Posted in ADHD

I Haven’t Seen it, Therefore it Does Not Exist

ABNORMAL PSYCHICAL CONDITIONS IN CHILDREN

ADHD is real. The fact that it first appeared in the DSM in 1968 doesn’t mean it was somehow invented out of thin air. It has been identified, though called by other names, as far back as the 18th century. Modern names (post 1900) include “minimal brain damage”, “minimal brain dysfunction”, “hyperkinetic impulse disorder”, and “learning/behavioral disabilities.”

Interview: Russell Barkley

…there is no controversy among practicing scientists who have devoted their careers to this disorder. No scientific meetings mention any controversies about the disorder, about its validity as a disorder, about the usefulness of using stimulant medications like Ritalin for it. There simply is no controversy. The science speaks for itself. And the science is overwhelming that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative: it’s a real disorder; it’s valid; and it can be managed…

RESTRICTIVE DIAGNOSIS

The DSM-5 is very clear. Normal, age-appropriate inattentiveness or activity does not mean that a child is ADHD. In order to correctly diagnose ADHD symptoms must…

…have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level…

Inappropriate for developmental level means that the average child’s normal impulsiveness, distractibility, and restlessness are not criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD.

Additionally, the condition must be present in more than one area (for example, home AND school), and other conditions, such as childhood depression, must be ruled out first. The condition must also create “significant” life issues in those two (or more) areas. A child who is “very active” but has no problems related to his “activity” should not be diagnosed with ADHD.

MIS-DIAGNOSIS?  OVER-DIAGNOSIS?

In his blog post, Is ADHD A Fraud?, teacher Tom does not come out and deny that ADHD is a real condition, but he doesn’t acknowledge that it’s real either.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but I know the symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity) and I can honestly say that of the hundreds of children that have passed my way over the past couple decades, I’ve never met one upon whom I would hang that label.

Now, I admit to be completely unqualified to make that diagnosis, but you would think that by now I would have run across at least one child who set off my alarm bells. Or perhaps there is something about our school that attracts non-ADHD kids, or maybe I’m looking right at the symptoms and just see normal behavior, or it could be that the folks performing the diagnoses are wrong more often than they are right.

Is ADHD over- and mis- diagnosed? Very likely, but that doesn’t mean that the condition doesn’t exist As Teacher Tom said, he’s not qualified to answer that question.

A German study found that most diagnoses do not meet the DSM criteria for ADHD. The study also found that, given the same symptoms, boys were diagnosed with ADHD more than girls.

Do these erroneous diagnoses mean that the condition does not exist? Diagnosing ADHD isn’t easy. The idea of what constitutes appropriate developmental behavior is not as easy as looking at an x-ray to identify a broken bone. But, the difficulty of the diagnosis is, by itself, not sufficient to deny that the condition exists. The anecdotal fact that Teacher Tom never “ran across” an actual case of ADHD as a teacher for several decades might be unusual, but it doesn’t mean that the condition is non-existent.

He suggests the possibility that the condition was created by “big pharma” in order to increase profits. It’s true that the over-diagnosis of the condition might be a product of pharmaceutical salesmen putting ideas in doctors’ heads about how easy it is to “treat” the condition, but since the condition has been identified for more than 2 centuries, making the claim that it was created in order to cash in is questionable (I also expect that many doctors would object to being characterized as that easily swayed by pharmaceutical salesmen).

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed or Underdiagnosed? Looking at Evidence.

The problem with misdiagnosis is that it undermines the legitimate condition that is ADHD. Some people that are severely affected by this condition may be overlooked and/or not properly treated. Some would argue that the most successful individuals with ADHD tend to be those who find ways to cope with and manage the symptoms on their own.

Although there are drawbacks associated with ADHD, some people are able to channel their hyperactivity towards being productive. Keep in mind that there are many different types of ADHD that a person could be dealing with. According to the DSM-5 there are 3 types, but according to others there are 7 types. Therefore individuals that don’t know much about this subject may be prone to making a misdiagnosis.

ON THE OTHER HAND…

All that being said, Teacher Tom is right about several things. First, journalist Thom Hartman has written about the evolutionary aspects of ADHD…and why the condition is, in his opinion, not a disorder. Hartman makes a good argument, and I agree that the possibility exists that the condition is more a product of civilization than an inherent disorder. [Unfortunately, we live in a society built upon certain social norms. The societal conditions which combine to make ADHD a “disorder” must be considered. This, however, is a conversation for another time. Please see Hartman’s work…]

Teacher Tom is also correct in implying that the problem “belongs” to the adults. It’s our job as teachers to accommodate our students, not vice versa. ADHD, is real, but teachers shouldn’t use it as an excuse to ignore a child’s academic, social, and emotional needs.

On the other hand, denying the existence of the condition – or in Teacher Tom’s case, a “denial-not-denial” – isn’t helpful. Neither is blaming it on inferior teachers or schools, which he does as well.

Traditional schools emphasize paying attention, sitting still, and concentrating on one thing at a time and children who struggle with that simply show up as a problem. I mean, that’s tough for any kid, let alone one with a highly energetic brain and body. In contrast, when we don’t place those artificial expectations on kids, like in a play-based curriculum, the “problem” disappears.

and

I suspect that for the most part, ADHD is mental health disorder that largely only exists under certain, unnatural circumstances, namely in traditional schools…

Essentially, he’s saying, “I haven’t seen ADHD because my school and the way I teach is the ‘right’ way, and other people, who are doing it wrong, are ‘creating’ the condition by their unnatural circumstances and inferior teaching.” Unfortunately, the fact is that even in developmentally appropriate school conditions, ADHD doesn’t “disappear.”

Let me be very clear…

I agree that a play-based curriculum is developmentally appropriate and preferable for pre-schoolers and kindergarten.

Adults are responsible for creating a learning environment which fits children’s needs, not the other way around. Forcing children to accommodate adult preferences is counter productive to educational progress. It’s up to us to accommodate ourselves to our students’ learning needs.

ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS

However, Teacher Tom’s statement indicates that he really doesn’t understand what an ADHD diagnosis is. Perhaps that’s why he hasn’t seen it in his years of teaching. Check out the diagnostic criteria again. Read carefully…

Notice first, the DSM-5 requires that the behaviors in question are inappropriate to the development of the child. It would be (and is) completely appropriate for children attending pre-schools in which they were forced to sit still for long periods of time, be unable to concentrate, to fidget, and to act out. The same is true for schools which require long periods of sitting in kindergarten and primary grades. Developmentally appropriate means that the developmental age and needs of children are taken into consideration when a curriculum and means of delivery are chosen.

