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

2017 Medley #27

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

ACCOUNTABILITY

Unqualified billionaires gaining too much influence on public education

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

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

Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.

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

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

FUNDING

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

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

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

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

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

Bucking that trend is the United States.

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

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

STUDENT’S RIGHTS

MI Teacher Suspended for Assaulting Student Refusing the Pledge

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation

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

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

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

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

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

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS

Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT

…on Racism

I swore never to be silent…

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

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

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

…on Testing

NACS outlines for parents irrelevance of ISTEP

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

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

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, Jim Trelease, Lead, Politics, Racism, read-alouds, Walsh

2017 Medley #26

Lead Poisoning for Profit, Bigotry in America, Reading Aloud, 
Government by Those Who Hate Government

POISONING CHILDREN FOR PROFIT

Flint Is Slowly Getting Better, Say Scientists Who Exposed Water Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

There are still millions of children in the U.S. who are exposed to lead every day. Flint, Michigan is the best known example of lead poisoning on a massive scale. After 3 years the water situation is starting to get better for Flint…but lead poisoning is non-reversible. How many lives have been damaged permanently?

The situation in Flint is still difficult. Today, residents still use lead filters and bottled water for safety, and they still pay bills for water that they can’t use and for health problems that were the result of the crisis. But the $87 million settlement reached between residents and the city of Flint mandating pipe replacement has already begun to bring new water infrastructure into some parts of the city. All of Flint’s 18,000 damaged pipes are set to be replaced by 2020, and that replacement has already started.

“2020 sounds like a long time, but there’s only two other cities in America that have entirely replaced their lead pipes: Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin. “They both did it over a decade,” Hanna-Attisha says. “So mandating it over three years is actually unprecedented.”

Boxed Water for Flint (click the image for link).

Betsy DeVos and Denying Flint’s Children Special Education

Now that the lead poisoned children of Flint need it the most, the state is balking at providing extra funds for special education services. Meanwhile, DeVos sells boxed water

How can a state that poisoned its children with leaded water, now put roadblocks in their way to get the special education services they need to improve their lives?

BIGOTRY IN AMERICA

‘We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation’

Why didn’t the current occupant of the Oval Office come out against bigotry as strong as Joe Biden?

Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.

We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.

This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America. Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants—all who are seen as “the other”—won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation.

READ ALOUD

Read-Aloud to Your Kids! Great Advice to Parents from Author Russ Walsh on Reading to Your Children Throughout the School Year

Read aloud to your children from birth.

The beginning of a school year is a good time to take an inventory of at-home practices that parents can institute to support their children’s learning. One of the most important things that all parents should do is read aloud to their children regularly. Some teachers ask parents to make read aloud a regular part of the homework routine, but whether required by the teacher or not, the research has made it clear that read aloud is a critical home-based activity.

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

Jim Trelease agrees with Russ Walsh.

We start by looking at the recommendation of the 1983 Commission on Reading, funded by the U. S. Department of Education, which was alarmed by school scores. Since nearly everything in the curriculum rested upon reading, the consensus was that reading was at the heart of either the problem or the solution.

The commission spent two years poring through thousands of research projects conducted in the previous quarter century, and in 1985 issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
  • “[reading aloud] is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

GOVERNMENT BY THOSE WHO HATE THE GOVERNMENT

There is a reason we have a government. There is a reason we pay taxes to support government services.

…you can’t support the things the government does – like caring for the elderly, establishing justice, providing public education, fighting terrorism, and protecting the environment – and still maintain that the taxes that support those things are bad.

The first responders who invariably become the heroes of any natural or human-caused disaster, are paid by taxes. Relief efforts to provide shelter, food, and medical care to displaced citizens are paid for by taxes. Support for rebuilding destroyed cities is paid for by taxes.

Schools, roads, bridges, dams and reservoirs, water systems, and waste disposal facilities, and their upkeep, are paid for by taxes.

Military defense is paid for by taxes.

For the last four decades, Republicans have tried to defund the government claiming that taxes are evil. As tax revenues decrease, government services decrease. As government services decrease, individuals have to take up the slack. Those who can afford to pay for services get them. Those who don’t are out of luck.

As a portion of the nation’s GDP, taxes in the U.S. are among the lowest in the developed world.

Trump Praises Agencies He Wants to Cut

As has become typical of the current kakistocracy, Donald Trump toured areas near the worst-hit region of Texas by Hurricane Harvey and praised the very agencies his proposed budget has tried to cut funds for, including FEMA, HUD and the National Weather Service.

DEFINITION

Kakistocracy

In case you need the definition of “kakistocracy” from the previous article.

