Posted in Bennett, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz

Tiny, Decent Things

PART I: THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

I began my whine against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing when No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 and Indiana doubled down on student testing.

I complained to my principal, the school corporation, my local legislators. I became an officer in my local teachers association, and a delegate to the state teachers association representative assembly, but we couldn’t change things either.

I retired in June of 2010 and two years later joined a public education advocacy group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Since the Save Our Schools March in 2011 in Washington D.C., our members have been working to end and undo “education reform” in Indiana and the U.S.

2011 was a watershed year for privatization in Indiana. Mitch Daniels and his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, along with help from the Indiana General Assembly, hit hard at public schools and public school teachers.

2011 was the year that Indiana…

  • cut $300 million from public school funding while at the same time they…
  • passed a voucher law which drained even more public tax dollars from public schools
  • reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • introduced test-based evaluations for teachers
  • increased funding for charter schools

The privatizers haven’t backed off since then…they’ve continued to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and strip funds from public education to support the ravenous appetite of an ever-expanding privatization plan consisting of vouchers and charter schools.

Each year, when the Indiana legislature is in session, we do our best to minimize the damage done to public schools. And each year we lose a little more ground. We had a bright light of hope in 2012, when Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, beating Tony Bennett on a platform which supported public schools, but that was short-lived. Governor Pence, the legislature, and state school board, worked together to make sure she was unable to slow down the damage to public education by the privatizers.

It’s not just Indiana. A few days ago Nancy Flanagan wrote…

The War on Teachers and the End of Public Education

Three days ago, Diane Ravitch wrote this:

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly.

She’s right. The end of public education as we know it is in sight. And there’s a war on public school teaching toward that end, with Betsy DeVos as Field General.

It keeps happening even though privatization has increased segregation and hasn’t improved instruction or achievement.

PART II: ENCOURAGEMENT

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. It’s hard not to give up. We need frequent inspiration to help reenergize ourselves…to remind ourselves that public education is worth saving, and no matter how many times the politicians and privatizers damage public education in Indiana (and across the nation) we need to keep trying. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we need to get up again. No matter how many times we’re silenced, we need to speak out again.

Public schools are open to every child in the state, not just the wealthy or the able. Public schools are an investment in our future…and support for public education means an educated citizenry, a lower incarceration rate, an improved economy, and happier lives. Public education is not just for me…not just for you…but for us, because we are all responsible for, and dependent upon, each other. The students we serve are not just mine – or yours – or even their parents’. They are ours. Within each child is the future of our society.

In order to save America’s public schools it’s necessary for each of us to do what we can. All of us are important…from those who run for the legislature, to those who work quietly in the background registering voters, to those who convince a friend to support public schools. We must, as Danusha Veronica Goska wrote in ‘Political Paralysis’ From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, do “tiny, decent things” to support the public education system. With enough of those “tiny, decent things,” we can give public education the support it needs to survive.

…when we study the biographies of our heroes, we learn that they spent years in preparation doing tiny, decent things before one historical moment propelled them to center stage.

Moments, as if animate, use the prepared to tilt empires.

Be one of the prepared.

CHANGE THE WORLD

Write your legislator. Write for publication. Run for office. Support and/or contribute to pro-public education candidates. Learn about the issues facing public education and share what you have learned with others. Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends. Volunteer in a public school. Help a child learn. Donate a book to a school or a family. Organize or join with others to support public schools. Join the PTA. Send your children to public schools. Call into a talk show. Write a letter to the editor.

Get involved.

Do something.

Don’t give up.

Goska ended her essay…

I suspect that we all have our three-in-the-morning moments, when all of life seems one no-exit film noir, where any effort is pointless, where any hope seems to be born only to be dashed, like a fallen nestling on a summer sidewalk. When I have those moments, if I do nothing else, I remind myself: the ride in the snow; the volunteers at the food bank; the Nepali peasants who fed me. Activists like the Pole Wladyslaw Bartoszewski who, decades before he would earn any fame, got out of Auschwitz only to go on to even more resistance against the Nazis, and then the Soviets. Invisible, silent people who, day by day, choice by choice, unseen by me, unknown to me, force me to witness myself, invite me to keep making my own best choices, and keep me living my ideals.

If all of us do “tiny, decent things” to support public education, we can slow or even stop the takeover of public education by those who would destroy it.

Alone, each one of us might not be able to “tilt the empire” of the privatizers, but perhaps we can preserve public education long enough for our cumulative efforts to gather strength and eventually succeed.

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Posted in Bennett, Michelle Rhee, Politics, Spellings, Trump, US DOE

Amateur Hour in the Cabinet

Update: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Luke Messer was an Indiana state legislator. He is, in fact, the U.S. Representative for Indiana’s 6th district.

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Has there ever been an Attorney General who didn’t have a law degree?

Have we ever had a Surgeon General who wasn’t a medical professional?

Why has one administration after another installed non-educators – amateurs – as their Secretary of Education?

Since Jimmy Carter first appointed Judge Shirley Hufstedler in 1979 most subsequent Secretaries of Education had never seen the inside of a K-12 classroom since their childhoods. An educator as the Secretary of Education has been the exception instead of the rule.

