Category Archives: Achievement Gap

2020 Medley #3: Are we planning for the future?

Our Message to the Future,
Privatization: Church-State and Charters,
Literacy development,
The Opportunity Gap and Poverty

WHAT MESSAGE ARE WE SENDING THE FUTURE?

U.S. appeals court tosses children’s climate lawsuit

I won’t be here to see the next century when today’s infants will be “the elderly.” It’s my responsibility, however, to do what I can to help keep the Earth habitable for my children, and for their children.

…and for their children…and for their children.

Currently, the world’s adults have been unable to let go of fossil fuels and the political and social control that billions of dollars of oil and gas money provide.

Some of our children have become aware of this, so they are trying to take control of the fight against fossil fuels in a quest to save the Earth’s life-friendly climate. It was disappointing, then, to read the ruling that children — who will live on the Earth long after the Koch brothers and the current administration are gone — could not show “standing” to sue to protect their own future.

The term, “standing,” in its legal sense, is “the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.”

I’m not a legal scholar, but if anyone should have “standing” in a suit about the livability of the Earth in the future, it should be our children.

Judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “reluctantly” ruled in favor of the government in the kids’ climate case today, thwarting the young people’s historic legal fight while acknowledging the “increasingly rapid pace” of climate change.

The arguments presented by the 21 young people in Juliana v. United States proved too heavy a lift for Circuit Judges Mary Murguia and Andrew Hurwitz, who found that the kids failed to establish standing to sue.

“The central issue before us is whether, even assuming such a broad constitutional right exists, an Article III court can provide the plaintiffs the redress they seek—an order requiring the government to develop a plan to ‘phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2,'” Hurwitz, an Obama appointee, wrote in an opinion issued this morning.

PRIVATIZATION: CHURCH-STATE

Do you want your tax dollars to fund religious education? You shouldn’t.

Here is some food for thought while the Supreme Court ponders the fate of public education dollars going to private schools…

No taxpayer should be forced to fund religious education. This bedrock principle alone should convince you — and the court — to leave Montana’s constitution undisturbed. But if that’s not enough, consider the fact that a ruling in favor of the voucher program would also compel taxpayers to fund discrimination, religious and otherwise.

Private religious schools don’t adhere to the same nondiscrimination laws that public schools do. As a result, we have seen them turn students away because their families don’t share the school’s religious beliefs. They have barred admission because a student or parent is LGBTQ or a student has a disability. They have expelled students who engage in sex outside marriage. And some have fired teachers for being pregnant and unmarried, for undergoing in vitro fertilization or for advocating for the right to terminate a pregnancy. While not all private religious schools conduct themselves in this way, too many do, and taxpayers should not have to underwrite such discrimination.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charter Schools Have No Valid Claim to Public Property

Charter schools run by private companies have no right to claim public property as their own…even if they pay $1 for it.

Communities invest in their future by building and staffing schools for their children. The state shouldn’t have the right to give that property away to a private entity for nothing…or nearly nothing.

Charter school owners-operators have never stopped piously demanding that public school facilities worth millions of dollars be freely and automatically handed over to them. They righteously declare that they have an inherent right to public facilities produced by the working class. The consequences, of course, are disastrous for public schools and the public interest. For example, a new report shows that in 2018 more than $100 million was spent by New York City alone on charter school facilities.1 This is wealth and property that no longer belongs to the public that produced it; it is now in private hands, essentially for free. Even worse, existing institutions and arrangements provide the public with no recourse for effective redress.

LITERACY DEVELOPMENT

I decided to become a teacher in the early 1970s after listening to and observing my eldest child learn to communicate. The process of language development fascinated me.

I’m retired, but it’s still a fascinating subject.

Reconsidering the Evidence That Systematic Phonics Is More Effective Than Alternative Methods of Reading Instruction

Note the qualifying sentence in this research report: “The conclusion should not be that we should be satisfied with either systematic phonics or whole language, but rather teachers and researchers should consider alternative methods of reading instruction.”

After teaching language skills to children for more than 4 decades, I have learned that one size does not fit all. A mixed approach to literacy skills is important. All children learn differently.

Despite the widespread support for systematic phonics within the research literature, there is little or no evidence that this approach is more effective than many of the most common alternative methods used in school, including whole language. This does not mean that learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences is unimportant, but it does mean that there is little or no empirical evidence that systematic phonics leads to better reading outcomes. The “reading wars” that pitted systematic phonics against whole language is best characterized as a draw. The conclusion should not be that we should be satisfied with either systematic phonics or whole language, but rather teachers and researchers should consider alternative methods of reading instruction.

The Power of Using Writing to Enhance Reading

When you read, you convert symbols to meaning. When you write, you convert meaning to symbols. The two processes should be used together to improve a learner’s skill in both.

Currently, many educators take the stance that the biggest impact on literacy can be made by teaching reading and writing simultaneously.

Literacy researcher, Marie Clay, defines reading as a “message-getting, problem-solving activity,” and writing as a “message-sending, problem-solving activity (p. 5).” Essentially, reading and writing are two different avenues to help students learn the same items and processes. When working with struggling readers, taking advantage of the reciprocity of reading and writing can drastically speed up their progress. Teachers can use the strength in one of these areas to help build up the other.

