Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, poverty, Privatization, Recess, vouchers, Wisconsin

2017 Medley #10

Vouchers, Public Education,
Early Childhood Education, Recess, Poverty

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Adding Insult to Injury

Tensions rise as vouchers pick up traction across Wisconsin

Here’s an outrageous twist on how a state pays for vouchers. The levy for the voucher schools in Wisconsin is included in the property tax bill where it is labeled for public schools! The local public school district is charged with raising funds for students using vouchers to go to private schools!

Starting last year, state law called for districts to raise taxes to pay for local students using vouchers — whether they were already enrolled in a private school or not. The cost shows up on a homeowner’s property tax bill as part of the public school levy. There’s no separate line item telling taxpayers the cost of the voucher program in their district.

“We’ve been put in the unenviable position of middleman,” said Colleen Timm, the superintendent of the Mishicot School District.

School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist, and the Religious Right

Everyone who has a stake in public education – and that’s really all of us – ought to save this post by Russ Walsh. Print it, along with the articles and videos to which it links, and bind it carefully. Refer to it often.

Walsh takes the topic of vouchers and explains where it came from, and what it’s purpose is.

And that purpose has little to do with educating children.

…vouchers are very good for the rich. If the rich can sell vouchers as the cure for educational inequality, they may be able to get people to ignore the real reason for public education struggles – income inequity. If the rich really want to improve schools, they need to put their money on the line. If the rich are really interested in helping poor school children they need to invest – through higher taxes (or maybe just by paying their fair share of taxes), not unreliable philanthropy, in improved health care, child care, parental education, pre-school education, public school infrastructure and on and on. This will be expensive, but we can do it if the wealthy would show the same dedication to the “civil rights issue of our time” with their wallets as they show to harebrained schemes like vouchers.

So vouchers are good for the rich, but they are also good for the racist. Voucher schemes were born in the racist south in the 1950s right after the Brown v. Board of Education struck down school segregation. After that ruling, many states passed voucher schemes to allow white parents to send their children to private schools and take taxpayers money with them. Many children, black and white are still feeling the negative impact of this racist response to desegregation. Today, vouchers have similar effects on schools. Vouchers may not provide enough money for low-income and minority students to attend private schools, but they may well provide enough money to subsidize attendance for their slightly more affluent white neighbors.

Another Study: Vouchers are not improving education

Yet another review of the studies showing that vouchers are for diverting tax money to religious schools, not helping children.

The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. All of these yield much higher returns than the minor, if any, gains that have been estimated for voucher students. (Emphasis added)

SUCCEEDING SCHOOLS

Public Schools: Who Is Failing Whom?

Call it lies, misunderstanding, or whatever you like, the idea that America’s public schools are failing is false.

In truth, it is politicians and policy makers who have failed. They have always found public education to be a convenient scapegoat at which to toss the blame for whatever failures of public policy they don’t choose to accept responsibility for.

Say it often enough and people will believe it is true, even if it is not. It’s time to change that narrative.

If the same words are repeated over and over again, they begin to be taken as true. “Failing public schools” are such words. I see them written and hear them spoken by legislators, journalists, and commentators who probably have not been in a public school in the decades since they attended one or never because they were educated in private schools.

…It is not the schools that are failing our children. It is the adults with political power who are failing our schools.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Littles– More Than a Score (A Film You Should See)

This post by Peter Greene contains a video which I have embedded as well, below. Kindergarten has lost its developmental appropriateness. The Common Core (and in Indiana, the new standards based on the Common Core, but not called the Common Core) has brought us to this place where we have chosen standardization over development, and our children will be the worse for it.

Marie Amoruso has been a teacher, an author and adjunct professor at Teachers College Columbia University, and Manhattanville College. She runs a consulting agency, and she has created a short film about this very subject. Yes, “More Than a Test Score” is not exactly a groundbreaking title, and yes, her delivery is at times a little over-fraught and yes, she kind of muddies Common Core in with other issues. But when she turns her camera on the classrooms of young children, she cuts right to the heart of what is so deeply wrong with the test-centered school movement. In seventeen minutes, with the help of several interview subjects, she addresses what children need and what they aren’t getting, and she takes us right into the classrooms to see the effects.

Teachers know what to do– the issue, as she lays it out, is getting the freedom to let them do it. In the absence of that, students learn to hate school.

PRIVATIZATION: RECESS

Privatizing Recess: Micromanaging Children’s Play for Profit

Along with the developmentally inappropriate Common Core and other standards-based intrusions on public schools, there is the continuing overuse and misuse of testing. The Big Standardized Test (to share Peter Greene’s description, the BS Test) has been the driving force behind corporate education “reform” over the last couple of decades. This has led to teaching to the test and spending inordinate amounts of instructional time focused on test prep. Physical Education and recess have been among the casualties of this debate. There’s no time any more for children to just play and recess has been disappearing from schools around the nation. Physical Education isn’t covered on the test, so it has been scaled back to minimal levels.

Enter an entrepreneur who wants to make some money teaching kids how to play. Schools, whose students are starved for physical activity, have jumped on this newest bandwagon…the privatization of Physical Education classes substituting as recess.

Recess is such a simple concept. It’s freedom for children. It’s adults saying “ We trust you to create your own fun. Make-up stuff, run and jump, play tag, swing or slide, climb, play kick ball, or soft ball, or jump rope. Or, sit by yourself and feel the sun on your back. Look at an anthill. Chase a butterfly!

Recess, done right, energizes children! There are no rules other than not hurting anyone. And teachers are always observing how children socialize on the playground and will step in if children display inappropriate behavior.

Why are so many adults not willing to let children be children for a short time each day at school?

POVERTY

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

The United States is one of three industrialized nations who spend more money to educate the children of the wealthy than to educate the children of the poor.

We know that the effects of poverty have an impact on a child’s achievement. Other nations understand that more is needed to provide support for children who come from high-poverty backgrounds. Indiana used to be an exception to that rule (see this article from 2015), but has since changed it’s plan and is moving to invest more in wealthy districts than in poor ones – a step backwards.

The state budget bill approved last month by the Indiana House continues a trend that we’ve seen for several legislative sessions: School districts that primarily serve affluent families are getting decent funding increases while high-poverty school districts are losing out.

Poverty and Its Effects on School Achievement Are Forgotten in the President’s Budget

Test and punishment doesn’t change the fact that children from poor families don’t achieve as well as children from wealthy families. The President’s new budget proudly expands school privatization, but ignores 90% of American children who attend public schools, half of whom are low income or worse.

In the list of programs for the Department of Education, there are three different expansions of school school choice and privatization—Title I Portability, some kind of pilot of federal vouchers, and expansion by 50 percent of the Charter Schools Program that underwrites grants to states for the launch of new charter schools. The K-12 education budget cuts after-school programs, two programs that help students prepare for and apply to college, and teacher preparation. There is nothing in Trump’s new education budget to expand the opportunity to learn for America’s poorest children in urban and rural public schools.

