes as knowledge increases. We know now that the Earth revolves around the Sun…that germs, rather than demons, cause disease… and that we had better find alternatives to our current energy sources before we choke the breath out of life on Earth. Our understanding grows. Our knowledge grows.

The same is true with learning. As teachers, our understanding of child development, pedagogy, and the impact of the outside world on our students must grow and change as our understanding of those concepts changes based on new research. We need to alter our presentation and adapt our instruction to incorporate new information and techniques as they become available.

A teacher who thinks she knows everything there is to know about teaching and learning will not be effective for long, because what she needs to know will likely change throughout her career. Teachers must be the life-long learners we wish our students to become…we must continue to be students…if we want to grow in our knowledge and ability.

There are, however, times when a teacher’s attempts to use “best practices” and a well-researched basis for teaching is thwarted by outside forces. For example, the out-of-school factors associated with child poverty interfere with learning and achievement. Even the most well-trained, up-to-date, and knowledgable teacher will have difficulty reaching students who come to school traumatized, hungry, or sick.

In addition to social factors interfering with teaching and learning, the government can be a hindrance to good, research-based education. Two ways government interference prevents schools from doing what is best for students are 1) inadequate funding, resulting in large class sizes, and 2) the requirement that students either pass a test or repeat a grade.

LEGISLATIVE INTERFERENCE: CLASS SIZE

We know that class size has an impact on student achievement and learning, especially with young, poor, and minority students. Smaller class sizes work because students are more engaged, they spend more time on task, and instruction can be customized to better meet their needs.

So why don’t we reduce class sizes?

It costs too much.

Legislators don’t want to spend the money to reduce class sizes. State legislatures around the country are generally filled with adults who have never taught and don’t know anything about education or education research. Instead of learning about the research into class size, (or listening to teachers) they simply look at the cost. Smaller class sizes means higher costs…and with the obsessive, anti-tax atmosphere in most states, legislators don’t want to increase funding for public schools just to make classes smaller.

Small Class Size – A Reform We’re Just Too Cheap To Try

Steven Singer makes the case for small class sizes…

The benefits go far beyond the classroom. Numerous studies concluded that reducing class size has long lasting effects on students throughout their lives. It increases earning potential, and citizenship while decreasing the likelihood students will need welfare assistance as adults or enter the criminal justice system. In short, cutting class size puts a stop to the school-to-prison pipeline.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that those students who benefit the most from this reform are the young, the poor and minorities.

See also Class Size Matters.Org

LEGISLATIVE INTERFERENCE: RETENTION IN GRADE

Studies going back over 100 years are consistent in their conclusion that retention in grade does not result in higher achievement.

This is a subject where legislators, parents, and even many educators, don’t know, or refuse to accept the research. If a child doesn’t learn the material required for a certain grade, then the impulse is to “give him another chance” by retaining him. I’ve heard parents and teachers claim that retention in grade gives a child “the chance to grow another year,” or “catch up.” None of those statements are based on research. Retention does not help students, and often causes harm.

Legislatures in many states, including Indiana, have chosen third grade as the year in which students must either “be average” in reading or repeat the grade. The legislature, in other words, has decided that, if students cannot reach an arbitrary cut-score on an arbitrary reading test in third grade, they will not be allowed to move on to fourth grade. The cause of the failure is often not taken into consideration. Students have trouble learning to read for a variety of reasons, yet legislatures apply the single intervention of retention in grade to reading difficulties no matter what the cause. Unfortunately, this has no basis in educational research.

Students are punished by legislative decree for not learning to read soon enough or well enough.

Recently Michigan joined the “punish third graders” club.

County public schools brace for implementation of third-grade retention law

In an effort to boost reading achievement in the early stages of elementary school education, public schools across the state of Michigan are conducting universal screening and diagnostic testing of kindergarten through third grade students.