Since reading and writing share much of the same “mental processes” and “cognitive knowledge,” students who partake in copious amounts of reading experiences have shown increased gains in writing achievement and students who write extensively demonstrate improved reading comprehension (Lee & Schallert, p. 145). When researching the impact of reading on writing achievement and writing on reading achievement, Graham and Herbert found, “the evidence is clear: writing can be a vehicle for improving reading. In particular, having students write about a text they are reading enhances how well they comprehend it. The same result occurs when students write about a text from different content areas, such as science and social studies (p. 6).”

THE OPPORTUNITY GAP

In an early 2008 blog post, I put up the following video (note: the organization which produced the video is no longer around).

A few years later, I found this interview with the late Carl Sagan originally done in 1989. This quote comes from approximately 5:10 and following in the video.

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century, more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them? This is stupid.

Will 2020 Be the Year of acknowledging opportunity gaps?

How long will we neglect the issues of poverty and racism before we learn that we will only succeed as a society if we all succeed?

It might be ubiquitous, but it’s still a loaded term. When educators, policymakers, and parents emphasize the “achievement gap,” they’re focusing on results like disparate dropout rates and test scores, without specifying the causes. They are, often unintentionally, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the children themselves. Listeners adopt the toxic presumption that root causes lie with the children and their families. In truth, outcome gaps are driven by input gaps – opportunity gaps – that are linked to our societal neglect of poverty, concentrated poverty, and racism.

Yet placing blame on children and families is pervasive. A 2019 EdWeek survey of more than 1,300 teachers found that more than 60 percent of educators say that student motivation has a major influence on differences in Black and White educational outcomes. The survey also found that student motivation and parenting were cited about three times more often than discrimination as major influences on disparate outcomes of Hispanic versus White students.

🚌🌎📚

Comments Off on 2020 Medley #3: Are we planning for the future?

Filed under Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Charters, climate change, Literacy, reading, Sagan, vouchers, writing

2019 Medley #20: Poverty and Testing

Poverty and Testing

IT’S POVERTY, STUPID

The connection between family income and school achievement has been well documented (see the links at the end of this post ) yet policymakers and the media continue to blame schools, teachers, and the students themselves for low achievement.

David Berliner notes that there are out-of-school factors to student achievement including medical care, food insecurity, family and community characteristics, and environmental pollutants. Included among the latter is lead poisoning, which contributes to low achievement levels and is more damaging to children of poverty.

Policymakers, however, have a vested interest in deflecting the blame for low achievement onto schools, teachers, and students. If poverty and its side effects are ignored, then those who are tasked with helping reduce poverty and, by extension, its side effects, are not to blame.

The articles in this post discuss the effects of poverty on student achievement. Achievement, in nearly all the articles, is measured solely by standardized test scores. Standardized test scores, aside from keeping testing companies in business, “measure what matters least.” Alfie Kohn wrote,

What generally passes for a test of reading comprehension is a series of separate questions about short passages on random topics. These questions “rarely examine how students interrelate parts of the text and do not require justifications that support the interpretations”; indeed, the whole point is the “quick finding of answers rather than reflective interpretation.”

In mathematics, the story is much the same. An analysis of the most widely used standardized math rests found that only 3 percent of the questions required “high level conceptual knowledge” and only 5 percent tested “high level thinking skills such as problem solving and reasoning.” Typically the rests aim to make sure that students have memorized a series of procedures, not that they understand what they are doing.

It’s been nearly two decades since the US Congress passed No Child Left Behind, yet we’re still overusing and misusing standardized tests.

New Reports Confirm Persistent Child Poverty While Policymakers Blame Educators and Fail to Address Core Problem

Core problems of poverty and underemployment are also discussed in this post…as well as how the federal share of funding for education has declined.

The correlation of academic achievement with family income has been demonstrated now for half a century, but policymakers, like those in the Ohio legislature who are debating punitive school district takeovers, prefer to blame public school teachers and administrators instead of using the resources of government to assist struggling families who need better access to healthcare, quality childcare, better jobs, and food assistance.

…child poverty affects academic achievement. Policy makers, however, in the spirit of test-based, sanctions-based school accountability, are instead determined to impose punishments on the school districts serving poor children. They imagine that if they shift the blame onto teachers, nobody will notice that they are themselves failing to invest the resources and power of government in programs to support the needs of America’s poorest children.

STANDARDIZED TESTING 101

New Test, Same Results: ILEARN Reflects Family Income

Indiana’s new ILEARN test yields results similar to the old tests — poor students score lower than more affluent students. The scatter-plot graph included shows the tendency towards high achievement and higher socioeconomic status.

The big news about ILEARN has been that local schools and teachers should not be held accountable for the low test scores. Implied by this is the assumption that schools and teachers, under different circumstances, should be held accountable for ILEARN test scores.

