Posted in Article Medleys, Politics, Public Ed, SchoolFunding, Testing

2018 Medley #18

Neglecting our Children and our Future,
Budget Cuts, Testing,
Hiring Non-Educators for Education Positions,
Nominating a Pro-Privatization Judge

NEGLECTING OUR CHILDREN, AND OUR FUTURE

Share of Federal Spending on Children Projected to Shrink, New Report Says

Kids are 25% of our population, 100% of our future, and 9% of federal spending…for now. “Kids’ Share” thinks the federal spending number will drop to less than 7%. Yet politicians, especially those who control the pursestrings, don’t recognize that there’s a relationship between the amount of money we spend on kids and the results we get.

I understand that the budget is tight…and we need support for other public services, but a 27% cut isn’t going to improve the care and education our children get.

Meanwhile, “reformers” continue to (wrongly) claim that they can do better than “failing public schools” and drain more money from the public schools.

“Kids’ Share” projects that Washington’s budget for health, nutrition, tax provisions, and education spending on children will drop from 9.4 percent of the fiscal 2017 budget to 6.9 percent after 10 years, a decline of 27 percent from 2017 levels. The Urban Institute expects spending on elementary and secondary education to dip to $37 billion from $42 billion, and for early-childhood education to drop to $14 billion from $15 billion, after adjusting for inflation.

 

America is guilty of neglecting kids — our own

As the money set aside for educating America’s children lessens, the gap between those children who grow up with enough, and those who don’t, widens. Politicians like to claim that the US is “the greatest country in the world.” You wouldn’t know it by paying attention to how we treat our children.

We’re doing nothing less than squandering our future.

“A shockingly high number of children in the U.S. live in poverty,” the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, declared in a scathing report. Almost one-fifth of American children live in poverty, he noted, and they account for more than one-fifth of homeless people.

 

The High Cost of Education Budget Cuts

The big reason for school cuts from the state? Tax cuts for the wealthy. The poor and middle class are paying their fair share. A caring society – which I understand is not the US – would ask those who can, to pay more.

Most states still invest less in K-12 schools than they did in 2008, despite the fact that enrollment increased by over 1 million students nationwide between 2008 – 2016.

…It’s up to educators to call on their state’s elected leaders to:
1. Stop subsidizing corporations
2. Ask companies to pay their fair share in taxes
3. Raise income tax rates for top earners
4. Eliminate ALL voucher schemes

 

END TEST AND PUNISH!

Breaking News?: @NAACP Now Opposing High-Stakes Testing!

Two years ago the NAACP called for a moratorium on charter schools. Now they’re calling for an end to high-stakes tests. Cheers!

…one-time, [high-stakes] standardized tests may have a disparate impact on students of color, many of whom have not had the benefit of high quality teaching staff (urban school districts have the greatest challenge in attracting and keeping highly qualified teachers), adequate classroom resources, or instruction on the content and skills being tested by the standardized tests. Considering additional measures of student achievement, such as grades and teacher evaluations, adds not only to the fairness of a decision with major consequences for students but also increases the validity of such high stakes decisions.

 

The Problems of Outcomes-Based School Accountablity

The test and punish plan for public education has failed. The NAACP understands. State governments don’t. The average person believes that test scores indicate the quality of a school and that erroneous belief is perpetuated by politicians and pundits.

…underneath any conversation about “failing” schools are lots of realities about segregation—by class and also by race.

Research has documented growing economic inequality and segregation by family income. Sean Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist, used a massive data set to document the consequences of widening economic inequality for children’s outcomes at school. Reardon showed that while in 1970, only 15 percent of families lived in neighborhoods classified as affluent or poor, by 2007, 31 percent of families lived in such neighborhoods. By 2007, fewer families across America lived in mixed income communities. Reardon also demonstrated that along with growing residential inequality is a simultaneous jump in an income-inequality school achievement gap. The achievement gap between the children with income in the top ten percent and the children with income in the bottom ten percent, was 30-40 percent wider among children born in 2001 than those born in 1975, and twice as large as the black-white achievement gap.

 

NOW HIRING

He has quite the résumé — just not for the powerful schools job he has won

As a nation, we’re still hiring people to run school systems who don’t know anything about education…people like Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. Los Angeles is following suit, hiring a neo-liberal investment banker to run a K-12 school system with three-quarters of a million students.

When was the last time Beutner stepped into a K-12 classroom? When he was a student? For a photo op? That’s not good enough. It’s educational malpractice.

He’s got quite the résumé.

Austin Beutner, the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, has been, among other things:

— Clinton administration appointee assigned with helping Russia transform from a centralized to free-market economy
— Successful investment banker
— First deputy mayor of Los Angeles, overseeing 12 city agencies
— Publisher and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune
— Major philanthropist

Now he is chief of the second-largest school district in the country. Experience in the classroom? Zilch. Operational experience in education systems? Nada.

 

A dig through Kavanaugh’s record on education finds plenty of material

Speaking of hiring…the judge that the President wants to hire for the US Supreme Court is no friend of public education…

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said Kavanaugh will be a “rubber stamp” for the agenda of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, including on school choice issues like vouchers. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that a Supreme Court nominee “should be fair, independent and committed to protecting the rights, freedoms and legal safeguards that protect every one of us. Judge Kavanaugh does not meet this standard.”