The testing is in response to Public Act 306, passed in October 2016 by Michigan lawmakers, called the Third Grade Retention Law. The law was passed to ensure that students exiting third grade are reading at or above grade level requirements. All students in grades K-3 will be assessed three times per year, fall winter and spring. The assessments will identify students who need intensive reading instruction and provide useful information to help teachers tailor instruction to meet individual student needs. The law also states that a child may be retained in third grade if he or she is one of more grade levels behind in reading at the end of the third grade.

FORCE and FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

Florida is another one of the states which punishes children for not reading well enough. In this article Nancy Bailey takes the state to task.

If they aren’t reading well enough, they will have to remain in third grade–so they will do more reading remediation! They will watch as their classmates leave them behind.

At this point, how much do you think children like to read?

The Florida plague, the undeniably ugly and stupid practice of flunking children if they are not reading well by third grade, is now a reform across the country.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Legislatures force teachers and schools to accept practices which we know through research are detrimental to student learning. We’re forced to accept responsibility for working conditions which interfere with achievement, and then we are held accountable when the practices fail.

Teachers (and schools) should be accountable for understanding the

scientific research behind our instructional decision making.

But policy makers should also be held accountable for the instructional restrictions they place on public schools.

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, Racism, SchoolFunding, Segregation, Testing

2017 Medley #27

Accountability, School Funding,
Students’ Rights, Charters and Segregation, Closing Schools, Racism, Testing

ACCOUNTABILITY

Unqualified billionaires gaining too much influence on public education

Have you ever noticed how important accountability-for-public-schools is to politicians and “reformers?” But where is the accountability for others?

  • for religious and private schools taking public money through vouchers?
  • for corporate run charter schools?
  • for state and local school boards when certain schools are neglected over others?
  • for state governments to provide full and adequate funding for public education (see FUNDING, below)?

Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.

Over the past 20 years, education policy has increasingly been enacted not to satisfy the needs of the students and their families, but the wants of the wealthy and powerful who are converting public education from a civic enterprise to a marketplace for edu-vendors: the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has paid to expand charters and lobby for the use of Common Core standards in all 50 states; real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad now leads a group of corporate funders pushing a plan to move half of all K-12 students in Los Angeles into charter schools; the Walton family has initiated a new $1 billion campaign to promote charters nationwide; Trump financier Carl Icahn has established a chain of charters in New York City.

No one elected these billionaires, and they are accountable to no one.

FUNDING

While the rest of the world invests more in education, the U.S. spends less

The current federal administration…the administrations of more than a few “Red” states…and a substantial number of American citizens…hate government and assume that everything the government does is bad. With the rise of Trump and his “hate-government-cabinet, we see a vacuum in governmental services (except for the military).

Republicans are still arguing that lower taxes for the wealthy will trickle down and improve the economy even though that “voodoo economics” hasn’t worked for the last 40 years, but the truth is, many Republicans are attempting to defund the government.

The U.S. has one of the lowest tax rates as a portion of our GDP in the developed world (32nd out of 35 OECD nations). If we don’t have tax revenue, then we can’t support necessary government services. I’m not a hater of government, and I believe that government services are important. Taxes are necessary to pay for those services. The government needs an income to keep things running…infrastructure, health care, defense, social services, and education. When we don’t invest in ourselves we sacrifice our future.

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

STUDENT’S RIGHTS

MI Teacher Suspended for Assaulting Student Refusing the Pledge

September 17th was Constitution Day in the U.S. The Constitution guarantees free speech and a teacher, as the agent of the local government, does not have the right to manhandle a student who, for whatever reason, chooses not to recite the pledge to the flag.

Students do not give up their first amendment rights when they enter the classroom.

A teacher here in Michigan is suspended pending an investigation for allegedly physically assaulting a 6th grade student by violently yanking him out of his chair for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, something that is the student’s absolutely protected right to do.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation

Race and ethnic relations in the United States is at a dangerous point. The recent reemergence of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and ultra-nationalists, along with a general willingness of many in white America to admit to their bigoted beliefs, has left those who hope for peaceful relations among racial groups, ethnic groups, and immigrants feeling disappointed.

As a reflection of our society, it’s probably no surprise that American schools are now more segregated than ever as tribal impulses cause people to separate. The American “melting pot,” if it ever actually existed, is fading.