Student test scores should be used diagnostically — to drive instruction. But because out-of-school factors have an impact on test scores, teachers should not be held solely accountable for student test scores. Because of those same out-of-school factors, schools should not be held solely accountable either. There are just too many outside variables that impact student test scores. Some of those variables, by the way, are the responsibility of policymakers. For example, are teachers responsible for the effect of lead on their students’ learning because then-governor Mike Pence ignored lead contamination affecting East Chicago’s children?

Additionally, student achievement tests have not been developed to evaluate schools and teachers. Doing so is an invalid use of the tests. The assumption that student test scores are the sole result of teacher or school quality is simply mistaken.

Among the [many] things that Indiana policymakers need to fix when it comes to our schools are 1), they need to assume their own share of responsibility for out-of-school factors affecting Indiana students’ school achievement, and 2), they need to end the misuse and overuse of standardized tests.

Indiana’s new standardized test, ILEARN, may be new and even “computer adaptive,” but it has at least one thing in common with its predecessor ISTEP+. Scores on ILEARN correspond to socioeconomic status. Put simply: The poorer the families served by your school, the poorer your school will perform on the test. Shocking, we know.

Some news reports about the test talk just about the overall low scores. Others go skin deep by comparing the average scores of schools and districts  But scratch the surface, and you’ll find that this test—despite its price tag of $45 million—delivers more of the same. 

GAPS

Proficiency gaps deserve a look

How much money do we spend on our schools? Is there a difference between how much is spent on schools filled with black, Asian, multiracial, or Hispanic students? How much segregation is there in Indiana schools?

The disparities are stark. Statewide, 43.3% of white students were proficient on both the ILEARN math and English/language arts assessments compared to 14.8% of black students. Proficiency rates were 56.7% for Asian students, 31.8% for multiracial students and 24.2% for Hispanic students.

And yes, poverty matters. Just 22.9% of students who qualified by family income for free or reduced-price meals scored proficient, compared to 50.9% of students who didn’t qualify. (Gaps are similar, overall, for public, private and charter schools, according to my calculations).

Achievement gaps in schools driven by poverty, study finds

“If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps, you have to take on segregation.” — Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

They found that the gaps were “completely accounted for” by poverty, with students in high-poverty schools performing worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families.

“Racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools,” concluded the paper by academics, led by Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

…because race and poverty are so closely related, the only way to close the gap is to racially integrate schools. He pointed to those who advocate that schools think less about integration and instead try to improve all schools. That hasn’t worked, he said.

“If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps,” he said, “you have to take on segregation.”

MIT STUDY

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

I’ve included this 2015 report on an MIT study showing that poverty has an impact on children’s brain development…which might account for a portion of the economic test score gap.

A new study led by researchers at MIT and Harvard University offers another dimension to this so-called “achievement gap”: After imaging the brains of high- and low-income students, they found that the higher-income students had thicker brain cortex in areas associated with visual perception and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, these differences also correlated with one measure of academic achievement — performance on standardized tests.

“Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says MIT’s John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study’s authors. “To me, it’s a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn’t come easily in their environment.”

Relationship between SES and Academic Achievement

###

Comments Off on 2019 Medley #20: Poverty and Testing

Filed under Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, iLearn, poverty, Testing

2017 Medley #4

Privatization, DeVos,
Public Education: A Common Good,
Poverty, Inequity, Achievement Gaps,
Lead, Competition, Words Matter

PRIVATIZATION

The dangerous rise of privatization and corporate education reform

The passage below is from an excellent post about the “fundamental elements” of the privatization movement.

When we first started fighting the corporate “reformers” in Indiana we were told that, since public schools were “failing” (NOTE: they’re not…see below, U.S. Public Schools: Success), “reform” was necessary in order to help students achieve at a higher level. Providing money to send children to private schools would help those students “stuck” in “failing” schools and give them the opportunity to achieve more.

Once it became clear that privatized schools (charters or private schools) weren’t better at raising student achievement than real public schools, the achievement of children no longer was a legitimate argument for defunding and privatizing public education. Now, the Indiana “reformers” have switched their argument to “choice” for “choice’s” sake. The money should follow the child and parents have complete control of public funds used to send their children to whatever school they choose. This means, of course, that tax money is spent with no public oversight and is no more rational than a citizen “choosing” to use tax money to fund a trip to the bookstore instead of supporting funding of the public library.

It’s also true that in many cases, attendance at a particular privately run school is the school’s choice rather than the parent’s. “Is your child expensive to educate? Sorry we’re not equipped to handle his needs.” “Does your child need special education services? Sorry, we don’t have the facilities to deal with her.” “Are there unaddressed behavior problems getting in the way of your child’s education? You’ll have to take your child to another school until he can behave himself.”

The point of school “reform” has never been about student achievement. It’s about segregation and moving tax money into the hands of private corporations and religious organizations.

The charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement are making unprecedented gains in their effort to privatize public education in the United States.

With Betsy DeVos on the verge of becoming the United States Secretary of Education and President Donald Trump promising to divert $20 billion in federal funding from public schools to privatization through school choice programs, the movement to undermine public education must be deliriously excited about their prospects over the next four years.

