Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, NAEP, Politics, Privatization, Testing

2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools’ test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for “parents to have choices.” Most refuse to allow “choice” when it comes to opting out of a state’s standardized test, but that’s another story.

The idea behind “school choice” is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it’s not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides “vouchers” to divert money to privatization. We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don’t get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don’t receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn’t receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good…for the community…for all of us.

Is the drive for “choice” in public education just another symptom of America’s growing selfishness? It’s framed in a selfish way focusing on “what’s best for me no matter what it does to the community.” I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can’t blame parents for trying to find a good “fit” for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,

They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either…They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That’s compassion.

But there’s common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation’s future.

The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo…

That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

…So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.

THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven’t been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education “reform” in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton…took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller…and doubled down with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top…all Democrats. There’s a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don’t actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,

…Don’t label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test. We know that’s not true…

President Obama’s Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as “failing” and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an “arbitrary” test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their “privatizing” ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.

Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are “failing.” The fact that it’s not true hasn’t seemed to matter.

Here’s a study showing that charter schools don’t do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the “reformers” say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don’t tell the whole story when it comes to student learning…I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from “failing” public schools. Now it’s about “choice” for “choice’s” sake…just because.

In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, DeVos, Franklin, Segregation, special education, US DOE

2017 Medley #16: Privatization – Leaving Some Students Behind

Special Needs Students, Segregation,
U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The “Free Market,” Ben Franklin

SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND

Indiana’s School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students

Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.

I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don’t qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don’t need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don’t deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?

Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.

…NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne’s public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.

Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it’s just 7 percent. It’s the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here’s Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.

Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.

CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION

School Choice: Designed To Fail

How do we define “good” schools? What does a “failing” school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When “choice” advocates tell parents that they should have the right to “choose the best school for their children” they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.

With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we’re witnessing the return to the “separate and unequal” schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a “public good” is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.

By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”

CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and “educational savings accounts.”

The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that “the market” will eventually eliminate “bad” or “failing” schools because patrons will “shop with their feet.” According to the “market-based” orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.

An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are “failing” and schools with high test scores are “good.” As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, America’s schools aren’t failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.

A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

School Privatization in the Age of Betsy DeVos: Where Are We in Mid-May?

…this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.

The Network for Public Education has made available short explanations of all three school privatization schemes: vouchers, tutition tax credits here and here, and education savings accounts.

EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS

The Free Market Does Not Work for Education

In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of “market-based” education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs…not to students who live in rural areas…not to students who live in low population areas.

The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.

All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald’s could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don’t do it…

…Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It’s because it’s harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald’s in the desert– the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.

Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, “We’ll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn’t make economic/business sense for you to serve.” But now it’s not a free market any more, is it?

BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION

Ben Franklin in a letter to Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780

Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.

In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn’t support itself without government support didn’t deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the “civil power.” Substitute “parochial school” for the word “Religion” in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.

“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, Finland, kindergarten, poverty, Racism, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn…

Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes…

SCHOOL IS ABOUT FINDING YOUR HAPPINESS…

In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland’s education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, “If you don’t have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?” She responded…

The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.

Equity.

In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,

…the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.

Equity.

Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done…and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.

But, whine the contrarians, “Finland is not the U.S. We can’t just import their whole education system. They’re a smaller country…not so diverse!”

True.

In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and…

  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation’s slave past. We can’t build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize…to close the schools and replace them with charter schools…instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren’t the cure to low achievement.

See also…

  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be “haves” and “have nots.” There will be inequity.

…INSTEAD WE BLAME TEACHERS

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. “Reformers” love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn’t result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

…INSTEAD WE LOWER STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS

In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that “we have to get more ‘good people’ into the classroom,” so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach…

New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.

ALEC: ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION ACT

ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, “certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession.” That’s true, and that’s as it should be.

They say, “comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals.” What is their definition of “improved teacher quality?” What is their definition of “qualified?”

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you’re ALEC, the answer is “they don’t.”

Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC…

I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.

…INSTEAD WE OBSESS OVER TESTING

An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on…better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.

Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I’m afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there’s a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.

…there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten…

…Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose…[emphasis added]

INSTEAD…

…of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty.

