Posted in Arizona, Article Medleys, California, Charters, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Privatization, Purdue, Texas, Utah, vouchers

2018 Medley #4: Privatization and Push-Back

Pastors in Texas; Privatization at Purdue; Charters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, California, and Utah; Push-Back in Iowa

PRIVATIZATION: PUSH-BACK IN TEXAS

Voucher opposition article of faith for pastor

A small group of Texas pastors has come to the aid of public school students focusing on fighting vouchers, and the separation of church and state. The Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) have grown to become a force in the Lone Star State and lead a coalition of public education advocates to push back against the forces of privatization.

Other states have copied the PTC model, In Oklahoma, the Pastors for Oklahoma Kids has started advocating for public education.

Numbers of pastors and educators have started similar groups in other states, including Indiana.

We can’t afford multiple, parallel, state funded, systems of education in Indiana. The state should fund the public schools. Period.

“I am a Baptist Christian. I have certain convictions that have shaped my experience of God, faith, church and – frankly – I don’t want my tax dollars supporting religious programs that I don’t agree with, any more than my friends of other faith traditions don’t want their tax dollars supporting religious programs that might adhere to my own beliefs,” he said.

…The powerful case offered by Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children, however, could have many rethinking the blurring line between government and Indiana’s church-based schools.

PRIVATIZATION: PURDUE

Keep Purdue Public: Tell the HLC to Vote NO on Purdue-Kaplan Deal

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has organized a petition campaign in opposition to Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit company. This new aspect of Purdue’s university system will be named Purdue University Global.

The problem according to the AAUP is that, under a move by Governor Holcomb, all this would be exempt from public open records laws. This, says AAUP, does what most privatization schemes does…it favors shareholders over students.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin are concerned about the predatory history of for-profit colleges and urge transparency.

According to AAUP,

The Purdue-Kaplan deal puts Kaplan shareholders over Purdue students.

  • Pays 12.5% of revenue to Kaplan after operating costs are met
  • Pays Kaplan an “efficiency payment” of 20% of any cuts in operating cost

The Purdue-Kaplan deal takes resources from a public university and gives them to a private corporation.

  • Gives tax revenues and Indiana’s scholarship money, like the 21st Century Scholars Program, to a private corporation
  • Establishes a “public-benefit corporation” operated by and for the profit of Kaplan

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

#Anotherdayanothercharterscandal

…IN PENNSYLVANIA

How a loophole let charter schools ‘buy’ buildings and still collect rent from state

A charter school buys its building, then rents it to itself. The rent, of course, is reimbursed by the state. The school’s CEO calls it “a great perk.”

Like many charter schools, Executive Education Academy spends a good chunk of its budget on rent, some of which is later reimbursed by the state. That’s allowed, as long as the school doesn’t own its building, which Executive Academy doesn’t — technically.

The school at 555 Union Blvd., Allentown, is owned by the Executive Education Academy Charter School Foundation, a nonprofit set up solely to support the school. The school used to pay about $2.2 million a year in rent to a private landlord and get $100,000 back from the state.

Now the school will pay $2.3 million a year in rent to its foundation, which bought the building last summer, and still be able to apply for reimbursements from the state.

“That’s not the reason why we would do this, but that’s a great perk for a charter school,” said Robert Lysek, the school’s CEO. “I hate to say ‘it is what it is,’ but it kind of is.”

…IN ARIZONA

Sudden closure of charter school renews calls for stricter oversight

Read this story about how charter schools enrich their executives and end up closing in the middle of the school year, leaving parents and students scrambling for a new school (Note: Naturally, they often end up back at the stable, traditional, and open to all, public schools).

The lack of public oversight often leaves parents and children with few options. Whose choice?

The issue of charter schools funneling payments through entities owned by executives is not unique to Discovery Creemos.

A study by GCI last year found 77 percent of charter schools engage in business transactions involving their owners, board members or their families, a practice known as “self-dealing” or “related-party transactions.”

…IN NEW YORK

New York education officials move to block rules allowing some charter schools to certify their own teachers

The bottom line for corporate owned, privatized schools, is profit, not children. In-house training would allow those schools to hire cheaper, and therefore, more profitable, teachers…oh, and they wouldn’t have to worry about that pesky teachers union, either.

The regulations allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to certify teachers who complete the equivalent of a month of classroom instruction and practice teaching for 40 hours — compared to at least 100 hours under the state’s certification route, according to the lawsuit. And unlike teachers on a traditional certification route, they are not required to earn a master’s degree or take all of the state’s certification exams.

…IN CALIFORNIA

Teachers Say They had No Idea Sacramento Charter School was Shutting Down

When my local school district decided to close four elementary schools (three of which I had worked in!) due to funding shortfalls and declining enrollment, local members of the school board held town meetings all across the district to hear from citizens and explain why they wanted to do what they were going to do. The process took an entire year…and many voters were against the plan. If they chose to, those voters were able to exercise their displeasure with the plan during the following school board election.

Unfortunately, parents who patronize charter schools, and teachers who work in such schools, have no such electoral protection. Parents, students, and teachers, have no “choice” when a charter school closes. The money is gone. The students’ educational year is disrupted. Teachers are out of a job.

Parents began looking for transcripts and were trying to get their kids transferred to new schools. Teachers were waiting for stipends and belongings from their classrooms.

While reading a prepared statement, Contreras-Douglas got emotional. She insisted staff was aware of the school’s low enrollment and financial troubles before shutting down Wednesday.