Thus, one of the big problems with school choice is the peer-reviewed research demonstrating the finding that “Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools.” Peer-reviewed research has also demonstrated that the choice of African American and white families for schools with homogenous racial compositions “helps to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.”

The same study found that choice was also bad for achievement on average as, “the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of African America students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left.”

In contravention of Brown, charters are influencing and intensifying racial segregation across the nation. After several decades, the promise of charter schools to foster integration and a less balkanized society is clearly not being realized.

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS

Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

[Note: Just after I wrote this I read that Indianapolis has decided to close three high schools…ostensibly for enrollment reasons. I’m curious if we’ll see the addition of charter high schools soon. See It’s final: Indianapolis Public Schools Board approves plan to close high schools]

In 2013 Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced the closure of 50 public schools. Later that same year, the Chicago Public Schools posted a document requesting that charter schools open in the city during the following two years.

Recently, CREDO, a research group supportive of “reform” strategies, presented the results of a new study which showed that simply closing schools was ineffective. Furthermore, the students who needed school improvements the most, poor students and students of color, were the ones who were most negatively impacted by school closings.

The results of the CREDO study confirm that the most common cause of “low performing schools” is poverty and its impact on student achievement. Without addressing the out-of-school-factors which affect student performance or the general lack of support for public schools serving poor students and students of color, closing a school will do nothing but shuffle the problems around to other schools – or to the streets.

It doesn’t matter where a student attends school if he has been damaged by lead poisoning, traumatized by neighborhood violence, weakened by lack of health care, or disadvantaged by food and shelter insecurity. Out-of-school-factors which lower achievement will follow a student to whatever school he or she attends.

Instead of closing schools and hoping for a miracle, school systems ought to improve achievement through wraparound services for students who come to school exhibiting the effects of poverty. Support for services like social workers, instructional specialists, and increased teacher training should be included. Schools should provide whatever services are needed to support students. States and municipalities should support schools systems with funding necessary to deliver the services as well as support for the communities. Closing schools – essentially blaming them for the failures of society to deal with the problems of poverty – is unfair and counterproductive.

…a new study found that closing schools where students achieve low test scores doesn’t end up helping them learn. Moreover, such closures disproportionately affect students of color.

What’s surprising, however, is who conducted the study – corporate education reform cheerleaders, the Center for Research on EDucation Outcomes (CREDO).

Like their 2013 study that found little evidence charter schools outperform traditional public schools, this year’s research found little evidence for another key plank in the school privatization platform.

SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT

…on Racism

I swore never to be silent…

Todd Garza, Superintendent of Ludlow (MA) schools has a blog in which he speaks out on current education topics. This post discusses his personal obligation to speak out against bigotry and racism. It’s important, he believes, for educators to be role models for their students as well as teaching academics.

However, it is the duty and responsibility of every educator to loudly and with one unified voice state unequivocally that racism, hatred, and bigotry cannot be tolerated and have no place in our national dialogue. Failure to denounce such speech and actions every time we are confronted amounts to tacit approval and that is unacceptable.

…We have very little control over the battles being played out on the national stage. However, we can control what happens in our communities, our schools and our classrooms. As adults we can model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit. If we start small it will spread. There will always be a diversity of opinions in our communities and that is the beauty of our system. However, we must never give in to the fear that opens the door for hate, racism and bigotry to intrude. We are not perfect, but we are Americans with all that that stands for and we can be better than we have been in recent times. Remember, our children are watching.

…on Testing

NACS outlines for parents irrelevance of ISTEP

Superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Indiana, Chris Himsel, has written an op-ed letting parents know how useless and wasteful the Indiana ISTEP test is.

Yesterday, ISTEP scores were released to the public across the state. Compared to other districts, Northwest Allen County Schools performed well. However, the information is not relevant to us. Why? Because (1) the events that yielded these scores took place over four months ago and (2) the results provide zero information about why students passed or why students did not pass. Therefore, the recently released data do not offer useful information designed to help us meet the individual learning needs of our students. Why is it important to receive information designed to meet the individual learning needs of students? Because the test results themselves are not an indicator of school or teacher quality; school and teacher quality is a result of how learning data, including test results, are used to improve learning among individual students.