…of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Lead, poverty, Satire

2017 Medley #15

Poverty, Lead, The Onion

Chapter 10: The Family Begins to Starve

“Slowly but surely, everybody in the house began to starve.

“…And every day, Charlie Bucket grew thinner and thinner. His face became frighteningly white and pinched. The skin was drawn so tightly over the cheeks that you could see the shapes of the bones underneath. It seemed doubtful whether he could go on much longer like this without becoming dangerously ill.

“And now, very calmly, with that curious wisdom that seems to come so often to small children in times of hardship, he began to make little changes here and there in some of the things that he did, so as to save his strength. In the mornings, he left the house ten minutes earlier so that he could walk slowly to school, without ever having to run. He sat quietly in the classroom during break, resting himself, while the others rushed outdoors and threw snowballs and wrestled in the snow. Everything he did now, he did slowly and carefully, to prevent exhaustion…”

In fiction, children who are suffering find ways to compensate. In Roald Dahl’s popular novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket slows down and somehow manages to survive on a daily diet of a piece of potato and a slice of bread. In real life, the results of poverty have lifelong implications and there is no Magical Chocolate Maker to shower riches on needy children. In real life, the only magic that will help is the magic of economic equity, infrastructure investment, and hard work.

In his 2009 paper, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, David C. Berliner describes out-of-school-factors affecting school achievement which are often permanent and life-altering.

(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; and (6) neighborhood characteristics.

Each of these factors has an impact on the ability of children to achieve in school. Education can’t heal the effects of poverty alone.

POVERTY

Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

Instead of blaming teachers, students, families, schools, and school systems for low achievement and “failing” schools, policy makers need to take responsibility for the central cause of low achievement – poverty and its accompanying damage. Until that happens all the policies dealing with charter schools, vouchers, test and punish, and higher standards will be a waste of time and money. They will do nothing to improve the education of our children.

One of the consequences of making education so central to social policy has been that we’ve ended up taking the pressure off of the state for the kinds of policies that would be more effective at addressing poverty and economic inequality. Instead we’re asking education to do things it can’t possibly do. The result has been increasing support for the kinds of market-oriented policies that make inequality worse.

If we really want to address issues of inequality and economic insecurity, there are a lot of other policies that we have to pursue besides or at least in addition to education policies, and that part of the debate has been totally lost. Raising the minimum wage, or providing a guaranteed income, which the last time we talked seriously about that was in the late 1960’s, increasing workers’ bargaining power, making tax policies more progressive—things like that are going to be much more effective at addressing inequality and economic security than education policies.

School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance

School lunches (and breakfasts) can have an impact on children’s school performance. Children who are hungry will have trouble learning no matter who the teacher is, how great the curriculum, or how much money is spent on technology. The sooner we learn that, the better off our children will be.

Students at schools that contract with a healthy school lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger test score increases for students who are eligible for reduced price or free school lunches.

LEAD

Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

Berliner’s out-of-school-factor number four, environmental pollutants, can destroy a child’s potential before he or she even begins school, and lead is a leading environmental problem for families living in poverty.

Eliminating lead in the environment will go a long way to increasing achievement, decreasing violence, and keeping children in school so they can learn. Punishing children because adults have subjected them to a poisonous environment is cruel and abusive. The only cure for lead poisoning is prevention. The only way to prevent lead poisoning is to invest more money in lead eradication.

Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, we estimate the impact of lead on behavior: school suspensions and juvenile detention. We develop two instrumental variables approaches to deal with potential confounding from omitted variables and measurement error in lead. The first leverages the fact that we have multiple noisy measures for each child. The second exploits very local, within neighborhood, variation in lead exposure that derives from road proximity and the de-leading of gasoline. Both methods indicate that OLS considerably understates the negative effects of lead, suggesting that measurement error is more important than bias from omitted variables. A one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.

See also Freddie Gray’s life a study on the effects of lead paint on poor blacks

THE ONION – SATIRE

The Onion is a satire site, but this article from 2011 has enough truth to make it a valuable study on the challenges schools face. Money, properly invested, is the answer. The only people who deny that are those who can afford to send their well nourished, healthy, and well cared for children to elite private schools.

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), expressing remorse for the error. “I want to apologize to the American people. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Americans.”