 

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, GERM, Immigrants, Lead, Preschool, Taxes, Teachers Unions

2018 Medley #17

Flint Fights Lead,
Hope for Lead-poisoned Children,
Out of School Factors,
Preschool Teachers, Teachers Unions,
“Give me your tired, your poor…”

WHY ISN’T PREVENTING LEAD POISONING A NATIONAL GOAL?

Is Flint Michigan’s Water Quality Really Restored?

It’s hard to stay focused on education topics when the country is under the stress it now finds itself. When August and September roll around, however, no matter what’s happening with the nation’s immigration crisis, with the Supreme Court, or with the investigation into possible treasonous activity on the part of the President’s political campaign, the nation’s schools will fill once again and teachers will try to ease the stress on their students with the healing power of routine, curiosity, and study.

Yet some children, including those from Flint, Michigan, will go back to school with their blood contaminated by lead. Despite the claims of the politicians, lead is still an issue in Flint (and elsewhere). The repair of the water lines responsible for contaminating the bodies of school children is actually causing the condition to worsen.

In addition, the State of Michigan is allowing Nestlé to pump millions of gallons of water from the Great Lakes in order to bottle and sell it. Nestlé is “giving” a few thousand gallons back to the people of Flint. According to the interview below, Nestlé is donating less water than they drain from the lakes in an hour per week back to the people of Flint – the same lakes which should be providing the clean water to the city’s residents. Most residents are having to buy water and pay their water bills. The “donation” from Nestlé is barely a supplement.

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, the water is not safe to drink. And while they are replacing the lead service lines, because of just the, the vibrations from that, it’s reintroducing lead particles into the system. So the water will not be safe to drink until after the lead service lines are replaced. But I will say a larger picture is there are a lot of things like lead that’s in our water that the state is refusing to act on.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So since they stopped distributing the water bottles, what are the citizens doing there for safe water?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, people are going back and buying water. There are still some small donations from people. And I would say one of the, one of the more unfortunate consequences from this is it’s given a chance for Nestlé, who’s paying, like, $200 a year to pump 500 gallons a minute from our Great Lakes, they’re donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint. So that’s like one bottle per person.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So you’re saying it’s a PR boon for Nestlé, who’s stealing a large amount of water out of the lake, and giving you all a bottle apiece a day? Is that what you’re saying?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Yes. Nestlé is donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint residents. And while people are desperate and they’re using that water, this is just a PR move for Nestlé.

 

HOPE

Lead hurts kids, including their ability to learn. But new research shows cities can help.

A new study shows that the effects of lead poisoning in children can be ameliorated somewhat, but it will cost money.

Now, a new study says there’s a lot that can be done about it — even for kids who have already been exposed to the chemical, which was common in paint until the late 1970s. Straightforward efforts, like making sure kids get nutritional help and aren’t exposed to any more lead, can boost student learning and cause substantial decreases in suspensions, absences, and crime rates.

Politicians and pundits should take note. Environmental toxins such as lead are just one of the factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

The research underscores how factors outside schools’ control can profoundly influence academic outcomes.

 

From Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers
Based on Student Test Scores
by Edward Haertel

ON BEING SELFISH AND CHEAP

When preschool teachers can’t afford care for their own children

You might have heard politicians go on and on about how they agree that early childhood education is important, yet when it comes to paying for it they’re more interested in making sure that taxes are insufficient due to tax breaks for their donors. Meanwhile, the tax burden of Americans is one of the lowest in the developed world…

You get what you pay for.

Low wages and poor working conditions undermine the quality of early education experiences, which hinge on positive adult-child interactions. When teachers are worried about their ability to put food on the table, pay their bills or take care of a sick child, they are understandably less able to focus on the needs of the children in their care and to provide the intentional interactions so critical to child development.

The result is high turnover rates and difficulty retaining the most qualified educators. In turn, this creates instability for young children, who crave routine, and decreases the likelihood that children will reap the long-term benefits that come from attendance at a high-quality preschool staffed by experienced, highly skilled educators.

 

CORPORATE REFORM SCORES A WIN OVER UNIONS

Michigan-based Mackinac Center’s Campaign to Kill Unions in Other States

Corporate America received a win last week when the US Supreme Court overruled the case for unions collecting fees for services they are required by law to provide all employees in their bargaining unit. The ruling has two serious results. First, it has legitimized freeloaders who pay nothing to support those who work to improve their working conditions, and second, it has energized anti-union forces around the nation.

On June 27, 2018, in Janus V. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 – 4 that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay “fair share” fees when union advocacy results in a benefit to nonunion members.

The extreme-right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy is using the Janus decision to actively campaign for the fiscal crippling of unions by targeting emails to organizations such as school districts in order to try to get union members to “opt out” of union membership.

 

Betsy DeVos Conquers the World: The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)

Here’s a companion piece to the story above about union busting by the US Supreme Court. Busting unions is just one part of the Global Education Reform Movement, or GERM, and it’s an international affliction.