Of course, the proponents of corporate education reform have been riding high for more than two decades thanks to the policies and politics of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom used their time in office to promote charter schools and the broader corporate reform agenda.

AS LONG AS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DEVOS

Here’s How Much Betsy DeVos And Her Family Paid To Back GOP Senators Who Will Support Her

How much did Betsy DeVos spend to buy your senator’s vote?

THE COMMON GOOD

Universal Public Education and the Common Good

Jan Resseger, in her blog, quotes Jonathan Kozol about public education…

“Slice it any way you want. Argue, as we must, that every family ought to have the right to make whatever choice they like in the interests of their child, no matter what damage it may do to other people’s children. As an individual decision, it’s absolutely human; but 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.”

…and William Barber

In the United States, expanding opportunity for marginalized populations of students in our so-called universal education system has involved two centuries of political struggle —securing admittance and equal opportunity for girls, for American Indians, for African American children of former slaves, for immigrant students, and for disabled students—many of them formerly institutionalized. In the words of the Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, “We’ve come too far to go back now.”

See also Vote ‘no’ on charter schools by Jonathan Kozol

POVERTY: NEEDED SUPPORT ABSENT

Priorities In a School System Where Nearly Half of Students Live in Poverty

Technology is an important part of public education, and children from high poverty backgrounds need the benefits of technology just as much as wealthy children, but they also need good teachers, small classes sizes, support services (nurses, social workers, etc), a well-rounded curriculum, quality facilities, well-stocked school libraries, and a host of other social and material benefits which the wealthy insist upon for their own children (See The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

We spend millions of dollars on education every year, but it’s still not a priority. States are scrambling to find the money to support their schools, but the political winds are blowing in the “no more taxes” direction. We don’t want to pay taxes to benefit someone else’s children. Our current plan is to move towards privatization, thinking that some private corporation will pay for educating our children not realizing that the price for privatization is too high.

In its massive diversion of funds towards technology, the proposed Operating Budget of Baltimore County Public Schools does not address the great need of all students for more support staff, and subjects the existing School support staff to ever more crushing workloads.

INEQUITY

Stopping a Disastrous Cycle

To be involved in public education is to be aware of the disparities and inequities in the nation’s schools. Instead of providing more resources where they are needed, American public schools too often provide fewer resources where more are needed. This is because the locations where more resources are needed are, by definition, those places where fewer resources exist. Until we change from a society which provides more for children of the wealthy than children of the poor, our “achievement gap” will remain.

There’s a telling question in this Kappa Delta Pi article. “…why do we send our children into schools every day with…unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialities needed…?”

The answer, of course, is that we, as a nation, don’t consider poor kids “ours.” Poor kids are “theirs.” “Ours” vs. “theirs” is why the US is one of three advanced nations to provide fewer resources to poor students than to wealthy students. Americans haven’t learned yet that there is a cost for providing less for some students than others – a cost of continued poverty and the need for welfare, higher rates of incarceration, and more social stratification.

“Ours” vs. “theirs” is the basis for the entire privatization movement. It’s reasonable for every parent to want what is best for their own child, but the “competition theory” which pits private and privately run schools against public schools guarantees that there will be winners and losers. The goal for Americans should be to emulate the Finns and make what is “best for my child” the same for all children. Eliminating “losers” by providing adequate resources won’t hurt the “winners” and it will provide society with a larger pool of productive and participating citizens.

Imagine going into the hospital to have your tonsils removed and the operating room is filthy, the doctor is using decades-old instruments, and there are no nurses available to assist.

Most of us would turn around and run.

So, why do we send our children into schools every day with the same conditions—unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialties needed to address critical social-emotional issues that stand in the way of academic success?

Sadly, these students can’t turn around and run away, or at least not until they get older and drop out.

POVERTY: ACHIEVEMENT GAP

FACT – Hunger is a major contributing factor to the Education Achievement Gap.

Instead of focusing on ways to deprive public schools of the resources they need and transfer tax dollars to private corporations, our leaders’ attention ought to be directed to ending the high rate of child poverty in the U.S.

The evidence is overwhelming that the lack of sufficient food undermines an individual’s ability to function and it has an especially devastating impact on children.

And hunger is a very real problem in this country, especially when it comes to a significant number of the nation’s children.

POVERTY: LEAD

House GOP quietly closes investigation into Flint water crisis

The governor’s policies have poisoned thousands of children. The children of Flint – and thousands of other children around the country – are being thrown away because we can’t afford to clean up our water and neighborhoods.

Here’s a plan for Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Eli Broad or any other billionaire who wants to spend money on education…invest your money in cleaning up lead poisoning instead of privatizing public education…you’ll get better results.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, senior Democrat on the oversight panel, said he wants Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to produce key Flint-related documents within 30 days. Cummings said Snyder and his administration have obstructed the committee’s investigation into the Flint crisis for a year, refusing to provide — or even search for — key documents.

Snyder’s intransigence has thwarted committee efforts to answer critical questions about what he knew as the crisis unfolded and why he didn’t act sooner to fix Flint’s water problem, Cummings said.