For fifteen years the United States has had a test-based accountability system in place supposedly to close achievement gaps, raise school achievement, and drive school staff to work harder. There is widespread agreement that No Child Left Behind (now to be replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act) has failed to close achievement gaps and significantly raise overall achievement for the students who are farthest behind.

Poverty is indeed the problem in education

Stephen Krashen posted this on his blog along with the corresponding studies. Unfortunately, if you click the link above, the studies are all that are left on the blog. Somehow the following, which I retrieved (and can still retrieve) through my Feedly account, has disappeared.

Krashen is right…the problem with American education – like the problem with a lot of social issues in America – is poverty and inequity.

To the editor:

Missing from David Denby’s “Stop Humiliating Teachers” is a mention of the overwhelming research supporting his claim: Poverty is indeed the problem in education. Martin Luther King suggested this in 1967: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished” and research has confirmed that Dr. King was right again and again.

Studies published in scientific journals show that when researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our overall scores are unimpressive because of our unacceptably high rate of child poverty, now around 21 percent. In some urban districts, the poverty level is 80%. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is around 5%. The problem is poverty, not teacher quality, not unions, not schools of education, not a lack of testing and not low standards.

As Denby notes, poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care and lack of access to books. Studies confirm that each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance, and that when we remedy the situation, school performance improves.

As Susan Ohanian puts it, our motto should be “No child left unfed, no child without adquate health care, and no child without easy access to a good library.” The best teaching in the world will be ineffective if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Until we eliminate poverty, let’s at least protect children from its effects. This would cost a fraction of what we cheerfully spend on expensive “innovations” that have no strong scientific evidence backing them, such as frequent high-stakes testing, and the current trend to replace teachers with computer modules for basic instruction (competency-based education).

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Posted in Anthony Cody, Article Medleys, DeVos, John Kuhn, Religion, vouchers

2017 Medley #8 – Vouchers Come Up Short

Vouchers Come Up Short

VOUCHERS IN THE NEWS

The latest research on the efficacy of school vouchers shows that receiving a voucher does not guarantee a better education. One wonders, then, why Republicans (and some Democrats) are fighting so hard to impose more vouchers on the public to the detriment of public schools?

The current administration, under Trump, Pence, and DeVos, is pushing vouchers nationwide despite the mediocre showing of private schools compared to their public counterparts (see The Public School Advantage as well as here, herehere, and here). This is not to say that private and parochial schools are all inferior to public schools. On the contrary, some elite private schools have excellent programs unburdened by teach-to-the-test policies. However, when you consider the economic status of the students the advantage disappears.

In Indiana, vouchers began as a way to help high poverty students “escape” from “failing” public schools. The truth is that the “failing” public schools were often struggling due to the state’s neglect of the economic conditions in the school communities. Children in East Chicago, for example, have been combatting the effects of lead poisoning for years. “Failing” schools in Indianapolis are due, at least in part, to a child poverty rate of 33% and an overall poverty rate of 20%, both well above the national average. Vouchers wouldn’t help all those students even if private and parochial schools were “better.” Public schools can and should try to improve, of course, but improvement requires support from the larger community, in this case, the state legislature and governor’s office. Until politicians accept their share of responsibility for the high rate of child poverty, schools – public, charter and private – will continue to “fail.”

The Indiana voucher plan began in 2011 with the promise of saved money and increased achievement. Under the Republican-led legislature and Governors (Daniels and Pence), the program has been expanded significantly. Once it became clear that private and parochial schools can’t overcome the effects of poverty any better or more cheaply than public schools can, the argument has changed from “improved achievement and money saved” to “parental choice.” Should parents have the “choice” to spend public tax dollars, earmarked for a public institution, at a religious or private location?

REASONS FOR VOUCHERS

Vouchers do not improve education

Vouchers in Indiana don’t save money…and don’t improve education. Doug Masson provides three “reasons” for vouchers that hits three nails right on the head.

In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.

STUNNING NEWS ABOUT VOUCHERS

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is getting some very bad news about her favorite thing, school vouchers

The LA Times reports that vouchers and school privatization doesn’t really work. The reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter named Michael Hiltzik, apparently needs more education when it comes to education reporting.

…DeVos’s patron, President Trump, proposed during his campaign to shovel $20 billion to the states to support magnet and charter schools in voucher programs.

The sentence should end, “…$20 billion to the states to support magnet, charter schools, and voucher programs.” Do vouchers pay for school system magnet programs and charter schools? I don’t think so, but perhaps I’m wrong. It’s my understanding that vouchers pay for tuition to private schools, while magnet schools are part of public school systems, and charter schools are privately run publicly funded schools. Feel free to correct me on this in the comments.

Hilzik continues, reporting the news that recent research has voucher students scoring lower on standardized tests than public school students. The claim that “education experts” are stunned by the results is, in itself, stunning. Simply changing the venue of a child’s education isn’t sufficient to improve achievement if the child continues to live with the out-of-school-factors related to poverty.

…the latest findings, which emerge from studies of statewide programs in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana, have left education experts stunned. In a nutshell, they find huge declines of academic achievement among students in voucher programs in those three states.

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

Kevin Carey in the New York Times, echoes the “surprise” over the results of the studies. The results, he says, are “startling.”

In this piece, “well-regulated charter schools” refers to charters which are “open to all and accountable to public authorities.”

The last sentence is the most important. [emphasis added]

The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.

‘REFORMERS’ FIND THAT VOUCHERS DON’T IMPROVE LEARNING

I voted for school vouchers. Now I know I was wrong.

The pro-“reform” Thomas Fordham Institute studied the effectiveness of Ohio’s voucher programs. Just like in Louisiana and Indiana, they don’t help children achieve better than public schools and they strip public education of funding.

In this article a former North Carolina legislator concludes that tax money for vouchers would be better spent on the state’s public schools.

So what did this report say that the Fordham Institute undertook, ostensibly to promote the expansion of vouchers in America? It said that vouchers have failed miserably. That’s right, a pro-voucher group had to put out a report that concluded that vouchers are failing our children. And keep in mind, this isn’t an outlier of empirical studies of vouchers’ effectiveness in educating our children. Two other recent studies (one in Indiana and another in Louisiana) came to the same conclusion.

…North Carolina is scheduled to spend over $1 billion in the next 10 years for a voucher system that simply doesn’t work. It’s time for the General Assembly to recognize this and correct course so that we can reinvest that billion dollars in public schools.

RELIGIOUS ENTITLEMENT

Vouchers a new entitlement to religious education

At first it was for poor kids to escape from “failing” schools. Now it’s a way to provide public funds for religious schools and to increase the segregation of Indiana schools. [emphasis added]

When lawmakers created the program in 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels said it was a way to help children from poor families find a better alternative to failing public schools. But the program has evolved into a new entitlement: state-funded religious education for middle and low-income families.