“Several meetings with teaching staff were conducted to specifically address this issue throughout the school year,” Contreras-Douglas said.

But teachers say they didn’t have any idea the school was closing until it happened.

…IN UTAH

Tribune Editorial: Charter schools need state board’s oversight

Public schools have locally elected and locally based school boards. The schools are subject to the financial oversight of both the local school board and the state department of education.

Charter schools ought to have the same public oversight.

This legislation speaks to the bigger issue of what we want charters to be. When they first came into being, the intent of charters was to be laboratories where alternative approaches could be tested without the interference of public-school bureaucracies. Many have succeeded doing exactly that.

But some ideologues are trying to use charters as the leading edge of an educational disruption movement with the intent of dismantling the public school system and the teachers union, replacing it with a marketplace where every parent goes shopping for schools. In that view, the state school board represents market suppression.

PRIVATIZATION: PUSH-BACK AGAINST “CHOICE” IN IOWA

Iowa public school advocates fight for funding amid cries for ‘choice’

Thousands of Iowans are pushing back against “school-choice” in Iowa.

A grassroots group made up of Iowa public school parents and activists is fighting what organizers say is an onslaught from lawmakers intent on eroding the state’s public education system.

Iowans for Public Education was formed online in November 2016 after Republicans won majorities in both the Iowa House and Senate. It has since grown to more than 12,500 followers.

The group organized a Teachers Rally last February that brought thousands to the Iowa Capitol grounds to oppose changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law. It has launched petitions and letter-writing campaigns.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Privatization, reform, Religion, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, vouchers

2018 Medley #3

School Shootings, Religion in School, Teacher Shortage, Reform, Charters, Vouchers

GUN VIOLENCE

Wake Up, America! You Have a School Shooting Problem!

Since this blog post of Steven Singer’s was posted less than a week ago, we’ve had yet another school shooting…this one in Los Angeles. And we have heard talk of a Trump/Russia/NRA connection

What has been done to curb gun violence in the US since Newtown (2012)? Columbine (1999)?

“Thoughts and prayers…” Absolutely nothing.

According to an FBI study that looked at incidents from 2000-2013, nearly one quarter of all U.S. shootings took place at schools. And they’re on the rise.

Yet this latest incident barely raised an eyebrow in the collective consciousness.

Hardly anyone even attempted to offer a solution.

The reason?

Since Sandy Hook, we’ve effectively given up.

In December of 2012 a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and we did nothing.

We stood by after the murder of elementary kids and couldn’t get up the collective energy to do one damn thing to stop things like this from happening again.

No new regulations.

No assault weapons ban.

No gun buyback programs.

NOTHING.

CHURCH AND STATE

Local School to Train Teachers After Church/State Violations

Last Monday (1/29/2018), I posted Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana which dealt with a lawsuit against a school for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This case from Michigan, deals with the same sort of thing. Here, however, school authorities have made a commitment to teach their teachers about the law.

Here are three more publications, each endorsed by a variety of religious and civic groups, which will give you a good background on how to handle religion in public schools.

Once teachers, administrators, and other school employees know what the law requires, there should be no excuse for mixing education and proselytization in public schools. This information ought to be mandatory at the beginning of every school year.

A suit may still be filed over the Bible study before school starts, but this is a good development overall. And it needs to be replicated nationwide. These problems are so pervasive all over the country that the Department of Education should force all public schools to have a mandatory in-service day to train teachers and administrators on what the law says they can and cannot do within the parameters of the First Amendment.

REFORM/TEACHER SHORTAGE

Cycle of frustration

The constant drumbeat of so-called “education reform” has been that public schools are “failing.” “School failure” really means societal failure. It’s odd, isn’t it, that America’s “failing” public schools are located in high poverty areas…and all the “bad teachers” are teaching at those schools while America’s schools for the middle class and wealthy are excelling. It’s odd because out of school factors contribute to school achievement much more than teachers do…yet policy makers don’t accept responsibility for societal failure which leads to “school failure.”

The national attack on public education which began in earnest in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind (though school privatization has long been a right-wing/libertarian dream) has done nothing but disrupt and damage public schools around the country. Part of the attack, especially here in Indiana, has been against public school teachers and their unions.

The current attempt to improve educational achievement by lowering standards for becoming a teacher, is a direct result of the attacks on teachers.

[Note: the amendment discussed in this editorial has not yet been passed into law (as of Feb 2, 2018).]

The pattern in Indiana education policy has become all too familiar:

1. Pass a law to disrupt public education in the pursuit of “reform.”

2. Express dismay over the repercussions of the new law without acknowledging what caused them.

3. Pass another law to “fix” the problems created, doing additional harm to public schools.

The most recent example surfaced Wednesday when a last-minute amendment was added to a bill to allow public schools to fill up to 10 percent of staff with unlicensed teachers. Why is this necessary? Because some school districts are struggling to hire faculty in the face of teacher shortages. Why are there shortages? Because laws regarding teacher evaluations, tenure and collective bargaining have made the field less attractive.

REFORM

The Sad Impact of Corporate School Reform on Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities

Thanks to Nancy Bailey for her continuing attention to the damage that so-called education “reform” causes students with disabilities.

School choice is not going to do anything to fix these problems.