The National Education Union in the UK sums it up well. Here is what GERM does to schools in countries around the world:

  • Threatens the teaching profession by prioritizing and imposing a business model on education.
  • Emphasizes competition between schools and teachers, using high-stakes testing.
  • Gives performance rewards.
  • Aims to produce a narrowly educated workforce, which can read instructions and advertisements but is discouraged from thinking critically about the world.
  • Attacks teachers’ unions.
  • Views education as an opportunity to maximise human capital.
  • Abandons education’s role to create cultural good and social cohesion.
  • Takes education out of the hands of those who own it, teachers, students, parents, and the public, to develop a commodity which can be traded globally.
  • Creates a service sector which is open to trade and investors.
  • Education becomes about profit not people.
  • There’s an emphasis on education technology for capital.
  • Breaks good school systems into academies, free schools, or in America, charter and voucher schools.
  • Creates a national pay framework.
  • Relies on performance related pay—think social impact bonds.
  • Privatizes educational services.

GERM affects all schools—everywhere.

 

IMMIGRATION LAW HISTORY

A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Law

We all owe it to ourselves to understand where the United States has been with our immigration laws in order to understand where we are now.

…our immigration laws have increasingly become more strict, with a growing focus on controlling undocumented immigration. How these laws are interpreted and implemented is determined for the most part by court rulings when the government and its agencies are sued on behalf of immigrants (class action suits). When a ruling is made on a class action case, that ruling then becomes national policy.

 

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Posted in Article Medleys, Immigrants, Personal History, Religion, SchoolShootings, US DOE

2018 Medley #16

Not Our Kids, Merging DOE and DOL,
Rising Above, My Youthful Promise,
The AMA and Gun Control, Fomenting Hate

SELFISHNESS IS THE NEW RELIGION

Fox Nails The Problem: These Aren’t Our Kids

Brian Kilmeade, one of the vilest humans on TV, reminded us what Fox News and the Trump Universe was all about when he explained that immigrant children aren’t worth getting all bent out of shape about since they’re “not our kids.” This is just another example of the “F**k you, I’ve got mine” attitude in the U.S. It’s an unfortunately common attitude about immigrants…and a common attitude about some of our fellow citizens as well (see The Price of an Incompetent President).

It’s also the same attitude which sends billions of tax dollars to voucher and charter schools at the expense of neighborhood public schools.

…understanding this aspect of tribalism explains a huge number of our problems in education.

We are happy to spend money on our kids. But those other ones, the children of Those People– these aren’t our kids, and we don’t want to spend money on them.

It’s not a new problem. Segregated schools were all about white folks saying, “I don’t want to spend my tax dollars on schools for these black kids, because these are not our kids.” They don’t belong to our group, our tribe, our family. If they want money for decent schools, then let them get that money from their own people.

These aren’t our kids. We have to take care of our own. I’ve got mine, Jack.

EDUCATION IS FOR CHILDREN

Why Merging DOE with DOL is Wrong! Education is for Children, NOT Corporations

Republicans have been trying to get rid of the US Department of Education since the day it was formed…one more way they show their hatred of public education.

Their view of education is as a pipeline for corporate workers. Contrast that with schools in Finland (go to minute 4:00) where students achieve at a much higher rate,

But school is about finding your happiness, finding a way to learn what makes you happy.

In the U.S. the schools are about passing the test, and getting a job. Individual teachers are concerned with their students finding happiness, of course, but the current test-and-punish status quo makes that difficult.

That’s sad, because, as a fellow teacher once told me, “Children are 25% of our population, and 100% of our future.”

While a good government should forecast the kinds of jobs that will be available in the future, its focus should be on the students themselves, and what will help them make the best career choice. It should be about helping students realize their interests and their hopes for the future.

That focus should include how to help young people get to college without incurring terrible debt.

We should quit trying to fund two education systems, charters and public schools, and shore up one dynamic public school system that serves the diverse needs of everyone.

Helping children find their way in a difficult and changing world is reasonable. Steering children into jobs that meet the needs of a corrupt government, that does not treasure the dreams of its children, is not the America we believe in.

RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO LOWER YOURSELF

Some Suggestions on How to Engage People Online Without Losing Your Mind

I discovered Michelle Martin’s blog last week. In this post she gives some hints on how to treat others with respect, even when we disagree. Be better than what you despise.

[emphasis in original]

“The Left” is not a monolithic group of God-haters, who despise the military and cops, and seek to destroy the American way of life. And “the Right” is not a monolithic group of white supremacists who hate all immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities. But (and this is an important but) many politicians want us to think that. In this sense, we all need to become resisters.

    • Resist the temptation to demonize.
    • Resist the temptation to demoralize.
    • Resist the temptation to stereotype.

I NEVER FULFILLED MY YOUTHFUL PROMISE…THANK GOODNESS

“You’re a Doctor? I Thought You Were Stupid”: Stellar Grad Speech by Indy ER Physician

I can’t imagine anyone in my high school or college classes who would have mistaken me for someone who was smart. I was a poor student, unmotivated, and not likely to be on anyone’s list of most likely to succeed. In high school I was told that I needed to try harder…put forth some effort.