How is it justified? One example is Margaret Spellings (B.A. Political Science, Univ. of Houston), Secretary under George W. Bush. She claimed that she was qualified for the position because she was a mom. [Apparently North Carolina thinks that is a good enough qualification and has made her head of the University of North Carolina system.] It’s the same mentality that presumes that “anyone can be a teacher” – the same mentality that has perpetrated the low status, poor pay and working conditions, and disrespect of the teaching profession for decades.

President-elect Trump is promising to continue this unfortunate tradition.

A BASKET OF AMATEURS

The people who have been rumored as candidates for the position of Secretary of Education in the new administration have all been not only unqualified, but every one of them is a “reformer”. Anyone of them would be, as the President-elect of Superlatives would say, “a total disaster.”

We began with Ben Carson. The fact that he’s not an educator and has never been an educator isn’t enough to reject him any more than it has been for any other President. However, in a moment of uncharacteristic clarity, Dr. Carson recognized his own lack of credentials for the job and removed himself from consideration. The parade of educationally challenged candidates for the most important education position in the country followed.

There’s Williamson Evers, a Libertarian turned Republican, and an “education expert” at the Hoover Institution. He has a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in political science. His only experience in public education is as a political activist working against public education.

The name of Tony Bennett was mentioned, probably on a recommendation from VP-elect Pence. Bennett is an authentic educator, trained at an actual university’s education school, and former head of the Education Departments in Indiana and Florida. He doesn’t, however, care much about public education, preferring to get campaign contributions from private and charter school operators. Of all the candidates mentioned, Tony Bennett is, at least on paper, qualified to do the job. However, his history of incompetence and alleged criminal activity during his tenure as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction would should disqualify him.

Luke Messer, is an Indiana congressman, who sits on the Education committee in the U.S. House. Messer formed the Congressional School Choice Caucus and has supported measures to allow federal funds to be used for “choice.” Messer is an attorney, not an educator.

Following in quick succession, we heard that Trump was considering…

  • Eva Moskowitz, a charter charlatan who’s trying to take over New York City’s schools one building at a time. She has a B.A. and a Ph.D. in History.
  • Michelle Rhee, who bullied her way into, through, and out of the D.C. schools leaving a poorly investigated testing scandal in her wake, and who has been the champion of charters and the Common Core. Rhee, who taught for three years under Teach For America, has a B.A. in Government, and a Masters in Public Policy.
  • Kevin Chavous, a former personal-injury lawyer turned politician who cofounded DFER and is intent on turning public schools into profit mills.
  • Betsy DeVos, a right wing, anti-union, anti-public education, religious right zealot who has spent millions trying to kill public education. DeVos attended a parochial school in high school, followed by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI where she graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration and Political Science.

Two of the previous eight candidates have actual public school teaching experience (Bennett and Rhee), and only one (Bennett) has a degree in education, but all eight of them are advocates for school privatization under the guise of “choice.”

HISTORICAL INTERLUDE

The latest threat for the position is Jerry Falwell Jr.

Before we talk about him, I just want to mention that his father, Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and blamer of terrorism on abortionists, feminists and gays, once said of public schools,

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

Contrast that with Founding Father John Adams who said,

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.

TEACHERS NOT PREACHERS

So, Jerry Falwell Jr. is the latest rumored candidate for the Secretary of Education. He, like most of the others has no experience in K-12 education, except as a student, but even that was not in public schools. Falwell Jr. went to parochial schools, then attended his father’s Liberty University where he earned a B.A. in Religious Studies. He then went to law school at the University of Virginia.

Trump Considering Creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. For Position In Department Of Education

Those “passions” include teaching creationism instead of evolution, teaching that being gay is a sin, promoting the idea of taxpayer money funding religious schools via school vouchers and repealing the Johnson Amendment so that tax-exempt universities such as his, alongside houses of worship, can endorse political candidates.

…So it comes as no surprise that Trump, who bases a lot of his decisions on who’s blindly loyal to him, is likely to make Falwell Jr. a part of his administration. However, it should worry anyone who cares about the future of our public school system.

Falwell and his gang have a plan for public schools: If they can’t turn them into fundamentalist Christian academies, they’d like to drain their funding away and move to a voucher system of taxpayer-funded private schools, most of them religious in nature.

Placing Falwell, or for that matter, any of the above candidates, in the office of Secretary of Education, would be a direct attack on public schools, and public school children.

Brace yourselves…

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Posted in Article Medleys, Bennett, Charters, Indiana, library, McCormick, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, Testing, Trump

Medley #28: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 2

The Education Plan: Focusing on Privatization

THE INDIANA CONNECTION

Trump Rumored To Consider Tony Bennett, Luke Messer For Education Secretary

More possibilities for U.S. Secretary of Education…

Tony Bennett left Indiana, after losing his race for Superintendent of Public Instruction to Glenda Ritz, and went to work as the Education Commissioner in Florida. He resigned after evidence surfaced that he colluded with charter school operators to change school ratings in favor of the privately run schools. He also was charged with misusing public resources for political purposes…something he and other Republicans consistently blamed teachers for doing during the campaign.

If he’s appointed U.S. Secretary of Education we can be sure that he will support more privatization. How would he differ from recent Secretaries of Education? While he is no friend to public education, Bennett, if selected, would join Terrell Bell and Rod Paige as the only Secretaries of Education to have actually spent time teaching in America’s K-12 public schools.