“Requiring Governor Snyder to finally comply with the committee’s request will allow us to complete our investigation and offer concrete findings and recommendations to help prevent a catastrophe like this from happening again,” Cummings wrote to Chaffetz. “In contrast, allowing Governor Snyder to flout the committee’s authority will deny the people of Flint the answers they deserve.”

U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: SUCCESS

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

It’s common knowledge that America’s public schools are failing. Common knowledge is wrong.

As ever, far right politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether they be Democratic Neoliberals or Republican Tea Partiers, are using falsehoods about our public schools to sell an alternative. They say our public schools are beyond saving and that we need to privatize. They call it school choice but it’s really just an attempt to destroy the system that has so much going for it.

We should strengthen public education not undermine it. We should roll up our sleeves and fix the real problems we have, not invent fake ones.

COMPETITION

Competition vs. Quality

Peter Greene provides us with a beautiful metaphor for our national garden of children…

The goal of public education is excellence for everyone, but competition produces excellence for only a few, and sometimes not even that. It’s a lousy metaphorical framework for education. Better, say, to talk about a garden on which we focus the full resources of the community to plant and water and tend living things to grow and mature without worrying about which one is tallest, sweetest or most vibrantly colored, or how we could best deprive one flower of water so that another can win a greenery contest. Education is not a race, and competition will not improve it.

WORDS MATTER

Five Strategies for Motivating the Student Who was Retained Last Year

I very much want to believe that the author of this article didn’t mean for it to sound the way it did. I want to believe that she doesn’t consider a child with special needs (identified or not) a burden. I want to believe that she doesn’t consider children who struggle an onerous responsibility. I want to believe that she just made a poor choice of words when she said that a teacher is “saddled” with a child who is retained in grade.

Saddle, according to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, has as one of its meanings: to place under a burden or encumbrance.

No child, especially those who have special learning needs, should be made to feel like they are a burden to adults whose job it is to educate them.

For my comments on retention in grade as a method of remediation, see Retention.

Have you ever been saddled with a student who failed the previous year in your subject and found that they were either just as motivated or less motivated than the year before? Yeah. Me too. I took some time to research some strategies that will help us motivate those students who just didn’t make it the year before and got retained. These strategies are geared toward students who failed due to lack of work ethic, not lack of ability. That’s an article for another day!

🚌🚌🚌

Comments Off on 2017 Medley #4

Filed under Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Competition, DeVos, Equity, Jonathan Kozol, Lead, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed

2016 Medley #26

Achievement Gap, Privatization: Charters, Politics: K-12, Politics: Indiana,
Politics: Teacher Stereotypes

ACHIEVEMENT GAP

Why The Academic Achievement Gap Is A Racist Idea

Here’s an important discussion on the “achievement gap.”

Policy makers are still trying to solve poverty by “reforming” schools. It hasn’t worked…and it won’t work. Students who are raised in middle and high income families do better in school. Do we change schools to try to overcome student poverty? Of course, but schools can’t do it alone. Policy makers must take responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation.

At 100-years-young this year, standardized tests have come to literally embody the American doors of opportunity, admitting and barring people from the highest ranked schools, colleges, graduate schools, professions, and jobs. Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies. However, some of the greatest defenders of standardized testing are civil rights leaders, who rely on the testing data in their well-meaning lobbying efforts for greater accountability and resources.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

NAACP calls for moratorium of charter schools until they stop acting like private schools

Charter schools are private schools.

Applause to the NAACP for calling out charter schools for what they really are – private schools taking public funds and rejecting public oversight.

The purpose of the public school system is to prepare the next generation of citizens. The responsibility for such an undertaking – costs, management, and upkeep – ought to belong to us all…for the benefit of the entire community.

If public schools are struggling to educate our children, then it’s our obligation, as a community, to improve those schools…not privatize them.

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” — John Adams.

On Saturday, the board of directors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ratified a resolution passed this summer at its national convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion and strengthening charter oversight.

POLITICS: K-12 IN THE CAMPAIGN

What About The Children? Third Presidential Debate Offers No Insight On Issues Like Education

The most unpleasant political campaign in recent memory continues unabated. The level of discourse has dropped to a pathetic level, with one candidate in particular speaking and acting like a spoiled, bullying, adolescent.

The final (thankfully) debate for the presidential campaign took place last week and, like the two previous meetings between the candidates (as well as all the debates during the primaries), nothing was said about K-12 education in the US.

Is that because the two major parties agree on the corporate privatization of public education?

Public education also got overlooked. It’s remarkable to me that this issue, which touches the lives of just about all Americans, never received a full discussion during three debates. I’m sure many people would like to know more about each candidate’s view on what role the federal government should play in education. After all, 90 percent of American children attend public schools.

Trump plans to do away with public school systems

If you want to know where the two major candidates stand on K-12 public education you have to look on their web sites. It’s something that’s not generally discussed during interviews, news conferences, and debates.

Trump’s education plan follows the Republican party line that public schools are “failing” and “choice” will solve everything. Clinton’s plan follows the typical Democratic “support our public schools” and “love our teachers” philosophy (in order to get the endorsement of the two large teachers unions, apparently), but is short on actual, working policy.

