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

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

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

FEDS MAKE A-F WORSE, STATE FAVORS PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Grad rates, grades to fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND THE STATE DOUBLES DOWN

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

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

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

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

[emphasis added]

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

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

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

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

GRADE LEVEL, DAP, AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Medley #21

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

PAYING IT FORWARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE IMPACT OF THE GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN ON STUDENTS

Public schools fear GOP health care plan

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

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

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

Surprise!

Red-state school leaders vent frustrations with GOP health bill

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

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

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

Only they weren’t.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

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

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

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

No academic gain, voucher study says

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

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

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

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

Evidence casts doubt on voucher education

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

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

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

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

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

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

BILLIONAIRE “REFORMERS”

Intellectual Arrogance

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

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

ANOTHER TECH MONEY GRAB

Four Reasons to Worry About “Personalized Learning”

Just another money grab by rich technocrats.

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

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

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Privatization, Public Ed, SGO, vouchers

2017 Medley #20 Privatization

Choice, SGOs,
Neighborhood Schools,
Vouchers, Wealth Privilege

Time to catch up on some reading 📖.

CHOICE

School “choice” is based on the lies that public schools are failing (they’re not. It’s our society which is failing our children), and that the private sector always does everything better (they don’t. Remember the banking crash in 2008?).

School “choice” is not-so-secret code for school privatization. There’s no proof that children do better in charter schools or with vouchers for private schools. There’s no proof that anyone benefits from privatization – except those who pocket the tax dollars earmarked for public education.

School Choice: An Ugly Idea

School “choice” began as a way of keeping “my” students away from students of other economic strata or races. If we could choose our school we’ll choose the one where “our people” are – it’s tribalism at its worst. And it has worked. Segregation has increased with privatization through both charters and vouchers.

I am talking about the ugly idea that school choice and competition will lead to better schools. School choice ideology is born in racism, sustained by a concerted disinformation campaign, and designed to develop a work force of compliant worker drones, while further enriching the wealthy and undermining democratic control of the schools. School choice, better called school privatization, will destroy public education. That is its purpose.

…In order to sell the idea of school choice, i.e., school privatization, choice champions had to first sell the false narrative of failing schools. Americans had a long tradition of valuing their public schools, in part because the schools were generally doing a good job and in part because all citizens had a voice in how they were run and how their tax money was spent. In order to change the narrative, privatizers pointed to international test scores, deteriorating schools in the inner-cities, and reports from economists that seemed to show that this could all be changed if we just fired the low performing teachers and rewarded the high performers. So in many cities, local elected school boards were replaced by appointed boards, the public lost its voice, public coffers were raided to open charter schools, who promised but mostly failed to deliver, improvement, and the public schools further deteriorated for lack of funds (See Philadelphia and Detroit).

SCHOLARSHIP GRANTING ORGANIZATIONS

Exclusive: Money diverted from public schools?

Money earmarked for public education is drained from the public schools using vouchers and charters. In addition, tax revenues are reduced through tax breaks for Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Here’s how…

But here’s what’s unusual, if not controversial, about the scholarship programs: Wealthy donors can potentially “profit” from their contributions through extensive tax benefits that can drain money from state treasuries which fund public services — including public schools.

The programs are available in 17 states and are being considered by legislators in several others. They are praised by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — a longtime school choice advocate — and are the focus of two congressional bills that seek to create a federal version of the program.

All the programs basically work this way: Individuals and businesses make cash or stock donations to scholarship granting organizations. The organizations award scholarships to qualifying families with K-12 students, primarily children in failing public schools or whose families’ income meets the state’s poverty threshold. Students can then attend a private or religious school of their choice. What makes these programs unique is that donors get a full or partial credit toward their state taxes, which they are not allowed when donating to most other charities, and this allows them to realize a sizable tax advantage when combined with a federal deduction on the same gift. Plus, in some states, donors also get a state deduction.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Here’s an Idea: Guarantee Every Child an Excellent Education

Instead of closing under-resourced public schools and opening charters which don’t improve on education, we should follow the lead of high achieving nations and invest in our children by providing every neighborhood a high quality public school.