A kakistocracy (English pronunciation: /kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi/) is a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the 17th century. It was also used by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but gained significant usage in the 21st century.

Etymology
The word comes from the Greek words kakistos (κάκιστος; worst) and kratos (κράτος; rule), with a literal meaning of government by the worst people.[4] Despite its Greek roots, the word was first used in English, but has been adapted into other languages. Its Greek equivalent is kakistokratia (κακιστοκρατία), Spanish kakistocracia, French kakistocracie, and Russian kakistokratiya (какистократия).

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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, DAP, DeVos, Preschool, Privatization, Racism, Teaching Career

2017 Medley #25

Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Preschool,
Teachers Subsidizing School Programs,
ALEC, DeVos, Charters,
Can We all Agree on This?

DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE

Preschool Reading Instruction and Developmentally Appropriate Practice. Can You Have Both?

In our test-crazed society, where we have elevated the flawed process of standardized testing to the point where it has become the end-all of education, we have also lost our understanding of the learning process. Learning to read doesn’t mean worksheets, bubble tests, and disconnected lessons on phonics and word analysis. It means building the understanding of the written word beginning in infancy: right to left, top to bottom, the understanding of story, and dozens of other concepts built by talking to children, allowing them to play with books, and reading aloud.

Developmentally appropriate literacy instruction doesn’t mean teaching 4 and 5 year olds test prep!

To take learning standards appropriate for 8-year-olds and push them down to kindergarteners at large would be inappropriate, not advanced. At the same time, the idea that literacy should simply wait until children are suited to conventional reading standards is equally flawed.

A TEACHER SUBSIDIZES THE STATE

Kansas City Teacher Darryl Chamberlin Creates Youth Orchestra With his Own Money

Would a wealthy family send their child to a public school without a library? Would you be able to find a white suburban school without a playground or gymnasium? How about a music program?

Here is yet another teacher subsidizing a state which, as is often the case, inadequately funds schools for children of color. This is an exceptional story, yet this is the sort of thing teachers do all the time.

Darryl Chamberlain was determined to create a youth orchestra come hell or high water. In these uncertain times, where public school budget cuts are impacting African American students perhaps more than ever before, Chamberlain, a history teacher in Kansas City, Missouri, began thinking out of the box.

Chamberlain wants to change young lives through music but he had limited resources. So with the money he received playing piano in local churches, Chamberlain bought 70 used instruments, some from pawn shops, and cleaned them up for the students in his class.The result: The A-Flat Orchestra.

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION: ALEC

ALEC’s Attack on Public Education: A Report from the Frontlines

DeVos’s selfishness is a perfect fit for a selfish America.

…DeVos’s philosophy was illuminated most by her quote of another former Education Secretary—Margaret Thatcher. The quote: “But who is society? There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first.”

DeVos, like most of the people at ALEC, dismisses the collective good in favor of the individual benefit. Our public education system was designed to collectively educate the masses, in hopes that democracy would thrive. Her priority, and ALEC’s agenda, are otherwise.

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION: DEVOS

A Very Serious Thank You Letter to Betsy DeVos

Here is a blogger who reminds us of the good that Betsy DeVos has done…

…you have single-handedly placed public education and its importance back into the national dialogue. And the longer you stay in your office and continue your nebulous approach to privatizing public education, you will convince more people that the need to support public schooling really is important.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charter School Lobby Panics as NAACP Rejects For-Profit Schools

How upset are the privatizers by the NAACP’s critique of privatization in the form of charter schools? Schools should be for children, not for profit.

…the report, titled “Quality Education for All: One School at a Time,” basically says nothing more revolutionary than that all public schools should be transparent and accountable.

That includes charter schools.

“Public schools must be public,” the report states. “They must serve all children equitably and well. To the extent that they are part of our public education system, charter schools must be designed to serve these ends.”

TWISTING THE PAST

No Man’s Land

Jim Wright, and his Stonekettle Station blog, are always good for thought-provoking, insightful comments. This piece takes issue with the “slavery apologists” who, in order to relieve the cognitive dissonance of approving of Trump and the racist and anti-semitic fools who support him, find ways to say that “slavery wasn’t really so bad.”

Can we all agree that slavery was/is evil? Can we all agree that owning and selling human beings is wrong? Apparently not.

Wright’s posts are usually very long – and this one is no exception – but it’s well worth the time it takes to read.

Slavery, that’s evil. Horrible. Immoral. Wrong.

Agreed? I mean, we are all agreed on this, aren’t we?