I was only accepted in college because I was a passable musician, but even that didn’t last and I barely made it through my first year, and was told that once I graduated (assuming I got that far) I should find something else to do.

I did graduate, eventually, and began my career selling sheet music. Then things changed, but that’s a story for another time.

In contrast to my unremarkable beginnings, I finally found some success at the other end of the classroom…as a teacher. Perhaps it’s because I was able to understand those who were unmotivated and not likely to succeed…

I found this graduation speech oddly reminiscent of my own academic history.

I got an F in high school chemistry, and an F in algebra and a bunch of C’s, a couple D’s and if it weren’t for gym and kings court singers, I doubt I would have gotten any A’s. Any kings court singers here? I was the jester in the madrigal dinner. I did a few other things. I was in junior spec, Reviewing the Situation, 1981 baby. I played trumpet in band — actually I was second to the last trumpet — which means I played exactly two notes in every song. Blaaamp blaaammp. Nobody ever saw my name on some academic kudos report sent out by the school and no parent ever uttered the words:

“Louis Profeta made honor roll, why can’t you?”

And if I had to apply to college today at Indiana University, I would not get in.

THE AMA’S COMMON SENSE PROPOSAL

Frustrated AMA adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence

Yet another professional group which has to deal with gun violence has come out with a list of rational gun-control proposals which the NRA will probably claim is trying to “take away your guns!”

Actually, that’s true. The AMA’s proposals will take away your guns if you’ve been found guilty of domestic violence or stalking, if you’re suicidal or if you’re someone who has threatened violence.

In the same way you can lose your drivers license if you’ve become a danger behind the wheel to society at large, you should lose your right to own a gun if you’re a danger to society.

AMA delegates voted to adopt several of nearly a dozen gun-related proposals presented by doctor groups that are part of the AMA’s membership. They agreed to:

— Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

— Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

— Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

— Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

— Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers.

ORGANIZED RELIGION — STILL FOMENTING HATE

Global Uptick in Government Restrictions on Religion in 2016

Lest you think I believe that it’s only Americans who are selfish and tribal, here are results from a recent Pew Survey reminding us how much humans hate “the other.”

Restrictions on religion around the world continued to climb in 2016, according to Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion. This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study.

The share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – rose from 25% in 2015 to 28% in 2016. This is the largest percentage of countries to have high or very high levels of government restrictions since 2013, and falls just below the 10-year peak of 29% in 2012.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Child Abuse, Child Development

2018 Medley #15: Separation of Children from Parents

Just four articles with excerpts. This is what we’re doing in the name of “border security” to the children coming to the U.S.

Separating kids from parents at the border mirrors a ‘textbook strategy’ of domestic abuse, experts say — and causes irreversible, lifelong damage

If you only read one article from this list, read this one. I’ve quoted extensively from it because it contains so much important, and disturbing information.

“What they are doing to these children and parents is inhumane,” Cardoso told Business Insider. “If we just look at the research evidence, anyone can see that these tactics will have long-term consequences for children and families.”

Dr. Lisa Fortuna, medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, told Business Insider that “in situations of stress, the only way that children can cope is if they have a caregiver with them that’s taking care of them and that’s there to protect them.”

The removal of a caregiver can create acute distress that harms a child’s ability to cope and self-soothe, which can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In vulnerable developing brains, that can be especially harmful.



“Historically when things have happened like this — from the literature — when you have this accumulation of trauma and you break up families, you have a direct negative impact on the children, the caregivers, and potentially intergenerational bad effects,” Fortuna said.

The US and Canada have a long history of separating Native Americans from their families. Researchers have linked the experience of Native Americans who were pressured to relocate away from tribes and family groups in the 1950s to problems with substance abuse and depression. Depression and juvenile behavior issues even persisted through the next generation as well.



She said that using children to manipulate adults’ decisions — as Sessions’ policy is intended to do — “is an eerie mirroring” of a “textbook strategy of people who abuse their partners.”

In domestic abuse situations, one partner often uses control of children as a way to “manipulate their partner, maintain control over their partner, or coerce their partner,” Heffron said. “Except now it’s children being manipulated and being used as pawns to control a whole community of people, a whole population of people who are trying to seek safety.”



“We’ve heard from families that have said they would rather risk the plight of coming to the United States and possibly being detained than face sure harm or even death in their home countries,” McKenna said. “It’s a policy that’s just not going to be effective because it’s not addressing the core reasons of why these families and these children are coming to the United States. It’s just this pervasive violence that’s perpetrated by the gangs and narcotraffickers which control communities.”

Family separation also violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifically states that “a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.”

“I think we should be a society that understands that we need to take care of children. If they come to our borders and they are families, we can’t harm them,” Fortuna said. “We have to deal with policy and immigration issues, I understand that, but it cannot be policy that harms people directly, intentionally.”

What separation from parents does to children: ‘The effect is catastrophic’

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements against it — representing more than 250,000 doctors in the United States. Nearly 7,700 mental-health professionals and 142 organizations have also signed a petition urging President Trump to end the policy.

“To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma,” the petition reads.