Some 54 percent of students receiving vouchers this year have no record of having attended an Indiana public school, the report says. Voucher advocates initially insisted the program would save the state money, because it would cost less to subsidize private school tuition than to send a student to a public school. But increasingly vouchers are going to families that never had any intention of sending their kids to public schools; that’s an entirely new cost for the state to take on.

Also, vouchers are more and more going to students who are white, suburban and non-poor. When the program started, more than half of participating students were black or Hispanic. Now over 60 percent are white, and only 12.4 percent are African-American. It’s reasonable to ask if, in some cases, vouchers are a state-funded mechanism for “white flight” from schools that are becoming more diverse.

JOHN KUHN SPEAKS OUT

John Kuhn: Vouchers Serve Adults at Children’s Expense

Anthony Cody wrote this about John Kuhn.

John Kuhn is a Texas school superintendent and long-time advocate for public schooling. His essays have been read hundreds of thousands of times online, videos of his speeches have gone viral, and his book, Fear and Learning in America, has sold thousands of copies. He continues to advocate for teachers and fight for the constitutional promise of free public schools for all American children.

I’ve quoted Superintendent Kuhn quite a few times on this blog and included YouTube videos. He’s an important voice for public education in America…not just Texas.

Superintendent Kuhn presented this speech on March 5 to the Association of Texas Professional Educators, an independent association of educators (i.e. affiliated with neither NEA nor AFT).

The great American experiment of free public schools, open to all children and overseen by locally-elected citizens—this bold vision is being challenged by an army of wealthy and interested parties who are dead set on dismantling the public education system and trading it for a voucher system…

John Kuhn at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011

Be sure to read John Kuhn’s Alamo Letter.

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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, DeVos, Public Ed, reform, Teaching Career

2017 Medley #7

Side Effects, Doing Things Right, 
Teachers as Scapegoats, The Founding Fathers, DeVos Watch, ALEC’s Tool in Indiana

SIDE EFFECT WARNING

What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education

Teachers have been encouraged to individualize instruction…to differentiate. Teachers have been encouraged to group by achievement through Guided Reading, yet an Indiana standardized test requires all third graders be able to read at third grade level or remain in third grade. Another Indiana standardized test is used to rank schools and teachers. Either we accept that not all students will be at the same place at the same time…or we don’t. Either all students are to be standardized, or they’re not.

Those same standardized tests focus almost exclusively on reading and math, and schools have been pressured to follow suit – focus on reading and math. What has happened to science, health, civics and the arts?

The state of Indiana spends a large part of its budget on education. But how much of that isn’t spent on public education? How much of it is being ‘nickel and dimed’ away on charter schools, vouchers, and more, more, and more tests?

Yong Zhao reminds us of the “unintended consequences” of bandwagon-based education.

First, time is a constant. When you spend time on one task, you cannot spend the same amount on another. When a child is given extra instruction in reading, he/she cannot spend the same time on arts or music. When a school focuses only on two or three subjects, its students would not have the time to learn something else. When a school system only focuses on a few subjects such as reading and math, students won’t have time to do other and perhaps more important things.

Second, recourses are limited. When it is put into one activity, it cannot be spent on other. When school resources are devoted to the common core, other subjects become peripheral. When schools are forced to only focus on raising test scores, activities that may promote students’ long-term growth are sidelined.

Third, some educational outcomes are inherently contradictory. It is difficult for an educational system that wishes to cultivate a homogenous workforce to also expect a diverse population of individuals who are creative and entrepreneurial. Research has also shown that test scores and knowledge acquisition can come at the expense of curiosity and confidence.

Fourth, the same products may work differently for different individuals, in different contexts. Some people are allergic to penicillin. Some drugs have negative consequences when taken with alcohol. Likewise, some practices, such as direct instruction may work better for knowledge transmission, but not for long term exploration. Charter schools may favor those who have a choice (can make a choice) at the costs of those who are not able to take advantage of it.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE DOING THINGS RIGHT

Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right

One of my goals for this year is to help dispel the myth that public schools are failing. One of the biggest tools in the pocket of the public school deniers are international test scores. Ours are skewed by the high poverty rate in the U.S., but there’s more. We also educate everyone, and test everyone, even students with special needs.

The latest international PISA … showed that the United States is below average of 65 countries but this is not even an apple-to-apple comparison:

• The key correlation for academic success is family income.
• The USA is one of the only countries that educates EVERYONE. Most countries only educate their most affluent class.
• We do well on the PISA math comparison [and other PISA subjects] if you control for free-and reduced-price lunch, making it a better apple-to-apple comparison.

BLAMING TEACHERS FOR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOCIETY

Stop Humiliating Teachers

Here is another teacher who is tired of being the scapegoat for all the ills of society.

There’s an element of this rage at bad teachers that’s hard to talk about, and so it’s often avoided: the dismaying truth that we don’t know how to educate poor inner-city and rural kids in this country. In particular, we don’t know how to educate African-American boys, who, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, graduate high school at rates no better than fifty-nine per cent. Yet if students from poor families persistently fail to score well, if they fail to finish high school in sufficient numbers, and if those who graduate are unable, in many cases, to finish college, teachers alone can hardly be at fault. Neither the schools nor the teachers created the children or the society around them: the schools and the teachers must do their best with the kids they are given.

…We also have to face the real problem, which, again, is persistent poverty. If we really want to improve scores and high-school-graduation rates and college readiness and the rest, we have to commit resources to helping poor parents raise their children by providing nutrition and health services, parenting support, a supply of books, and so on. We have to commit to universal pre-K and much more. And we have to stop blaming teachers for all of the ills and injustices of American society.

THE FOUNDERS SUPPORTED PUBLIC SCHOOLS

America’s Founding Fathers Were Against School Choice

The right-wing in the US has trouble with the constitution. More than half of the voters who voted for the current president would agree to give him power to overrule judges whose rulings he didn’t like. A similar number of the President’s voters don’t think that California’s tally in the last election should count. The president himself has said things which indicate he doesn’t really understand or agree with the constitutional separation of powers or the first amendment. They praise the constitution, but don’t really know what it says – with the obvious exception of the second amendment.

Many of the founders, who are routinely praised, along with their constitution, by the American “ignoranti”, were supporters of universal education.

That’s why we have public schools – so that an educated citizenry will lead to a good government.

Our founders didn’t want a system of private schools each teaching students various things about the world coloring their minds with religious dogma. They didn’t want a system of schools run like businesses that were only concerned with pumping out students to be good cogs in the machinery of the marketplace.

No. They wanted one public system created for the good of all, paid for at public expense, and democratically governed by the taxpayers, themselves.

DEVOS WATCH

Secretary Betsy DeVos on first school visit: ‘Teachers are waiting to be told what they have to do’

Forgive Betsy DeVos her foolish comment that teachers are waiting to “be told what to do.” She doesn’t understand that public school teachers actually have some training in their field, unlike her.

I do have a question for her, however. How would you define “facilitate great teaching”?

I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success[ful] from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.