Messer has never set foot in a classroom other than as a student, but has been active in “reform” groups in Indiana, most notably, Hoosiers for Economic Growth and School Choice Indiana. He favors charter and private school vouchers over public education.

These two, along with names previously mentioned, Ben Carson and Williamson Evers, would do their best to destroy the public schools in America in favor of private school vouchers and charter schools.

Indiana’s former school’s chief Tony Bennett and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer are two names swirling around Washington, D.C. as possible picks by President-elect Donald Trump to be the Secretary of Education, according to journalists and policy advisors at a forum Monday.

Ritz’s defeater: ‘Politics are not going to drive my decisions’

The new Superintendent-elect in Indiana claims to be against vouchers, too much testing, and the A-F grading system. During the election Jennifer McCormick denied that the money she got from former Tony Bennett supporters would determine her policies, and that, as a Republican, she can convince Republican legislators to favor public school needs over private schools and vouchers.

Outgoing Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, spent her tumultuous four years in office working against the Republican attack on public education. She fought against the A-F grading system, privatization, the junk-science behind teacher evaluation schemes, and the misuse and overuse of testing, and was punished by the Vice-President-elect and the legislature. Now that McCormick has defeated Ritz, we’ll see if she is willing and able to stand up to the piles of money pouring into legislative campaign coffers from pro-privatization organizations.

She’s skeptical of the money Indiana spends on private school vouchers. She doesn’t like that schools are rated based on a single A-F grade. And on the campaign trail, she distanced herself from Tony Bennett, the GOP schools chief who lost to Ritz in 2012 and left a controversial legacy that included tying teacher pay and school ratings to standardized test scores.

NO EXPERIENCE. NO CLUE.

Post 2016 Election Post

President-elect Trump obviously knows very little about public education, and what he knows has been twisted by “reformers” and the erroneous “common knowledge.” For example, he believes that “our students perform near the bottom of the pack for major large advanced countries.” This is demonstrably false.

As a group, American students scored “average” among OECD nations in Reading and Science, and “below average” in math. In total score the United States did better than 49% of other countries among the 61 nations and 4 (Chinese) cities who administered the PISA…not the best score in the world, but definitely not “the bottom of the pack.”

When student social class is taken into account, the U.S. does a lot better. Nearly all the OECD countries have lower child poverty rates than the U.S. and poverty is what drives down test scores. When low poverty American students are compared with low poverty students in other nations, the U.S. moves to a much higher level on international rankings. Poverty has been ignored or dismissed when discussing U.S. student achievement, but “social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, [so] the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.”

Privatization inevitably results in a class-based education system where underfunded public schools will be left with the hardest and most expensive to teach students.

Public education will be improved by investing in, and improving the lives of the students living in poverty, not in closing public schools.

And education is a matter that is largely left to states and localities. Trump has indicated that he would leave education to the states and localities to a even greater extent than ESSA does. However, at the same time, he has said things such as that he wants to abolish Common Core, which is a state matter. He has no record of governing (he has never held office), has no demonstrated expertise or knowledge of policy, is unpredictable, is, and is especially interested in amassing power. Education does not appear to be much on his radar screen. So some of what happens will depend upon his education-related appointments, but otherwise, who knows how much he will leave education to states and localities and how much he will want to control himself? Who knows what he will do?

THE DUMBING DOWN OF THE AMERICAN VOTER

President Trump and Public Education

John Merrow discusses how the test-and-punish education of the last four decades has led to the lower ability of American students to problem solve. He blames the resulting lack of problem solving skills for the election of Donald Trump after a campaign of “xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, anti-intellectualism and denial of science…”

The election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, after a campaign of xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, anti-intellectualism and denial of science, is proof positive that we are now paying the price for having denied generations of children an education built on inquiry and respect for truth.

The country can survive four years of Donald Trump, but our democracy cannot afford schools that fail to respect and nurture our children. It is within our power to create schools that ask of each child “How are you intelligent?” and then allow and encourage them to follow their passion. If we fail to change our schools, we will elect a succession of Donald Trumps, and that will be the end of the American experiment.

CHARTERS

Loosely regulated, charter schools pose fiscal risk

The Trump administration promises to increase vouchers and charters. Will that help improve student achievement, or just help improve the corporate bottom line?

In an article published earlier this month, Business Insider observed: “We just got even more evidence supporting the theory that charter schools are America’s new subprime mortgages.” The magazine wrote: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released the results of a damning audit of the charter school industry which found that charter schools’ relationships with their management organizations pose a significant risk to the aim of the Department of Education.

The findings in the audit, specifically in regard to charter school relationships with CMOs, echo the findings of a 2015 study that warned of an impending bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis one of the authors, Preston C. Green III, told Business Insider.

With more than 6,700 charter schools spread across 42 states and the District of Columbia, fraudulent activities associated with the publicly funded, but privately owned, charter school industry have become the fodder for almost daily news stories.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

What can educators and concerned citizens do to counteract the damage already done to our students by the hateful language of the past campaign?

In the articles below we hear from authors, librarians, and an educator who encourage us to 1) help children learn to be understanding and tolerant of differences, 2) help adults examine their own motivations, and 3) remind us all to continue to resist the cash-driven effort to privatize public education.

A Declaration in Support of Children

Therefore we, the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators, do publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.