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

2017 Medley #19

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

THE POLITICS OF PRIVATIZATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

From American’s United for Separation of Church and State

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

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

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

From Steven Singer

Betsy DeVos seems to be confused about her job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeVos did not correct him.

The Demolition of American Education

From Diane Ravitch

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

BULLIES

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

President Trump has made bullying great again.

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

ACCOUNTABILITY

State Board Votes to Allow Voucher Schools to Bypass Accountability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ON TEACHING

On Teaching Well: Five Lessons from Long Experience

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

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

STAY SAFE ONLINE

Be Internet Awesome

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

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

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Budgets, Discrimination, Religion, Segregation

2017 Medley #18: DeVos Doubles Down

Accountability, Discrimination, Budget Cuts, Church-State Entanglement

We all knew that Betsy DeVos was going to be a problem for public education. She didn’t hide her disdain for the common folk who sent their children to America’s public schools. She didn’t hide the fact that she wanted to privatize all the education in the U.S.

So it was no surprise that last week she presented the Trump Administration’s plans to support privatization and destroy public education.

[emphasis in any of the quoted material below is mine]

ACCOUNTABILITY: FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ONLY

DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

The bludgeon used by “reformers” against public schools has been accountability based on test scores. As we have learned in Indiana, that accountability is only meant for public schools. Schools accepting vouchers or charters can get their grades changed, can get loan forgiveness when they collapse, can continue to receive state funding even after having “failed,” and can even choose their own students.

Accountability is the weapon used to hurt public education, and then claim that public schools are failing. As far as DeVos is concerned, no such accountability is needed for schools run privately.

…What we know is what we’ve known since the days that DeVos beat back attempts at accountability measures in Michigan– she opposes anything that might in any way tie the hands of the Right Kind of People, the people who deserve to set policy and create schools and profit from all of it.

I can understand how liberals are bothered by this policy. What I don’t quite understand is where the conservatives are. Where are all the people who built up the education reform wave in the first place with rallying calls for teacher accountability and school accountability and don’t just trustingly throw money at schools and where the hell are our tax dollars going, anyway? Oh wait– they are off in the corner, counting up all the money they aren’t going to pay in taxes under the GOP plan.

As my college ed prof told us in the seventies, the accountability needle keeps swinging back and forth– but this time it has gone so far in the accountability direction that it has come out the other side in a place so unaccountable that the federal Secretary of Education cannot imagine a situation in which she would deny federal dollars to any voucher school, ever, for any reason. This isn’t just throwing money at schools– it’s lighting the money on fire and throwing it off a cliff. This is wrapping all the money around a big club that will be used to beat anybody who’s not white and wealthy and healthy.

Betsy DeVos Continues Her Push For Private School Vouchers

One of the problems with “school choice” programs (aside from the fact that the “choice” is with the school, not the parents) is the lack of public oversight. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into private, religious, and charter schools, which are given fewer restrictions for how money is being used. Nearly every day there’s another scandal in which someone misappropriates or misuses funds meant for educating children.

…We have a responsibility to provide great public schools to every kid in America. Instead of strongly investing in public schools where 90 percent of kids go, Trump’s budget cuts billions of dollars from key programs and would divert already scarce funding to private schools.

Members of Congress pressed DeVos on the fact that these private schools, even though they get taxpayer funds through vouchers, discriminate against students and are unaccountable to the public. Although she tried to evade their questions, it was clear that she has no interest in ensuring meaningful oversight of schools or barring discrimination in a federal voucher program.

PRIVATIZATION: DISCRIMINATION ALLOWED

Betsy DeVos Wants to Take Money From Poor Kids and Give it to Schools That Could Discriminate Against Them

Private schools get a big boost with the Trump/DeVos education plan. At the same time the message for public schools is, “Let them eat cake.”