“That’s the type of irresponsible misspending that I’ve been focused on eliminating for my entire political career,” Ryan added.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, class size, IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, Testing, US DOE, vouchers, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2017 Medley #14

Class Size, Testing,
The Federal Role in Education, Privatization, Indiana General Assembly, Walmart

CLASS SIZE

Trump’s Education Budget Will Undermine Teaching and Schools

Thirty-five percent of America’s school districts – especially high-poverty districts – use federal money to reduce class sizes. The Trump budget will result in larger class sizes in exactly the locations where smaller class sizes are needed the most.

Once again, it is America’s high poverty students who are shouldering the burden so the wealthy can have a lower tax obligation.

Why is this important? Class size reduction is not only extremely popular among parents and teachers – it is one of the very few reforms proven to work through rigorous evidence, and to provide especially large benefits for children from low-income families and students of color, who see twice the academic gains from small classes. Indeed, it is only one of a handful of educational policies that has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap between economic and racial groups.

TESTING: PISA

Is PISA Data Useless?

Peter Greene asks some questions about the PISA test. Privatizers and “reformers” love to quote America’s “low scores” on the PISA and other international tests (see The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools), but new information about the PISA indicates that analyses of the results might not be accurate. What then?

The Testocrats have been quietly assuming that taking a Big Standardized Test on a computer is exactly like taking it on paper. But what if that’s not true? What if taking a math test involves not only math skills, but test-taking skills. And what if computer test-taking skills are not the same set of skills as pencil-and-paper test-taking skills?

What if the Big Standardized Tests aren’t really measuring what they purport to measure at all, and the whole test-centered education model is built on a sham?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION

Don’t Trash the Department of Education. Fix It.

In education, just like other areas of our society, the federal government has an important role to play. In the current education atmosphere, the federal government needs to make sure that equitable funding exists for all schools.

The nation is slowly but surely moving back to segregated schools and as Earl Warren put it in 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It’s the job of the federal government to make sure that states don’t revert to the illusion of “separate but equal.”

…it’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.

The department has a vital and important role to play in making sure our system of public education serves everyone. Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.

Separate but equal?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION: VOUCHERS

Save Our Schools! Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is ignorant about public education. Like other Trump cabinet and administrative appointees, she has spent her life trying to do damage to the very aspect of society her department is charged with supporting. During her confirmation hearing she proved to America that she is woefully ignorant of how public schools work.

The last thing that America needs is for the nation’s schools to contribute to increased segregation by race, ethnic group, or economic status.

Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation who researches public policy to address educational inequality, examined DeVos’ comment during her Senate confirmation process that “empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”

To the contrary, Potter found that “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at the status quo.” Potter considered not only racial diversity, but religious diversity as well: “(D)ata suggest that there is a strong risk that voucher programs will be used by white families to leave more diverse public schools for predominantly white private schools and by religious families to move to parochial private schools, increasing the separation of students by race/ethnicity and religious background.”

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Latest D.C. Voucher Study: Program Harms Students’ Academic Achievement

When the Indiana General Assembly, along with then-Governor Mitch Daniels, demanded a voucher program for Indiana’s private schools, the argument was that children who live in poverty should have the same access to “high-quality” schools as wealthier students. The error in that logic is clear. A “high-quality” school is defined by higher test scores and greater support from economically affluent communities. When you segregate students economically, you’ll see schools with lower test scores in economically depressed areas.

Over the last few years we’ve learned that voucher accepting private schools and privately run charter schools are not guaranteed to give children a better education. So the reason for providing tax money to private and privately run schools has changed. No longer are we diverting tax dollars away from public education in order to help poor children “escape” from so-called “failing” schools. Now it’s for “choice.” Every parent should have the right to choose the best school for their children. This is reasonable, but private choices shouldn’t be tax supported.

People don’t get subsidies from the government for other “choices.” We don’t get a voucher to move into any neighborhood we want to move to. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” a private country club over public parks. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” books at a book store instead of the public library. Like other public benefits, public schools are, and should be, the tax supported option. The cost of other options are the responsibility of the tax payer.

Instead of underfunding and closing public schools filled with struggling students, we should improve the quality of the school and its teachers. We need to invest in our public schools, and we need to invest more where more support is needed.

