Category Archives: Achievement

2019 Medley #10

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

IT COSTS A LOT TO POISON OUR CHILDREN

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

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

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

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

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

New evidence that lead exposure increases crime

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

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

STILL SEGREGATED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

A scholar revives the argument for racial integration in schools

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

Children Of The Dream: Why School Integration Works

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

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

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

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY

Charter Schools Will Always Waste Money Because They Duplicate Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s a huge waste of money.

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

Feds: No more education, legal services for immigrant kids

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

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

TESTING: DOING IT WRONG SINCE 2001

Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRY DIFFERENT

10 Things People Need to Stop Saying About Children with ADHD

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

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

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

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

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

ACHIEVEMENT OR ABILITY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Achievement, ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Gadflyonthewall, Immigrants, Lead, Segregation, Testing

2019 Medley #8

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

CHILDREN DON’T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

This post isn’t about reading, but Mitchell Robinson brings up important information we should remember.

Last month, third graders in Indiana took the IREAD-3, a reading achievement test. Those who fail to achieve the arbitrarily designated cut score must take the test again during the summer. Those who fail it again must repeat third grade.

The concept of grade level should be flexible, not based on an arbitrary cut score. It should reflect the average reading level of a child in a particular grade instead of a goal for every child to achieve on a given test day. We should teach children at their zone of proximal development — the level just beyond the child’s independent level, not at the level the test insists upon.

Would we like all children to be above average? Of course, but we can’t ignore the math which renders that impossible. Additionally, we can’t ignore the detrimental impact of poverty on school achievement. Our job, as teachers, is to analyze a child’s achievement and make our plans based on what will help him progress as quickly as possible. That means starting where the child is…not at some vague “grade-level” determined by an outside source.

By setting a cut score on a test, and using the test to determine grade placement, the state is ignoring this basic concept of academic achievement and development, usurping the professional judgment of the classroom teacher, and ignoring the best interests of children in a misguided quest to get a number with which to label teachers, schools and school districts.

I agree with Robinson when he says that we can set “goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students.” We do that by understanding the reading process and observing our students. [emphasis in original]

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

But the only thing that measuring reading by “grade level” does is make a lot of kids–and teachers–feel dumb when they are not, and turn reading into drudgery instead of the life-long pursuit of joy, knowledge, and enjoyment it’s meant to be.

FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT

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

What’s this? Students learn better when they are well fed? Go figure!

…scores were highest around three weeks after families received benefits, and lowest at the beginning and end of that cycle. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.

It’s not fully clear why scores spike around that three-week mark, but the researchers suggest that the academic benefits of better access to food, like improved nutrition and reduced stress, take some time to accrue.

“Students with peak test performance (who received SNAP around two weeks prior to their test date) may have benefited from access to sufficient food resources and lowered stress not only on the day of the test but for the previous two weeks,” Gassman-Pines and Bellows write.

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

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

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

Children learn what they live. Guess what happens when they live in a society filled with hatred and bigotry…in a society where truth has no meaning…in a society where disagreements are solved by shooting those who you disagree with…

John Rogers and his colleagues (Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera) at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 500 public high school principals from across the country and found this:

* 89 percent reported that “incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.”

* 83 percent of principals note these tensions are fueled by “untrustworthy or disputed information,” and over 90 percent report students sharing “hateful posts on social media.”

* Almost all principals rate the threat of gun violence as a major concern, and one in three principals report that their school received in the previous year threats of mass shooting or bombing or both.

There’s more: In schools with a sizable immigrant population, principals report the significant negative effects that federal immigration policy and its associated anti-immigrant rhetoric have on student performance and family stability.

And schools that are in the areas of the country hardest hit by the opioid crisis are directly affected by addiction, overdose, and family devastation.

Source: School and Society in the Age of Trump

TOMORROW’S TEACHERS

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

The right-wing war on the teaching profession is succeeding. Fewer young people are going into education. The number of uncertified teachers is increasing. Class sizes will increase.

As might be expected, this has the greatest impact on high-poverty schools.

What can we do? Who will be tomorrow’s teachers? Will there still be a well staffed, local public school for our children and grandchildren?

Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools…

Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools…

The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools…

Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession…

THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

In the Public Interest‘s weekly privatization report for April 8, 2019, is all about charter schools. Fully ten of the fifteen education articles have to do with charters failing to do the job that taxpayers were giving them money to do. Charters should not be allowed to open in areas where an additional school isn’t needed. Charters must be fiscally and academically accountable, just like real public schools.