  • Charters and most private schools have a record of pushing kids with emotional/behavioral difficulties out.
  • As taxpayers we don’t know what takes place with children who are home schooled.
  • How does one address the mental health needs of students who sit in front of screens for school? Too much tech exacerbates mental health problems!

We need strong public schools, schools with resources that will address the needs of children and teens.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

Some reasons for the slow-down of charter school expansion…

1. Charter teachers have begun to unionize. One reason for developing charter schools was to “bust the teachers unions.”

2. “Failing” charter schools are simply converting to voucher accepting private schools to continue to receive public tax dollars.

3. Charter schools have suffered from an excessive number of scandals resulting in bad publicity.

Diverting public tax dollars to charters (and vouchers) has been a waste of money. Instead we should be working to increase resources and achievement at real public schools.

Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.

And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.

We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.

Largest Charter School Fail Ever Doesn’t Faze ‘School Choice’ Fans

The failure of this “school choice” was mostly ignored during “school choice” week.

In the run up to what was billed as “record breaking celebrations” of charter schools and other forms of “school choice,” there was a serious bump in the road when news outlets in Ohio reported the largest charter school closure ever in that state, and perhaps the nation, had suddenly sent over 12,000 students and their families scrambling to find new schools midyear.

…“My kids went to bed last night crying,” said a Cincinnati mom whose children attended the school.

“To just rip them out of the environment they are most used to,” complained another mom whose children had attended the school for eight years. “They have relationships with their teachers,” she said in a news video posted on the ECOT Facebook page.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

How Mike Pence expanded Indiana’s controversial voucher program when he was governor

More and more money for private schools coming out of public tax dollars…which eats into money for the public schools.

Where does the money go? To whom are the private schools accountable? Where is the public oversight? Answers – No one knows…no one…and there is none.

Pence, who describes his religious beliefs as evangelical, removed the cap on the number of students who could qualify for a voucher to a private school, increased the limits on qualifying family income, and removed Daniel’s stipulation that the student had to try the public school first.

No longer was money being saved as a small number of students transferred from public to private schools. Now middle-income families already using private schools were having their tuition paid for, at least partially, by the state.

A QUICK PEEK

There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

Study Finds Recession-Era Education Cuts Significantly Impacted Student Outcomes: How Many Constitutional Rights Were Violated?

…a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

‘Distressed’ schools lost funding

No wonder Gary and Muncie community schools are distressed. Both Indiana school districts have had their budgets cut dramatically over the past decade. It’s not surprising they’ve struggled to pay the bills.

Trump’s Judges: The GOP’s Slow Poison for Democracy, and the Planet

Lawyer Richard Ayres has been fighting for the environment in federal courts for nearly five decades, but he says he’s never seen an onslaught on basic environmental protections like the one coming out of the Trump White House. Still, something scares Ayres even more than the determination of the Trump team to dismantle President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives, shrink federally protected lands, weaken smog standards, scale back habitat for rare species, and expand drilling into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

What most unnerves Ayres and other veteran environmental lawyers and legal experts is the unprecedented opportunity President Trump has to fill the federal judiciary with anti-regulatory, pro-business appointees.

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Preschool, vouchers

2018 Medley #2

Choice, Accountability, Preschool

WHOSE CHOICE?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State supports keeping public money in public schools. Here are two articles about so-called “school-choice”.

Don’t Fall For the School Choice Week Hype: Private School Vouchers Are Bad For Everyone

Starting this week, proponents of private school voucher schemes will be touting National School Choice Week – but what they won’t be touting is all the ways that vouchers harm public education and religious freedom.

We’re Fighting Private School Voucher Programs To Keep Public Money In Public Schools

Public schools are open to all students regardless of race, religion or ability. They are a unifying force in our society. Private school vouchers undermine our public schools by funneling desperately needed public resources away from them to fund the education of a few students at private, religious schools.

Selling Choice

Supporters of so-called “school-choice” generally neglect to tell parents that the school chooses the student, not the other way around.

…what people support in voucher policy is not what voucher fans are prepared to offer. Voucher programs don’t offer nearly enough money for families to send their children to top private schools– assuming those schools are even interested in accepting their child in the first place. Private schools are not flinging wide their doors to enroll students that offer any sort of expensive challenge (or they may discriminate for other reasons), and while voucher advocates can brand themselves champions of choice till the cows come home, the fact remains that it is the schools that get to choose– not the parents. And while folks from many subgroups (minorities, millennials, rural folks) say yes to major changes in public schools, the only major change to come from vouchers would be public schools that are more strapped for resources. Meanwhile, the voucher schools are accountable to nobody– if you think they need changes, you are welcome to just walk out the door. Shut your mouth and vote with your feet.

Weekly Privatization Report 1-22-2018

In the Public Interest provides information about privatization throughout the country. In this week’s edition they report on a charter school that “chooses” to exclude a student due to medical issues.

13) Arizona: A Phoenix mother is suing a public charter school that she says illegally turned away her daughter because she had Type 1 diabetes. “‘Everybody was on the same page,’ says Kohnke. ‘It seemed like it was only the principal that saw the stuff and was like, “No, no, no, no.” Kohnke says the principal sent her away with a yellow Post-it note with a list of other schools. ‘Once she handed me this I was like, OK, so I kind of understood where we were standing at that point,’ says Kohnke.”

School choice reality much less appealing

Can we afford to fully fund a dual system of education? Phyllis Bush, a co-founder of both the Network for Public Education (NPE) and Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), explains what’s wrong with “school choice”.