Second, the DSM-5 is very clear in its requirement that ADHD symptoms must be present in two or more settings. As a teacher, he wouldn’t be able to diagnose a child with ADHD because he is, most likely, with his students in only one setting – the school. That’s why an accurate and complete diagnosis requires input from teachers, parents, and others who have contact with the child. Neither should doctors diagnose children just on the parent’s say-so.

Third, the behaviors must interfere with a child’s functioning. They must “get in the way” of a child’s learning, or social development. If they don’t, then the diagnosis of ADHD can not be made.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Teacher Tom seems to accept common misconceptions about ADHD. Not every child who runs around yelling has ADHD. Not every child who is distractible has ADHD. A true diagnosis of ADHD is not easy to make, and shouldn’t be made on the basis of seeing a few symptoms and then slapping a label on a child. Like any other medical diagnosis, ADHD must be done carefully and by experienced professionals. Unfortunately, there are many cases where care is not taken and undiagnosed or untreated ADHD can result in emotional and academic damage which can last a lifetime.

The problem with misdiagnosis is that it undermines the legitimate condition that is ADHD.

ADHD exists, whether Teacher Tom has seen evidence of it or not. And, like other conditions affecting children in school (e.g. poverty, divorce), ADHD affects every aspect of a child’s life. It must be considered when creating a child’s educational program. Ignoring it, or claiming ADHD doesn’t exist – even with the half-hearted qualifiers that Teacher Tom included in his piece – is irresponsible.

This is a revisit of a topic I wrote about in a post titled, The Task of Your Life.

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Posted in ADHD, Medicine, Personal History

The Task of Your Life

DEFICITS, DYSFUNCTION, HYPERKINESIS, AND BRAIN DAMAGE

  • In 1902 Dr. George Frederick Still included it in a lecture on “some abnormal psychical conditions in children.”
  • Later in the 20th century it was referred to as, the brain-injured child syndrome, minimal brain damage, and minimal brain dysfunction.
  • By the 1960s it was “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood.”

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the term Attention Deficit Disorder was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The latest version, the DSM-5, published in 2013, separates the disorder into three distinct types, or “presentations.” The three, simply put, are 1) hyperactive, 2) inattentive, and 3) combined. People still argue about the terms “hyperactive” and “deficit.” Adults with ADHD are often driven, energetic, and impulsive, but the term hyperactivity is considered childish and insulting. Children and adults with ADHD might seem not to be able to pay attention, but chances are that they are paying attention to too much, and not able to isolate that to which they are supposed to be paying attention. Attention deficit, then, is actually an attention excess.

DIAGNOSIS: TWO IMPORTANT CRITERIA

Hank Green, of Vlogbrothers fame, recently did a video blog (vlog) entry about his own experience with ADHD.

Coincidentally, I answered a Facebook question about a similar disorder about the same time as Hank’s video was released. The Facebook question implied that the disorder wasn’t real and was just an excuse for misbehavior.

It may be true that some doctors over-diagnose ADHD, but that doesn’t mean that the condition doesn’t exist. To those who live with ADHD it’s very real (the DSM-5 gives specific criteria for the diagnosis which you can read here).

[In fact, some argue that ADHD is under-diagnosed. See ADHD CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND, below.]

Two of the most important criteria in diagnosing ADHD are, 1) in order to be diagnosed as ADHD,  the condition cannot be better explained as another disorder (such as anxiety disorder, depression, etc.) and 2) as Hank explained it…

Disorders are only classified as disorders when they’re ongoing, frustrating, impairments.

In other words, a rambunctious, active child is not necessarily suffering from ADHD if his behaviors are within the normal range and there is no impairment in social and occupational (school) functioning. In other words, if it doesn’t cause serious problems in social situations, home, or at work or school, it’s not ADHD no matter how “hyper” the behavior.

For example…

Child A reads adequately, but has difficulty concentrating and remembering. He often falls asleep when reading, does not complete homework, and has trouble remembering details. He has high intellectual ability, but fails academically because of 1) his inability to remember things he reads and 2) his inability to pay attention during discussions. Furthermore, he has a tendency to fly off the handle at real or imagined slights. He reacts without thinking and often becomes enraged if things don’t go his way. He is frequently impulsive and will often do things which cause upset to others due to his inability to control his behavior and speech. Because of this he has difficulty in social situations and is often isolated. 

Child B has some trouble sitting still. He needs a lot of room to move around and sometimes breaks things at home because of his inability to control his large motor movements. His mother has put valuable pieces away and has provided a place in the basement where he can jump and play without breaking things. He is encouraged to go outside whenever the weather permits to “run it off.” At school he will sometimes drop things during class, or bump into people, but is generally easy to get along with and is an above average student. At recess he is constantly active, but is able to settle down when he returns to the classroom.

In the examples above, Child A is the child with ADHD. While he is not hyperactive he is inattentive, impulsive, and unable to focus and remember things. This condition is causing problems both at school and at home, and among his peers. Child B shows some symptoms of “hyperactivity,” but those symptoms aren’t getting in the way of his social functioning and school achievement. After discounting other possible conditions, a competent professional will correctly make a diagnosis of ADHD for Child A.

TREATMENT

ADHD can be debilitating. About half of all children with ADHD also suffer from a related condition such as a learning disability, or have symptoms of another disorder like depression or anxiety. Treatment for ADHD varies with the patient. Hank describes what’s needed for treatment.

There’s kind of two parts to minimizing the negative effects of your brain not working…normal. [1] Changing the environment to suit the brain, and then [2] there’s improving the functionality of the brain itself through things like medications or mindfulness or exercise.

The second one is how most children and adults are treated for ADHD. Therapy, biofeedback, and medications are all tools professionals can use to help patients cope with the symptoms of ADHD. Treatment is important because, like Hank said,

Figuring out how to live in your own mind and your own body is, like, the task of your life.

GROWING UP WITH UNTREATED MBD

Full disclosure: Child A, above, was me.

I went to elementary school in the mid 50s and was diagnosed with minimal brain dysfunction (MBD).

Back then Ritalin was used to treat kids diagnosed with MBD and hyperactivity. Since I wasn’t hyperactive, I received no medications, or any other treatment, for the condition.

Most of my elementary teachers were kind and patient, but weren’t sure how to help a student who couldn’t remember what he read and couldn’t focus when explanations were given.

By the time I got to middle school the diagnosis was forgotten (or discounted), possibly because I wasn’t hyperactive, and probably because, even though I wasn’t a very good student, I was “getting by.” As the content became more difficult, I was given less and less leeway and words like “lazy” began to haunt me. Teachers would report that I “didn’t try hard enough,” ask me “why don’t you listen?” and comment that I was smart, but just “not willing to put forth any effort.”