Maltreatment and the Developing Child: How Early Childhood Experience Shapes Child and Culture

by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

Disrupted Development

While most children experience safe and stable upbringings, we know all too well that many children do not.

The very biological gifts that make early childhood a time of great opportunity also make children very vulnerable to negative experiences: inappropriate or abusive caregiving, a lack of nurturing, chaotic and cognitively or relationally impoverished environments, unpredictable stress, persisting fear, and persisting physical threat. These adverse effects could be associated with stressed, inexperienced, ill-informed, pre-occupied or isolated caregivers, parental substance abuse and/or alcoholism, social isolation, or family violence. Chronic exposure is more problematic than episodic exposure.

In the most extreme and tragic cases of profound neglect, such as when children are raised by animals, the damage to the developing brain – and child – is severe, chronic, and resistant to interventions later in life.

Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development

From the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

...contrary to popular belief, serious fear-triggering events can have significant and long-lasting im- pacts on the developing child, beginning in infancy. Science tells us that young children can perceive threat in their environment but, unlike adults, they do not have the cognitive or physical capacities to regulate their psychological response, reduce the threat, or remove themselves from the threatening situation. Research also shows that very young infants can learn to fear certain places, events, or people. These learned fear responses may disrupt the physiology of the stress response system, making it more difficult for the body to respond appropriately to typical, mild stress in everyday contexts later in life. Furthermore, when fear is learned, normal situations and circumstances can elicit responses that are harmful to a child’s development.

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #14

Testing Rules from Amateurs,
“Fixing” Brains, Public Education,
Teacher Shortage, Your Tax Dollars at Work,
Accountability Double Standards,
Retention in Grade

 LEAVE THE TESTING ANALYSIS TO THE EXPERTS

MI: When Legislators Don’t Understand Testing

When I was teaching, I administered individual diagnostic tests to students. The instructions for every one of the tests reminded me that the test was to be used for its intended purpose. No conclusions unrelated to that intended purpose were considered valid.

Standardized achievement tests, however, are frequently (at this point, more frequently than not, I would wager) used for making conclusions unrelated to their intended purpose.

The reason? Legislators and politicians have taken over the responsibility of choosing how to evaluate children…and, for the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing.

Tests should not be given for any purpose other than that for which it was intended. To do so, as most states are doing, is invalid, irresponsible, and a form of educational malpractice.

In this post we learn of Michigan legislators who consider a bill which requires teachers to “pass the SAT” before earning a teaching certificate. If that sounds odd to you, it’s because you cannot “pass” the SAT. Nor can you “fail” it. It’s not a spelling test, or a final exam.

Pass the SAT? What does that even mean? The SAT gives you a score, which as I told my students every year, is neither “good” nor “bad” until the college you’re applying to says so. I talk to someone on line with ties to the testing and data biz and she absolutely hates it when people talk about passing or failing test. And yet, here we are, demonstrating once again that civilians (even elected ones) don’t understand that tests are produced for very specific purposes and can’t just be swapped to whatever purpose you like as if all tests are fundamentally the same. And instead of seeing some rich source of nuanced data that can be carefully decoded for a wealth of information, these citizens just see a thing that you either pass or fail. No more nuance or richness than a light switch.

And these are the people who legislate how tests must be used and what rewards and punishments will be doled out because of them. Yes, one of the biggest problems with modern ed reform is that it’s amateur hour in education. Knowing what the heck you’re talking about– that’s the test that people in power keep failing.

 

BILLIONAIRES WANT TO “FIX” BRAINS RATHER THAN ADDRESS POVERTY

Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

Gates and his billionaire friends are determined to find the cause of low achievement anywhere but with poverty (just like DeVos, and other NRA shills, look for the answer to gun violence anywhere but with the actual guns). The billionaires are afraid that the solutions might cost money (see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

They want to fund research in executive functioning and why students who live in poverty have such trouble. How about if they start with these reports of actual research already done…

The U.S. does not have an education problem. It has a poverty problem.

…the billionaires reason that not only can executive malfunctioning cause substantial classroom learning problems and school failure, it also can adversely affect socio-economic status, physical health, drug problems, and criminal convictions in adulthood. Consequently, if teachers of poor students know how to improve executive function, their students will do well academically and reap future “real-world benefits.” For Gates, who is always looking for “the next big thing,” this can be it in education.

Most people looking at this reasoning would likely think, “If executive functioning is poorer in poor children, why not eliminate the apparent cause of the deficiency, i.e., poverty?” Not so for the billionaires.

 

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATORS

Our Schools Are Not Failing; Our Policy Makers Are : Raleigh’s Amorphous Way of Measuring Schools

With the exception of “class size caps” the words “North Carolina” in the following quote (and its source blog post) can be replaced with “Indiana” (or any number of other states).

And when you are the North Carolina General Assembly that is trying to privatize the public school system, you undertake a series of actions that weaken public schools such as school performance grades aligned with achievement, intentionally not fully fund schools, create class size caps with no funding of new classrooms, and throw millions of dollars into vouchers.

You try and disenchant the teaching profession by removing due-process rights and graduate degree pay from new teachers to a point where state education programs have experienced a significant drop in candidates.