The expansion of choice is creating two separate school systems. In this parallel system, one pathway will be for those who can afford quality choices. The other pathway will be an underfunded, separate-but-unequal road, marked by poverty and by ZIP codes. As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students, while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don’t speak English.

The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with the most difficulties will be housed in the least well-financed schools. Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.”

School choice no substitute for well-funded schools

Instead of funding a dual system of schools by using public funds to pay for private schools, religious schools, and privately run charter schools, states should fully funded public schools, based on the needs of the students. This would allow every public school to provide an excellent education for their students.

The mantra for privatization is that students of poverty deserve an equal chance for a better school. The deception here is that it’s not the parents who choose, it’s the charters and private Schools who choose. The neediest and most underperforming students are not being selected or kept by charters and private schools. In fact, more than half of all vouchers go to students already in private schools, not the poorest from public schools. Private schools are allowed to discriminate in their selection/retention of students resulting in intensified segregation — all with public tax dollars.

What do schools need to provide their students? Fully funded, fully supported education with wrap-around services where needed. Here’s an excellent model still waiting for implementation:

MISSING: SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY

Public schools are not responsible for the child poverty rate in the communities they serve. Legislators and policy makers have abdicated their responsibility for childhood poverty and dumped it on schools. When the schools are unable to overcome the effects of poverty they get labeled as failures.

All community stakeholders must accept their share of responsibility and be held accountable for the success or failure of schools – including legislators and policy makers.

Test-and-Punish Just Hangs on as Failed Education Strategy

…If our society were intent on helping the children who have been left behind, we would invest in ameliorating poverty and in supporting the hard working teachers in the schools in our poorest communities. Things like reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program would help! The ESSA plans being submitted to the Department of Education aren’t having much impact at all. The old, made-over NCLB jacket is slowly slipping to the back of the closet.

PRESCHOOL

Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

Increasing access to high quality preschool is on the ESSA list of things-to-do. Yet, we still consider the job of preschool teacher to be akin to that of babysitter – and preschool salaries show it.

Preschool is important. We need to invest in well trained teachers. We need to invest in our future.

…But if teachers are crucial to high-quality preschool, they are also its most neglected component. Even as investment in early-childhood education soars, teachers like Kelly continue to earn as little as $28,500 a year on average, a valuation that puts them on par with file clerks and switchboard operators, but well below K-12 teachers, who, according to the most recent national survey, earn roughly $53,100 a year. According to a recent briefing from the Economic Policy Institute, a majority of preschool teachers are low-income women of color with no more than a high-school diploma. Only 15 percent of them receive employer-sponsored health insurance, and depending on which state they are in, nearly half belong to families that rely on public assistance. “Teaching preschoolers is every bit as complicated and important as teaching any of the K-12 grades, if not more so,” says Marcy Whitebook, a director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. “But we still treat preschool teachers like babysitters. We want them to ameliorate poverty even as they live in it themselves.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, ChildhoodMortality, reading, reform, retention, Science, STEM, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #1

Shortchanging Our Children and our Future,
Retention-in-Grade, Struggling Readers,
Why Teachers Quit, Chalkbeat

SHORTCHANGING OUR CHILDREN…AND OUR FUTURE

Missing an S for Science in the STEM Frenzy

Like other aspects of America’s infrastructure, our public education system is being systematically dismantled. We’re shortchanging the future of the nation by not providing a full curriculum for all our students.

Two in 5 schools don’t offer physics! In both Alaska and Oklahoma, about 70 percent of high schools don’t offer the course. Florida and Utah are close behind, with nearly 60 percent of high schools lacking physics. Iowa, New Hampshire, and Maine do much better, with only about 15 percent of schools not offering the subject.

Small schools are hurt worse, raising questions about the quality of science instruction in charter schools.

Ninety percent of America’s kids attend public schools, so dwindling science instruction is troubling. But it’s not surprising. Defunding public education is intentional, meant to transform schools into technology hubs—charters for the poor.

What message are we sending to the future?

RETENTION-IN-GRADE

Held back, but not helped

Yet another state discovers that retention-in-grade doesn’t help students.

Louisiana is one of the states where you have to pass a test to move on to the next grade (in fourth and ninth grades). After a retention rate of around 25%, they’ve found that the process doesn’t really help.

Retention is a problem that even educators contribute to…not just legislatures, school boards, or politicians. It’s true that the legislatures and politicians are the ones who pass the “third grade punishment” laws (fourth grade in Louisiana), but rarely do teachers or administrators object beyond the “we need to make those decisions” stage. Those voices shouting “retention-in-grade doesn’t work” are drowned out by the crowd shouting “we have to do something” followed by “what else can we do?” And therein lies the problem.

Teachers can’t solve the problem of retention-in-grade on their own. Retention is ineffective as a method of remediation, as is passing a child to the next grade without any intervention. Intervention takes time and costs money.

States should stop wasting millions on testing, and, instead, spend that money on remediation. Struggling students need extra help, not another year doing the same thing over again. Research has repeatedly shown that intensive intervention works…but it costs money.

Only when we decide that our children are worth the cost will we be able to provide the education that each child needs.