Meanwhile, I had learned (through a massive personal effort) to control my temper (see Child A, above). I still embarrassed myself repeatedly by blurting out the wrong thing at the wrong time, but at least the fights occurred less often.

Every school year started with me promising myself that I would do better. I promised to keep up with my classwork, and pay attention in class…but after a few weeks I was already lost and far enough behind that catching up was rarely an option.

Hurtful and embarrassing phrases directed at my “deficit” increased…from school and home. I became convinced that I wasn’t very bright. My friends were good students, but there must be something wrong with me. I often heard the dialogue in my head, “What were you thinking?” “You’re just lazy,” “You’re just not trying,” “Maybe you’re not really smart after all.” The phrases and lectures were, I’m sure, meant to encourage me, but instead they taught me that I was incompetent, incapable, and inept.

Somehow, and with a significant amount of help (and many mistakes), I got by. I even went to college and earned a teaching degree…and I only almost flunked out once.

During my teaching years I continued to question my ability and competence, despite receiving good reviews from principals and positive feedback from colleagues and administrators. After spending 20 years in general education classrooms, I moved into a position as a reading specialist. When offered the job I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to help children who were struggling in class, like I did when I was their age.

As part of my work diagnosing learning problems, I began to learn about students with learning disabilities and ADHD. Reading about the struggles students had with reading and ADHD was like reading my own biography. Finally, after all that time (I was nearly 50), I began to understand the source of my own academic and social failures.

THE DANGER OF UNTREATED ADHD

I was fortunate. A few of the bullets below apply to me, but I have been able to get by in life with a bit of luck, hard – sometimes stressful – work, and most of all, the patience and help of family, friends, and professionals. Most people who have untreated ADHD are not so lucky.

When left untreated ADHD can

  • Lower educational attainment
  • Negatively impact employment

  • Increase interpersonal problems
  • Reduce earnings
  • Increase emergency room admissions
  • Result in greater healthcare utilization

People with untreated ADHD are

  • More likely to be divorced
  • More likely to suffer from anxiety
  • More likely to have traffic accidents
  • Twice as likely to smoke cigarettes
  • Six times more likely to suffer depression
  • Twice as likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Four times more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases

Untreated ADHD: Lifelong Risks [emphasis added]

Children with ADHD who fare the best are those who have effective parents, are correctly diagnosed, and receive a combination of psychological, behavioral, educational, and pharmacological interventions. Yet even when treated, ADHD has a significant impact on an individual from childhood through adulthood.

When ADHD is left unmanaged, every area of life is negatively affected. In fact, research shows that untreated ADHD is one of the most highly impairing disorders to live with.

Kids, and adults, with ADHD are not just “normal kids being kids.” In order to be classified as a disorder it has to be beyond what is “normal” and have a significant impact on one’s ability to function in society. With appropriate treatment, however, children and adults with ADHD can thrive.

AHDH CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND

Two recent articles from ADDitude Magazine suggest that large numbers of children and adults are having trouble getting treatment, for two separate reasons.

First, children of color are not being identified as having ADHD at the same rate as white children when, in fact, the condition is present and consistent among all racial, ethnic, and economic groups.

Children Left Behind

Evidence shows that people of color — black and Latino in particular — are much less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, even though they show symptoms at the same rate as white people. And if they are diagnosed, they aren’t as likely to receive treatment — even though many studies show that it can dramatically help kids and adults manage symptoms.

The reasons for the discrepancy based on race and ethnicity is complicated, but one factor is health insurance inequity. It’s clear that a significant number of children and adults with ADHD are “falling through the health care cracks” based on the fact that health insurance rates are lower for people of color. Children are struggling in school because of lack of diagnoses. Adults are struggling with job loss, relationship issues, substance abuse problems, and other symptoms of ADHD because of the inability to afford treatment.

The lack of insurance, coupled with diagnostic biases – assuming that “certain” kids are just “bad” or “uncivilized” instead of seeking a neurological source for misbehavior, the taboo of mental health issues, and fear of medication are all part of the problem.

Second, the lack of health insurance is not the only economic issue when it comes to affording medical care. Often insurance doesn’t cover the complete cost of treatment. ADHD diagnosis and treatment can cost thousands of dollars a year when one factors in medication, psychiatrists, and therapy. When health care dollars are short, an “invisible” diagnosis like ADHD has a tendency to get slighted.

ADDitude surveyed readers and found that people often found ways to work around the limitations of poor or non-existing health insurance. Sometimes this “working around” meant not getting needed treatment.

“We Can’t Afford to Treat Our ADHD”

A learning specialist in a private school, in New Orleans, tells a variation on this story. Both she and her two children have been diagnosed with ADHD, but her insurance plan pays only 60 percent of her family’s health expenses, making it impossible to pay for services like occupational therapy, speech, and behavior therapy for her two children. She estimates that she spent more than $5,400 out of pocket on medications and therapists in 2016.

In her job, she says, she often talks to wealthy parents “who come to me crying” about the high costs of paying for ADHD treatment, making her worried about the comparative pressures on parents with fewer resources.

Given the fact that untreated ADHD is so damaging, we can’t afford to ignore the consequences of this health issue.

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Posted in ADHD, Article Medleys, Equity, Public Ed, reform, RightWing, RtI, scripted teaching, VirtualSchools

2016 Medley #17

Equity, Corporate Reform, Failure, Charters, ADHD, the War on Public Education, Community Schools, RtI

EQUITY

Chris Christie Punches Poor School Children in the Face

In the last session of the Indiana General Assembly the state’s legislators decided to provide more money to wealthy districts and less money to poor districts. Now, New Jersey’s Chris Christie has done the same. It’s what Republican “reformist” policy makers do.

Rick Riordan wrote in his young adult novel The Red Pyramid, “Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.” That, in a nutshell, is the difference between equality and equity. With equality every school gets the same. With equity every school gets what it needs. As long as our policy makers are unable, or unwilling, to deal with the massive level of child poverty in the country, our schools, and all our public services for children, need to focus on equity.

It is, of course, clear that impoverished urban areas need more money to provide a decent education to children hobbled by the impact of poverty, poor nutrition, poor health care, high crime rates and unemployment. Recognition of this is what made New Jersey a national leader in providing extra resources to urban schools through the Abbott decisions of three decades ago. Christie says that the urban schools are getting the extra money, but are under-performing. He should know since for the last six years many of those districts have been under his control and he has failed at every turn to make improvements…

Christie’s one-size-fits-all plan for taxation does not meet our most basic understandings of fairness and justice.

TRAIN WRECK

Going Off the Rails

Corporate education “reform” is a train wreck failure. “Failing” schools closed throughout the country have been replaced with other schools that, based on “reformers'” favorite metric, test scores, were “failures.”