The Department of Education just released a new study of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program. And the findings confirm what we’ve known for years: The program doesn’t improve students’ academic achievement. In fact, it has resulted in statistically significant negative impacts on student test scores.

The study found that students using a D.C. voucher performed 7.3 percentage points worse in math than their peers. The program especially hurts students in elementary schools, which comprise 68 percent of the voucher students in the study and are the largest demographic in the program. These students performed worse in math and reading: 14.7 percentage points lower in math and 9.3 percentage points lower in reading.

This conclusion isn’t a surprise considering similar results were reached in recent studies of voucher programs across the country. The studies have found negative impacts on student achievement for voucher students in Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana.

PRIVATISATION: CHARTERS

PolitiFact Florida: How not-for-profit are charter schools, really?

Are non-profit charter schools a better use of tax dollars? Not necessarily.

The management company does not manage the governing board; rather, it handles certain aspects of the operations of the school under a contract with the governing board.

The Miami Herald’s examination of South Florida’s charter school industry found several instances of for-profit management companies controlling charter schools’ day-to-day operations.

The Herald found examples of charter schools relinquishing total control of their staff and finances to for-profit management companies. In Miami-Dade County, the Life Skills Center paid 97 percent of its income to cover fees incurred by a management company.

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Quick takes on the 2017 legislative session

What did the Indiana General Assembly give us this year?

  • Large budget increases for charters and vouchers, not so much for public schools
  • No voter input for state education policy making
  • Continued emphasis on expensive and wasteful testing policies
  • Another voucher expansion, this time it’s attached to a minimal pre-K increase
  • Lower professional requirements needed to teach in charter schools

This is a state that (still) really hates its public schools.

A session of the Indiana General Assembly is kind of like a tornado. When it’s over, you crawl out of your shelter, look around and assess the damage.

Lawmakers finished their business and left the Statehouse on Saturday morning. Here’s a quick look at some of the wreckage they left on the education front.

Voucher program gets outsized share of K-12 funding increase

Students who receive tuition vouchers to attend private religious schools will get nearly 10 percent of the K-12 education funding increase that Indiana lawmakers included in the 2017-19 state budget.

That’s an outsized share given that voucher students make up only about 3.5 percent of the students who receive funding from the state.

WALMART

The Walmart Tax

I’m tired of subsidizing Walmart employees so the Waltons can retain their position as America’s richest family. With a family net worth of $130 billion, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage so the public doesn’t have to fork over $6.2 billion in welfare…

In essence, when a Walmart employee must rely on food stamps or other safety-net benefits, taxpayers are paying a portion of that employee’s wages.

Walmart (including its Sam’s Club operation) is currently the largest private employer in the country–and one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. Walmart employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year. Money not paid out in salary goes directly to the shareholders’ bottom line.

Not only is this greedy and despicable, it is bad business. For one thing, as awareness of this subsidy grows, the numbers of people shopping at Walmart declines. But there are other costs incurred.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, Science, Tenure, Testing, VirtualSchools

2017 Medley #13

Choice, Alternate Facts, Tenure, Testing,
Virtual Charters, Accountability,
Lead Poisoned Children

CHOICE

School Choice: The Faustian Bargain

“…corporate education reformers,” says Russ Walsh in this blog post, “are anti-democracy.” That statement rings true, especially now, at the end of this year’s Indiana General Assembly Session. Legislation making the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position first failed, and then passed the General Assembly after significant political manipulations from legislators who were anxious to take the right to vote for education away from the people. The state Board of Education is already filled with political appointees, and now, beginning in 2025, the office of the Superintendent will be as well making Indiana one of only six states where both the executive head of the Department of Education and the members of state’s board of education are appointed.

These are the same anti-democratic legislators who have spent the last half dozen years transferring tax money from public schools to the pockets of corporate charters and church-run private schools. The budget for this year, for example, gives public schools a 1.6% increase while increasing funding for “Choice Scholarships” (vouchers) by 7% and giving SGO tax credits a whopping 31%…all paid for with public tax dollars.