New era of education passion, protest and politics will follow DeVos confirmation

Vouchers don’t work and drain public education systems of needed funds for services which are available to all children for the benefit of everyone.

During her contentious hearing, DeVos made clear her preference for an education system that favors choice – including virtual charter schools with dismal track records. The Obama administration also invested federal dollars in charter schools, but the $20 billion level Trump has proposed for promoting school choice is unprecedented.

Much of that money would go toward the private sector, and DeVos has also been challenged repeatedly for supporting vouchers that allow parents to use government dollars to pay for private, for-profit and religious schools, a cornerstone of Trump’s stated plan. Results for voucher programs have been questionable, according to several studies.

DeVos confirmation triggered outpouring of support for public education system

Are we better off now that DeVos has unleashed the support of the American people for real public education?

On both sides of the aisle, he said, “there has been a commitment to improvement of public education. It is only on the extreme fringes that you have had a push for whole hog privatization.”

The public outpouring of support for the nation’s public school system, if not for individual public schools, may have been one of the silver linings to emerge from the DeVos nomination.

But it is far too soon to know whether her confirmation ordeal will have any impact on DeVos’ views, and more importantly, the policies she promotes during the next four years.

Feuer, for one, is skeptical that expressions of support for public schools, expressed in such a highly politicized context, will have much positive impact. “Education in America has been subjected to so much gloom and doom rhetoric, followed by irrational exuberance,” he said. “What we need is a sustained and rational debate about what is working and what is not.”

How to Protest Against Betsy DeVos

Earlier this month I had lunch with three former colleagues, two of whom are social conservatives and probably vote that way. My guess is that they vote for the conservative option at least 90% of the time – in federal, state, and local elections. The third is an enigma who has rarely expressed a political opinion to me, unless it was specifically tied to education.

We talked about politics, since it is on everyone’s mind, and their big takeaway, to which they all agreed, was that they are against public demonstrations because of “violence.”

It’s true that some demonstrations after the election and the day of the inauguration were marred by violence, but for the most part, the demonstrations for or against (mostly the latter) the current administration have been peaceful. The consuming public has a tendency to remember violence and rioting, while forgetting the “no news” of a peaceful march. Therefore, people can remember the dozens of people who were violent during the inauguration, but quickly forget the half million women, men, and children who marched peacefully the next day, accompanied by other millions around the country…and around the world.

But don’t blame the protest for the violence. Protest, peaceable assembly, is protected in the first amendment. It’s human misbehavior that causes violence. That is not to say that violence and riots are never justified. Indeed, Martin Luther King Jr., who preached non-violence throughout the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, said, “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Is violence called for right now? I don’t think so, but there are obviously some people who disagree with me. But the right of the people peaceably to assemble must not be prohibited.

I have protested in the past and I will not shrink away from protesting in the future. I see my writing as protesting.

I applaud those who rally at the local, state and national levels on the issues that matter most to their schools and to America.

A silver-lining to the DeVos appointment is that more people than ever before are paying attention to the possible loss of public education.

I also know that protesting isn’t always pretty. But I think we need to better plan how to be strategically tough without giving the other side the moral high ground that can be used against us.

In addition, as drowning professionals, trying to come up for air, it might help to grab onto each other to form a buoy that takes us to the top.

Organizing and pulling together in large numbers to peacefully protest can be very effective.

ALEC’S TOOL IN INDIANA

Who’s who in Indiana education: Rep. Bob Behning

Bob Behning, the chair of the Indiana General Assembly’s House Committee on Education has been at the forefront of the war against public schools. His actions show that he hates public education, hates public school teachers, hates teachers unions, and will stop at nothing to privatize public education.

Behning came in to the House as a florist from an area near Indianapolis. His ties to education privatizers has given him more career opportunities, however. He became a lobbyist for a testing company, and now works for his privatizer friends at Marion University…in the “educators college” no less. Qualifications anyone?

Vitals: Republican representing District 91, covering parts of Marion and Hendricks counties. So far, has served 25 years in the legislature. Formerly the owner of a local florist, Behning now is the director of external affairs for the educators college at the private Marian University.

…Behning has held leadership positions with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative not-for-profit lobby group that pairs legislators and business owners together to write model legislation. ALEC’s education legislation tends to advocate for vouchers, charter schools and other methods of school choice. Because Behning has worked closely with ALEC, as well as other school reform groups, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Behning an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Behning has supported the new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, particularly because of her advocacy for increasing access to charter schools and vouchers.

Who supports him: Over the course of the past few elections, Behning has received campaign contributions from Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; Stand for Children, a national organization that supports education reform and helps parents to organize; Students First, another pro-reform lobbying group created by former head of D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee; Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Bennett’s campaign.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Holcomb, Lead, Pence

2017 Medley #5: Lead – Just a Few IQ Points

Poisoned Futures

FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 1

Flint Weighs Scope of Harm to Children Caused by Lead in Water

Emails released by the office of Gov. Rick Snyder last week referred to a resident who said she was told by a state nurse in January 2015, regarding her son’s elevated blood lead level, “It is just a few IQ points. … It is not the end of the world.” Dr. Hanna-Attisha and others who have studied lead poisoning have a sharply different view of lead exposure, for which there is no cure. “If you were going to put something in a population to keep them down for generations to come, it would be lead,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said. [emphasis added]

OVERCOMING THE EFFECTS OF LEAD POISONING

My last post, The Common Knowledge is Wrong, was my attempt to defend public education in America. I maintain that public education is not failing. What is failing is our inability and/or unwillingness to take on the problems facing our children and their schools: a high rate of child poverty, inequitable resources in schools serving high-poverty students, and policy makers who choose to deflect their responsibility thereby dumping the problem on public schools. I wrote,

We don’t exclude economically disadvantaged students from our schools. We don’t exclude students with special needs from our schools. We don’t exclude students with behavioral challenges. America’s public schools, unlike private and privately run schools, must accept everyone.

Instead of blaming schools for societal problems…instead of privatizing…we ought to spend our time, energy, and resources on improving the schools we have. All of us, politicians included, should accept responsibility for the national shame that is our high child poverty rate.

It’s well known that poverty has an impact on student achievement. My contention in the above referenced post is that teachers and schools can’t overcome the affects of poverty in their students without additional help. What is the impact of poverty on students? In We Have a Poverty Crisis in Education on the Science of Learning Blog, Kristina Birdsong explains…

Students living in poverty struggle in ways most others do not. They face a plethora of issues, including but not limited to the following:

  • Increased risk for behavioral, socioemotional, and physical health problems
  • Decreased concentration and memory
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Higher rates of suspension, expulsion, absenteeism, and drop out
  • Poor hygiene and malnutrition
  • Lack of preparedness for school

Out-of-school factors like those listed by David C Berliner in his research study, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, have a definite and powerful impact on student achievement. One of the out-of-school factors Berliner discusses is that of environmental pollutants. Of the six issues listed above in Birdsong’s article, the first two can be directly caused by lead poisoning. The other four can be indirect results of lead poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.