On Safety Pins, Advocacy, Whiteness, and our field

So let’s start communicating in clear, non-bullshitty ways. Here are my expectations for White people in the field (and to be even clearer, I am a White woman, and much of this I’m writing down to hold myself accountable).

Adieu, Core Warriors: The Post-Election Realignment

Second of all, if it’s okay with you, some of us are going to keep Resisting. Common Core was always only a highly visible symptom of a bigger problem– the destruction and privatization of American public education. And that issue is still ongoing, has in fact gathered steam, despite its occasional set-backs, because it is fueled by the most powerful force in 21st century politics– giant heaping piles of money.

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Posted in Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Evaluations, GradingSchools, IREAD-3, ISTEP, Mitch Daniels, NPE, Pence, poverty, Privatization, retention, Ritz, Teaching Career, Testing

A Big Red “F” For Indiana

Indiana legislators and “reformers” love letter grades…so communities (via their schools) are graded as A through F using already invalid ISTEP scores. Those grades are good for things like getting campaign donations from privatizers, bashing public school teachers, and directing real estate agents to where the money is, but not much else.

Now that the Network for Public Education has given Indiana a grade of F because of the failure to actually help improve student achievement and public education, legislators will likely complain that these grades aren’t valid…that they’re biased (irony alert)…or even more likely, they’ll ignore them completely.

An editorial in Sunday’s (Feb. 14, ’16) Journal Gazette summarizes the report about Indiana…

State gets poor marks in dedication to schools

Indiana earns Fs for supporting teacher professionalism, resisting privatization and investing school funding resources wisely. It earned Ds for rejecting high-stakes testing and giving children a chance for success. Indiana public schools continue to serve the vast majority of students. Public school enrollment this fall was 1,046,146 students, compared to 84,030 non-public students.

The poor mark for high-stakes testing won’t surprise anyone familiar with the state’s continuing struggles with ISTEP+, the standardized test administered to students in grades 3 through 8. Indiana also is among a handful of states requiring third-graders to pass a reading test to be promoted to fourth grade.

The state did get a B in school finance…and a D in High Stakes Testing and Chance for Success, though, as we’ll see I disagree with the High Stakes Testing grade.

The grade card then, is 3 Fs, 2 Ds, and a B – not the worst in the nation (thanks to Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi), but certainly not anything to be proud of.

The complete report from Network for Public Education (NPE) can be found here

My comments, and my grades, along with NPE’s, cover three of the categories. These three alone would be enough reason to change the political leadership in Indiana in November (if not sooner). Add to that the refusal of the Republican governor to work cooperatively and respectfully with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an actual teacher, and we have a serious situation for Indiana’s school children.

[On an interesting side note, the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), Glenda Ritz, used to be a Republican. She switched parties in order to help us get rid of former SPI and “reformer” extraordinaire, Tony Bennett. She recognized that his and then Governor Mitch Daniels’ policies were damaging the public schools in our state. Suellen Reed, the SPI before Tony Bennett, also a Republican, is currently on the advisory board of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a pro-public education group fighting “reform” and privatization. She served for 16 years as SPI under Democratic and Republican Governors in a congenial atmosphere which disappeared with the Daniels/Bennett administration.]

FAIL: HIGH STAKES TESTING

Indiana uses the ISTEP to grade schools and evaluate teachers, neither of which is a valid use of a tool meant for measuring student achievement. Last year’s ISTEP mess has at least encouraged the legislature to rethink the test and likely go with a different provider. However, grading schools and teachers using student achievement test scores will probably continue no matter what test is used.

Indiana also uses the ISTEP to label each school and school system on an A through F scale. Schools and neighborhoods are then either damned or lauded. That judgement is based, for the most part, on the economy of the families whose children attend the school since standardized tests have a direct correlation with family income. The D and F labels attached to low-income schools are detrimental to the community, to its families, and to its children. Students and their families are punished for having low incomes. Teachers are punished for working in high poverty schools.

Furthermore, Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don’t catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

NPE used various criteria in which to give Indiana a D. They also figured their grade before the monumental failure of last year’s ISTEP. My feeling is that the overuse, abuse, and misuse of tests in Indiana is reason enough to award the state a BIG RED F.

NPE Grade – D
My Grade – F

FAIL: PROFESSIONALIZATION OF TEACHING

NPE graded states on their ability to treat teachers with respect as professionals. Indiana fails.

The legislative chairs of the respective education committees (Robert Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, and Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee) seem to take pleasure in depriving public school educators of their rights. In 2011 they led the drive to

  1. eliminate due process for teachers. In the past administrations which wished to terminate a teacher had to allow the teacher a hearing with an impartial mediator. This allowed the teacher to present her case in front of someone who was not involved with the school system and could rule impartially. We call this Due Process. The law was changed in 2011. Now, teachers who are to be terminated can request a meeting with the superintendent or the school board. The chances of a fair and impartial hearing are reduced. This is what was meant by the term tenure in K-12 education in the state. Indiana teachers no longer have it.
  2. reduce collective bargaining to only salary and insurance. Teachers and school systems no longer have the right to negotiate things like class size, evaluations, prep time, or parent teacher conferences. Teachers now must do what they’re told, despite the damage it might do to student learning. The collective bargaining law changes (actually all the law changes in 2011) were meant to punish the teachers unions in Indiana, which they have done, but they also limit the flexibility that school systems have in negotiations as well. The supermajority in Indiana doesn’t seem to understand (or care) that negotiations and bargaining is a process that takes two parties: the teachers and the school system.
  3. use student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers. Why is it that there are fewer “bad” teachers (based on student test scores) in wealthy areas? Why is it that schools in high-poverty areas always seem to have many more “bad” teachers? Because student test scores reflect the level of parental income. Using student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers (and schools) is quite simply a misuse of tests and should be stopped.
  4. force schools to abandon the step-scale for teacher pay and eliminate seniority. Apparently the supermajority and its “reformer” donors don’t consider experience a benefit in public schools. I wonder if they would be happy with an inexperienced teacher for their own child…an inexperienced surgeon taking out their appendix or an inexperienced attorney defending them in court. The truth is, experience matters, in every job or profession.