Students who fell short were assigned mandatory summer-school classes, after which they took the test again. If that second attempt wasn’t successful, students couldn’t move on to fifth or ninth grade. The practice of retention in Louisiana also extended beyond the high-stakes grades. In 2015-16, more than one-third of all retained students were from grades K-3. In that same year, 10 percent of all ninth graders were held back. In a presentation a few years ago, a top education-department administrator, Chief of Literacy Kerry Laster, wrote, “We retain students despite overwhelming research and practical evidence that retention fails to lead to improved student outcomes.” Laster’s presentation, based on 2010 data, reported that 28 percent of Louisiana students did not make it to fourth grade on time.

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Why Good Teachers Quit Teaching

Teachers are leaving the profession faster than they’re entering. The non-educators in statehouses and legislatures are forcing teachers to do things that are not educationally sound. This has been going on for too long.

In what other profession do outsiders dictate practice? Who tells your attorney how to practice law? Who tells your plumber how to fix a leak? Who tells your doctor how to diagnose an illness?

Let teachers teach.

Bonnie D. left after 30 years of teaching because she felt the system was no longer acting in the best interest of all students. “Everything became all about passing the ‘almighty test,’” she says. “Decisions were made by the administrators to concentrate only on those students who could perform well. Call me old fashioned, but I always did my best to reach and teach every student in my room, not simply the ones who had the best chance of passing a test.”

In addition, many teachers worry about the effect high-stakes testing has on kids. “Sometimes tests coincide with a bad day,” Michelle S. tells us, “or a day when a student is just not feeling it. That is an incredible amount of stress on kids—especially those classified as ‘bubble kids.’”

Why It’s So Hard to Be a Teacher Right Now

Many legislatures are still relying on test scores to tell them which schools are “good” and which are “failing.” That continued stress, added to the attitude out of the U.S. Education Department that public schools are a “dead end” means that being a teacher is not getting easier.

…test-prep stressors haven’t gone away, Weingarten says they started to abate late in 2015 when President Obama signed into law an act that gave states more power to determine public school curricula without the threat of federal penalties tied to standardized test scores. “There was hope things would get better,” she says.

But then a new source of stress emerged: the 2016 election, and President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to the post of Education Secretary. DeVos is a prominent charter-school advocate, and at times has been highly critical of America’s public schools. (She once said America’s public schools are “a dead end.”)

CHALKBEAT’S GREAT AMERICAN TEACH-OFF

Watch Out Padma, Here Comes Chalkbeat!

Chalkbeat accepts money from the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) such as the Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Anschutz Foundation, EdChoice, and the Walton Family Foundation. They claim that their supporters (complete list here) don’t impact their editorial decisions.

Here’s what I do know–teaching is not a competition. It’s not a reality show. If it were a reality show, it would be judged by experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris. The thing is neither of them would deign to participate in an exercise like this one by reformy Chalkbeat. More likely it will be an exercise in determining who can best read the Moskowitz Academy Scripted Lesson Plan, or who can make the Most Kids Pass the Test, or some other reformy nonsense.

I’m personally offended that Chalkbeat deems itself worthy of judging teachers. I’ve been reading Chalkbeat since it started. I rate it biased, reformy, ineffective, and totally unqualified to understand our jobs, let alone judge our work. We do not cook meals. We do not just do test prep. We deal with real people, and they have many more layers than the artichokes they prepared three ways on Top Chef last week.

A QUICK PEEK

There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

When Readers Struggle: Background Knowledge

This is the first in a series on struggling readers by Russ Walsh. As of Jan 7, there is a second post, When Readers Struggle: Oral Language

Whenever I ask a group of teachers to identify areas that seem to cause difficulty for struggling readers, lack of background knowledge is sure to be near the top of the list.

Liking Those We Don’t Like: The Dissonance Involved with Supporting Public Schools

It’s one of the most exasperating issues for parents and educators, but education goes relatively unmentioned in each campaign.

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?

American kids are 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other rich countries

A new study ranks 20 wealthy countries on childhood deaths. The US comes in last.

Lawmakers want more research before they spend big on preschool. When it comes to vouchers, there’s no such hesitation.

Lawmakers have demanded lots of proof to determine whether preschool helps kids…

Yet they’ve requested no long-term study of another similarly designed, tuition support program — vouchers for private schools…

The Lasting Payoff of Early Ed

The benefits of early education are found to persist for years, bolstering graduation, reducing retention, and reducing special education placements.

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Posted in Article Medleys, books, Choice, Immigrants, poverty, Public Ed, Quotes, Teaching Career

My Year-End Favorites

The “Year’s Bests” and “Year’s Mosts” list…images, blog posts, quotes, podcasts, and books.

Thanks for reading…

MY FAVORITE BLOG POST OF THE YEAR: by SOMEONE ELSE

The Success of America’s Public Schools

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

In which Steven Singer teaches us how well our public schools are doing. Facts matter.

From Steven Singer

…America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

Here’s why: the United States educates everyone. Most other countries do not.

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.

FAVORITE BLOG POSTS: MINE

My Own Favorite Blog Post of the Year

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

I follow Steven Singer’s post with one of my own about the amazing success of America’s public schools.

When she looks at the U.S. international test scores, Secretary DeVos, and other policy makers see “failing schools.” This is wrong. The low average scores, and the even lower scores aggregated for low income students, indicate that economic inequity is overwhelming the infrastructure of our public school systems. Instead of blaming public schools, politicians and policy makers must take responsibility for ending the shameful rate of child poverty and inequity in America.