So if we start from the idea that every student should get an excellent education, we start with the proposition to support and renew our public schools.

In doing so, we would need a national commitment to bringing every public school up to snuff.

Many of them already are – Hint: they’re found in rich neighborhoods. The ones that struggle are almost always found in poorer neighborhoods, and that’s no accident. It’s the result of savage funding inequalities.

VOUCHERS

In Two States, Vouchers Fail Once Again

Yet another series of studies showing that privatization does not improve achievement.

Two new studies of private school voucher programs – one in Indiana and the other in Louisiana – confirm that students using vouchers to attend private schools will see a drop in their academic achievement.

In both programs, students who use a voucher experience a decrease in math test scores in the first few years. This is in line with other recent studies we’ve seen of programs in Ohio and the District of Columbia, where students using vouchers are doing even worse academically.

Another look at Indiana voucher study

Steve Hinnefeld explores the Indiana study more closely…

Maybe the message isn’t that voucher students who stick with private schools do OK academically, but that voucher students who do OK academically are more likely to stick with private schools.

THE PRIVILEGE OF “CHOICE”

Is School Choice Just Expanding Privilege?

School choice promoters claim that “choice” allows children to attend the “good” schools despite their zip codes. Is that true or is “choice” just another way (as if we really need another way) to separate the “haves” and the “have nots?” – a false promise to lower classes and un-priviledged minorities (or are they majorities now?) in order to lull them into a sense of complacence about the economic deserts to which they’ve been relegated.

In a perfect world, all parents would be able to locate themselves in a neighborhood with a school that meets all of their needs. Those who advocate for “school choice” would have you believe that using tax dollars to build for-profit charter schools and vouchers will result in more students having access to better schools. “School choice” is one of those things that sounds good in theory, but the evidence suggests that choice policies most often do not result in better options for the students who need it the most.

…There is little evidence that [charter schools and vouchers] help young people in urban areas, where parents aren’t able to transport their kids to “better” schools in other parts of town.

Is it ethical to give your child “every advantage”?

We all want the best for our own children. One way to make sure that our children get “the best” is to make all public schools “the best.” That way every child gets the “advantage” instead of just the children of the wealthy.

Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high.

I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Budgets, Discrimination, Religion, Segregation

2017 Medley #18: DeVos Doubles Down

Accountability, Discrimination, Budget Cuts, Church-State Entanglement

We all knew that Betsy DeVos was going to be a problem for public education. She didn’t hide her disdain for the common folk who sent their children to America’s public schools. She didn’t hide the fact that she wanted to privatize all the education in the U.S.

So it was no surprise that last week she presented the Trump Administration’s plans to support privatization and destroy public education.

[emphasis in any of the quoted material below is mine]

ACCOUNTABILITY: FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ONLY

DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

The bludgeon used by “reformers” against public schools has been accountability based on test scores. As we have learned in Indiana, that accountability is only meant for public schools. Schools accepting vouchers or charters can get their grades changed, can get loan forgiveness when they collapse, can continue to receive state funding even after having “failed,” and can even choose their own students.

Accountability is the weapon used to hurt public education, and then claim that public schools are failing. As far as DeVos is concerned, no such accountability is needed for schools run privately.

…What we know is what we’ve known since the days that DeVos beat back attempts at accountability measures in Michigan– she opposes anything that might in any way tie the hands of the Right Kind of People, the people who deserve to set policy and create schools and profit from all of it.

I can understand how liberals are bothered by this policy. What I don’t quite understand is where the conservatives are. Where are all the people who built up the education reform wave in the first place with rallying calls for teacher accountability and school accountability and don’t just trustingly throw money at schools and where the hell are our tax dollars going, anyway? Oh wait– they are off in the corner, counting up all the money they aren’t going to pay in taxes under the GOP plan.