The legislature and the governor also have a problem listening to the elected educational professional in the government, the State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz. Instead they’ve worked tirelessly, and successfully, to limit her influence on Indiana’s education policy. Apparently they believe that the auctioneer that leads the Senate education committee, the florist that leads the House education committee, and the radio talk show host who sits in the governor’s chair, all know more about public education than someone who

  • is a National Board Certified Teacher with two masters degrees
  • is a former Teacher of the Year
  • has 33 years of teaching experience in public education

Or perhaps it’s that she’s a Democrat and former union leader who got more votes than their “reformist” friend, Tony Bennett…

Here’s an irony for you…the legislature is “studying” the reason for the looming teacher shortage.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION

Public Education is a public trust. It should be funded and controlled by the public through democratically elected school boards. President John Adams wrote,

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Indiana has the most expansive voucher program in the nation, diverting millions of dollars from public schools to private, mostly parochial schools.

Indiana politicians also favor privately run charter schools over public schools by methods such as loan forgiveness (even when the school closes), additional special-favor loans to charter schools, and support for the proven failure of virtual charter schools.

In Indiana “failing” public schools end up as “failing” charter schools, which then become “failing” parochial schools getting taxpayer dollars. Instead of redistributing tax money reserved for public education to private corporations and religious organizations, the state ought to help students in struggling schools. In the past, Indiana was one of the few states where struggling schools got higher funding than schools in wealthy areas. That changed in 2015. Now, the better you do on standardized tests, the more money you get.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools

…changes in the funding system proposed Monday appear likely to funnel most of those extra dollars to wealthy and growing suburban school districts, while some of the poorest and shrinking districts could actually get less money.

So, instead of putting money where it’s needed, the state “rewards” schools for high performance, forcing students in poorer areas to do more with less. Those same students are then “blamed” for “failing” and their schools get closed or turned over to a charter company. The failure of the state to provide for the students is blamed on the school, the teachers, and the students, and privatization gets the PR boost, and the profits, it was after all along.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: INDIANA

The state of Indiana is lead by a “reformist” governor and a “reformist” supermajority in both houses of the legislature. Their goals appear to be the complete privatization of public schools, the deprofessionalization of public school teachers, and the elimination of Indiana’s teachers unions, all accomplished through testing.

Things are not likely to change soon. Politicians talk a good game, but they are driven by the need to be reelected, which means they respond to those who pay their campaign expenses, i.e. donors. And the biggest contributors are the corporate donors who use public education tax revenue as a source for profit.

If Indiana wants to improve its public schools…and we ought to pause to think about whether or not that’s actually true…which will benefit all our children and our communities, we’re going to have to change things. Poverty is the main cause of low achievement. As long as Indiana’s 22% child poverty rate, the same rate as the nation’s, continues, we’ll have struggling students. At this point it will take several generations to undo the damage done by the last 12 years of the supermajority legislature and the last two governors.

There are no “silver bullets” when it comes to improving schools. The myth that “three great teachers in a row” can close the achievement gap has always been a ploy. However, if states are willing to invest time and money guided by the right values, we will see steady progress for our public schools and our nation’s children. 

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Posted in Article Medleys, Bennett, Charters, Corp Interest, Duncan, John Kuhn, Teaching Career, Testing, Value-Added, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2014 Medley #26

Good Teaching, Duncan, “Reformers,” Charters, Politics, VAM, Bennett, Wal-Mart, Testing

NO TIME TO THINK

Our Saws Are Dull, All of Them

Here is a thoughtful piece by John Kuhn about how America’s public school teachers have no time to think.

There is no time to think in most of our schools. I mean, of course there’s time to think about today’s content and to think about tomorrow’s lesson plan. But beyond that, long-term thinking–thinking big, new thoughts, imagining different realities–is a luxury that busy people don’t have. Thought experiments can be joyous, and they can be terribly inefficient when they don’t pan out…

How can we hope to become truly professionalized when our industry’s philosophers haven’t time to dream? Teaching doesn’t have any Einsteins daydreaming in a patent clerk’s office; they’re all hustling to get their copies made before the bell rings…

Teachers have no voice in policy, as has been noted often. Non-practitioners may implement wrong-headed approaches, the same ones others implemented in bygone eras–and they may go all-in on them, and stick with them long after it becomes clear that they don’t really help–but yet, there’s this thing: the teachers, even if they wanted to improve their profession, are too busy to engage fully in the same way the leading minds of other professions engage. We can’t engage in policy-shaping; we can’t even sharpen our saws.