I honestly thought that would be the one thing we Americans could all agree on.

Black, white, yellow, red, gay, straight, left, right, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, Biggie, Tupac, whatever we identify as, I thought that would be the one thing we Americans could agree on without caveat.

Slavery sucks.

Slavery is bad.

Slavery is an evil blot on American history.

Slavery will always be our eternal shame as a nation. We can surely all agree on that, can’t we? 

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Posted in Article Medleys, poverty, Public Ed, RightWing

2017 Medley #24: “Government Schools”

The War Against ‘Government Schools’,
The Myth of Failing Schools

THE WAR AGAINST “GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS”

The War Against America’s Public Schools by Gerald Bracey, published 2001. The war continues…

What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean

In a New York Times op ed, Katherine Stewart reminds us that the phrase “government schools” carries a negative connotation. She then goes on to connect the phrase to radical market guru Milton Friedman, and before him, Jim Crow.

…in certain conservative circles, the phrase “government schools” has become as ubiquitous as it is contemptuous.

What most people probably hear in this is the unmistakable refrain of American libertarianism, for which all government is big and bad. The point of calling public schools “government schools” is to conjure the specter of pathologically inefficient, power-mad bureaucrats.

To Defend Public Schools, the Hard Left Puts On the Tin Foil Hat

David French, writing in the conservative National Review, responds to Stewart’s article and says that the right calls public schools “government schools” because that’s what they are.

Public schools are government schools…Too many Americans are stuck in a time warp, believing that the local school is somehow “their” school. They don’t understand that public education is increasingly centralized — teaching a uniform curriculum, teaching a particular, secular set of values, and following priorities set in Washington, not by their local school board. The phrase is helpful for breaking through idealism and getting parents to analyze and understand the gritty reality of modern public education. The phrase works.

Technically, French is correct. Public schools, like any public service, is, by definition, a branch of the “government.” That’s why governments at most levels have departments of education. That’s why school boards are (or should be) elected. That’s why teachers can’t engage in religious proselytization while they are working and are “agents” of the government.

But it’s the negative connotation Stewart wrote of that French promotes in his condescending attempt to support the privatization of public education. While disingenuously claiming that public schools are indeed government schools so the name doesn’t mean anything negative, he goes on to use the phrase negatively. He claims that, since public school supporters can’t defend the “failing” public schools, we take to name-calling to support our argument.

Even worse for the government-school loyalist, the fight takes place on unfavorable ground. Public schools are failing large segments of the public. They’ve been failing for decades. So rather than defend public schooling on its meager merits, all too many ideologues fall back on the old insults. “Racist!” they cry. “Theocrat!” they yell.

What could be more democratic than choice, he claims, falling back on the old argument that poor children ought to have the same “choices” that wealthy children have…without noting that…

  • It is often the schools which do the choosing while feeling perfectly comfortable in denying “choice” to students who are difficult or expensive to teach.

Ignoring these facts he begs us not to deny private school excellence over public school failure.

…Spend much time with America’s wealthier families, and it’s not uncommon to see parents with three kids in three different schools. They made choices based on each child’s unique needs. They give their children the best possible chance to succeed. Why deny these choices to poor kids? Should we punish them for their parents’ economic performance? Faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system and limiting parental choice, all too many defenders of government schools fall back on name-calling, conspiracy theories, and their own anti-Christian bigotries. But they can cite Rushdoony all they want. It doesn’t make him relevant. It doesn’t make public schools better. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate the good and decent effort to use greater competition to improve education for everyone — white and black alike.

Three kids in three different schools? What poor family would have the transportation resources for this situation, unless French wants vouchers to cover the cost of taxis, time off work to transport children, or extra cars for kids to transport themselves. Why not? Should we punish those children “for their parents’ economic performance?”

Are public schools failing “large segments of the public?” Public schools struggle to effectively educate the shamefully high number of high-poverty students in America because they don’t have the money or resources to support them in the way they need to be supported. There aren’t enough counselors, nurses, and social workers in high-poverty schools. There aren’t enough librarians, books or materials. There isn’t enough science equipment. There aren’t enough learning specialists. School buildings are in disrepair. And the budget proposed by the current administration in Washington will guarantee that there won’t be enough after school programs. [For a good discussion of the needs of public school students see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools by the Chicago Teachers Union.]

Public school advocates are not “faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system.” Instead we’re faced with the difficult task of responding to the misinformation, deflections, and lies coming from privatizers who deny that poverty has anything to do with low school achievement and that it’s the politicians and policy makers who have failed to fully support public education. Policy makers ought to be held responsible by their constituents to provide full public school funding based on the needs of the community. Policy makers ought to be held responsible for relieving the pressures of our society’s economic inequality, rather than blaming the victims who are relegated to understaffed, and under-resourced institutions.