I suggest that those of us who oppose vouchers and charter schools call school choice what it is in the eyes of that Ohio voter, tax theft. The government collects our taxes in order to provide essential services to all of us. There is no choice involved, we all must pay taxes (unless, apparently, we are hugely wealthy). Those essential services include providing for a military, promoting research on health and welfare, providing for police and fire protection, and funding public schools. When money is diverted from the support of the public schools, it amounts to, as the Ohio voter said, theft. Or maybe another way to say it is “taxation without representation”, since voters have no voice and no oversight of how tax money is spent in schools that receive money through vouchers or charters.

Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

The goal of “reformers” is, apparently, the complete and total destruction of public education.

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

This op-ed by David R. Currie, Ph.D., of Pastors for Texas Children, could easily have been written about the state of Indiana.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.

ALTERNATE FACTS

THIS Is What’s Wrong With America

Congressman: “Don’t confuse me with facts…”

A Facebook friend who lives in Todd Rokita’s Congressional district attended his recent Town Hall. In a post following the event, she reported on an exchange she had with the Congressman:

My question was “What evidence do you require in order to revise your opinion on climate change?”

His response was “No evidence could ever exist that would change my mind. It’s all Liberal science.”

…I really never expected to live in a country where science and empirical research required defense, but evidently Luddites aren’t simply historical oddities. So later this morning, I will join other Hoosiers at the Statehouse to participate in a “March for Science.”

TENURE

Checker Still Doesn’t Understand Tenure

“Reformist” politicians in Indiana have frequently commented on how there are too many well-rated teachers. The complaint is that if there are so many “A” or “B” rated teachers, why aren’t there more “A” or “B” rated schools?

This reflects a basic misunderstanding of the process of education and why it’s essential that educators participate in the policy-making process. Yet we continue to see “education” conferences, panels, and gatherings where the teachers’ voices are absent. We continue to see the federal government education department staffed with non-educators – and those who are hostile to public education. We continue to see the movement for laws and policies which restrict teachers’ ability to do their job.

…instead of saying, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the profession must be in good shape,” reformsters say, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the evaluation system must be broken, because we just know that a huge number of teachers suck.” So, data is good, unless it conflicts with your pre-conceived biases, in which case, just throw the data out.

“Tenure” is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in K-12 education. It’s also a concept which “reformers” disingenuously claim, allows teachers a “job for life.” “Tenure” in K-12 education doesn’t mean “a job for life” as Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes. Instead, the K-12 version of “tenure” simply provides teachers with due process.

In Indiana, when K-12 teachers had tenure, teachers who administrations wanted to fire were allowed a hearing before an impartial observer. When administrators did their jobs, teachers who were guilty of immorality, incompetence, or illegal behavior, were fired. Since 2011, however, teachers in Indiana longer have “tenure.” A teacher who is going to be fired may request a meeting with the superintendent, or with the school board, but no impartial observer is required.

…while there are some large districts where the process is long, convoluted and prohibitively difficult, mostly “We can’t fire her because if tenure” is administrator-speak for “I could fire her, but it would take a lot of time and I’d have to, you know, work really hard, and then I would have to find a replacement and you know how hard that would be and I’m already backed up on meetings this week and now some kid just threw up in the hall, so how about I just blame her on the union and tenure and get back to my own work.” Where burdensome dismissal procedures exist, they have been negotiated into contracts. Fixing those contracts by outlawing tenure is like fixing the electoral college by installing a dictatorship– little bit of overkill.

TESTING

The Wrong Medicine

When school “reform” was in its infancy the “reformers” insisted that their policies would improve student achievement and reduce the economic/racial achievement gap. After several decades of “reformist” policies such as excessive testing and test prep, vouchers, and charter schools, the results are in. Students do no better now than they did before the “reforms” were initiated.

One of the worst problems features of “reform” is the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Teachers no longer use test results to guide their instruction because, in most cases, the results of the tests are not timely or specific enough to help. When results are finally returned, they are used to evaluate teachers, grade schools and school systems, and as justification for closing neighborhood schools, none of which are appropriate or valid uses of the test scores.

At what point do parents, teachers, and administrators stand up and say “Enough is enough?” When do we begin to refuse to allow the removal of even one more dollar from our classrooms to continue to support this enormous exercise in futility.

How about now? Today.

The right number of standardized tests that we should be forcing down the throats of our children is precisely zero. The tests do not help our children, our teachers, or our parents. They have not improved education in America one bit.