FEDS GO AFTER COLLEGES OF EDUCATION

Teachers Colleges: The Federal Power Grab

Not content with destroying K-12 public education Duncan sets his sights on higher education using the fake science of VAM and invalid use of K-12 student test scores.

Arne Duncan wants to set the standards for teachers’ colleges and use the power of the federal purse to evaluate them. It seems there is nothing that Arne Duncan is not competent to judge, other than the success or failure of his own initiatives. He has used Race to the Top funding to push test-based teacher evaluations (VAM), which have worked nowhere. He has used RTTT to impose Common Core standards, which are designed to align with tests that will fail most students. He has used RTTT to encourage states to privatize more public schools. Many districts now, spurred on by Duncan’ s rhetoric, are thinking of adopting the New Orleans model of an all-charter district, even though the Recovery School District rates 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana and most of the charter schools are graded as D or F schools by the state.

THE HOW AND WHY OF “REFORM”

Yes. It’s on purpose. The three articles which follow…the first by Peter Greene (Curmudgucation), the second by Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster), and the last, from Rethinking Schools, give both the history and rationale behind the global education reform movement (GERM). If you are new to the fight and want to know some of what’s happened and why, these are must-read articles.

The Big Picture

By creating a system in which teachers are no longer the experts on what they teach or how to teach it, reformsters turn teachers from educated professionals into content delivery workers. You don’t need a building full of education experts– just one or two to direct the rest of a staff of drones. Use a boxed program like engageNY– anybody who can read the script and the instructions can teach students.

Teachers frequently scratch their head and ask, “Are they TRYING to drive people out of the profession? ” Well, probably, yes. Teach for America “teachers” are not a stop-gap measure– they’re the ideal. They don’t stay long enough to get raises, and they don’t saddle the district with any expensive pension costs. And they’re young and healthy, so even insurance costs are low. Teachers who spend a lifetime in the profession are an expensive nuisance; what we need are a regular supply of compliant short-timers.

The Bleak Friday Interview

…when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve.

Why the Right Hates Public Education

a) Education is a multibillion dollar market, and the private sector is eager to get its hands on those dollars.
b) Conservatives are devoted to the free market and believe that private is inherently superior to public.
c) Shrinking public education furthers the Republican Party goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
d) Privatization undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party.
e) Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.
f) All of the above.

CHARTERS

The Number of Charter Schools Suspending Kids Is Totally out of Control

Charters claim to be public schools, but in truth are private schools which are run with public money. They should be required to take all students…and provide for their education. Instead, when they run up against students who are more expensive or more difficult to teach, they too often “counsel them out”…or in this case, just kick them out.

…the disproportionate suspension rates are a symptom of a much deeper problem. Charter schools, he says, are using harsh, zero-tolerance discipline to weed out problem students and boost standardized test scores.

“I think there’s strong evidence from [studies] and anecdotally” that support that theory, said Bryant, director of Education Opportunity Network, a public-school policy center. “Charter schools discriminate and select their students in many different ways,” he added, including out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, to winnow out underachievers.

That’s because of the bargain that charter schools have made with the taxpayers that fund them. In exchange for taxpayer money and the freedom to innovate, charter schools are held to a higher academic standard, particularly on student achievement and assessment tests. But because they’re still public schools, Bryant said, they have to accept any kid who wants to attend.

IT’S TIME FOR TEACHERS TO SPEAK UP

So, Teacher, You Don’t Want to be “Political?” That’s No Longer and Option

How many teachers didn’t vote in the last election?

  1. If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not…
  2. Even if you don’t like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway…
  3. Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day…
  4. If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring. Don’t believe me? Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations…
  5. If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right? The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency…

The only way left for you to not be “political” is to stop being committed to public education. So, welcome to “the collective”, like it or not. Your critics have made sure that you are locked in. [emphasis added]

VAM IS JUNK SCIENCE

Principals’ Group Latest to Criticize ‘Value Added’ for Teacher Evaluations

The American Statistical Association has already “advised caution” on the use of VAM for teacher evaluations…now a group of professionals does the same. When will “reformers” decide to listen to professionals?

The National Association of Secondary School Principals has entered the loud fray over teacher evaluation, giving preliminary approval to a statement that says test-score-based algorithms for measuring teacher quality aren’t appropriate.

HYPOSCRISY AND HUBRIS

Probe links Bennett to wire fraud

Disgraced former Indiana and Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett had to pay a measly $5000 fine for his dishonesty in dealings with charter schools in Indiana. Now, it turns out that he was using state employees for campaigning…on state time. Those of us who voted for Glenda Ritz also paid, through our taxes, for Bennett to campaign against her. What a hypocrite.

INDIANAPOLIS – A monthslong investigation into former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett’s use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by The Associated Press.

Despite the recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution for such charges – which could have carried up to 20 years in prison.

The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law.

That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.

STOP SHOPPING AT WALMART

A Walton’s Plan to “Fix Public Education.” Uh huh.

I cringe when I hear a teacher talk about shopping at Wal-Mart. Aside from the fact that they get taxpayers to foot the bill for billions of dollars in welfare costs, they pay more billions to support charter schools and voucher programs. These people are the epitome of anti-public school privatizers.