And yet public schools are still doing the job.

 

PAYING FOR EDUCATION: THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

Fact Sheet: Yes, Increase the Salaries of All Teachers

Indiana and other states need to do something to reverse the growing teacher shortage. The number of students enrolled in teacher education programs in Indiana in 2015-16 has dropped by half since 2010-11. In 2010-11 there were 13,493 students enrolled in teacher training programs. That number was 6,813 in 2015-16.

For the last few decades public school teachers have been made the scapegoat for the failure of students to achieve.

The state government under Mitch Daniels began the punishment of teachers in 2011. Since then

  • collective bargaining rights for teachers have been restricted.
  • the state began what is now the largest private/parochial school voucher program in the nation, and increased funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.
  • the state passed a property tax cap amendment to the constitution, and shifted state funding of public education to the state legislature.
  • teachers have lost tenure (due process) and seniority protections.
  • the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries has been reduced.
  • accountability measures requiring teacher evaluations to be based on student test scores despite lack of validity have been instituted.

A raise in teacher pay is only the first step towards restoring the teaching profession.

Note that the legislature, policy makers, and politicians are not held accountable for societal issues leading to lowered achievement such as funding, class size, and the effects of poverty.

The annual pay for teachers fell sharply from 1995 to 2015 in relation to the annual pay of similar workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, public school teachers are paid less than other comparable workers in every state, and they earn 11 percent less on average, when accounting for nonwage benefits. This calculation is based on comparable weekly wages [emphasis added].

 

MONEY LAUNDERING FOR SCHOOL “CHOICE”

FL Schools Using Taxpayer Money to Teach Ridiculous Lies

Should tax dollars be used to fund schools which teach that “dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not.”

This report from Florida discusses what’s taught in private schools using textbooks from Abeka, BJE Press, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Some of Indiana’s parochial schools use the same books.

Where is your educational tax dollar going?

The constitutional issues here are rather complex. There are two arguments that can be made here on either side. On the one hand, giving taxpayer money to religious entities seems like a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, especially when it’s used to teach things that advocate very sectarian ideas, something the government is clearly forbidden from doing.

On the other hand, the voucher is not aimed specifically at religious schools. Parents get a voucher and can use it to send their kids to any kind of school, religious or secular. The fact that the money is “laundered” through parental choice does make a difference constitutionally because it’s akin to someone getting public assistance and then using a portion of it to tithe at church, or buy some religious product or service. The government is not funding the religious activity directly, so that does mitigate, at least to some degree, the Establishment Clause problem.

Either way, we can be appalled by the fact that our tax dollars are used to promote vile and dishonest ideas like this.

 

THE DOUBLE STANDARD IN SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

‘Wild West of education’

Where is the accountability for all non-public schools which receive state tax dollars? You know that if a public school was avoiding accountability the “reformers” in the state would be all over them. Yet accountability somehow doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to F rated charter or voucher schools.

Indiana grades schools with an A-F system, and according to the state grades, IVS is a failing school. In fact, all virtual charter schools in Indiana received F grades from the state in both 2016 and 2017, according to the State Board of Education’s recent report. Any one of them could be closed by its authorizer, only to be replaced by yet another virtual school.

As Cavazos’ recent explorations of the peculiar origins of the new Indiana Agriculture and Technology School show, Indiana is the Wild West of education. There are few rules for virtual schools to follow, but lots of money to be made.

This past session, our legislators killed three bills regarding accountability for charter school authorizing, even though Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick called for improved accountability in virtual charter schools.

 

LA FINALLY ACCEPTS YEARS OF RESEARCH INTO RETENTION

Louisiana ends policy that held thousands of students back a grade or more

Being forced to choose Social Promotion or Retention is a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other. Investing in education and providing students the help they need (not just what they can afford), is the answer. Not every child will succeed…but many, many more children won’t fail.

“But then when I got the numbers for New Orleans and for Louisiana – and you know a lot of Louisiana was not affected by Katrina – New Orleans was a little bit worse but Louisiana was still really bad on retention,” she says. “And as I talked to more people it was clear that it was an effect of standardized testing.”

Reckdahl recently wrote about overage students in Louisiana and investigated the impacts of retention for The Hechinger Report. So many students have been held back due to mandatory retention that in 2017 the Louisiana State Legislature decided to end it. Now, schools offer summer classes, online classes and help from specialized teachers as alternatives for students who don’t pass the LEAP test.

Reckdahl says there’s one big takeaway from the state’s “experiment” with retention.

“It’s not enough to scare a kid into performing,” she says. “You can’t just say I’m going to hold you back.”

 

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Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, Early Childhood, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, retention

2018 Medley #13: Investing in Children

Retention-in-grade, Early Childhood Education,
Poverty in America,
Poisoning our Children

The anti-tax atmosphere in the U.S. is taking its toll. Every one of the articles listed below deals with a problem that the U.S. refuses, or is unable to pay for…fully funding schools based on the needs of children, lack of investment in early childhood education, the high rate of child poverty, and most disturbing, the lack of funding, ability, or will, to keep our children safe from lead poisoning.

The recent tax plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy, will make it even more difficult for states, especially poor states, to fund their public schools.