No matter how hard you work, malnourished and traumatized children will not score as high on standardized tests as children of the wealthy. No matter how well trained the teacher is, children who lack medical and dental care will not learn as well. No matter how much you threaten, teachers alone cannot overcome all the deleterious effects of poverty, segregation, and racism.

How long will we keep feeding fuel to a train wreck?

At what point after a locomotive crashes should the engineer and fireman stop shoveling coal?

I would think the first priorities in the above scenario would be to clean up the wreckage, investigate the cause of the crash, and then work to correct the reasons why the train went off the tracks in the first place.

That’s if you believe train wrecks are generally something to be avoided.

Therefore, adding more fuel to the flame by continuing to shovel coal into a broken train engine would be rather idiotic, right?

FAILURE

The Failure of Failure

Alfie Kohn reminds us that progressive education works better than canned programs and “teacher–proof” scripts.

A few years ago, two researchers in Singapore published a study that compared the effect of traditional and progressive instruction in middle-school math. The traditional approach consisted of having students listen to lectures and individually solve practice problems with clearly defined right answers. The progressive approach was defined by collaboration, discovery, and open-ended questions.

If you’re surprised to learn that the latter turned out to be much more effective — producing “deeper conceptual understanding without compromising performance [on conventional measures of achievement]” across “a spectrum of. . .ability levels” — well, chances are you haven’t been following the research in this area. It’s long been clear that direct instruction and other traditional practices aren’t very effective in general and are particularly counterproductive with younger children.

VIRTUAL CHARTERS: GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD

A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools

Virtual (online) charter schools are so bad even charter school advocacy groups admit it.

This report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers reinforces the fact that virtual charter schools are failures. Their solution? Have the public pay to continue the failed experiment through continued funding of such schools. Let the profit continue while the privatizers try to fix things.

The well-documented, disturbingly low performance by too many full-time virtual charter public schools should serve as a call to action to state leaders and authorizers across the country.

It is time for state leaders to make the tough policy changes necessary to ensure that this model works more effectively than it currently does for the students it serves.

It is also time for authorizers to close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools.

Our organizations plan to work actively with state leaders and authorizers as they embark on these efforts.

ADHD

When ADHD Collides With Grit: What to Do?

I grew up with untreated “minimal brain dysfunction” (the name for ADHD in the 50s and 60s)…and struggled as a student. I kept hearing “you’re just lazy,” “you need to try harder,” and “you give up too easily.” Year after year (decade after decade) of the same negative messages has a tendency to damage one’s confidence (to say the least). It’s still something I struggle with daily half a century later!

Demanding “grit” in students with ADHD is contraindicated. The one size fits all mentality (aka ‘learn or be punished’) damages our most vulnerable students and denies them of their right to an appropriate education.

…is today’s grit more punitive than helpful? Is it just an excuse to browbeat students into accomplishing unproven school agendas, or to insist that they put up with the lousy conditions adults fail to fix?

Think about the loss of recess. Is that supposed to teach grit?

In special education the goal for students with ADHD, or other differences, has always been about helping students find what they do best.

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

Why the right hates American history

In light of Oklahoma’s recent attack on AP History, it would be easy to argue that today’s Republicans don’t recognize the value of a good education. However, the reality is that they do, and that the spreading attack on public education is far more sinister.

When the Patriot Act was signed, Bush and his ilk claimed the power to violate citizens’ private lives because, they said, there is no “right to privacy” in the United States. In that, they – perhaps purposefully – overlooked the history of America and the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. And they missed a basic understanding of the evolution of language in the United States.

Of course, they weren’t the first to have made these mistakes. And, the Conservatives waging today’s war on education hope that they won’t be the last.

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

A Community Is More of a Community When It Has a School

Public schools provide an anchor for communities. They provide stability for children…something lacking when “failing” schools – i.e. schools in poor communities – are closed and replaced by charters which don’t do any better.

Local schools are important for both urban and rural communities. “Churn” and disruption might be good for business, but it doesn’t help children.

…while a community school reflects and preserves the strengths of its community, it also reflects the problems and weaknesses as well. But I also know, and have seen with my own eyes, that a community is more of a community when it has a school, a place where all members of that community come together to care for and nurture one of their most precious resources—their children. In a democratic society, that has to count for something.

RTI FAILS

Response to Intervention Falls Short

I was talking to a former colleague last week – a special education teacher – about Response to Intervention (RtI) and how it isn’t working. We agreed that it seemed to be a way of keeping children from getting the special educational services they deserved – saving the school system money.

Many schools and school systems adopted RtI plans because money needed to fully support special education services was inadequate – public schools are still waiting for promised federal support. There are just too many kids who need help, and not enough special education teachers – as well as not enough money to pay special education teachers – to go around.

If we, as a nation, actually cared about our children (as opposed to “my children“) we would make sure that extra help was provided when needed. Instead we dump the impossible task of fulfilling every classroom need on overworked and under–supported classroom teachers…and then blame them when it doesn’t work.

A US Department of Education study evaluated RtI and found that there was little research basis for using it as a method of helping students. In fact, the report reports that RtI was worse than ineffective. It actually made things worse for some students.

…this study examined over 20,000 students in 13 states and found that first grade students who received RTI actually performed worse than a similar peer group that did not. Instead of catching up to grade level, the students receiving RTI lost the equivalent of one-tenth of a school year. To quote one of the study’s authors: “[T]his turns out to be what RTI looks like when it plays out in daily life.”

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Posted in ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Evaluations, Politics, Privatization, reform, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2016 Medley #7

AADHD and Recess, Privatization,
Charters, Teacher Evaluations,
“Reform” Fail, Politics

ADHD KIDS

10 Ways We’d Change the U.S. School System If We Could

The importance of recess for young children, and children with ADHD especially, can’t be overemphasized. The Finns, with the highest academic scores in the world, make sure that young children have frequent breaks. We should do the same.

Lunch and recess are, for more grade­ school students, as essential as reading, writing, and math. Time spent playing kick ball or running the bases teaches our kids valuable social skills. Plus exercise releases chemicals into the brain that promote focus, sequencing, and working memory once the bell rings again.

“Kids need a break,” says Stewart Trost, assistant professor of kinesiology at Kansas State University. “They can focus better in the classroom when given that break.”

“Kids who have recess display an improved ability to stay on task,” says Dr. Larry Silver a regular ADDitude contributor. That means less fidgeting, more focusing. It also means building friendships and giving teachers and administrators a chance to see who is being bullied, isolated, or teased.

Yet many schools cut recess to add more classes, or take it away as a punishment – even though the CDC says, “Exclusion from recess for bad behavior in a classroom deprives students of physical activity that can contribute toward improved behavior in the classroom.”