And we’re not faced with the task of defending a failing system. America’s public schools are not failing.

Public schools, when statistics are corrected for demographics, perform better than private schools. The University of Chicago Press reviewers of The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, by Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, write,

Private schools have higher scores not because they are better institutions but because their students largely come from more privileged backgrounds that offer greater educational support. After correcting for demographics, the Lubienskis go on to show that gains in student achievement at public schools are at least as great and often greater than those at private ones. Even more surprising, they show that the very mechanism that market-based reformers champion—autonomy—may be the crucial factor that prevents private schools from performing better. Alternatively, those practices that these reformers castigate, such as teacher certification and professional reforms of curriculum and instruction, turn out to have a significant effect on school improvement.

Instead of accusing public school advocates of “anti-Christian” bigotry because we refuse to approve of mixing public tax dollars with religious school education, French ought to get his facts straight.

The Right Wing in America Has Long Tried to Destroy ‘Government Schools’

Another discussion of the “government schools” phrase. The people who are working to privatize public education hate government, and because public schools are government sponsored public services, they hate public education, too. This isn’t new.

Do they also hate public libraries? public parks? and public water systems? Do they hate the government run military?

…these people are working with a completely different ethical system than the rest of us and a different philosophy, but it’s a coherent one and they are pursuing their goals with very strategic, calculating tools.” That’s also why the right is so focused on the teachers’ unions. It’s not because they are only concerned about the quality of education and think that teachers are blocking that. First of all, this is a cause that hated public education—what they would call government schools; they don’t even want to say public education—before there were teachers’ unions.

THE MYTH OF FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Challenging the myth that public schools are failing is one of the greatest obstacles facing public school advocates. Some selected responses to that myth…

What the numbers really tell us about America’s public schools

What I have suggested for ameliorating the low performance of low-income children, on all our assessments, are characteristics of schooling and the provision of health and other supports for children now present in wealthier communities. Perhaps, then, we should rely on John Dewey to help low-income students succeed, instead of putting our faith in vouchers, charters, test preparation, teacher accountability and the like. To paraphrase just a little, Dewey said:

“What the best and wisest … parents want for their children, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

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

…why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?

Because far right policymakers have convinced us all that it’s true.

It’s not.

Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested…

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

The Myth of Public School Failure

But when schools are doing better than ever before, the best way to encourage continued improvement is not a concerted attack on school governance and organization. A more effective approach would be praise for accomplishment, provision of additional resources to programs whose results justify support, and reforms on the margin to correct programs and curricula shown to be ineffective. 

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Teachers Unions, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #23

De-Professionalizing Teachers,
Anti-Intellectualism, Vouchers,
The Destruction of Public Education in Indianapolis

DE-PROFESSIONALIZING TEACHERS

The Many Ways We Are De-Professionalizing Teaching

De-professionalizing teaching is just one front of the war on public education. Nancy Flanagan addresses the confusion of privatizers claiming that becoming a teacher is too easy through the traditional routes…colleges and university schools of education. She talks about the difficulty of the new Florida test that teachers must pass in order to become a licensed teacher…and then goes on to remind us that the same privatizers want to allow anyone to teach in private and charter schools…easier paths to teaching.

Here in Indiana, for example, the EdTPA which pre-service teachers must complete, requires intense attention to, and hours of investment in, teaching and planning lessons…and at the same time, REPA III allows anyone with a content area degree to start teaching in a high school with no experience in actual teaching.

The point? De-professionalize teaching. End the existence of the career teacher who has the best interest of the students at heart. Instead, fill classrooms with idealistic young college graduates on their way up the corporate ladder, who don’t really know anything about teaching and will accept minimal pay for parroting direct teaching scripts…and who will leave after two years, thereby making room for other minimal pay teachers.

Drive out the career oriented teachers by making the requirements for teaching onerous and expensive. Bring in the unqualified and inexperienced who won’t ask for benefits or pensions.

The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of “community-minded” candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can’t support a family or buy a home on a teacher’s salary.

Emphasis on the word cheap. This is about profit and control, not improving education.