VIRTUAL CHARTERS

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017

Note the recommendations in this report – virtual charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as public schools.

During her confirmation hearing, when Senator Tim Kaine asked her about equal accountability for private and privately run schools accepting public tax dollars, Secretary DeVos repeated the phrase, “I support accountability” over and over again, refusing to answer whether all schools should be held to the same accountability. This report would seem to indicate that the answer to the question should have been “Yes, all schools receiving tax dollars should be held to the same accountability standards.”

Given the rapid growth of virtual schools and blended schools, the populations they serve, and the relatively poor performance of virtual schools on widely used accountability measures, it is recommended that:

  • Policymakers slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual schools and the size of their enrollments…
  • Policymakers should carefully and continuously monitor the performance of fulltime blended schools…
  • Authorities charged with oversight should specify and enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that fail to perform adequately.
  • Policymakers should specify a maximum student-teacher ratio for virtual and blended schools…
  • Policymakers should regulate school and class sizes…
  • State agencies ensure that virtual schools and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ…
  • State agencies should continue the work they’ve started in revising accountability systems…
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures appropriate to the unique characteristics of full-time virtual schools
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should support more research to identify which policy options—especially those impacting funding and accountability mechanisms—are most likely to promote successful virtual schools and blended schools…
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should also support more research on exactly how special education is being provided in virtual and blended schools….

FLINT, LEAD

Marc Edwards – How to Address the U.S. Water Crisis in Flint and Beyond

Is your water safe?

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Posted in Article Medleys, Evaluations, Merit Pay, Teaching Career, Testing, WhyTeachersQuit

2017 Medley #12: Teachers

Why Teachers Quit, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Pay, Experience Matters 

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Previous posts about why teachers quit (more).

Many legislators, privatizers, and “reformers” continue to blame teachers for low achievement. Unionism is anathema to some because teachers unions, in many places, are the only thing preventing the compete corporate takeover of public education. The right wing in America continues to push myths about failing public schools and the dual “solution” of charters and vouchers.

The teacher shortage currently afflicting public education in the U.S. is not surprising. Fewer college students are choosing education as a career due to declining wages, fewer benefits, lower social status, and the constant drumbeat of failure (see here, here, and here).

Public schools are not failing. Public schools reflect the failure of the nation to build an equitable society.

Teacher Resignation Letters Paint Bleak Picture of U.S. Education

Studies are showing what public educators already know…that “reform” is driving teachers from the classroom.

In a trio of studies, Michigan State University education expert Alyssa Hadley Dunn and colleagues examined the relatively new phenomenon of teachers posting their resignation letters online. Their findings, which come as many teachers are signing next year’s contracts, suggest educators at all grade and experience levels are frustrated and disheartened by a nationwide focus on standardized tests, scripted curriculum and punitive teacher-evaluation systems.

Teacher turnover costs more than $2.2 billion in the U.S. each year and has been shown to decrease student achievement in the form of reading and math test scores.

“The reasons teachers are leaving the profession has little to do with the reasons most frequently touted by education reformers, such as pay or student behavior,” said Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education. “Rather, teachers are leaving largely because oppressive policies and practices are affecting their working conditions and beliefs about themselves and education.”

Teacher resignation letter goes viral: ‘I will not subject my child to this disordered system’

A teacher from Florida tells why she’s leaving.

Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.

Letter Written Down By A Teacher Goes Viral!

This is not a resignation letter, but this letter from a teacher in Oklahoma is indicative of the problems public school teachers face on a daily basis.

We can no longer afford rolls of colored paper or paint or tape to make signs to support and advertise our Student Council activities. This fall our football team won’t charge through a decorated banner as they take the field because we can’t afford to make the banner. There won’t be any new textbooks in the foreseeable future. Broken desks won’t be replaced. We’re about to ration copy paper and we’ve already had the desktop printers taken out of our rooms.

We live in fear that our colleagues will leave us, not just because they are our friends, but because the district wouldn’t replace them even if we could lure new teachers to our inner-city schools during the teacher shortage you[, the legislature] have caused. We fear our classes doubling in size.