PUNISHING CHILDREN WHO NEED HELP

Don’t punish schools because Johnny can’t read. Invest in them instead.

Instead of throwing money at vouchers and charter schools we need to fully fund public schools and give kids the support services that they need. When children struggle with learning to read the tendency is to blame the child and make him or her repeat a grade. This. does. not. work.

Some children need additional help beyond their classroom. Instead of closing their schools because of low achievement test scores, their schools should receive the funds to hire specialists and support staff so students can get the extra help they need. Retention doesn’t help, and the research shows it.

Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We’re not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:
“It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental.”

See also
Thoughts on Michigan’s New Mandatory Retention Law

Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back

INVEST IN OUR FUTURE. INVEST IN OUR CHILDREN

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

We know that investment in early childhood education pays off, but we’re still lagging behind the rest of the world.

The US is a global laggard in investing in early childhood programs. Even though more parents are working, enrollment in early schooling (before kindergarten) at the age of 3 in the US is 30 percentage points below the OECD average. The gap is just as stark for 4-year-olds: 87% are enrolled in pre-primary and primary education, on average, across OECD countries. In the US that figure is 66%.

THE U.N. IS TAKING NOTE OF AMERICA’S POVERTY PROBLEM

America’s poor becoming more destitute under Trump: U.N. expert

If you’ve had the feeling that America’s poor aren’t getting the help they need, you’re not alone. A report from a U.N. investigator brings to light the fact that the U.S., with the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world, is working hard to increase economic inequity.

Poverty in the United States is extensive and deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor people, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

…the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship…

A COUNTRY THAT POISONS ITS CHILDREN

Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Michigan…every one of those states, as per the articles below, have problems with their children being exposed to lead. Every one of those states ought to make sure that public schools are fully staffed to handle children with the special needs caused by lead exposure.

Unfortunately, this is just a small sampling of lead exposure in the United States. A large number of our children are being poisoned and are going untreated. Public schools are tasked with having to deal with children who are living with the effects of lead poisoning…and need to be funded accordingly.

Indiana

EPA Finds More Lead Contamination in Northwestern Indiana

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered more lead contamination in northwestern Indiana.

Soil samples collected since October have revealed more than two dozen contaminated yards in Hammond and Whiting, The Chicago Tribune reported .

Tests found 25 yards with soil lead levels exceeding the federal cleanup standard of 400 parts per million. One home’s soil tested as high as 2,760 parts per million of lead.

Illinois, Chicago

Chicago Residents Use Kits to Test for Lead Contamination

…lead was detected in nearly 70 percent of the almost 2,800 homes tested over the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

New Jersey

Lead in NJ’s children: Fixing it is a billion-dollar problem

No safe level of lead in a child’s blood has been identified, but county health departments generally take action when testing shows 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. About 4,800 children in New Jersey surpass that threshold, according to the latest figures.

Michigan, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids parent fighting lead poisoning wins environmental award

Tests for lead levels in young children living in the 49507 ZIP code, which includes much of southeast Grand Rapids, revealed the area had the most children in the state with elevated lead levels, according to a 2016 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible damage to many organs and is also linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike Flint, where the water supply was to blame for increased lead exposure, Grand Rapids’ problem is primarily tied to the lead paint found in many older homes. Four out of five homes in Grand Rapids – and nearly three out of five countywide – were built prior to 1978, the year lead was banned in paint.

Michigan, Flint

Sh-h-h. Snyder state update left out 75% drop in reading proficiency in Flint

Snyder and his administration didn’t cut it either, apparently ignoring the reading mission the same way they ignored the Flint water crisis: Third-grade reading proficiency in Flint, where Snyder allowed the water — and children — to be poisoned by lead, dropped from 41.8% in 2014 to 10.7% last year.

That’s a nearly three-quarters drop.

Read it again: That’s nearly a three-quarters drop in third-grade reading proficiency among children whose lives were affected by lead poisoned water during the Flint water crisis.

A Slow Death for Our Children.
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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, CommonGood, SchoolFunding, Taxes, Teaching Career

2018 Medley #12

The Common Good,
(Lack of) Teacher Appreciation Week,
The Cost of Charters,
How Would You Change Public Education?

“THE TREADMILL AND THE POOR LAW ARE IN FULL VIGOUR, THEN?” – Ebenezer Scrooge

Republicans are paying for teacher raises with taxes and fees that hit working- and middle-class taxpayers

Ebenezer Scrooge believed that the poor should be sent to prison or poor houses paid for by the state. He believed that he had his fortune, and others could, if they were able, get their own. On the other hand, even Scrooge, at least according to Dickens, paid taxes to support facilities for the poor…

Most people are willing to pay more in taxes to support their public education systems so it makes sense for states to raise more funds to pay for public schools.

Politicians in Arizona have found a way to increase funding for schools without raising taxes on their wealthy donors. As punishment for teachers daring to ask for more money for themselves and their students, Gov. Ducey and his cronies are raising the money through regressive taxation which disproportionately impacts the poor and middle class. For example, one of the new taxes is a new $18 registration fee for cars, which represents a larger percentage of annual income for low wage earners.