When Carrie Walton Penner enrolls her children at a predominately-TFA-staffed charter school as their principal means of formal education, and when she publicizes their test scores as evidence that the charter model she promoted for other people’s children has served her children well, then I will consider the charters that she pays for with money that should go to paying Walmart workers a living wage as being “successful.”

Not a minute sooner.

RELATIONSHIPS MATTER IN SCHOOL

“This Will Revolutionize Education” –A Story That Needs To Be Told Again and Again

Larry Cuban brought this great video to our attention…

As a historian of school reform, I have written more than I want to remember about those rose-colored, feverish, high-tech dreams that appear time and again promising to transform classroom practice and how students learn. This video is seven minutes long and it vividly captures the hollowness of each generation’s claim that “This Will Revolutionize Education.” But far more important the video zeroes in on the centrality of the teacher to student learning beyond conveying information which new technologies are superb in doing.

THE ABUSE AND MISUSE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS

High-Stakes Handout

Here’s what to do when you want to fight against high stakes tests! Send the following to your legislators…often!

1. These tests are untested…
2. These tests don’t tell us where we can improve…
3. The tests distort what and how teachers teach…
4. The tests have shown no positive results…
5. The tests are incredibly costly in both time and money…

5 Things you can do to stop the use of these tests on your child.

1. Share this message with your friends and form a group to fight for change.

2. Send this message to your state legislator demanding an end to this testing.

3. Send this message to your local school board with a letter asking them for support in ending high-stakes testing.

4. Use this information to write a letter to the editor demanding change.

5. Most importantly, refuse* to allow your child to be tested on these high-stakes standardized tests.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Bennett, Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz, SBOE, vouchers

Mugging Indiana Part 2

I. STRIPPING RITZ OF POWER

Indiana Governor Mike Pence pretends to be conciliatory by dissolving CECI, his failed attempt at a duplicate education department. However, with that one step forward the Governor has taken two…or perhaps more…steps back.

First, Governor Pence will use his supermajority-rubber-stamp-legislature to do what Tony Bennett, CECI, and his minions on the State Board of Education (SBOE) could not do. He is going to remove the State Superintendent of Public Instruction from the position of chair of the SBOE. Defeating Superintendent Glenda Ritz has been his goal since they both took office in 2012. He and his partners in the legislature and the SBOE have spent the last two years trying various methods of overturning the votes of 1.3 millions citizens of Indiana. Now, with the legislature in his pocket, he can orchestrate removing her from her only position as chair of the SBOE.

In the end Glenda Ritz, who won election over the corrupt incumbent, Tony Bennett, will have only one of the 11 seats on the state board and will no longer carry any leverage as chairperson. The rest of the seats will belong to appointees of Bennett’s pal, Mitch Daniels, and Governor Pence himself. Without Superintendent Ritz as chairperson defending public education, the privatizers, led by Elsener, will end all dissent on the board and fully join the governor and legislature in the process of privatizing public education in Indiana.

Pence’s Board of Education overhaul wins backing

Pence announced Thursday that he would like to have his appointees to the State Board of Education select their own chairman, a move that places Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz in danger of losing the chairmanship. Pence won the backing of House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long shortly after his announcement.

The only surprise here is that it took Governor Pence this long to figure out a way to scrub 1.3 million Hoosier votes.

After this final victory over the voters of Indiana the Governor will continue with his ALEC based plans…

II. CHARTERS

The Governor has called for — and the Supermajority in the legislature will undoubtedly give him — increased funding for charter schools in Indiana. The privately run charter schools, operating with little or no public oversight, will take tax money meant for public schools, and use it to enrich their shareholders and CEOs. Almost as an afterthought, they will hire minimally trained or inexperienced instructors to teach children whose neighborhood schools have been closed by the also-now-rubber-stamp-SBOE (See part V. below). Has the Governor checked to see how Indiana’s charters are doing?

Results from Indiana and elsewhere around the country have shown that charter schools don’t do a better job of teaching children than traditional public schools. They enrich shareholders and CEOs, use poorly trained or inexperienced personnel (aka cheaper) whenever possible, and do it all with public tax dollars. Charters have a habit of skimming the best students from traditional public schools (or dumping those lower achieving students who happen to sneak in somehow), so that the most expensive and most difficult to teach students remain in the now drastically underfunded public schools.

III. FREEDOM TO DESTROY THE TEACHING PROFESSION

The policy which the Governor named “Freedom to Teach” will allow schools to gain exemption from certain regulations in order to “innovate.” The waivers will allow schools to “innovate” by hiring unqualified and unlicensed teachers, ignore the nearly eviscerated collective bargaining law for staff, and ignore other laws meant to protect employees and improve education. With lower staff salaries, more of our tax money will be funneled into the pockets of the businesses, their shareholders, and the CEOs running the schools…some of which will likely find its way back to the reelection coffers of the politicians who made it all possible.

IV. VOUCHERS

Like charter schools, vouchers don’t improve education or save the state money. Vouchers are tax dollars which flow into church collection plates or corporate bank accounts. The Governor wants to open vouchers up to everyone…and increase yet again the amount of public money allotted for the privatization of Indiana’s schools. Have vouchers saved the state money? Have they improved education?

V. TAKEOVER SCHOOLS

The now-supermajority SBOE, under direction from the Governor, will be able to take control of money coming from the federal government (privatizers as well) and use it to take over public schools and public school systems. Those schools would then likely be turned over to private corporations to function as charter schools…

…full circle.