WALMARTIZING PUBLIC EDUCATION

How the Cutthroat Walmart Business Model Is Reshaping American Public Education

The privatization of public education will lead to the same sorts of community devastation that Walmart is famous for.

Stories about local communities being devastated by business decisions made in distant headquarters have become a staple of this era. Time and time again, the nation has witnessed whole towns being hollowed out when big companies uproot local manufacturing plants to move to cheaper labor markets in Mexico or China.

The cause of the trauma and grief is always the same: “strictly business.” “Fiscal sense.”

But what if that story isn’t just about businesses anymore? What if instead of a closed factory or shuttered store, the story is about a closed public school? What if the consequence of these types of “business decisions” isn’t a grown man having to look for another job or an elderly woman having to figure out a new way to pick up her prescriptions, but a child having his or her education significantly disrupted or a whole community left without convenient access to schools?

That question is becoming increasingly urgent as more and more government officials turn to publicly funded but privately run charter schools to compete with and upend local public schools—an education option, it is worth noting, that the family behind the Walmart empire has played a huge role in promoting and funding nationwide.

CHARTERS

What can happen when a neighborhood school is forced to share its space with a charter

Co-locations are all the rage in Charter-crazed New York.

We don’t block off parts of public parks so private entities can set up for-profit park facilities. We don’t cram all the public library’s books into one area so a private vendor can set up shop at public expense. But for some reason it’s ok to do this to our children…

“Choice,” when there is any, belongs to the private, for profit, corporate owners, not the community or parents.

Imagine this. You get a call telling you that another family will now occupy the second floor of your home. After you recover from your initial shock, you complain. “Outrageous,” you say. That is where I have my office, our second bathroom and the guest bedroom for when my mother comes to stay.” You quickly learn the decision is not yours to make. This is a top-down order, and you must comply.

As far-fetched as the above might seem, the above is what principals in New York City and other cities around the country face when charter schools demand space. And although principals may not “own” their schools, the community that surrounds the school surely does. Yet, no matter how strongly they protest, community voices are nearly always ignored.

Kamenetz v. Skeels: Are Charter Schools “Public” or “Private”?

When it comes to collecting public tax dollars, charters are “public.” However, when students demand their rights, those same schools suddenly become “private businesses.” The “choice,” once again, belongs to the private, for-profit, corporate owners, not the students.

“The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right.” (American Bar Association)

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

John Thompson: The Utter Failure of Standardized Teacher Evaluation

VAM doesn’t work, yet states are forcing school systems to include “accountability” measures (aka student test scores) in evaluation systems…especially after the Duncan Education Department pushed it on the states without sufficient research.

Bottom line: It doesn’t work. It’s inaccurate. It’s an invalid use of student achievement test data.

With all the outcry and brouhaha about “bad” teachers, the VAM-based evaluations have made a mockery of actual teacher evaluations.

“Now that these hurried, top-down mandates are being retrospectively studied, even pro-VAM scholars have found minimal or no benefits, offset by some obvious downsides. I wonder if they will try to tackle the real research question, try to evaluate IMPACT and similar regimes, and thus address the biggest danger they pose. In an effort to exit the bottom 5% or so of teachers, did the test and punish crowd undermine the effectiveness of the vast majority of educators?”

Cami Anderson Speaks Out Against Teacher Tenure, Due Process and Unions

Why are we still blaming teachers and unions for low student achievement? The appeal of the Vergara trial brings this up again…tenure doesn’t protect bad teachers. Certainly there are ways to improve the system, but denying teachers of due process doesn’t help anyone. Much of the blame for low student achievement can be laid at the feet of politicians and policy makers.

…the Vergara trial did not show any damage to the plaintiffs. One of the accused teachers was Pasadena’s “teacher of the year.” Two of the student plaintiffs were enrolled in charter schools, where none of their teachers had tenure. Some of the other teachers did not have tenure.

“REFORM” FAIL

Reader: A Short List of Corporate Reform Failures

Be sure to check out this post by Diane Ravitch…and the comments as well. Why are our legislators and policy makers still backing failed “school reform?”

Spoiler alert: Corporate donors.

One of the many utter FAILURES:

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: FAIL
ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS: FAIL
RACE TO THE TOP: FAIL
COMMON CORE: FAIL
PARCC: FAIL
SBAC: FAIL
VALUE ADDED MEASUREMENT: FAIL
EdTPA: FAIL
TEACH FOR AMERICA: FAIL
COMPETENCY BASED EDUCATION: FAIL
USDOE: FAIL
JOHN KING: FAIL
ARNE DUNCAN: FAIL
DAVID COLEMAN: FAIL
ANDREW CUOMO: FAIL
MICHELLE RHEE: FAIL
BILL GATES: FAIL

POLITICS

Obama: Texas Leaders “Aren’t Interested” in Higher Voter Turnout

The apparent determination of one particular Party to restrict citizens’ voting rights irks me.

It is much easier to order pizza or a trip than it is for you to exercise the single most important task in a democracy, and that is to select who’s going to represent you in government

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Posted in ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Curmudgucation, DIBELS, Diversity, Evaluations, gifted, Lead, Michigan, Value-Added, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2016 Medley #3

No Evidence, Failure in Michigan, 
Diversity and Gifted Students, 
VAM, ADHD and DIBELS, Waltons

THERE’S NO EVIDENCE

We’re onto the phony education reformers: Charter school charlatans and faux reformers take it on the chin: After years of attacks on teachers and public education, Americans are catching up to the real story in our schools

If I were an optimist I would say that this article is a good sign…showing that the general public is finally catching on to the damage done by “reform” to America’s public education. Perhaps it’s because I live in the super-“reformist” state of Indiana – near the super-“reformist” states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and the super-“reformist” city of Chicago – but I see continued, if not stronger inroads made by privatizers against a fully funded public education system. The attack is slowly killing public education…

…comments made by establishment presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will reverberate through the election in 2016. Specifically, at a town hall held in South Carolina, broadcast by C-SPAN, Clinton responded to a question about charter schools by saying, “Most charter schools, I don’t want to say every one, but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids. Or if they do, they don’t keep them.” A week or so later, Clinton transgressed the status quo again by remarking, in a conversation with members of the American Federation of Teachers, “I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence.”

FAILURE IN MICHIGAN: DETROIT

Here are two versions of the same story…and both give the same information about a city which has abandoned its children. This is not just a problem for Detroit…it’s a problem with our nation and is happening in other places as well. When will the nation as a whole understand that our future depends on the way we treat our children. Carl Sagan said,

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.

We are one of only three wealthy nations in the world who spend more money to educate the children of the wealthy than we do to educate the children of the poor.