My Most Popular Blog Post of the Year

Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

This post about how Indiana and Wisconsin are destroying the teaching profession,  received the most attention of anything I wrote this year, picking up several thousand hits.

From Live Long and Prosper

…in order to offset the loss of teaching staff in the state, rules for becoming a teacher have been relaxed…

…because nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

FAVORITE IMAGE

Trump fires Lady Liberty.

Retired Chicago-area teacher Fred Klonsky provides an editorial comment about the nation’s immigration policy. This sums up the year accurately…

From Fred Klonsky

FAVORITE ED PODCAST

Have you Heard: Truth in Edvertising

With a “market-based” education economy comes advertising. Jennifer Berkshire, Jack Schneider, and their guest, Sarah Butler Jessen, discuss “edvertising”. If you are at all concerned about the privatization of public education you owe it to yourself to listen to this.

From Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider

…in schooling certainly there is a private good aspect to it. But schooling is also a public good. It’s something that benefits our society, our neighborhoods, our communities. It benefits the most advantaged, but it also benefits the least advantaged at least theoretically. So when we acting as consumers, we’re only acting in alignment with the private good aspect of education.

So think for instance, buying an alarm for your house versus trying to cultivate safer cities or safer neighborhoods. Whereas one of those is an inherently private good. The alarm is only going to protect me and my family. The public good is going to benefit everyone in the community and that’s not something I can promote via shopping.

FAVORITE QUOTABLES

My favorite quotes from the year…from actual, real-life educators.

The Hypocrisy of “Choice”

Testing Opt Out: Parent Wants Conference; School Calls Police *Just in Case*

From Mercedes Schneider

One of the great contradictions within corporate ed reform is the promoting of a “parental choice” that stops short of the parent’s choice to opt his or her children out of federal- and state-mandated standardized testing.

Poverty

School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

From Russ Walsh

Those of us who continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education are accused of using poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Right up front let me say I am against the status quo and I have spent a lifetime in education trying to improve teacher instruction and educational opportunities for the struggling readers and writers I have worked with. To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.

2 School Districts, 1 Ugly Truth

From John Kuhn

Educational malpractice doesn’t happen in the classroom. The greatest educational malpractice in the Unites States happens in the statehouse not the school house.

If we truly cared about how our students end up, we would have shared accountability, where everyone whose fingerprints are on these students of ours, has to answer for the choices that they make.

MOST IMPORTANT BOOK I READ IN 2017

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

We need to learn from history.

By Timothy Snyder

Lesson 10: Believe in Truth: To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Publisher’s Description

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

Here’s a video of Timothy Snyder talking about his book, HERE.

2018 TO-READ BOOK LIST

Books I hope to get to in 2018…

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools, by Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi

Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education, by John Merrow

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, Pence, Politics, Privatization, reading, Uncategorized

2017 Medley #34

 

Reading Crisis in California, Ed-Reform in Indiana,
Civics Education, Charters, Politics, 

READING CRISIS: IT’S POVERTY, STUPID

California’s Reading Crisis: Why Aren’t U.S. Kids Reading Well?

Why are so many kids struggling with reading? The vast majority of students’ reading difficulties are due to lack of opportunities…before they even get to school. Students who grow up in poverty deal with out-of-school factors which contribute to lowered achievement. David C. Berliner lists seven such factors which get in the way of achievement.

(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children;
(2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance;
(3) food insecurity;
(4) environmental pollutants;
(5) family relations and family stress;
(6) neighborhood characteristics;
(7) extended learning opportunities, such as preschool, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.

Until we can successfully eliminate or reduce the shameful rate of childhood poverty in the United States we’ll continue to have an economic/racial achievement gap. No amount of charter schools, testing, school closings, vouchers, or other ed “reform” will change that.

But in order to learn how to read it’s important to look at other areas in a child’s life.

If a child doesn’t have access to good health care and they are sick and hungry, they probably aren’t going to learn to read well.

THE DANIELS-PENCE ED-REFORM IN INDIANA

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

Carol Burris, the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education has researched the ed-reform debacle in Indiana. This is the first of a three part series.

Daniels, who was governor from 2005 to 2013, would earn national recognition for his methodical and persistent undermining of public schools and their teachers in the name of reform.

Pence would follow Daniels as governor, pushing privatization even further. Pence would award even more tax dollars to charter schools and make Indiana’s voucher program one the largest in the country.

Klipsch would start and run a political action committee, Hoosiers for Economic Growth (a.k.a. Hoosiers for Quality Education), that would play a major role in creating a Republican majority in the Indiana House to redistrict the state to assure future Republican control.

A NATION OF IGNORANCE

We Urgently Need Civics Education

Yes, we do!

The decreased focus on civics coincides with No Child Left Behind. No surprise there…

A functioning democracy depends on an informed citizenry, including baseline knowledge of societal laws and institutions. Bafflingly, many schools no longer teach children how our government works, and what basic rights Americans are guaranteed.

Between 2001 and 2007, 36 percent of American school districts decreased focus on social studies and civics, according to a study by George Washington University’s Center on Education Policy. By 2006, just 27 percent of 12th graders were proficient in civics and government, said the National Center for Education Statistics.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Schools Choosing Students: How Arizona Charter Schools Engage in Illegal and Exclusionary Student Enrollment Practices and How It Should Be Fixed

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report about the charter industry in Arizona. They discovered that [surprise!] charter schools have found ways to avoid the accountability forced upon public schools. This is worth examining carefully.