DID BENNETT REALLY LOSE?

We, the voters of Indiana, did this to ourselves. Even though we elected Glenda Ritz, Indiana voters chose as governor Mike Pence who was clear in his quest for privatized education…and reelected the legislature’s architects of the Daniels-Bennett plan for privatizing public education in the state.

Tony Bennett doesn’t need to be in the Superintendent’s chair for his plan to succeed in Indiana.

It’s worth repeating. The Governor’s plan for education is bad for children.

  • Charter schools don’t do any better than traditional public schools 1 2 3
  • Vouchers do nothing to help public education or save money 1 2
  • Testing isn’t teaching and tests don’t measure everything. They especially don’t measure the success or failure of teachers and schools. The number one factor in low test scores is poverty 1 2 3
  • Unions are not the cause of students’ low achievement…and union teachers don’t become teachers just for the high pay 1 2 3
  • Experienced teachers are better than beginners 1
  • Indiana schools are not, and never have been, failing. Poverty is the main cause of academic low achievement 1 2

It’s not too late. The same legislators we elected in 2012 and 2014 can be told that a privatized education system is not what we want for the children of Indiana. If even half of Glenda Ritz’s 2012 supporters contacted state legislators the response would be positive.

Click here to contact your state senators and representatives. Tell them to support PUBLIC schools, not privatization and the deprofessionalization of educators.

After you’ve written to your legislator, contact the legislators on the House Education Committee…and the Senate Education and Career Development Committee…and tell them the same thing.

We can’t wait another two years to stop the Daniels-Bennett-Pence plan for privatization of Indiana’s schools.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Bennett, Test Cheating

Bennett: Commissioner of Cheating

“Back in the day” when we talked about cheating it was the students who were cheating…using crib sheets, copying homework, stealing test questions or plagiarizing research papers.

These days, however, cheating comes at all levels of the education world and the fault is the overuse and misuse of tests.

Campbell’s law couldn’t be more spot on…

The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

With the increase in high stakes testing starting after A Nation At Risk in 1983, the pressure to improve test scores — by any means — has increased. The attempt to increase student achievement has led to widespread cheating by students, of course, but also by teachers, administrators, departments of education, and politicians (of course).

The advice I got from my first principal and colleagues when I was a beginning teacher to…

…just teach the curriculum. The “test” will reflect how much the students know. You shouldn’t “teach to the test…”

…is now just a memory of the appropriate use of tests — although even then, there were significant problems. In today’s world of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, teaching to the test is not only encouraged, but required.

So it comes as no surprise that joining the ranks of cheaters and alleged cheaters like Dr. Hall in Atlanta, Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C., and others in cities around the country like New York City, El Paso, Philadelphia, Columbus, Birmingham, Los Angeles, and lest we forget, Houston, the home of the Texas Miracle…is former Superintendent of Public Instruction of Indiana, Tony Bennett, now the Commissioner of Education for the state of Florida.

It seems that one of Bennett’s favorites charter school operators — and Republican campaign donors — would not likely have been happy with a school grade less than an A in 2012, and with the help of his staff he set to work manipulating the numbers.

The AP reports

Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.

In yet another lesson we should all heed about being careful what you put in an email, Bennett and his staff exchanged emails discussing the problem.

…the emails clearly show Bennett’s staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.

Not only was Bennett trying to protect the feelings (and political contributions) of a major Republican donor, but he was also trying to cover up the faults in his poorly researched A-F grading system which he had dumped on the public schools in Indiana. Few understood the system — apparently including members of Bennett’s staff — and the state is now trying to figure out what to do with Bennett’s mess.

In order to fix the problem, Bennett had his staff manipulate the figures giving the wealthy donor/charter school operator an A. Bennett, it must be said, denies that the reason for the change was the poor grade for the charter. He claims that the system was faulty and had to be tweaked. [This of course, gives us the opportunity to reply that if that’s the case, “WE TOLD YOU SO!”]

It’s my understanding that changing grades for money or personal gain, which is what this seems to be, would be unethical, in most places illegal, and certainly cheating. Would it be cheating for a teacher to change a student’s grades if the parents offered him money? Would it be cheating for a principal to insist that a teacher change a student’s grades if a parent offered to buy the school a new PA System…or Computer lab…or football stadium?

Cheating is reprehensible. It’s tragic that those people entrusted with the education of America’s children, who ought to hold themselves to a high ethical standard for the students to emulate, should be the ones to model such inappropriate behavior. Cheating betrays the trust of students, parents, and the community. I understand that people will do things under pressure to protect themselves which they wouldn’t do under other circumstances. I understand that people’s livelihoods are at stake. I understand what fear of a job loss would feel like to a family with medical bills, mortgage payments and children to feed and clothe. I understand that real life makes self-preservation necessary sometimes…at the expense of one’s dignity and honesty. I also understand that I was lucky enough to never have been forced into making those choices.

But it’s still wrong.

Is Bennett’s alleged cheating any less than Rhee’s…or Hall’s…or the educators who allegedly cheated to increase their students’ scores? Shouldn’t he be held to the same standard of accountability that he demands for teachers and schools?

It’s time to end this test-and-punish, close-and-privatize nightmare and focus our attention on improving neighborhood public schools.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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