In addition to shutting out promising candidates by stringent testing or changing policy to allow virtually anyone with a college degree in the classroom, policymakers, spurred by ALEC and a host of education nonprofits, are also de-professionalizing by:

  • Messing with pension, retirement and insurance packages to encourage young teachers to move in and quickly out of a job that has no financial future.
  • Bringing community-based artists, musicians, sports trainers and library aides into classrooms that used to be staffed by certified teachers.
  • Confiscating teachers’ professional work–instruction, curriculum, assessment, collegial mentoring, etc. Decisions that were once a teacher’s prerogative are now outsourced to canned curricula designed to raise test scores, or standardized assessments that don’t take knowledge of students and their context into consideration. Who should determine the curricular frameworks, design lessons and set goals for students? Teachers and school leaders who know the students and community where they work? Or a Gates-funded, agenda-driven organization?
  • Defunding the schools where the vast majority of professionally prepared teachers are working.
  • Borrowing from the success universities have had, by designing “part-time” jobs (think: K-12 “adjuncts”) with pro-rated benefit packages, a lure to get good teaching for even less money than base pay.

Do You Think Every Child Deserves a Qualified Teacher?

New York is considering allowing anyone to teach…because, after all, it really doesn’t require any special skill set to stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and drill them on test prep materials.

The charter school committee of the State University of New York will soon decide whether charter schools will be allowed to hire uncertified teachers.

Forbes Says 18 Dumb Things

The Forbes article, Teacher Certification Makes Public School Education Worse, Not Better, by University of Chicago Law Professor, Omri Ben Shahar, announces that certified teachers are actually a detriment to our education system.

Peter Greene takes him to task on 18 of his statements which make no sense…to someone with any K-12 teaching experience, that is. Before you read Greene’s breakdown of Bar Shahar’s ignorant pontificating on a subject he knows nothing about, consider this…

Ben Shahar has three law degrees and two economics degrees. He’s spent his more than 20 year professional career working in higher education as a professor of law and economics. One look at his CV gives one a picture of a man who has spent decades perfecting his understanding of economics and law.

But nowhere in his experience has he spent time living and working with K-12 students and teachers. His claim that teacher certification makes public school education worse, is based on standardized test scores. One wonders if he would allow himself to be judged by the bar exam success rate of his students. He wrote…

…America has excellent higher education. Yet primary and secondary school students have long performed poorly on tests compared with students from many industrialized countries.

His understanding of what goes on in a traditional public school is based on what? His own experience? His children’s experience? What he reads in the media? It seems obvious that he based his entire argument on the fact that “many industrialized countries” have higher test scores than we do. The very fact that he uses test scores as the measure of K-12 public education success or failure underscores his ignorance. There are several reasons why the average test scores of American students are below those of some other OECD nations…and none of them have to do with teacher certification.

For example…

In other words, if you want to compare the achievement of America’s public school students to students in other countries, standardized test scores are probably the worst way to do it.

When Bar Shahar can match my 40 plus years of experience as a paraprofessional, teacher, and volunteer in K-12 schools, then I’ll listen to his reasons why teacher certification doesn’t work…

This is the final line of the article, and nothing in it has been proven in any of the lines that came before. Great teachers are somehow born and not made, and they alone can fix everything, and they are apparently distributed randomly throughout the population. Somehow by lowering standards, lowering pay, destabilizing pay, and removing job security, we will attract more of them and flush them out.

That’s 18 dumb things in one short article. I suppose Forbes could get better articles if they paid less and let anybody write for them.

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICA

Elevating Ignorance

It seems to be a source pride among some Americans, to be ignorant.

It’s irrational.

What is worth thinking about, however, is what has been termed “America’s Cult of Ignorance.” An article addressing that issue began with my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

VOUCHERS DON’T WORK, BUT THAT DOESN’T MATTER

Indiana Legislators Don’t Care About Negative Results of Vouchers

Here are some reasons that Indiana’s legislators don’t care about the negative results of vouchers.

Legislators don’t care. They want to send more money away from public schools. The results don’t matter. They have stopped claiming that vouchers will “save” poor kids from failing schools. No one was saved.

They don’t care. They want to do harm to the schools that enroll the vast majority of students.

Why? I don’t know. What do you think can explain their determination to throw more money into vouchers now that they know they are ineffective?

Betsy DeVos Is Not My Secretary of Education

There’s no academic reason for vouchers. Politicians and policy makers ought to quit pretending that they’re pushing the privatization of public education “for children.”

Then there is DeVos’s promotion of tax cuts for the wealthy under the guise of vouchers. Vouchers are another avenue for school choice. Students take the money allotted to educate them in a public school and move it to a private school in the form of a scholarship. Yet even voucher supporters must reckon with research showing vouchers don’t work. If the most recent studies show that vouchers don’t work, how does that create equity for our students? If equity isn’t the goal, then why the need to pretend we need vouchers for our most marginalized families?