…there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.

NO SAFE LEVEL

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Lead

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.

Educational Interventions for Children Affected by Lead (CDC)

Lead is a developmental neurotoxicant, and high blood lead levels (HBLLs) in young children can impair intellectual functioning and cause behavioral problems that last a lifetime. Primary prevention of HBLLs remains a national priority and is the only effective way to prevent the neurodevelopmental and behavioral abnormalities associated with lead exposure. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children already have experienced blood lead levels known to impair academic performance.

Lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, hearing and speech problems, and thus, lowered school achievement. Dealing with children who have lowered ability, behavioral difficulties, or attention problems caused by lead is something schools have some experience with, but interventions can be expensive. The costs must be shared by the communities, states, and the federal government.

EAST CHICAGO, INDIANA

I’m not going to reproduce the entire history of the rise and fall of East Chicago’s industry and the subsequent discovery that the land in some areas of the city were contaminated. You can see an excellent timeline with details at Timeline: Timeline: History of the USS Lead Superfund site in E.C.

The election of Mike Pence as Vice-President of the United States has had an unintended benefit for the residents of East Chicago. When lead and arsenic contamination was found in the soil in areas around East Chicago, Pence did as little as he could to help the residents. Perhaps he thought because the contamination was in a high poverty area no one would notice. Perhaps he didn’t care because East Chicago and the surrounding urban area (the second largest metro area in the state) usually votes Democratic. In any case, once Pence left office, the new governor, Eric Holcomb, lost little time in getting help for the people.

Thank you, Governor Holcomb

Holcomb grants East Chicago disaster request Pence denied

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday he will grant a disaster declaration for East Chicago to help address issues at the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site – a request Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor, denied.

Mayor Anthony Copeland had previously requested a disaster declaration from Pence, but it was denied in December. Holcomb agreed to increase state assistance to the city, according to the governor’s office, and help residents of the Calumet neighborhood affected by lead and arsenic contamination.

Whether the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency will be of any assistance isn’t yet known. The point is, however, that the children of East Chicago, like those in Flint, Michigan, have already been damaged.

FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 2

State of Michigan to stop subsidizing Flint water bills for water they cannot drink

The state attorney says that the water in Flint is safe now, but people shouldn’t drink it. What gall!

Governor Snyder and his cronies who have punished the citizens of Flint for the last two years ought to be punished themselves. Here’s an idea. Move the Governor’s Mansion, and the State Offices to Flint so they will have to live under the same conditions as the residents.

The state has decided that it will no longer help its people by subsidizing water bills…

“Unfiltered Flint water is safe, just don’t drink it, says state attorney”. That was the headline for a recent MLive.com article. In the article, the state attorney says Flint’s drinking water is “safe” but, “We are still recommending residents don’t drink unfiltered water.”

Despite this fact, the state of Michigan announced this week that it will no longer be subsidizing the water bills for Flint residents who cannot drink the water they are paying for…

…in the city with the highest water rates, and arguably the worst water quality, in the country.

Flint water rates highest in country, study claims

A study released Tuesday, Feb. 16, by Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch showed Flint residents were being charged more for water than any other customers in the nation’s 500 largest community water systems.

HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE

New York Changes How It Tests for Lead in Schools’ Water, and Finds More Metal

And it continues…

When experts said last year that New York City’s method of testing water in public schools for lead could hide dangerously high levels of the metal, officials at first dismissed the concerns. They insisted that the city’s practice of running the water for two hours the night before taking samples would not distort results.

Still, the city changed its protocol, and the results from a new round of tests indicate that the experts were right.

So far, the latest tests have found nine times as many water outlets — kitchen sinks, water fountains, classroom faucets or other sources — with lead levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion as last year’s tests found, according to a report released by the state health department last week.

Fort Worth ISD still finding high levels of lead in school drinking water

Three months after Fort Worth ISD announced it would be replacing hundreds of old drinking fountains due to high levels of lead found in school drinking water, a FOX 4 Investigation has uncovered that the problem is more widespread and will cost more money to fix than first believed.

There is no federal, state or local mandate requiring schools to test their drinking water. Fort Worth ISD voluntarily began testing a few schools in June after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan made national headlines.

Schools around the country find lead in water, with no easy answers

In Portland, Ore., furious parents are demanding the superintendent’s resignation after the state’s largest public school district failed to notify them promptly about elevated lead levels detected at taps and fountains.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) has ordered lead testing at every public school in the state after dozens of schools in Newark and elsewhere were found to have lead-contaminated water supplies.

TEACHER EVALUATION

Will policy makers continue to blame teachers, teachers unions, or lazy students for low student achievement?

Ask your legislator…

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Posted in Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Competition, DeVos, Equity, Jonathan Kozol, Lead, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed

2017 Medley #4

Privatization, DeVos,
Public Education: A Common Good,
Poverty, Inequity, Achievement Gaps,
Lead, Competition, Words Matter

PRIVATIZATION

The dangerous rise of privatization and corporate education reform

The passage below is from an excellent post about the “fundamental elements” of the privatization movement.

When we first started fighting the corporate “reformers” in Indiana we were told that, since public schools were “failing” (NOTE: they’re not…see below, U.S. Public Schools: Success), “reform” was necessary in order to help students achieve at a higher level. Providing money to send children to private schools would help those students “stuck” in “failing” schools and give them the opportunity to achieve more.

Once it became clear that privatized schools (charters or private schools) weren’t better at raising student achievement than real public schools, the achievement of children no longer was a legitimate argument for defunding and privatizing public education. Now, the Indiana “reformers” have switched their argument to “choice” for “choice’s” sake. The money should follow the child and parents have complete control of public funds used to send their children to whatever school they choose. This means, of course, that tax money is spent with no public oversight and is no more rational than a citizen “choosing” to use tax money to fund a trip to the bookstore instead of supporting funding of the public library.

It’s also true that in many cases, attendance at a particular privately run school is the school’s choice rather than the parent’s. “Is your child expensive to educate? Sorry we’re not equipped to handle his needs.” “Does your child need special education services? Sorry, we don’t have the facilities to deal with her.” “Are there unaddressed behavior problems getting in the way of your child’s education? You’ll have to take your child to another school until he can behave himself.”

The point of school “reform” has never been about student achievement. It’s about segregation and moving tax money into the hands of private corporations and religious organizations.

The charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement are making unprecedented gains in their effort to privatize public education in the United States.

With Betsy DeVos on the verge of becoming the United States Secretary of Education and President Donald Trump promising to divert $20 billion in federal funding from public schools to privatization through school choice programs, the movement to undermine public education must be deliriously excited about their prospects over the next four years.

Of course, the proponents of corporate education reform have been riding high for more than two decades thanks to the policies and politics of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom used their time in office to promote charter schools and the broader corporate reform agenda.