Louisiana officials are recommending to close a charter school amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a failure to provide proper special education services to the roughly 40 percent of enrolled students with disabilities.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

What does it say about a political party which wins elections by preventing citizens from voting…by arranging districts so that politicians choose their voters, not the other way around…and by going against the will of the voters to divert money from public institutions to privatization?

Republicans in Indiana tried this during the 2019 legislative session and didn’t get away with it. I don’t doubt that they will try again.

Pinellas County voters reapproved a special property tax in 2016 to improve teacher salaries and arts programs, not to subsidize charter schools. Miami-Dade voters approved a property tax increase last year to raise teacher salaries and hire more school resource officers, not to subsidize charter schools. Yet now Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to change the rules and force local school districts to share money from local tax increases with privately operated charter schools. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries.

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

Public Shaming: A Scarlet Letter

Fear blocks learning. Teachers who know this no longer use dunce caps. They don’t put test grades on the class bulletin board or punish the lowest achieving students for not succeeding.

Studies involving the neurological impact of shaming and frustration show that children need to feel safe in order to maximize learning.

…if students do not feel comfortable in a classroom setting, they will not learn. Physiologically speaking, stressed brains are not able to form the necessary neural connections.

The evidence is clear that when students feel unsafe, physically or emotionally, they do not learn as well. This isn’t anything new. Educational psychology classes cover Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We know that safety…as well as emotional security…must be established before higher levels of performance on Maslow’s hierarchy can be reached. When students experience humiliation in the form of failure at school, they usually aren’t spurred on to higher achievement. They are, instead, left trying to learn with a brain that is disrupted or impaired in its development.

Behavioral neuroscience research in animals tells us that serious, fear-triggering expe- riences elicit physiological responses that affect the architecture of the brain as it is developing. These experiences cause changes in brain activity and have been shown to have long-term, adverse consequences for learning, behavior, and health.

 

ACADEMIC SHAMING

This current knowledge of neuroscience has apparently been lost on the administration at Mingus High School in Cottonwood, Arizona. Students in their junior or senior years who are missing credits must wear a red badge instead of the standard grey badges assigned to upperclassmen. This has the humiliating effect of singling out students who, for one reason or another, have had academic difficulty.

My Child Has to Show Her Entire School That She’s Failing With a ‘Scarlet Badge’

Publicly shaming my child and countless of other students for falling behind academically is wrong. I know how hard my daughter is working to get her grades up, and I know how discouraged she feels when she walks into school every morning with the “scarlet badge.” Yet she knows that every time a teacher or fellow student sees her red badge they think less of her.

Fortunately, the author/parent of the above article contacted attorneys from the ACLU who have informed Mingus HS that the “scarlet badge policy” is in violation of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations.

 

The author continued…

This badge scheme subjects all students, particularly students with learning disabilities, to ridicule and discrimination. Students with learning disabilities, who may already struggle to keep up, have faced increased pressure in their academic performance knowing that other students will know what their grades are if they are given a “scarlet badge.”

 

LUNCH SHAMING

Shaming techniques are commonly used when children don’t have enough money to pay for their lunch. In such situations, children are forced to forego the school’s hot lunch and eat peanut butter, or some other meager substitute.

In June of 2016, with just days left in the school year, Jefferson County resident Jon Bivens neglected to reload the balance for his son’s cafeteria meal plan. The year was nearly over, and by his calculation, there was still enough money left in the account to get through the year. Then, one afternoon in the final week of school, his 8-year-old son committed the unspeakable act of buying himself some ice cream with his meal swipe card. With just $1.38 left on his balance, the boy was unable to pay for his next lunch.

The authorities at Gardendale Elementary School did the only logical thing in this situation. They branded the child’s arm with a rubber-stamped smiley face and the friendly message, “I Need Lunch Money.”

Of course, schools have other options besides branding. The New York Times reports that “in some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.”

Shaming, of any kind, has no place in education and thankfully, some states are forbidding it. Unfortunately, it hasn’t totally disappeared. Some students are still shamed for not having any lunch money…and others, like those students at Mingus HS, are shamed for not getting good enough grades.

So-called educators who shame children should be relieved of their licenses. Forcing students who are struggling in school to wear a “scarlet badge” or stamping the arms of children without lunch money with ink, is no better than branding them with a scarlet letter.

 

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