The analysis focused on whether charter schools:

• Discourage the enrollment of students who don’t have strong grades or test scores
• Set an enrollment limit on students with special education needs or have questions in their enrollment documents that may suppress the enrollment of these students
• Discourage or preclude the enrollment of students with disciplinary records
• Have questions in their enrollment documents that may have a chilling effect on non-English speaking parents and students
• Discourage or preclude immigrant students from enrolling by requiring them to provide Social Security numbers or other citizenship information
• Require students and parents to complete pre-enrollment requirements, such as essays, interviews or school tours
• Refuse to enroll students until their parents commit to volunteer at the school or donate money to the school
• Require parents to pay impermissible fees that create barriers to enrollment
• Present other barriers for enrollment or continued enrollment

Some of these exclusionary policies violate state and/or federal laws. The fact that so many Arizona charter schools’ enrollment policies and procedures contain plain legal violations demonstrates a clear failure of accountability. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools authorizes and governs the vast majority of charter schools. The agency is responsible for ensuring that charter schools follow all laws and abide by the terms of their charter contracts. It is concerning that they have missed these violations of the law, most of which are publicly posted on schools’ websites or written into other widely available documents like student handbooks.

Though similar issues may be occurring within district schools, the ACLU of Arizona chose to focus its research on charter schools after hearing from several parents whose children were denied enrollment or faced barriers to enrollment at charter schools across Arizona.

UNQUALIFIED!

Republican Senator exposes Trump’s clueless and wildly unqualified judicial nominee

The Trump administration has nominated candidates to federal judicial positions who are blatantly unqualified. This, for example…

The administration has also appointed cabinet members who want to destroy the department they are in charge of, or have absolutely no idea (“oops”) what their department does.

When we talk about unqualified cabinet members we can’t forget Betsy DeVos…

Trump education pick painted by Dems as unqualified

This is a good time to remind everyone that the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is just as unqualified as the nominee for judge in the previous clip.

  • She has no education background.
  • She has no experience in public education, either as a student, parent, or teacher.
  • She knows absolutely nothing about what goes on in a public school.

DeVos is just the latest, and most egregiously unqualified Secretary of Education in a long line of unqualified Secretaries of Education.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, forced DeVos to admit that she has never led an organization akin to the Education Department, and has never used any of the financial aid products she will offer to students as head of it.

“So you have no experience with college financial aid or management of higher education,” Warren said.

DeVos was also pressed on civil rights laws dealing with students with disabilities, saying early in the hearing implementation should be left up to the states.

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire circled back to DeVos near the end of the hearing, informing her the law was a federal statute.

“Federal law must be followed when federal dollars are in play,” DeVos said.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

Require Ed. Secretary Betsy DeVos to Teach in a Public School

Betsy DeVos and any corporate reformer who impacts school policy should be required to spend at least a month each year teaching in a public school classroom.

DeVos just attended Gov. Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd meeting in Nashville. Let Jeb Bush and his corporate friends and politicians who drive corporate reform also teach for a month.

None of these individuals understand the problems they have created in the classroom. If they taught a class for a month they would see firsthand what they have done.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, NPE, OECD, PISA, SchoolFunding, Segregation, special education, Testing

A Report on Reports

Need something to do this weekend?

Here is a chance to get dig deeper into some issues important to public education. Below are links to reports about school inequity, special education, vouchers, segregation, charter schools, and other topics of interest.

You can learn how

  • the election of 2016 has caused stress and conflict in the nation’s high schools
  • public investment in education has declined
  • international test scores don’t tell the whole story about public education in the U.S.
  • charter schools drain money and resources from actual public schools
  • socio-economic status continues to be the most accurate predictor of academic success

ISSUES ABOUT MONEY, FUNDING, AND POVERTY

Education inequalities at the school starting gate

Economic inequities abound in the U.S. and schools are not equipped to address all the issues facing children alone. Policy makers and legislators must work with schools by providing funding for wraparound services, a fully funded school curriculum, and strategies to improve economic development in communities. Ignoring inequity, or asking schools to perform miracles without necessary resources is a guarantee of failure.

From Emma García and Elaine Weiss, the Economic Policy Institute

What this study finds: Extensive research has conclusively demonstrated that children’s social class is one of the most significant predictors—if not the single most significant predictor—of their educational success. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that performance gaps by social class take root in the earliest years of children’s lives and fail to narrow in the years that follow. That is, children who start behind stay behind—they are rarely able to make up the lost ground…

What can be done about it: Greater investments in pre-K programs can narrow the gaps between students at the start of school. And to ensure that these early gains are maintained, districts can provide continued comprehensive academic, health, nutrition, and emotional support for children through their academic years, including meaningful engagement of parents and communities. Such strategies have been successfully implemented in districts around the country, as described in this report, and can serve to mitigate the impact of economic inequalities on children’s educational achievement and improve their future life and work prospects.

A Punishing Decade for School Funding

We are ignoring the underfunding of schools and services for our children and the future of the nation is at stake. Instead of planning for the future with an investment in our children, we’re living “paycheck to paycheck” and ignoring the fact that we are limiting the future of a huge number of our children…which limits the future of our nation.

From Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, and Eric Figueroa, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade. Worse, some of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools

Yet another study which shows that diverse school populations helps children and segregation harms them. Have we given up trying to abide by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling?