…the real priority of this administration isn’t pragmatic; it’s ideological – and it’s a particularly ugly ideology our federal government has historically been focused on dismantling.

More specifically, Trump’s education budget cuts $9.2 billion (13.5 percent) of federal outlays to public schools, and eliminates or phases-out twenty-two programs.

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns with cuts in federal support for afterschool programs, Special Olympics, arts education, gifted and talented students, teacher training, class size reduction, career and technical education, and programs targeted at helping disadvantaged students and veterans successfully complete high school and enter higher education.

TARGETING THE NEEDIEST

10 Serious Issues Facing Public School Students: Where’s Betsy?

DeVos couldn’t seem to care any less about serious problems facing America’s school children. Problems like poverty and segregation simply don’t matter. In fact, the cuts in the proposed budget seem designed to target the most needy children in our schools…the poor, special education, and students who don’t speak English.

Betsy DeVos wastes precious time on her choice initiative, ignoring the most serious problems facing our young people in public schools. At a hearing the other day, she pushed many of these problems onto the states.

But I would argue that these difficulties still require thoughtful attention and research from an education secretary who should be engaged.

Instead of working to find solutions to such problems, she’s too busy planning how to destroy public education with her unproven choice ideology.

Children in crisis need help now! They can’t wait.

Is There a Point to All This Cruelty?

Betsy DeVos does not know anything about public education except that she doesn’t believe in it as a concept. Free public education is one of the unquestioned triumphs of the American experiment, but it’s a disposable commodity to a know-nothing fanatic who married into a vast fortune and dedicated a lot of it to wrecking public education.

THE PROBLEM WITH CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT

Annie Waldman: Betsy DeVos on Creationism and Intelligent Design

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been a watchdog for the constitutional separation of church and State since 1947. As such, they understand that “school choice” was a tool originally utilized to support racial segregation. That hasn’t changed. “School choice” programs in America are contributing to the increase in segregation. One might even think that was (one of) the goals from the beginning.

Americans United has also been on watch to prevent the entanglement of churches with the state. They have worked tirelessly to keep religious practices and content out of public schools. Betsy DeVos has a history of supporting the entanglement of church and state…as well as her obvious preference for parochial education.

[Full disclosure: I have been a member of Americans United for more than three decades.]

“DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.

“Candi Cushman, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, described DeVos’ nomination as a positive development for communities that want to include intelligent design in their school curricula. Both the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and Betsy DeVos’ mother’s foundation have donated to Focus on the Family, which has promoted intelligent design.

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Posted in Accountability, Evaluations, Play Kid's Work, Public Ed, Quotes, Testing

December Quotes

Random quotes from 10 years (plus 2016) of Decembers on this blog. Quotes are from me, unless otherwise noted.

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2016 Medley #31

from Arthur H. Camins

…it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2015
Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

from David C. Berliner

Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

CAN WE JUDGE TEACHERS BY THE SUCCESS OF THEIR STUDENTS?

2014
Evaluate Harvard

During his college days Harvard should have trained Duncan in the correct use of tests. They apparently didn’t.

I think that means that Harvard has failed in its preparation of social scientists and Harvard students shouldn’t be allowed any federal grants.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2013
Our Nation is More Than a Test Score

from The AFT

One thing PISA research makes clear is that poverty’s effect on educational equity matters.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS HELP ALL OF US

2012
Darling-Hammond on American Education

from Linda Darling-Hammond

We all now have to care about the education of every person’s children. It’s not going to be enough to say my kids got educated because for every person who is not in the labor force, not paying taxes, not contributing to our health care system, to our Social Security, the social bargain that we have as Americans cannot be maintained. All of us have a vested interest in every child being educated, and yet kids who we wouldn’t spend $10,000 on to get them good teaching in Oakland, when they were second graders…to be sure they could learn to read…we’re spending $50,000 on them in prison ten years later.