We fear becoming as ineffective as you are. Not because we can’t or won’t do our job, like you, but because you keep passing mandates to make us better while taking away all the resources we need just to maintain the status quo. We fear that our second jobs will prevent us from grading the papers we already have to do from home. We fear our families will leave us because we don’t have time for them.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Teacher Evaluation: It’s About Relationships Not Numbers

If we don’t use test scores to evaluate teachers what should we use? This question implies that test scores are not only appropriate to use as a teacher evaluation, but there isn’t anything else which is as accurate. That’s not true. Using student achievement tests to evaluate teachers (or schools) is an invalid since achievement tests are developed to evaluate students, not their teachers.

A good teacher develops relationships with her students. Good relationships improve the classroom atmosphere and create the feelings of safety and trust necessary for learning. The same is necessary for teacher evaluation; there must be a feeling of trust between the evaluator, usually an administrator, and the teacher. Russ Walsh explains…

Reformers can’t see this very simple and most basic fact of teacher evaluation because they are focused on a fool’s errand of seeking objectivity through numbers and a plan designed to weed out low performers, rather than a plan designed to improve performance of all teachers. These folks could have easily found out the flaws in the plan. All they needed to do was spend some time in schools talking to teachers and supervisors. To the extent that current teacher evaluation schemes interfere with teachers and supervisors developing trusting relationships, they are pre-ordained to fail.

TEACHER PAY

Just Paying Teachers More Won’t Stop Them From Quitting

Ask most teachers. They will tell you that they didn’t choose education because of the high pay. Most people who become teachers do so because they want to make a difference in the lives of children.

“Reformers” don’t understand that people don’t become teachers for the huge salaries. Autonomy, respect, and a living wage, is enough. Teachers are quitting because in many areas, they aren’t getting any of those.

“Teachers have also been subjected to demonization” from people and politicians from both the right and left, said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute and one of the authors of the report, noting that Education Secretary John King in January felt the need to offer what many saw as an apology to teachers after taking over the Education Department. “Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students,” King said at the time.

Merit Pay for Teachers Can Lead to Higher Test Scores for Students, a Study Finds

Merit pay is, as Diane Ravitch says, the idea that never works and never dies.

If you define “student learning” simply by a standardized test score, then you might be able to design a merit pay plan which will get higher test scores, but that’s not education.

This report in Education Week summarizing research into merit pay, indicates that merit pay helps teachers find ways to increase test scores for some students, oftentimes by learning to “game the system.”

Teacher participation in a merit-pay program led to the equivalent of four extra weeks of student learning, according to a new analysis of 44 studies of incentive-pay initiatives in the United States and abroad.

New Merit Pay Study Hits The Wrong Target

Peter Greene follows up on the Education Week report. He emphasizes that testing is not teaching and that “gaming the system” is essentially paying people more who learn how to cheat.

The basis of the research is wrong. Education is not a test score. Learning is not a test score.

Springer’s research suffers from the same giant, gaping ridiculous hole as the research that he meta-analyzed– he assumes that his central measure measures what it claims to measure. This is like meta-analysis of a bunch of research from eight-year-olds who all used home made rulers to measure their own feet and “found” that their feet are twice as big as the feet of eight-year-olds in other country. If you don’t ever check their home-made rulers for accuracy, you are wasting everyone’s time.

At a minimum, this study shows that the toxic testing that is already narrowing and damaging education in this country can be given a extra jolt of destructive power when backed with money. The best this study can hope to say is that incentives encourage teachers to aim more carefully for the wrong target. As one of the EdWeek commenters put it, “Why on earth would you want to reward teachers with cash for getting higher test scores?” What Springer may have proven is not that merit pay works, but that Campbell’s Law does.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter

Education is more than a test score. Teachers with experience provide more than test prep for their students.

Researchers Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorenson, both of Duke University, in Durham, N.C., analyzed records from about 1.2 million middle school students in North Carolina from 2007 to 2011, including absences, reported disciplinary offenses, and test scores. The data also contain responses from 6th through 8th graders about time spent on homework and their reading habits…

Regarding nontest outcomes, the data show that as teachers gained experience, they were linked to lower rates of student absenteeism. The researchers postulate that more experienced teachers got better at motivating students and in classroom management, resulting in better attendance and fewer infractions.

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