AS LONG AS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DEVOS

Here’s How Much Betsy DeVos And Her Family Paid To Back GOP Senators Who Will Support Her

How much did Betsy DeVos spend to buy your senator’s vote?

THE COMMON GOOD

Universal Public Education and the Common Good

Jan Resseger, in her blog, quotes Jonathan Kozol about public education…

“Slice it any way you want. Argue, as we must, that every family ought to have the right to make whatever choice they like in the interests of their child, no matter what damage it may do to other people’s children. As an individual decision, it’s absolutely human; but setting up this kind of competition, in which parents with the greatest social capital are encouraged to abandon their most vulnerable neighbors, is rotten social policy. What this represents is a state supported shriveling of civic virtue, a narrowing of moral obligation to the smallest possible parameters. It isn’t good for Massachusetts, and it’s not good for democracy.”

…and William Barber

In the United States, expanding opportunity for marginalized populations of students in our so-called universal education system has involved two centuries of political struggle —securing admittance and equal opportunity for girls, for American Indians, for African American children of former slaves, for immigrant students, and for disabled students—many of them formerly institutionalized. In the words of the Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, “We’ve come too far to go back now.”

See also Vote ‘no’ on charter schools by Jonathan Kozol

POVERTY: NEEDED SUPPORT ABSENT

Priorities In a School System Where Nearly Half of Students Live in Poverty

Technology is an important part of public education, and children from high poverty backgrounds need the benefits of technology just as much as wealthy children, but they also need good teachers, small classes sizes, support services (nurses, social workers, etc), a well-rounded curriculum, quality facilities, well-stocked school libraries, and a host of other social and material benefits which the wealthy insist upon for their own children (See The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

We spend millions of dollars on education every year, but it’s still not a priority. States are scrambling to find the money to support their schools, but the political winds are blowing in the “no more taxes” direction. We don’t want to pay taxes to benefit someone else’s children. Our current plan is to move towards privatization, thinking that some private corporation will pay for educating our children not realizing that the price for privatization is too high.

In its massive diversion of funds towards technology, the proposed Operating Budget of Baltimore County Public Schools does not address the great need of all students for more support staff, and subjects the existing School support staff to ever more crushing workloads.

INEQUITY

Stopping a Disastrous Cycle

To be involved in public education is to be aware of the disparities and inequities in the nation’s schools. Instead of providing more resources where they are needed, American public schools too often provide fewer resources where more are needed. This is because the locations where more resources are needed are, by definition, those places where fewer resources exist. Until we change from a society which provides more for children of the wealthy than children of the poor, our “achievement gap” will remain.

There’s a telling question in this Kappa Delta Pi article. “…why do we send our children into schools every day with…unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialities needed…?”

The answer, of course, is that we, as a nation, don’t consider poor kids “ours.” Poor kids are “theirs.” “Ours” vs. “theirs” is why the US is one of three advanced nations to provide fewer resources to poor students than to wealthy students. Americans haven’t learned yet that there is a cost for providing less for some students than others – a cost of continued poverty and the need for welfare, higher rates of incarceration, and more social stratification.

“Ours” vs. “theirs” is the basis for the entire privatization movement. It’s reasonable for every parent to want what is best for their own child, but the “competition theory” which pits private and privately run schools against public schools guarantees that there will be winners and losers. The goal for Americans should be to emulate the Finns and make what is “best for my child” the same for all children. Eliminating “losers” by providing adequate resources won’t hurt the “winners” and it will provide society with a larger pool of productive and participating citizens.

Imagine going into the hospital to have your tonsils removed and the operating room is filthy, the doctor is using decades-old instruments, and there are no nurses available to assist.

Most of us would turn around and run.

So, why do we send our children into schools every day with the same conditions—unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialties needed to address critical social-emotional issues that stand in the way of academic success?

Sadly, these students can’t turn around and run away, or at least not until they get older and drop out.

POVERTY: ACHIEVEMENT GAP

FACT – Hunger is a major contributing factor to the Education Achievement Gap.

Instead of focusing on ways to deprive public schools of the resources they need and transfer tax dollars to private corporations, our leaders’ attention ought to be directed to ending the high rate of child poverty in the U.S.

The evidence is overwhelming that the lack of sufficient food undermines an individual’s ability to function and it has an especially devastating impact on children.

And hunger is a very real problem in this country, especially when it comes to a significant number of the nation’s children.

POVERTY: LEAD

House GOP quietly closes investigation into Flint water crisis

The governor’s policies have poisoned thousands of children. The children of Flint – and thousands of other children around the country – are being thrown away because we can’t afford to clean up our water and neighborhoods.

Here’s a plan for Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Eli Broad or any other billionaire who wants to spend money on education…invest your money in cleaning up lead poisoning instead of privatizing public education…you’ll get better results.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, senior Democrat on the oversight panel, said he wants Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to produce key Flint-related documents within 30 days. Cummings said Snyder and his administration have obstructed the committee’s investigation into the Flint crisis for a year, refusing to provide — or even search for — key documents.

Snyder’s intransigence has thwarted committee efforts to answer critical questions about what he knew as the crisis unfolded and why he didn’t act sooner to fix Flint’s water problem, Cummings said.

“Requiring Governor Snyder to finally comply with the committee’s request will allow us to complete our investigation and offer concrete findings and recommendations to help prevent a catastrophe like this from happening again,” Cummings wrote to Chaffetz. “In contrast, allowing Governor Snyder to flout the committee’s authority will deny the people of Flint the answers they deserve.”

U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: SUCCESS

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

It’s common knowledge that America’s public schools are failing. Common knowledge is wrong.

As ever, far right politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether they be Democratic Neoliberals or Republican Tea Partiers, are using falsehoods about our public schools to sell an alternative. They say our public schools are beyond saving and that we need to privatize. They call it school choice but it’s really just an attempt to destroy the system that has so much going for it.

We should strengthen public education not undermine it. We should roll up our sleeves and fix the real problems we have, not invent fake ones.

COMPETITION

Competition vs. Quality

Peter Greene provides us with a beautiful metaphor for our national garden of children…

The goal of public education is excellence for everyone, but competition produces excellence for only a few, and sometimes not even that. It’s a lousy metaphorical framework for education. Better, say, to talk about a garden on which we focus the full resources of the community to plant and water and tend living things to grow and mature without worrying about which one is tallest, sweetest or most vibrantly colored, or how we could best deprive one flower of water so that another can win a greenery contest. Education is not a race, and competition will not improve it.

WORDS MATTER

Five Strategies for Motivating the Student Who was Retained Last Year

I very much want to believe that the author of this article didn’t mean for it to sound the way it did. I want to believe that she doesn’t consider a child with special needs (identified or not) a burden. I want to believe that she doesn’t consider children who struggle an onerous responsibility. I want to believe that she just made a poor choice of words when she said that a teacher is “saddled” with a child who is retained in grade.

Saddle, according to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, has as one of its meanings: to place under a burden or encumbrance.