INDIANAPOLIS: THE “DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION” (DPE) MOVEMENT

A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

This excellent post by Diane Ravitch explains how the Indianapolis public schools are being destroyed and privatized. The quote below is from a commenter…

Comment from “Retiredteacher

Privatization is like a creeping virus that slowing erodes the immune system and the ability to fight the infection. We have seen similar patterns at work in numerous cities. Privatization is the result of collusion between the local government and a variety of foundations backed by dark money, and it is supported by members of both major political parties. Supporters of public education must organize to fight back in the media, the courts and the voting booths. We should remind people that no system of privatization has ever solved society’s problems. The big byproducts of privatization are destruction of public education, increased misuse of local tax dollars, loss of democratic power, and increased segregation. Privatization is a massive shift of wealth from the working class to the wealthy.

Recognized charter school shuts down two Indianapolis locations

The last sentence below clearly states the bottom-line for charter schools…

According to charter school admission documents, the Shadeland Carpe Diem’s funding was composed of the following:

$245,000 Philanthropic Donation
$90,000 Federal Start-up funds (1st year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
The charter also gets $500/student from the Charter School Grant Fund. (This is a property tax replacement fund. Charter schools do not get property tax dollars.)

Like Indiana public schools, the Charter also received funds from the Common School Loan Program.

“In retrospect, it was really too fast, too soon,” said Carpe Diem Board President Jason Bearce. “We just weren’t able to get the enrollment to make the budget balance.”

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Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, DAP, ESSA, SBOE, vouchers

2017 Medley #22 – ESSA, A-F, and DAP, oh my!

ESSA, Private Schools, A-F, SBOE, DAP

FEDS MAKE A-F WORSE, STATE FAVORS PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Grad rates, grades to fall

A decision by the U.S. Education Department will result in thousands of Indiana students’ diplomas not being counted in graduation statistics causing dozens of schools to score lower on the A-F Grading System.

The fact that the USED can, with the backing of the federal ESSA law, lower the value of diplomas and thereby a school’s grade without any change in the actual achievement of the students is an indication that there is something wrong here.

The A-F grading system in Indiana has been wrong from day one. It’s been riddled with confusion and corruption. The original metrics weren’t adequate, said the State Board Of Education, so they “fixed” them. A former State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, manipulated them to increase the scores of favored schools. The mathematical manipulations have done nothing to improve student achievement or give patrons a better understanding of a school’s effectiveness. It has simply become a way to label schools and neighborhoods as “failing” (read “poor”).

This time, however, it’s the USED which is screwing things up.

As has been the case for the last couple of decades, the U.S. (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) seems hell-bent on making it more difficult for teachers and schools to do their jobs, and for students to learn. The only goal seems to be to humiliate students, schools, and neighborhoods where students struggle.

Local schools will see a drop in graduation rates – and related controversial A-F school grades – under a new interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education.

…McCormick lamented that the new Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to be more flexible yet the feds aren’t bending.

She warned that some schools might see their graduation rates drop into the 30 percent to 40 percent level.

…[NACS Superintendent, Chris] Himsel said, “I don’t even pay attention to the A to F stuff. It’s so not related to what we do for kids it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

While…many have lost confidence in that system it is still reported in the media and can cause harm to districts – especially along borders with competing schools allowing transfer students.

But, of course, we can’t let those nasties at the USED damage Indiana’s favored private schools. They’ll still get public tax money for teaching religious doctrine, fixing church steeples, and expanding parochial school buildings, even if their students don’t “measure up.”

After unsuccessful first attempt, private voucher schools use new Indiana law to win reprieve from A-F consequences

Four private schools with repeated years of D and F grades from the state will get to accept new voucher students next fall.

The Indiana State Board of Education today approved Central Christian Academy, Turning Point School, Lutheran South Unity School and Trinity Lutheran School’s requests for waivers after a failed vote last month would have denied them.

The requests take advantage of a new Indiana law passed in April that allows the state board to consider such waivers for private schools that can still show their students have improved academically.

Today, six board members voted in favor of the waivers. Gordon Hendry and Steve Yager were still opposed. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who also voted no last month, was out sick.

[Note: This method of ignoring “failure” for private schools while punishing the same “failure” in public schools is not unique to Indiana or voucher schools. It happens with charter operators, too. For another example, see Philadelphia: KIPP Gets Whatever It Wants, Despite Poor Performance.]

AND THE STATE DOUBLES DOWN

Test scores could get more important as state board looks to reverse course on A-F grades

To make a bad situation worse, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has decided that getting the right answer is more important than learning.