Questions about child poverty and the test and punish policies of the last 15 years are missing. Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog published a piece with each candidate’s answers to a set of questions (Note: Trump didn’t answer the questions, just said he favored “choice”).

If there was any doubt, Trump surrogate Carl Paladino made it perfectly clear that if his boss [Donald Trump] is elected his goal will be nothing less than the elimination of public education and complete liquidation of the nation’s teacher unions.

…Contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s likely approach — continuing Democrats’ expansion of privately-run charters, side-by-side with support for traditional public schools with a common-core standards/curriculum and unionized teachers — and you get a clear picture of the choice available to voters on Nov. 8th. It’s not a great choice, but it’s a choice.

POLITICS: INDIANA

Indiana super proposes ISTEP replacement; state panel snubs presentation

Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has been ignored, punished, and abused since the day she took office. Her crime? She’s a Democrat in a state with a supermajority of Republicans. The Republican leadership in the legislature has prevented her from doing what she was elected to do and has doubled down on anti-public education legislation. The Republican governor, Mike Pence, has been blatant in his preference for private, parochial, and charter schools. The state Board of Education (whose membership has changed just recently) has also added to the mix by fighting her at every opportunity.

The legislature ordered a committee to oversee the adoption of a new state achievement test to replace the ISTEP for grades 3 through 8. The Governor insisted on assigning his own chair of the committee, bypassing the State Superintendent. The panel, led by members appointed by the Governor and Republican leadership, has prevented Ritz from even presenting her plan for new testing.

The obstruction continues.

Ritz shared the OnTrack proposal with members of the Panel to Study Alternatives to the ISTEP Program Test, but she was denied the opportunity to formally present the plan to panel.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz Releases Details of Cost Cutting, Time Saving, Student-Centered Assessment System Proposal

This proposal was shared with members of the Panel to Study Alternatives to the ISTEP Program Test prior to today’s meeting along with the results of the Request for Information from assessment vendors regarding the viability of utilizing a new approach to assessment. For the second time, the Superintendent’s request to formally present information to the panel was denied resulting in a sixth meeting of the panel with no substantial decisions made. [emphasis added]

The OnTrack proposal can be viewed HERE.

POLITICS: STEREOTYPES

Donald Trump Jr.: if women can’t handle sexual harassment, they should be “kindergarten teachers”

Stereotypes surrounding teachers are still prevalent, apparently. Donald Trump’s son, Jr., has essentially said that teaching Kindergarten is a job that anyone can do because it’s so easy. When workplace harassment was brought up in connection with his father’s misogynistic behaviors, he unsurprisingly blamed women for being harassed by implying that they ought to just accept it as part of being in “the workforce.” If they can’t, he said, they should go “teach kindergarten.”

I wonder how long Junior would last as a teacher in a kindergarten classroom

“If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce,” Trump said. “Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten. I think it’s a respectable position.”

###

Comments Off on 2016 Medley #26

Filed under Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Charters, Election, Indiana, Politics, Privatization

A Place to Vent

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of my beginning a blog. This morning, as I was thinking about all I’ve learned over the last 8 years, I reread some old posts and thought about the reasons I wanted a web presence in the first place. My purpose in starting and continuing this blog was and is to provide myself an outlet for the frustrations of teaching and learning under an increasingly damaging set of rules. I had (and still have) no plan for this blog in terms of longevity. I just want to have a place to vent about things such as…

THE DAMAGING RULES – NCLB, RttT, CCSS

The rules began with No Child Left Behind…and have since spread to Race to the Top, and the Common Core. Locally the rules have been amended by the Daniels/Bennett/Pence plan for education in Indiana which mirrors the national rules. Indiana’s plan includes

  • transferring public money from public schools to privately run charter schools and to parochial schools through vouchers
  • complaining about all the “bad” teachers in our schools, while at the same time lowering the standards for entrance into the teaching profession

Local school boards get less and less of their district’s tax money back from the state — a big chunk of the money now comes in the form of increased costs for tests and test prep materials. They are under more restrictions dealing with the working relationships with teachers, the establishment of school curricula, and the adoption of assessment tools. Local school boards are also now obligated to use those tests to assign grades to schools and evaluate teachers.

“School Choice” apparently doesn’t include public education.

Nationally the attack on public education has been bipartisan. In Indiana it has been led by Republicans like Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Mike Pence, Bob Behning, and Daniel Elsener. They have been supported by their colleagues in the state legislature and the state board of education (and now in Governor Pence’s expensive duplicate Department of Education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation).

It’s ironic that the removal of local control of education should be led by Republicans, who so frequently decry the intrusion of “government” into our local lives. It’s disheartening that both Democrats and Republicans throughout the nation are buying into the corporate line. “Educational leaders” are no longer educators, but instead are billionaires and their mouthpieces like Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Rupert Murdoch and the biggest cheerleader for the school corporatization/privatization movement in the country, Arne Duncan. None of today’s loudest voices touting the “School Reform Party” line have ever taught in any of America’s public schools. They do, however, control a huge chunk of America’s money.