No child, especially those who have special learning needs, should be made to feel like they are a burden to adults whose job it is to educate them.

For my comments on retention in grade as a method of remediation, see Retention.

Have you ever been saddled with a student who failed the previous year in your subject and found that they were either just as motivated or less motivated than the year before? Yeah. Me too. I took some time to research some strategies that will help us motivate those students who just didn’t make it the year before and got retained. These strategies are geared toward students who failed due to lack of work ethic, not lack of ability. That’s an article for another day!

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #3

Choice, Vouchers, Poverty, A Public Good, School Finance, Teachers, A Story

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: Whose Choice Is It?

It’s National School Choice Week…a time to celebrate (?) the privatization and destruction of America’s public schools.

Private and privately run schools which receive public tax dollars should be held to the same standards as public schools.

  • They should have open board meetings.
  • Their finances should be open and subject to audit by the public.
  • They should have the same requirements for hiring teachers and administrators.
  • They should have the same requirements for curriculum. 
  • They should be required to provide an appropriate education for all students no matter their achievement level, academic ability, first language, physical needs, behavioral needs, religious beliefs, ethnicity, economic status, or skin color.

In addition,

  • No school, public or private, or its teachers, should be judged solely on the test scores of its students.
  • No public funds should be used for sectarian purposes.
  • No student should be turned away from any publicly funded school because they are too expensive to educate.

We should make all public schools high quality. We should improve our local schools, not privatize them. We should give all our nation’s children the resources they deserve, not just those who are chosen by private and privately run schools.

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 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.” While the reformers and the takeover artists and the hedge fund managers talk and talk and talk about the miraculous results of school choice, research shows that these results are uneven at best.

See also…

No, Betsy, School Choice Is Not a Good Thing

Public education is a “common good” provided for all people.

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally-staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds and resources available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. Public monies are rightly spent to make that good local school a reality. In public education, as with smoking and seat belts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

HB 1228 – Vouchers for Underperforming Schools

Indiana’s voucher plan takes public funds and gives it to schools which are economically unaccountable to the public.

Public dollars for public schools. Period.

If the purpose of “school choice” is for students to be able to get out of failing schools and move to a better school, then this proposal makes a lot of sense. If the point of the exercise is to subsidize parochial education, to bust unions, or to divert public education money to friends and well-wishers, then obviously this proposal would not be met with favor.

Whether this would save the state money or cost it money is tied to the question of how many students that attend voucher schools would otherwise attend public schools. There seem to be a fair number of kids who were going to attend the voucher schools anyway but are now being subsidized by taxpayers to go to these schools. (“[M]ore than 50 percent of students accepting vouchers had never attended a public school.”) So, in terms of financial impact to taxpayers, the question is whether, if their private school underperformed the public school and they were no longer eligible for a voucher, the kids would stay at the private school or go to the public school in their area.

What Mike Pence doesn’t like to admit about Indiana’s school voucher program

I don’t know that Vice President Pence doesn’t like to admit this…my guess is that he thinks that it doesn’t sound good politically, but he and most of his fellow super-majority cronies in the state legislature and the new administration in the executive branch are all in favor of “choice.” There’s a basic cultural divide between those who believe in supporting public education (along with public highways, public libraries, parks, etc) as a “public good” and those who believe that 1) the government can’t do anything right, and 2) privatization is always better.

Those of us who believe that the government has some responsibilities, and needs the resources to provide for its citizens, must start electing representatives who agree with us.

Indiana’s school choice program started under a prior governor as a small pilot, tailored to poor families that did not believe public schools were providing their children with an adequate education. Gov. Pence, however, escalated this program into a de facto entitlement for middle-upper-class families, pulling millions of dollars from our poorest schools so that these more affluent families could subsidize a private school education for their kids. Betsy DeVos wants to expand these voucher programs to as many states as possible.

Pence likes to claim that Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country. What he does not like to admit is that in five years of this program, Indiana’s taxpayers have sent more than $345 million to religious schools with little to no state oversight or regulation. These taxpayer dollars would have otherwise funded public education in our state.

POVERTY

Trump not informed about education

Like many who are ill-informed about public education, President Trump assumes that America’s schools are “failing.” He assumes (as do most Republicans and many Democrats) that the public school system in the United States is not working and in need of an overhaul.

It’s true that we can improve America’s public schools, but the best and most effective improvement would be to reduce the level of child poverty in the United States. Stephen Krashen continues to preach. Will anyone hear him?

In his inaugural address, Mr. Trump said that our educational system “leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.’” President Trump is apparently unaware of the fact that when researchers statistically control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world.

Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor medical care, and lack of access to reading material. All of these have profound negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world will have little value if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Our child poverty rate is 21%, the highest of all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

Martin Luther King was right: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (1967, Final Words of Advice)

President Trump’s staff needs to focus on the real problem in American education.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Students who live in poverty need more educational resources, not less. The United States continues to provide more resources for middle and upper class students. It’s poverty, stupid.

United States’ schools with fewer than 10% of students living in poverty score higher than any country in the world. Schools with student poverty rates that are less than 24.9% rank 3rd in the world, and schools with poverty rates ranging from 25% to 49.9% rank 10th in the world. However, schools with 50% to 74.9% poverty rates rank much lower – fifth from the bottom. Tragically, schools with 75% or higher poverty rates rank lower in reading scores than any country except Mexico.

THE SUCCESS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Focusing on the Pebbles

When public schools are supported, great things can happen.

When the history of the United States is written from the vantage of the middle of the 21st century, and the question asked is what was it that made the United States the preeminent nation in the world during the 20th century, the answer will be found in the 19th century.

It won’t be the telegraph, or the telephone, or the automobile, or even the computer that has made America great. Rather, it was the invention of the common school.

  • It was the public schools that gave America some mobility across social classes, providing a modicum of truth to the premise that we are the preeminent land of opportunity.
  • It was the public schools that changed our immigrants into patriotic Americans.
  • It was the public schools, along with public libraries, that gave Americans the skills and opportunities to develop the kinds of knowledge necessary for a democracy to function.
  • It is the public schools that serve most of our nations’ special education students, hoping to give them productive lives, and hoping to give their parents some relief from a tougher parenting role than most of us have had to face.
  • It is the public schools that primarily serve the English Language Learners who, in another generation, will constitute a large part of the work force that we depend upon.
  • It is the public schools that serve America’s neediest children and their families.
  • And it is the public schools, in the wealthier neighborhoods, that provide a large proportion of American students with a world-class education.

SCHOOL FINANCE

Trump says our schools are “Flush with Cash!?” They’re Falling Apart!

One phrase in this article speaks volumes.

“…many schools are still waiting…especially those serving minority students.”

Los Angeles Unified School district routinely has broken desks and chairs, missing ceiling tiles, damaged flooring, broken sprinklers, damaged lunch tables and broken toilet paper dispensers.

They’re flush with cash!?

New York City public schools removed more than 160 toxic light fixtures containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a cancer causing agent that also hinders cognitive and neurological development. Yet many schools are still waiting on a fix, especially those serving minority students.