NO MORE LOSERS

2011
The Most Important Speech on Education in Years

from Diane Ravitch

The free market works very well in producing goods and services, but it works through competition. In competition, the weakest fall behind. The market does not produce equity. In the free market, there are a few winners and a lot of losers. Some corporate reformers today advocate that schools should be run like a stock portfolio: Keep the winners and sell the losers. Close schools where the students have low scores and open new ones. But this doesn’t help the students who are struggling. No student learns better because his school was closed; closing schools does not reduce the achievement gap. Poor kids get bounced from school to school. No one wants the ones with low scores because they threaten the reputation and survival of the school.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2010
NY Student Play Banned

from a student play (N.Y.) on school reform

Tireseus (the blind prophet): Do you really think closing schools is the answer?

Chancellor: The school is failing.

Tireseus: Or maybe you are failing the school. Why not give them what they need to succeed?

Chancellor: But schools must be held accountable.

Tireseus: And what about you, Chancellor? Who’s holding you accountable?

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2009 (November)
What Are You Doing Wrong?

The obsession with testing is so that schools will be “accountable” to the greater society. Where is the society’s accountability, though? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t have to be accountable for the “soft bigotry of urban neglect?”

ON TEACHING

2008
Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores Is A Bad Idea

8. Teaching jobs based on test scores will contribute to cutthroat competition among teachers for positions most likely to produce the best test results.

PLAY IS CHILDREN’S WORK

2007
Kindergarten and Developmentally Appropriate Education

Play is children’s work. They learn how to live in the world, how to get along, to solve problems, and to share by playing. They can’t learn these things, though, unless they are allowed to get up from their chairs and interact with each other.

Skills based, academically oriented kindergartens are now the rule rather than the exception. Developmentally appropriate practice does not exist in some places any more. Does this help children? No long term studies have been done at this point, but my hunch is that by taking the opportunity to grow at their own rate away from children we are asking many of them to do what they can’t do…we’re asking them to touch the ceiling without a ladder.

MISUSE OF TESTING

2006
Leave this law behind…

At one time standardized tests were designed to show how students were progressing and what areas they were weak in. The tests were designed to be used diagnostically…to guide teaching and learning.

The tests are still designed to do that…and, in some places, they are even used correctly. But even schools which use standardized test scores correctly are having their scores published and compared to others.

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Posted in Accountability, Charters, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, Teaching Career, vouchers

Random Quotes – November 2016

SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY

What’s Scary to Kids: Having Dyslexia and Being Held Back in Third Grade!

In my post last week, Taking Responsibility for “Failure”, I discussed the fact that policy makers have an impact on student achievement, but are rarely, if ever, held accountable for how poorly or how well students achieve in public schools.

“Reformers,” like Secretaries of Education Margaret Spellings, Arne Duncan, and John King, have little (King) or no (Spellings and Duncan) experience teaching in a public school. Yet these same people have no problem dictating policies which affect students, teacher, schools, and school systems.

Local “reformers” are no different. Here in Indiana, legislators and politicians like Mitch Daniels (an attorney), Mike Pence (an attorney/radio talk show host), Robert Behning (a florist), David Long (an attorney) and Dennis Kruse (an auctioneer), have set the same sorts of policies.

Teachers are given directions as to what to teach, how much to teach, how to test, what to test, and are not allowed to deviate from assigned roles, yet they and the schools they work in are given complete responsibility for the achievement of our children.

When a large number of children in a particular public school fail to achieve academically (so-called “failing” schools), all stakeholders in the community must share in the responsibility. Attention must be paid to out of school factors which affect academic achievement, such as

  • infant birth weight
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • environmental pollutants
  • medical care
  • nutrition
  • community and domestic violence
  • mental health care
  • housing
  • absenteeism
  • pre-school availability

Schools and teachers have no control over a child’s environment, medical care, and medical history. Those who do must accept their share of the responsibility for children’s education.

by Nancy Bailey

Politicians and those from business, and other outsiders who know little about children and how they learn, have taken control of public schools, including the classroom, for the last thirty years. Isn’t it time they be held accountable for student failure? Why should they be allowed to continually “trick” the American people with policies that fail?