There will also be a change in how the state pays for desegregation of public schools, paid for by higher property taxes in low-income school districts.

Similar types of revenue plans are on the table in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Corporate taxes are untouched, with the poor and middle classes carrying the load for the increased spending.

The concept of the “public good” is lost on these people.

Arizona teachers returned to class on May 4 after ending a six-day strike that closed nearly all of the state’s 2,000-plus schools. Educators returned to work after the state legislature gave them a 20 percent salary raise over three years and some extra funding for public education.

But there’s a catch: Lawmakers are going to make them and other middle- and working-class Arizonans pay for the raise.

(LACK OF) TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

This letter, written during Teacher Appreciation Week of 2012, is still current. Politicians and pundits talk a good game, but when it comes to actually appreciating what teachers do, they come up short.

The Indiana legislature, for example, is set to take over two public school systems. Included in the law which takes away the right of the people to elect their local school boards, are provisions rescinding rights for teachers.

This week is the annual celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians of every stripe and school superintendents everywhere will write letters and make proclamations stating how much they value the service and dedication of teachers everywhere. All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these ”leaders” have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation’s children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.

Finn’s Trouble with Teacher Strikes

How dare teachers ask for decent working conditions, up-to-date materials, and a professional salary. Just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week, Chester Finn wishes teachers were more compliant.

Finn’s argument against the strikes range from the creatively misguided to old-school insulting. He has, of course, completely ignored the part of this that is flummoxing many conservatives– the strikes are not simply about teacher wages but about teaching conditions. When you say teachers should suck it up and teach classes of forty kids, you are saying that parents should be happy to put their kids in forty-student classes. When you argue that teachers should stop whining about moldy rooms, you are saying that students should gladly sit in those rooms as well. When you argue that teachers should not get fussy about forty-year-old textbooks, you are saying that students should be happy with those books as well. Teachers work conditions really are student learning conditions, and when those conditions have been deliberately degraded by people who want to save a buck or leaders who want to drive more families into charter schools– in short, when those lousy conditions are the result of deliberate bad choices made by legislators, then all the teacher shaming in the world isn’t really going to help.

Finn says that if we want to ameliorate these conditions, “a great many things need to change in very big ways.” He’s correct, but those many things are less about teachers being uppity and more about state leaders actually committing to support public education.

CHARTERS – GREED IS NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN

Are charter schools private? In Texas courts, it depends why you’re asking

When it comes to taking public tax money, charter school operators shout, “Charter schools are public schools!” On the other hand, if there are requirements required of public schools that charter operators don’t like, then charter schools are “private companies.”

It’s not just Texas, either. See here, here, here, and here.

In 2006, in Dallas, a construction company sued a charter school, alleging that the school stiffed workers on a building contract to the tune of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Eight years later, in Houston, a third grade teacher sued the charter school where she worked, alleging that it had falsified test scores, that it failed to properly provide for students with disabilities and that mold in her classroom had made her sick.

Their claims did not make it very far.

The teacher couldn’t sue the charter because, the Texas Supreme Court said, it’s not a government entity. The construction company couldn’t sue, the same court said years earlier, because it was.

Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

How exactly do charter schools drain money from public schools? In the Public Interest has a report.

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, In the Public Interest has found that public school students in three California school districts are bearing the cost of the unchecked expansion of privately managed charter schools.

The report, Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts, calculates the fiscal impact of charter schools on Oakland Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District.

  • Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school.
  • The annual cost of charter schools to the San Diego Unified is $65.9 million.
  • In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.

FUND OUR FUTURE

If You Could Make ONE change….

John Merrow asks, “If YOU had the power to make ONE major change in American public education immediately, what would you choose to do?”

Unfortunately, ONE change won’t fix the problems associated with public schools since they reflect the society in which they exist. Schools need funding for more than simply one important resource. They need…

  • a well rounded curriculum including physical education and the arts
  • support services including school nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists, transportation, and academic specialists
  • early childhood education
  • special education
  • bilingual education
  • a stable, diverse, well-trained teaching force
  • teaching assistants
  • well maintained school facilities

In other words, all schools need the resources given to wealthy students, like those who attend Scarsdale Union Free School District, New York, or Weston School District, Connecticut.

The choices made by Merrow and his dinner companions were important, but only two of them acknowledged that the key to any change that stood a chance of having an impact on students was money. To his credit, Merrow’s suggestion, eliminating standardized testing, was the only suggestion of the five which would be free, and in fact save money. I would agree that, among other things, eliminating the waste that is the standardized testing program in the U.S. would be a benefit for all public school students and teachers.

Nothing will change, however, until the United States decides that its children are as important as, for example, its military.

“More money is a great idea, and so are equity and universal pre-school,” he said, “But I would want to do something that would make society commit to quality education.” He paused. “If I had the power, I would require every state to pledge to support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it states that education is a fundamental human right. That would move the needle.”

Later that evening I looked up the 1948 document, which has been translated into more than 500 languages. Sure enough, Article 26 states:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

At that point everyone turned to me, and, even though I am much more comfortable asking questions than answering them, I plunged ahead. “I would eliminate standardized testing.”

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