How bad are conditions in Detroit public schools? This appalling.

The odorous smell of mold and mildew hits you like a brick wall when you step through the front doors at Spain Elementary-Middle School in Detroit.

I have been at Spain for 19 years, first as a first-grade teacher, then, after earning a master’s degree in counseling, as a school counselor. When I first started, it was a school any city would be proud to have in its district. Today, it’s the poster child for neglect and indifference to a quality teaching and learning environment for our 500 students. The gym is closed because half of the floor is buckled and the other half suffered so much rainwater damage from the dripping ceiling that it became covered with toxic black mold. Instead of professionally addressing the problem, a black tarp simply was placed over the entire area like a Band-Aid. That area of the school has been condemned.

The once beautiful pool sits empty because no one has come to \fix it. The playground is off-limits because a geyser of searing hot steam explodes out of the ground. What do our kids do for exercise with no gym, playground or pool? They walk or run in the halls. Seriously. Our pre-K through eighth graders move like mall walkers.

Exposed wires hang from missing ceiling tiles. Watermarks from leaks abound. Kids either sit in freezing classrooms with their coats on or strip off layers because of stifling heat.

How can you teach or learn in conditions like these?

Detroit Public Schools: Beyond a State of Emergency

Since 1999, the state has been “taking over” Detroit Public Schools. Since 2009, Detroit’s schools have been subject to a stream of emergency managers who move in for just under 18 months, do not answer to voters, and can basically do what they want without consequence.

FAILURE IN MICHIGAN: FLINT

This Is What Happens To Humans When They Are Exposed To Too Much Lead

Flint, Michigan has become ground zero for the battle against America’s poor. Democracy was canceled, a state sponsored dictator was imposed upon the people, and, through neglect and shortsightedness the families of Flint were poisoned. The dictator, after doing his damage, has now moved to Detroit, to manage the public schools.

This isn’t specifically about Flint…just about what happens when an entire city has been poisoned.

Infants and children exposed to lead may suffer in various ways, including delayed puberty, speech impairment, high blood pressure, hearing loss, decreased muscle and bone growth, kidney damage, and a weakened immune system. Breastfed infants are also at risk if there is lead in their mother’s bloodstreams.

Equally important, lead also affects children’s brains and nervous systems. Those exposed to lead at a young age may suffer from a coma, convulsions, or even death. Children who survive serious lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and changes in behavior, like a shortened attention span or increased antisocial behavior.

Lead Exposure in Children

DIVERSITY IN TEACHER MAKEUP HELPS KIDS

Bright black students taught by black teachers are more likely to get into gifted-and-talented classrooms

Diversity in our teaching force is essential.

A better, quicker solution to reducing the racial gap in gifted classrooms, according to Grissom, is to test every child in the school system for giftedness, so that you’re not relying on subjective humans to decide whom to test. Education geeks call it “universal screening.”

Indeed, after Broward Country, Florida, adopted universal screening in 2005, the number of Hispanic students in gifted programs increased by 130 percent and the number of black students by 80 percent. Low-income students increased by 180 percent. But it proved expensive to test everyone, and the district stopped testing all children in 2011. The number of disadvantaged students in gifted classrooms fell back to pre-2005 levels…

People often say the solution to our education problems isn’t more money. But in this case, it might be.

VAM

Fact Sheet: Value-Added Measurement (VAM)

Thanks to Parents Across America for this well thought out and comprehensive information sheet about the evaluation of teachers using student test scores. VAM is built on junk-science and tries to put a number on something that can’t be measured by numbers – the impact that a caring adult has on a child. It also doesn’t even attempt to include other valuable aspects of teaching such as the ability to motivate and inspire students.

Now is the time to write to your state legislators and urge them to end this practice. If you’re an Indiana resident you can find your legislators at iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/legislators/

The proliferation of high-stakes standardized tests has had many negative side effects. Overtesting has led to increased stress, a narrowed curriculum and widespread teaching to the test. It has caused students to lose interest in school and learning, driven excellent teachers from the profession and discouraged young people from pursuing teaching careers. It has fueled the school-to-prison pipeline, sparked cheating scandals, and diverted time, energy and resources from other educational goals. These negative effects have been especially evident in schools that serve low-income children of color. Even if VAM ratings could be calculated accurately, the limited information they provide is simply not worth the effort or the consequences.

MEMO FROM THE REAL WORLD

School Testing Makes My Daughter Feel Stupid

Here’s a story from the mom of an ADHD and Learning Disabled child…and the damaging effect of testing. Specifically, the piece is about DIBELS, and how difficult it is for her child to focus and succeed. The child says “I’m stupid,” a common response from students with learning challenges when they are faced with impossible tasks and tests.

At the end of the article the mom says, “DIBELS has affected my home life and my daughter’s self-confidence. I know that there are many benefits to conducting this test in schools.” That’s wrong. DIBELS is not a good test. Its benefit is that it’s short and it provides numbers. Whether those numbers mean anything is questionable and it’s still in wide usage.

DIBELS sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. It is one of North Carolina’s ways of testing our kids to make sure they meet the requirements for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). DIBELS is a computerized test, administered by a teacher to acquire a child’s knowledge in oral reading fluency, retell fluency, and word use fluency. Teachers hold a handheld device that records a student’s response to the content being assessed. Why would this test cause my daughter to feel like she is not smart, can’t read, doesn’t know how to write, and to hate school? It is a timed test that some adults would find stressful. DIBELS allots one minute to each section of the test. One minute? Give me a break. I can’t even pack a lunch in one minute, much less think about being tested on my knowledge.

WAL-MART ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

The Walton Billion Dollar Plan

My Medley wouldn’t be complete without something from Curmudgucation’s Peter Greene.

The last paragraph below shows Greene’s insight into the “reform” movement. Treating school like a business, like Wal-Mart, for example, provides billions for those at the top, but “cheap mediocrity” for the rest of us.

If they were truly concerned about the well being of students, and improving schools, the Waltons would notice this cognitive dissonance. The fact that they don’t implies either the conscious misuse of their economic power for more economic gain, or a lack of ability to comprehend what they are actually doing.

The thought was that more choices would generate more competition. Competition would catalyze systematic improvement.

Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s really think about whose theory this was. This was the Walton theory, the theory of people whose entire fortune is built on being hugely competitive, leading to several results, over and over– the systemic destruction of most retailers in a community who aren’t Wal-Mart. Nor have they achieved this by pursuing excellence– raise your hand if you associate the Wal-Mart brand with excellence. No, the Wal-Mart brand is built on “broad mediocirty that’s cheap and good enough for unwealthy people” and the very goal of their competitiveness has been to win the retail competition by eradicating other choices. Wal-Mart’s business plan is not, “We will go into a community, compete by providing excellent products to the community, and when we’re done, there will be a broad range of excellent choices among many retailers.”