As my college ed prof told us in the seventies, the accountability needle keeps swinging back and forth– but this time it has gone so far in the accountability direction that it has come out the other side in a place so unaccountable that the federal Secretary of Education cannot imagine a situation in which she would deny federal dollars to any voucher school, ever, for any reason. This isn’t just throwing money at schools– it’s lighting the money on fire and throwing it off a cliff. This is wrapping all the money around a big club that will be used to beat anybody who’s not white and wealthy and healthy.

Betsy DeVos Continues Her Push For Private School Vouchers

One of the problems with “school choice” programs (aside from the fact that the “choice” is with the school, not the parents) is the lack of public oversight. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into private, religious, and charter schools, which are given fewer restrictions for how money is being used. Nearly every day there’s another scandal in which someone misappropriates or misuses funds meant for educating children.

…We have a responsibility to provide great public schools to every kid in America. Instead of strongly investing in public schools where 90 percent of kids go, Trump’s budget cuts billions of dollars from key programs and would divert already scarce funding to private schools.

Members of Congress pressed DeVos on the fact that these private schools, even though they get taxpayer funds through vouchers, discriminate against students and are unaccountable to the public. Although she tried to evade their questions, it was clear that she has no interest in ensuring meaningful oversight of schools or barring discrimination in a federal voucher program.

PRIVATIZATION: DISCRIMINATION ALLOWED

Betsy DeVos Wants to Take Money From Poor Kids and Give it to Schools That Could Discriminate Against Them

Private schools get a big boost with the Trump/DeVos education plan. At the same time the message for public schools is, “Let them eat cake.”

…the real priority of this administration isn’t pragmatic; it’s ideological – and it’s a particularly ugly ideology our federal government has historically been focused on dismantling.

More specifically, Trump’s education budget cuts $9.2 billion (13.5 percent) of federal outlays to public schools, and eliminates or phases-out twenty-two programs.

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns with cuts in federal support for afterschool programs, Special Olympics, arts education, gifted and talented students, teacher training, class size reduction, career and technical education, and programs targeted at helping disadvantaged students and veterans successfully complete high school and enter higher education.

TARGETING THE NEEDIEST

10 Serious Issues Facing Public School Students: Where’s Betsy?

DeVos couldn’t seem to care any less about serious problems facing America’s school children. Problems like poverty and segregation simply don’t matter. In fact, the cuts in the proposed budget seem designed to target the most needy children in our schools…the poor, special education, and students who don’t speak English.

Betsy DeVos wastes precious time on her choice initiative, ignoring the most serious problems facing our young people in public schools. At a hearing the other day, she pushed many of these problems onto the states.

But I would argue that these difficulties still require thoughtful attention and research from an education secretary who should be engaged.

Instead of working to find solutions to such problems, she’s too busy planning how to destroy public education with her unproven choice ideology.

Children in crisis need help now! They can’t wait.

Is There a Point to All This Cruelty?

Betsy DeVos does not know anything about public education except that she doesn’t believe in it as a concept. Free public education is one of the unquestioned triumphs of the American experiment, but it’s a disposable commodity to a know-nothing fanatic who married into a vast fortune and dedicated a lot of it to wrecking public education.

THE PROBLEM WITH CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT

Annie Waldman: Betsy DeVos on Creationism and Intelligent Design

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been a watchdog for the constitutional separation of church and State since 1947. As such, they understand that “school choice” was a tool originally utilized to support racial segregation. That hasn’t changed. “School choice” programs in America are contributing to the increase in segregation. One might even think that was (one of) the goals from the beginning.

Americans United has also been on watch to prevent the entanglement of churches with the state. They have worked tirelessly to keep religious practices and content out of public schools. Betsy DeVos has a history of supporting the entanglement of church and state…as well as her obvious preference for parochial education.

[Full disclosure: I have been a member of Americans United for more than three decades.]

“DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.

“Candi Cushman, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, described DeVos’ nomination as a positive development for communities that want to include intelligent design in their school curricula. Both the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and Betsy DeVos’ mother’s foundation have donated to Focus on the Family, which has promoted intelligent design.

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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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