They’re flush with cash!?

At Charles L. Spain school in Detroit, the air vents are so warped and moldy, turning on the heat brings a rancid stench. Water drips from a leaky roof into the gym, warping the floor tiles. Cockroaches literally scurry around some children’s classrooms until they are squashed by student volunteers.

They’re flush with freakin cash!?

Are you serious, Donald Trump!?

THE CLASSROOM TEACHER

‘The level of workload expected of teachers is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives’

This article is from November, 2016, but it really needn’t be dated. We’ve been neglecting our teachers and schools for decades.

Teachers are reaching – or perhaps have reached – a point where this level of work commitment is becoming corrosive. Children do not benefit from overworked teachers. This level of work is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives.

This year, this level of work has failed once again to result in a pay rise commensurate to the workload. The 1 per cent rise will make teachers feel unvalued. They also know that they remain without a voice.

The next year will also see the recruitment crisis worsen. Why? Well, graduates will see the pay and the conditions of service and seek alternative employment.

We will also see schools having to continue with a worthless testing regime and even more cuts that will affect all areas of education.

A STORY

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

“Alternative facts” are the new “naked.” This seems like an appropriate time for a “reminder.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

Posted in Article Medleys, Curmudgucation, DeVos, Edushyster, Lead, music, poverty, read-alouds, retention, Testing

2017 Medley #2

Retention in Grade, Poverty, Lead Poisoning, Testing, DeVos, Read Aloud, Musical Interlude

END RETENTION IN GRADE LAWS

Time to Eliminate 3rd Grade Retention

States continue to adopt third grade retention laws. They do it based on the erroneous reasoning that since kids who don’t learn to read by third grade have the most trouble in school, it makes sense to retain the ones who can’t read by third grade. This is another case of confusing correlation with causation. Promoting third graders with reading problems to fourth grade is not the cause of poor reading skills. The problem begins much earlier than third grade.

The answer to the “reading problem” is twofold First, we need to spend enough money to catch children with problems early in their school career, pre-school, if possible. Intensive intervention, when started early enough, can help most children. Second, many school failures are caused by the conditions of poverty…emotional or physical trauma, lead poisoning (see Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores, below), etc. Dealing with the high rate of childhood poverty in the U.S. will go a long way to solving our low achievement problems.

Rob Miller discusses the issue on his blog…

Please don’t tell me that “third grade retention is working” because state reading scores in 3rd or 4th grade have increased slightly. One or two years of data based on a multiple choice test with constantly changing standards is not convincing.

As I’ve shared before, recent short-term increases in fourth grade state or national reading scores are thoroughly predictable, given the fact that most of the lower scoring readers have been removed from the sample, or are tested a full year later than normal.

Who will be around eight to ten years from now to talk with these same students about the long-term effects of grade retention? Will they come back to share with us the number of dropouts in the class of 2025 who were subjected to retention in third grade?

Long term studies show that short term gains drop away after three or four years, and by the time a child is four years past his “retention year” he is just as far behind – or further – than before.

Miller says that he has misgivings about social promotion, but in my experience, there are very few cases where retaining a child is the best option. The best option is usually intensive intervention.

Retaining students is a shortcut answer to a problem that actually works against our goals as educators. We would do better to attend to struggling students with programmatic changes than with this mean-spirited “hold them back” approach.

Don’t misread what I am saying. I also have misgivings relative to blanket practices of social promotion. There are children for whom grade retention is the best option to address the unique social and academic needs of a child.

This issue simply illustrates the problems associated with bureaucrats at the state and national level establishing mandates that strip local teachers and administrators from making the best decisions for individual children.

POVERTY MATTERS

The Long Shadow of Poverty and School Segregation by Income

Teachers struggle daily to help children learn. We could help them by focusing on the high level of child poverty in America.

Family background is of great importance for school achievement; the influence of the family does not appear to diminish over the child’s school years. Neither the impact of one school or another nor the impact of facilities nor the impact of curriculum is as great as the impact of the student’s family background. Of in-school factors that matter to children, the teacher is the most important. Finally, “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student’s own social background, than is any school factor.”

Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores

If we were serious about helping our children learn, we would be dealing with the causes of low achievement, child poverty and its concomitant problems.

One major issue facing children who live in poverty is environmental toxins in general, and lead poisoning in particular. It’s expensive to clean up, but which of our children aren’t worth some expense to ensure healthy brain development?

We find that since 1997, when the state of RI instituted measures to reduce lead hazards in the homes of RI families, lead levels fell across the state, but significantly more so for African American children. This is likely because their lead levels were considerably higher than other children in the state in 1997, including other low income children, and African American families were disproportionately located in high concentration poverty areas where outreach efforts were focused. We find that this translated into reductions in the black-white test score gap in RI witnessed over this period.

“REFORM”

7 Educational Reforms Needed in 2017

“Standardized tests shold only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability.” Exactly.

1. Decrease the Number of Standardized Tests
Notice I suggest fewer standardized tests as opposed to no standardized tests. Standardized tests do have their place in education, but like with anything else, too much is overkill. Perhaps student progress can be tracked every 3 years as opposed to every year. This would save many states a great deal of money and students a great deal of stress. Furthermore, standardized tests should only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability. There are other, more effective means to measure a teacher’s worth, such as observations, lesson plan reviews, and student surveys.

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt

“Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality,” Deming wrote. “Routine inspection becomes unreliable through boredom and fatigue.” That recommendation should be applied to the annual testing of students in reading and math mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Instead of “routine inspection,” Deming urged detailed analysis of small samples. Bucking widespread practice, the Finns do exactly that, with high-quality exams administered to small groups of students. Teachers consequently feel no pressure to “teach to the test,” students get a well-rounded education and administrators gain superior understanding of student progress. Finnish teens score at or near the top of international educational assessments.

MORE ON DEVOS

The Red Queen

One of the most complete exposés of the oligarchy in Michigan led by the DeVos’s. This is a long article…worth spending the time it takes to read!

By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

More Baloney in Support of DeVos

The Finnish philosophy of education is that you may choose whatever public school you want for your child, but because they are all excellent you can be assured that choosing your local school will be a good choice.

Instead of closing schools, wasting money on vouchers and charters, and disrupting children’s education, we need to invest in all our public schools. If children are struggling to achieve, then we need to give their school more resources, not strip it of funding.

All children should NOT have “access” to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had “access” to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, “We think this school si failing, and that’s unfair to the students in it, so we’re going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we’re leaving them in.” How is that a solution??!!

READING ALOUD

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

For your encouragement.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are a Changin'” in 1963.  I think that after fifty-three years we need it again…

“This song was written at a moment in our country’s history when people’s yearning for a more open and just society exploded. Bob Dylan had the courage to stand in that fire and he caught the sound of that explosion. This song remains as a beautiful call to arms…” – Bruce Springsteen, 1997

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