PLACING PUBLIC BLAME

For the last several decades, the movement to end public education has called all the shots nationally and locally, giving less and less input to those people who actually work with students every day. When those misguided state and national plans for public education fail, the local schools and teachers are blamed.

Publicly, the “reformers” expect teachers, as Bill Moyers put it,

…to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do. [emphasis added]

Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there’s a “crisis” in education – especially in the public schools. That’s only true insofar as schools reflect the world around them. The crisis is in our society and since no one takes responsibility for our nation’s enormous inequities, it is blamed on public schools and public school teachers.

REAL ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

We are obsessed with testing and insist that schools are “accountable” to the greater society. Where, however, is society’s accountability? 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 in order to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t (or won’t) accept their responsibility for the “hard bigotry of urban failure?”

There are achievement gaps in our society, but they are not in schools. The real achievement gaps are:

  • the gap between what our leaders say they will do and what they do
  • the gap between what we as a society value, and what we are willing to spend to get it
  • the gap between what we’re willing to spend to “promote democracy” around the world and what we’re willing to spend to equalize our democracy at home

John Kuhn said it very well

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!

~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

Comments Off on A Place to Vent

Filed under Achievement Gap, Common Core, John Kuhn, NCLB, Race to the Top, Teaching Career

Medical Care is Education Policy

A post on Facebook by NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (also here) referred readers to this article…

Proof Of Politics: Indiana Fudges Truth On Health Exchange Rates To Make Obamacare Look Bad

Witness the latest example of political skullduggery playing out in the great State of Indiana where GOP Governor Mike Pence has found it necessary to take extreme liberties with the reporting of the state’s healthcare exchange data—all to justify his anti-Obamacare political positioning.

Anyone paying attention to data projecting what a health insurance policy will likely cost on the newly formed individual policy insurance exchanges could hardly miss the headlines late last week announcing that premiums for health insurance policies stood to rise to an average monthly price of $570—a 72 percent increase over current rates in Indiana.

Of course, if this data is correct, it would be quite a blow to Indiana residents at the hand of the dreaded Obamacare.

NEIFPE is a public education advocacy group focused on educating others (parents, teachers, concerned citizens and even legislators) about the damage done to public education by the so-called education “reformers.” (Full disclosure: I’m a proud member of NEIFPE.)

Why would a public education advocacy group get involved with the health care debate, or any other aspect of domestic policy debate for that matter?

A reader asked that same question…here’s her comment (names removed).

I’m not sure if is this is a pro-education page, or a bash Republicans page. This isn’t public education related, regardless if you are a fan of [Governor Pence’s] education policies or not!

Others responded, but here’s mine. It’s a bit different from what I actually posted because I’ve had time to think about it but the gist is the same.

It’s not just Republicans. In Illinois, New York, on the Federal level and in other places around the country, the Democrats are just as involved in privatizing public education as are the Republicans. The main difference is that Democrats are not as focused on vouchers as a method of turning over public education to the private sector. Race to the Top, President Obama’s education program, focuses on closing schools and reopening as charters. Rahm Emanuel, in Chicago (a Democrat) is intent on privatizing the city’s public school system. The Democrats for Education Reform started lobbying to replace public schools with charters in New York City with the help of then-Democratic mayor Michael Bloomberg. The privatization of public education is truly a bipartisan effort!

Poverty is a huge issue in education reform. In the US our low-poverty public schools achieve at rates comparable to the highest achieving nations in the world. The problem public schools face is that here in the US, the “richest country on Earth” we have one of the highest child poverty rates in the industrialized world. Almost a quarter of our children live in poverty. That’s something we ought to be ashamed of…

We know that poverty affects student achievement…and children who live in poverty have to fight the effects of it. Academic achievement is much more difficult when you don’t have adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical or dental care, or if you live in a place where violence and drug abuse (which often go together) is rampant.

The late education researcher Gerald Bracey said, “Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

When children aren’t provided with proper health and dental care they can’t function well. You know that you’re not as good at your job when you’re sick, but for most of us, we can go to our family doctor for advice and diagnosis and then take medications or other non-drug therapies to heal from whatever ails us…at least most of the time. But there are millions of uninsured children in the nation living in poverty and that has an impact on their academic achievement.

Health care and health care availability is absolutely part of education policy.

Poverty has an effect on people…children included.

~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

Comments Off on Medical Care is Education Policy

Filed under Achievement Gap, Healthcare, poverty

Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?

It seems to work for wealthy children.

Read on…

Reformers assert that test-based teacher evaluation, increased access to charter schools, and the closure of “failing” and under-enrolled schools will boost at-risk students’ achievement and narrow longstanding race- and income-based achievement gaps. [A] new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education examines these assertions by comparing the impacts of these reforms in three large urban school districts – Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago – with student and school outcomes over the same period in other large, high-poverty urban districts. The report finds that the reforms deliver few benefits, often harm the students they purport to help, and divert attention from a set of other, less visible policies with more promise to weaken the link between poverty and low educational attainment. (Emphasis added)

So says a new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. The complete report, Market-Oriented Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality, won’t be available until April 18. However, the Executive Summary is available now and has quite a bit of information.

Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.

“Reform” hasn’t worked in New York, D.C., and Chicago. The “reform” strategy of closing failing schools, opening charters, and shuffling students from one place to another has resulted in stagnating achievement test scores for minority students. Meanwhile, in other urban areas, the achievement gap narrowed and more progress was made.

The goal of the “reformers” is apparently not improved achievement. The real goal, privatization, has increased dramatically. Chicago Mayor Emanuel is poised to close 54 neighborhood schools in his quest to destroy the nation’s third largest school system. The Renaissance 2010 plan, Arne Duncan’s plan (under Mayor Daley) to improve the schools, didn’t work since it consisted of closing “poor performing” schools and opening charters.

Six years after Mayor Richard Daley launched a bold initiative to close down and remake failing schools, Renaissance 2010 has done little to improve the educational performance of the city’s school system, according to a Tribune analysis of 2009 state test data.

Scores from the elementary schools created under Renaissance 2010 are nearly identical to the city average, and scores at the remade high schools are below the already abysmal city average, the analysis found.

Race to the Top, however, which is Renaissance 2010 for the rest of the nation, continues unabated.

Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.

The huge gains reported for targeted students turned out to be false as a closer examination revealed that the numbers had been manipulated.

“There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” – Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people

The “reformers” apparently used lies and statistics. The report said…

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed to halve the white/Asian to black/Latino achievement gap in city schools from 2003 to 2011, but scores on state-administered tests, averaged across fourth and eighth grades in reading and math, show that the achievement gap had stagnated; it was 26.2 percentage points in 2003, versus 25.8 percentage points in 2011 (a 0.01 standard deviation change). Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas, who calculated the 1 percent reduction, noted, “The mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50.”

Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.

District of Columbia Public Schools’ IMPACT system, which bases teacher evaluations (and dismissals) heavily on test scores, is associated with higher teacher turnover. The share of DCPS teachers leaving after one year increased from 15.3 percent in 2001–2007 (before IMPACT began in 2009) to 19.3 percent in 2008–2012; the share leaving after two years increased from 27.8 percent to 33.2 percent; the share leaving after three years increased from 37.5 percent to 42.7 percent; and after four years fully half (52.1 percent) of teachers left the system, up from 45.3 percent.10 Few teachers reach “experienced” status, generally considered at least five years and, by some experts, seven years or more.

It appears that the “reformers” evaluation plan had the desired effect of saving the district money. Older, more experienced, more expensive teachers left in large numbers.

School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.

The only students who had improved achievement in Chicago were the 6% who were moved from “underperforming” schools to schools with greater resources. I look forward to the complete report to find out what those “resources” were. Why weren’t all schools receiving those resources? Instead of closing schools, would supplying the missing resources have helped the schools improve? Who was “underperforming,” the school or the district administration?

Meanwhile the majority of the disrupted students moved from one “underperforming” school to another…presumably another with inadequate resources.

Although Arne Duncan closed Chicago public schools deemed “underperforming” in order to move students to better schools, the closings had almost no effect on student achievement because almost all displaced elementary school students transferred from one low-performing school to another, according to a study of 18 schools closed between 2001 and 2006. Only the 6 percent who moved to better schools with greater resources had improved outcomes.

Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.

Closing neighborhood schools and replacing them with charters* doesn’t help. Charters in general don’t have any more success than regular public schools. In NY, the charters were able to skim students and get higher per-pupil spending but then the “reformers” will tell you that money doesn’t matter…

It is clear, however, that New York City charters benefit from more funding per student and better facilities in co-located spaces. While they serve more minority and low-income students, they serve fewer students who are special needs, very poor, or English language learners (ELL), and these high-needs students are costlier to serve. Comparing charters with nearby public schools illustrates stark differences. At Samuel Stern public school, where 86 percent of students qualify for free lunch and 19 percent are ELL, per-pupil spending is $12,476. At nearby Harlem Day charter school, 62 percent of students qualify for free lunch, and there are no ELL students, but per-pupil spending is $19,632.

Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.

It almost seems like the “reformers” want to avoid that which really works.

Michelle Rhee expanded DCPS’s full-day voluntary prekindergarten program to serve 3- and 4-year-olds at all income levels, and the district adopted a holistic curriculum designed to nurture all domains of children’s development. Though third-graders who had participated had higher test scores than their nonparticipating peers, pre-K is not even a component of the agenda on which Rhee’s advocacy group, StudentsFirst, grades every state’s education system.

The full day preschool worked for Michelle Rhee when she ran D.C.’s public schools. Apparently that was a good enough reason to leave it out of her new “reform” agenda.

The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

The “reformers” habit of ignoring poverty is getting old.

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the [out-of-school-factors] that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.

Should we spend more money to help students in poverty? Jonathan Kozol has an answer to that

“People agree with everything I say,” Kozol continued. “They say, ‘Yes, it is unfair they don’t get as much per pupil as our children.’ Then they say, ‘Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?’ And I say, ‘You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.'”

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

Comments Off on Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?

Filed under Achievement Gap, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Testing