THE REAL PROBLEM

Three Years Is All It Takes

In this article, John Merrow discusses the research that led to the “three great teachers” theory which claims that three great teachers in a row can make the difference between achieving academic success and falling further behind. New research shows that, when the effects of poverty are overcome, achievement improves.

by John Merrow

Three consecutive years of quality nutrition, medical care, housing, clothing, and emotional support at home and in school does even more than having three great teachers.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charters are on the ballot this election year in Massachusetts. Here are some items arguing against turning over public education to charter “edupreneurs.”

The voting public should read carefully about what has happened in Chicago. Public funding ought to go to public schools.

We should worry about where chips will fall once charter cap is lifted

by Michael Zilles, President, Newton (MA) Teachers Association

When the veil is lifted, we could find ourselves among those children with severe special needs, those with social or emotional disorders, or those who are just learning English — precisely those children underserved or rejected by charters. We would find that, once this cruel experiment in market competition has played itself out, we are left with chronically underfunded public schools, school closures, disrupted lives, and an ever more unbreakable pattern of segregation, inequality, and poverty.

Vote ‘no’ on charter schools

by Jonathan Kozol

…setting up this kind of competition, in which parents with the greatest social capital are encouraged to abandon their most vulnerable neighbors, is rotten social policy. What this represents is a state-supported shriveling of civic virtue, a narrowing of moral obligation to the smallest possible parameters. It isn’t good for Massachusetts, and it’s not good for democracy.

PA: State Rep Compares School Boards to Hitler

by Peter Greene

Education seems to be the only field in which people suggest that when you don’t have enough money to fund one facility, you should open more facilities. Charters are in fact a huge drain on public schools in the state. If my district serves 1,000 students and 100 leave for a charter school, my operating costs do not decrease by 10% even if my student population does. In fact, depending on which 100 students leave, my costs may not decrease at all. On top of that, I have to maintain capacity to handle those students because if some or all come back (and many of them do) I have to be able to accommodate them.

an analysis of student performance in chicago’s charter schools

by Myron Orfield and Thomas Luce from Education Policy Analysis Archives at Arizona State University

…after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago’s charter schools underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways. Reading and math pass rates, reading and math growth rates, graduation rates, and average ACT scores (in one of the two years) are lower in charters all else equal, than in traditional neighborhood schools.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

This is an argument against vouchers, but works equally well against all forms of privatization.

Voucher Schemers Show Their Contempt for Public Schools

By Charles Johnson of Pastors for Texas Children

Market forces such as competition and cost benefit analysis simply do not apply in the formation of a human being. A classroom is a holy place of learning—not a marketplace of financial gain. To make commodities of our kids and markets of our classrooms is to misunderstand—and profane—the spirituality of education.

INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE

Who will be running our nation in twenty-five years (assuming it lasts that long)? How are we as a nation preparing for our future? How does it help us if we under invest in our schools…especially those schools with low income students?

What lessons do we teach in devaluing our schools?

by Eva G. Merkel, Superintendent of Lakeland School Corporation, Indiana

Good public education comes at a cost, but it is an investment in our future. If we don’t want to kill public education, it is time to understand how it is being undermined. It is time we demand that our schools are funded well, that public dollars remain public, and that those who chose the noble profession of teaching our children are treated as the precious resources they are. We don’t need a study commission to tell us that we have beaten public education to the ground. Do we want our local public schools to die?

See also

STRESS ON TEACHERS AFFECTS STUDENTS

Teachers working conditions are the same as student learning conditions. Improving the treatment of teachers will increase student achievement.

The Disproportionate Stress Plaguing American Teachers

by Timothy D. Walker in The Atlantic

“High levels of stress,” said a 2016 research brief by Pennsylvania State University, “are affecting teacher health and well-being, causing teacher burnout, lack of engagement, job dissatisfaction, poor performance, and some of the highest turnover rates ever.” Does teacher stress affect students? “When teachers are highly stressed,” the authors noted, “children show lower levels of both social adjustment and academic performance.” They identified, amidst other findings, that high turnover rates have been to linked to lower student-achievement and increased financials costs for schools.

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