From David E. Kirkland and Joy L. Sanzone, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of School

Diversity along lines of race and socioeconomic status seemed to modestly close achievement gaps (i.e., opportunity gaps), while hyper-segregation seemed to greatly exacerbate them (i.e., opportunity barrier). 

Deconstructing the Myth of American Public Schooling Inefficiency

Betsy DeVos continues to use international rankings in order to criticize, blame, and demean our nation’s public schools. Rarely, if ever, does she include the fact that poverty has been, and continues to be, the societal problem which contributes the most to our average achievement. She rarely discusses the fact that American students from low-poverty schools score higher than any students in the world. She only uses the “failure” of public education as a tool to transfer the billions of education dollars into private pocketbooks.

The following report discusses some of the apples-to-oranges problems of comparing the U.S. to other advanced nations.

From Bruce D. Baker and Mark Weber, the Albert Shanker Institute

The United States is faced with a combination of seemingly high education expense, but noncompetitive compensation for its teachers, average to large classes, and high child poverty. Again, it’s hard to conceive how such a combination would render the U.S. comparable in raw test scores to low-poverty nations like Korea or Finland, or small, segregated, homogeneous enclaves like Singapore or Shanghai…

Finally, it is equally important to understand the magnitude and heterogeneity of the U.S. education system in the context of OECD comparisons, which mainly involve more centralized and much smaller education systems. Lower-poverty, higher-spending states that have been included in international comparisons, like Connecticut and Massachusetts, do quite well, while lower-spending higher-poverty states like Florida do not. This unsurprising finding, however, also tells us little about relative efficiency, and provides little policy guidance for how we might make Florida more like Massachusetts, other than by waving a wand and making it richer, more educated and perhaps several degrees colder.

POLITICS AND ITS IMPACT ON EDUCATION

Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America’s High Schools

During the years I taught I often stopped to reflect upon how politicians and policy makers seemed intent at making the job of teaching harder.

Today’s political climate is no different. The election of 2016 has had an impact on our public schools beyond policy…

From John Rogers, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access

VI. Educators can mitigate some of these challenges, but they need more support. Ultimately, political leaders need to address the underlying causes of campus incivility and stress.

  • 72.3% of teachers surveyed agreed that: “My school leadership should provide more guidance, support, and professional development opportunities on how to promote civil exchange and greater understanding across lines of difference.”
  • 91.6% of teachers surveyed agreed that: “national, state, and local leaders should encourage and model civil exchange and greater understanding across lines of difference.” Almost as many (83.9%) agreed that national and state leaders should “work to alleviate the underlying factors that create stress and anxiety for young people and their families.”

PRIVATIZATION

Charters and Consequences: An Investigative Series

The Network for Public Education reports on charter schools and their impact on real public schools, public school systems, public educators, and our nation’s students, the vast majority of whom attend public schools.

[Full disclosure: I contribute to, and am a member of, the Network for Public Education.]

From the Network for Public Education

• An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools
• The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters
• The transformation of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations
• All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline
• Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff
• Complete transparency in all expenditures and income
• Requirements that student bodies reflect the demographics of the served community
• Open meetings of the board of directors, posted at least 2 weeks prior on the charter’s website
• Annual audits available to the public
• Requirements to follow bidding laws and regulations
• Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes
• Requirements that all charter facilities meet building codes
• Requirements that charters offer free or reduced-price lunch programs for students
• Full compensation from the state for all expenditures incurred when a student leaves the public school to attend a charter
• Authorization, oversight and renewal of charters transferred to the local district in which they are located
• A rejection of all ALEC legislation regarding charter schools that advocates for less transparency, less accountability, and the removal of requirements for teacher certification.

SPECIAL EDUATION

Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents Are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities

Two things in this section, first, an article discussing the GAO Report. Then a short blurb from the report itself.

From Elise Helgesen Aguilar, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

A New Government Report Shows Private School Voucher Programs Fail To Provide Information, Especially To Families Of Students With Disabilities

Specifically, it found that most private school voucher programs do not provide necessary or even accurate information to parents of students with disabilities about the rights those students forfeit by enrolling at a private voucher school.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that students with disabilities are provided with certain rights and services in public schools, including a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.

But students who leave the public schools with a voucher forfeit many of those protections because they are considered parentally placed in private schools. For example, students accepting vouchers are not entitled to FAPE or to the due process rights that students in public schools have.

Many parents are not aware that they are giving up those rights when enroll their child in a private school voucher program. In fact, the report found that one-third of all voucher programs across the country do not provide any information to parents about the loss of procedural safeguards and due process protections under IDEA.

From the U.S. Government Accountability Office

Our draft report also included a recommendation for Education to require states to notify parents/guardians of changes in students’ federal special education rights, including that key IDEA rights and protections do not apply when a student with a disability is moved from public to private school by their parent. In response, Education stated that IDEA does not include statutory authority to require such notice, and suggested that the department instead encourage states to notify parents. However, as noted in our draft report, Education already strongly encourages states and school districts to provide such notice. Despite these efforts, we found that in 2016-17, more than 80 percent of students nationwide who are enrolled in private choice programs designed for students with about changes in IDEA rights, or provided some inaccurate information about these changes. We therefore continue to believe that states should be required, not merely encouraged, to notify parents/guardians about key changes in federal special education rights when a parent moves a child with a disability from public to private school. To this end, we have converted our recommendation into a Matter for Congressional Consideration to require such notice.

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