I continue to be gobsmacked that the Waltons, of all people, would imagine that school choice would spark competition that would lead to excellence, because these are people who seem to have a pretty good idea of how the free market works– and the free market does not work in ways that go well with public education.

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Posted in ADHD, Gates, Politics, Public Ed, Quotes, Religion, Spellings, Teaching Career, Testing

More Random Quotes – November 2015

PERSONAL ATTACKS ARE TAKEN PERSONALLY

A letter to the governor: This is what I take personally

A high school teacher, tired of being vilified by politicians who have no idea what it’s like to teach in a public school, responded to the governor of Indiana.

Indiana’s official test, ISTEP, has had a rough time lately. It was invalid, unreliable, poorly administered by the testing company, and then beset with problems during scoring. The test was harder than in previous years because: “rigor.” Once the scoring was finally finished, the government decided that more students had to fail and raised the cut scores. Cut scores, remember, are arbitrary and don’t reflect anything other than the whim of, in this case, the State Board of Education. The governor, Mike Pence, told teachers in Indiana not to take it personally when the scores were low…even though the scores are used to evaluate them, determine their pay, and grade their schools.

When the attacks seem to be aimed at teachers, their public schools, and their students, it’s hard not to take it personally.

From Donna Roof…

When I see individuals with no educational or teaching experience making decisions that affect students and teachers, I take it personally.

When I see teachers not being viewed as the experts of the classroom, I take it personally. [emphasis in original]

TEACHERS KEEP WORKING

Carol Burris: New York’s Teacher Evaluation Crashes and Burns, Again

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, America’s teachers have continued to go to work every day, helping the children of the nation grow and learn. Despite the misinformation, distortions, and outright lies, teachers continue to do their job. Despite the public trashing of teachers, professional educators thicken their skin, close their eyes and ears to the noise from without, and take up the task of educating the next generation of citizens.

From Carol Burris…

Meanwhile, teachers and principals go about their daily responsibilities, trying to educate the state’s children, while the politicians continue to meddle in matters they don’t understand.


MEDDLING MEDDLERS

Gates Foundation put millions of dollars into new education focus: Teacher preparation

Bill Gates has no idea what public education is. At age 13 he started at Lakeside School, a private preparatory school in Seattle. He never studied education. He never taught in public schools. He dropped out of college and became a billionaire. Money, however, does not qualify one to make educational policy for the nation.

From Valerie Strauss…

There are already excellent working models for just about everything that Gates has funded in public education in the last 15 years — how to design and operate small schools, quality standards, fair and reliable teacher evaluation, and now, teacher prep. How many times do educators need to attempt to reinvent the wheel just because someone with deep pockets wants to try when the money could almost certainly be more usefully spent somewhere else?

NOW IT’S NOT FAIR

Selective outrage about testing

As long as the the schools which were damaged by inadequate, faulty standardized tests weren’t in their systems, local superintendents were free to ignore what was going on. Now, the final attack against Indiana’s public education is underway. The state is poised to claim that half of our schools are “failures” opening the door to opening more privately run charter schools and giving more money to religious groups, sucking the funds meant for real public schools.

Now local superintendents are stepping up and decrying the attack on public education. It’s about time.

From Steve Hinnefeld…

Indiana schools have finally received their preliminary 2015 ISTEP test results, and school officials aren’t happy. Superintendents, especially, are pushing back hard.

In media stories and statements to the public, they have called aspects of this year’s tests “not fair,” “a complete fiasco” and “almost unfathomable.” The setting of grades, they said, was arbitrary and invalid.

On the one hand, good for them. On the other, where were they when test scores and a similarly arbitrary process were being used to label other people’s schools as failing?

STILL NOT QUALIFIED

NC: Queen of NCLB Takes Over University

Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education during Bush II’s second term, had a big part in the NCLB law. Now, as the President of the University of North Carolina system she brings her lack of education expertise to the post secondary level.

Spellings, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science, claimed that she was qualified to be the US Secretary of Education because she was a mom. It was her idea to fail third graders who “didn’t pass the test.” She was stuck in the false dichotomy of retention in grade or social promotion. The truth is Spellings was never qualified to be Secretary of Education. She was never qualified to do anything in the field of education. She’s just one more, in a long line of political hacks, who needed a patronage job and was dumped on the nation’s schools.

On Monday Spellings doubled down on NCLB…despite its widely recognized failure…despite the damage done to America’s public schools by obsessive and punitive testing. She still voices the opinion that schools fail – and by “fail” she means test scores – when the truth, to anyone with the brains to see it, is that society fails. Spellings is still not qualified to pontificate about public education. She’s barely qualified to erase the chalkboards…

From Peter Greene…

…the most troubling part of this is that Spellings was there in Texas and DC with Bush and Rod Paige, which means she had front row seats for the massive fiction that was the Texas Miracle. It was the Texas Miracle that was used to sell us No Child Left Behind, which means that anybody involved in that sales job ends up looking like either a fool or a liar.

“YOU COULD DO SO MUCH BETTER…

When People Say “Just Try Harder” to People with ADHD

…if you would just try harder.” I heard that for most of my student years. My mother always told me that my “I will…” was less than my “I can…”

It wasn’t until I was an adult and learned about ADHD that I realized that it wasn’t a question of me trying harder…it was a question of me not being able to control the distractions that prevented me from learning. It took me until adulthood to realize I wasn’t lazy, stupid, or crazy.

From Dana Rayburn…

The “just try harder” approach touches a nerve in me. Like most adults with ADHD, I have a long, unpleasant history with those words. My elementary school teachers wrote on my report cards, “If only Dana would try harder….” Teachers said the same thing in junior high and high school.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA

Freedom vs. Fear: Restricting Religious Liberty Isn’t The Answer To Terrorism

From Rob Boston…

…when you hear someone begin a sentence with a phrase like “All Muslims,” “Islam says” or even “Muslims believe,” stop and think. The statement that will flow from that isn’t likely to be accurate. Muslims account for 1.6 billion people in the world. It’s absurd to think a body that large all would believe the same thing. The 2.2 billion Christians in the world certainly don’t.

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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Posted in ADHD, Article Medleys, Florida, JebBush, Privatization, TeachersSpeakingOut, Texas, Value-Added, WhyTeachersQuit

2015 Medley #2

Florida’s Privatization Plan, Why Teachers Quit, VAM, Privatization, Teachers Speak Out,
Texas SBOE, Children’s Growth, ADHD

FLORIDA EXPORTS ‘REFORM’

Jeb Bush’s “Florida formula” of education privatization in North Carolina

Does this look familiar to Indiana readers? This article describes how Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education used “ALEC-like” methods to export the “Florida Formula” to other states. One way was through the “Chiefs for Change” group, a group of state education commissioners, including Indiana’s (and later Florida’s) Tony Bennett.