In an educationally indefensible reversal, the SBOE has chosen to give more weight to “proficiency” than to “growth” in figuring a school’s grade. The discussion was reminiscent of Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing (although at least the members of the SBOE appeared to understand the concepts), and members of the SBOE agreed with board member David Freitas who said that “Proficiency is more important than growth.”

This means that inadequate standardized tests, which are biased, advantage the wealthy, provide minimal feedback to classroom teachers, penalize non-standard thinkers, and use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores, will become even more important leading to more teaching to the test, focusing on “the bubble-kids,” and outright cheating.

[emphasis added]

Board members Thursday, though, said they think it’s more important to know how students are doing on the ultimate goal: performing on grade level.

“Growth, to me, is much less important than proficiency,” said B.J. Watts, a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher in Evansville.

Board members Tony Walker, Byron Ernest and Kathleen Mote said they, too, would like to see more emphasis on achievement. Walker said that if schools receive an A letter grade, the public should be confident they are already high-achieving.

“Right now, you can be on the road to high-performing and get an A,” he said.

GRADE LEVEL, DAP, AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

I challenge those members of the SBOE to define grade level. Anyone who has been teaching for more than a few years has seen the definition of grade level change. What was third grade in 1997 isn’t third grade in 2017.

It’s perhaps beneficial that expectations for what students can do should rise as humans grow and knowledge increases and changes. However, there is such a thing as “development.” Students develop at different rates. Humans are not the same. Using a measurement to help identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses is different than using that same measurement to classify a child as “successful” or “failing.”

Meeting students where they are, academically and physically, and helping them reach challenging, yet achievable goals, is called Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines DAP as

…an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.

DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.

This applies to older children as well, since the human brain doesn’t reach full development until sometime in the 20s.

Our obsession with testing…our obsession with trying to make all students learn at the same rate is not developmentally sound and it’s a statistical impossibility.

Punishing students, their teachers, or their schools, for not being “developmentally equal” to others is insane. Stop it!

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Posted in Article Medleys, Billionaires, DeVos, Healthcare, PersonalizedLearning, Privatization, Public Ed, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #21

Public Education, GOP Health Care [sic], Vouchers, Billionaire “Reformers,”
Personalized Learning

PAYING IT FORWARD

America’s future depends upon the education and care of all its children. Today’s high school graduates will be our leaders in 2040. Today’s kindergartners will be the policy-makers of 2060. Will those adults – today’s children – be ready to take the reins of government and policy-making? Or will they be living in a dying nation, wallowing in fear and ignorance?

Our national behavior today must be one of “paying it forward,” or our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will suffer the consequences.

Are You Going to Educate the Children of This Nation or Not?

What would it take to truly educate America’s children?

1. We allow the question of “What should the government do, and what should private enterprise do?”—a totally ideological concept – to get in the way of providing collectively for our children…

2. We allow non-education “experts” to hang up shingles and pretend that we do not know what works…

3. We pretend there is not enough money to do the job well…while spending large proportions of our budgets on measuring rather than learning…

4. We allow businesses to demand that schools deliver specifically trained employees to their door with certifications, licenses, core skills, and work ethics to reduce their cost of doing business, but we do not ask them to pay their fair share to educate the workers they will need…

5. We insist we want to educate all children equally well, but sabotage poor districts when they do well…

6. We know from studies that the quality of teachers is the primary determiner, outside of quality of homelife and basic health, in whether a child/children learn well. Yet, we continue to micro-manage, undermine, underpay, and refuse to listen to teachers who have consistently performed well…

7. We continue to report and accept reports of school performance based on invalid and useless test scores as though they meant something…

8. We allow people to publicly lie about our schools, the children in them, and the people who work for them without contesting or refuting what they say on a regular basis…

THE IMPACT OF THE GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN ON STUDENTS

Public schools fear GOP health care plan

The proposed Senate GOP health care plan will cause emotional and physical shock for children in public schools. When that happens, perhaps the government will succumb to political pressure and turn public education over to the private sector in a perfect scenario of the Shock Doctrine. If that happens, prepare to see schools provide inadequate support for “unprofitable” children.

For the past three decades, Medicaid has helped pay for services and equipment that schools provide to special-education students, as well as school-based health screening and treatment for children from low-income families. Now, educators are warning that the GOP push to shrink Medicaid spending will strip schools of what a national superintendents association estimates at up to $4 billion per year.

That money pays for nurses, social workers, physical, occupational and speech therapists and medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs. It also pays for preventive and comprehensive health services for poor children, including immunizations, screening for hearing and vision problems and management of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

Surprise!