Since its creation, the foundation has been largely devoted to exporting the “Florida formula,” an overhaul of public education [Jeb] Bush oversaw as governor between 1999 and 2007.

That agenda includes ideas typically supported by conservatives and opposed by teachers unions: issuing A-to-F report cards for schools, using taxpayer vouchers for tuition at private schools, expanding charter schools, requiring third-graders to pass a reading test, and encouraging online learning and virtual charter schools.

WHO WILL BE TOMORROW’S TEACHERS?

Why half of the nation’s new teachers can’t leave the profession fast enough.

One of the goals of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is the destruction of the teaching profession. The lack of professional educators means lower overhead…lower pay, no pensions, no unions, no professionals to get in the way of for-profit “choices.”

Around the nation teachers’ job benefits are disappearing, pensions are being blamed for the economic difficulties caused by the banking crisis, and qualifications for becoming a teacher are watered down to the point that completely untrained college graduates can walk into a classroom and start teaching.

The “reform” movement is being directed by billionaires with no training in education, politicians with no training in education, and the media with no training in education. Soon public education will be delivered by people with no training in education.

….teachers quit because we have all the responsibility and little or no authority in the classroom. Administrators don’t support teachers and often don’t trust our judgment as professionals. It’s very hard to stay at a job where you are not supported, appreciated or trusted. Add disrespectful students and parents, and it becomes a daily battle to go to work.” A daily battle to go to work sounds like reason enough for anyone to leave the profession. She went on, “My stepdaughter has been teaching for three years and she’s done. It’s sad because she’s a teacher at heart – this is her calling. But she says no way. Her main reason: lack of support from administration and parents. She said she is held responsible for things she can’t possibly control.”

Virginia Teacher of the Year Tells Why He Resigned

Another intelligent, award winning, high quality teacher resigns.

I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.

SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well. This leads me to the following questions:

  • Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?
  • Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?
  • Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?

It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.

Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.

It’s only going to get worse, and it seems that we have no intention of taking a stand or advocating against flawed assessments. Instead, we have submitted ourselves to these tools that misrepresent student growth. It is a game, and it is a game I no longer wish to play.

Indiana education dean: Teacher measures aren’t fair

VAM isn’t reliable. Why do we continue to use student standardized tests for the wrong purposes? Is it because testing companies don’t care what their tests are used for as long as they’re being paid (with the public dollars)? Is it because the politicians making education policy don’t know anything about educational testing? Is it because the policy makers are getting campaign contributions from said test makers?

The answer is probably “yes” to all three questions.

Holding teacher training programs accountable for measures such as how many graduates get jobs within a year of graduating, how well teachers perform on evaluations during their first few years of work or how much student test scores grow isn’t fair because the science behind those measures can’t be trusted, said Gerardo Gonzalez, Indiana University’s education dean.

…“We want to blame teachers, hold them accountable, pay them less than just about every other profession and then we worry why they are leaving within five years?” Gonzalez said.

NEED CAMPAIGN FINANCES? SUPPORT PRIVATIZATION

Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education?

The most important fact in American politics today is the Citizens United decision. With this, the hand of the Democratic Party was forced: in order to win major elections the party must accept major campaign funding from the Silicon Valley right libertarians, neoliberals and their financiers on Wall Street. For neoliberal Democrats who are forced to lick the Nikes of their major funders, the privatization of education has become the price they pay to get the dollars needed to win elections.

COURAGEOUS TEACHERS STAND UP

Teachers of Conscience

Read the position paper…a strong statement against corporate “reform.”

The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

IGNORANCE IN THE TEXAS SBOE

Texas Freedom Network: Live-Blogging the Texas Social Studies Textbook Vote

The Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, James Madison…and Moses?

According to the Texas State Board of Education, Moses (yes, that Moses) was a major influence in  the formation of the nation’s founding documents, aka the U.S. Constitution.

During a months-long process, publishers made a number of improvements to their textbooks. Those improvements included removing inaccurate information promoting climate change denialism; deleting offensive cartoons comparing beneficiaries of affirmative action to space aliens; making clearer that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War; and revising passages that had promoted unfair negative stereotypes of Muslims. Scholars and the general public had ample opportunity to review and comment on those revisions.

However, the new textbooks also include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament. Scholars from across the country have said such claims are inaccurate and mislead students about the historical record.

EMOTIONAL GROWTH

Why Emotional Learning May Be As Important As The ABCs

A growing body of research suggests that teaching really young kids how to recognize and express their feelings can help them into their adult lives…and save society time, money, and social stress in the long run.

…common sense — along with a growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.

ADHD

ADHD And Creativity: New Research Says ADHD Is Being Mistreated In Schools

Research now shows what many people who have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder — or those who parent someone who does — have long since believed there is a huge link between ADHD and creativity, often referred to as the “upside of ADHD.” And according to an extensive report by Salon, in focusing solely on the difficulties those with ADHD have — such as poor attention and impulse control — kids with ADHD are falling through the cracks, educationally speaking…

…recent studies in the field of cognitive neuroscience draws a strong connection between ADHD and creativity, as well, showing that both creative thinkers and people with ADHD have trouble “suppressing brain activity coming from the ‘Imagination Network.’”

All of this creativity — and with it, the inability to control those creative thoughts — can be seen as either positive or negative. Creativity is a valuable asset, but so is being able to control one’s thoughts and impulses, and obviously, a creative mind that is always spontaneously generating new ideas or constantly daydreaming interferes greatly with the ability to pay attention in the classroom.

For parents, teachers, and significant others…

10 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child

Most parents, teachers, and significant others don’t say things to others to hurt their feelings on purpose, but sometimes, when living, or working with an ADHD child or adult we become frustrated and the hurtful words slip out.  Unfortunately, hurtful words stay with people, causing humiliation and embarrassment which can last into adulthood and negatively impact relationships and one’s ability to hold on to a job.

Here’s an incomplete list of hurtful phrases ADHD folks have grown up and lived with.

People say some pretty insensitive things. ADHD myths and misinformation don’t help. People blame us or our kids for behaviors controlled by the condition, and we know it’s wrong. But sometimes frustrating behaviors can push even the most loving parents to say things we quickly regret.

I would add a few more to this list:

  • “Why didn’t you think!?”
  • “…if you’d only try harder…”
  • “…if you weren’t so lazy.”

My advice to those living (or working) with people with ADHD…”Think before you speak.”

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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