Red-state school leaders vent frustrations with GOP health bill

The loss of funding proposed in both the Republican budget and “health care” bill, is a purposeful destruction of the safety net for our neediest children.

Fleming County [Ky] Schools Superintendent Brian Creasman was taken aback when he discovered the bill would make cuts that could devastate his ability to provide health services to needy and disabled kids.

Here in rural Kentucky, the heart of Trump country where three out of four voters cast ballots for Donald Trump and many regard McConnell as their political protector, Creasman initially thought the bill’s potential cuts to school districts must be a misunderstanding.

Only they weren’t.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Vouchers don’t help children succeed. They are part of the plan to defund and destroy public education. U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos is fond of saying that parents should choose the “best fit” for their children. However, when the “best fit” doesn’t support the public good, then public funds ought not to be used.

You are welcome to choose a religious education for your child. In the Notes on the state of Virginia, Jefferson wrote, “it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” There is a place for parochial education in the U.S.

When tax dollars are used to pay for a parochial education, however, it does pick my pocket, and ought to be prohibited.

No academic gain, voucher study says

“This study confirms what many have suspected – private school vouchers are not a solution to helping kids succeed in school,” Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said.

“As we see more and more evidence that private school vouchers aren’t benefiting kids, I call on legislators and the governor to undertake an analysis of the financial accountability of the state’s voucher program as well.”

But advocates of the program say it’s not just about academics, it’s about a parent’s choice to pick the proper educational environment for their child.

Wiley’s group pushes for school choice and said those using the study to criticize the program “have never said a positive thing about school choice in their lives.”

Evidence casts doubt on voucher education

“Should Indiana policymakers be accountable to the public for using their tax dollars on a program that’s hurting children?” he asked, “Policymakers should pay attention to evidence, and not just advocacy groups!”

Trump’s Voucher Onslaught: Trump And DeVos Push Private School Tax Aid Scheme, But The Details Of Their Plan Remain Vague

In a May 23 statement denouncing Trump’s education budget, the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) noted that the Indiana voucher program isn’t alone in its lack of academic success: “Recent research in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., is clear: Students who use vouchers perform worse academically than their peers who do not use vouchers.”

NCPE, which Americans United co-chairs, noted several other concerns: “[V]ouchers underserve many students, including low-income students who often cannot afford private schools even with a voucher, students in rural areas who may have no other educational options nearby, and students with disabilities who often cannot find private schools to serve their needs.”

Additionally, vouchers lack accountability to taxpayers, threaten the religious freedom of both taxpayers and religious schools and can deprive students of the rights guaranteed to public school students, NCPE pointed out…

Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, and the Walton Family

BILLIONAIRE “REFORMERS”

Intellectual Arrogance

Attending school does not make one an educational professional. Billions of dollars of personal wealth does not give one experience teaching children. Buying influence and political power does not help one understand child development. Teaching children, and learning about learning, takes more than a fat wallet.

This intellectual arrogance has never been demonstrated more clearly than in recent pronouncements concerning education in America. Brilliant people in diverse fields outside of education feel perfectly comfortable making judgments and policy recommendations about education that impacts millions of students as well as educational professionals. Their audacity is appalling and their ignorance is inexcusable. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have announced their goal to prepare 80 percent of American high school students for entrance into universities. Eli Broad, another billionaire, gives money to school districts with the clear expectation that they will implement his business-based plans. Alan Bersin, a US Attorney political appointee, believed high school students would learn best with three hours a day of genre studies. He imposed this policy by threatening termination of educational professionals who disagreed with him. Similarly, mayors have their own ideas about how to improve student achievement, notably without any substantive research to support them. George Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy used testing to determine the success of schools, however testing in itself, has not provided solutions to educational achievement. Arne Duncan and President Obama pushed merit pay and charter schools when substantive research does not support either of these policy initiatives. Trump’s DeVos hasn’t a clue about educational research as her feeble efforts have ably demonstrated. The advocacy for these already repudiated initiatives reflects a lack of understanding of the ultimate impact on students and educational professionals.

ANOTHER TECH MONEY GRAB

Four Reasons to Worry About “Personalized Learning”

Just another money grab by rich technocrats.

Personal learning entails working with each child to create projects of intellectual discovery that reflect his or her unique needs and interests. It requires the presence of a caring teacher who knows each child well.

Personalized learning entails adjusting the difficulty level of prefabricated skills-based exercises based on students’ test scores. It requires the purchase of software from one of those companies that can afford full-page ads in Education Week.

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