Category Archives: Chicago

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.


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


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%.


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…


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.


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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Filed under Article Medleys, Chicago, Early Childhood, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, retention

2018 Medley #5

Unqualified Teachers and the Teacher Shortage,
DPE for Dummies, School as a Business,
Closing Schools, Poverty,
School Shootings, Arming Teachers,
Legislators in the pay of the NRA


Indiana lawmakers resurrect proposal to let districts hire more unlicensed teachers

[Not law as of this writing…]

In Indiana you can teach a high school subject if you have a degree in the subject you want to teach, a B average in your degree program, pass a test on the subject content, and have worked in the subject area field for 6000 hours. For example, if you have a college degree in English, in which you carried a B average, and worked in an English related field – let’s say journalism – and you can pass the state’s English test, you can teach high school English. You don’t have to know anything about child development or learning theory to start, though you do have to eventually learn something about pedagogy. In other words, you can walk into a high school classroom on the first day of a school year with no experience other than content knowledge.

Now, the Indiana legislature, in order to counteract the teacher shortage caused by its own punitive attack on public education and educators, is suggesting we expand that plan to all schools.

Now, we have such a shortage of teachers, that we need to relax the rules so that anyone can teach. Because, as I wrote in Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

…nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

The same people who made becoming and remaining a teacher so onerous and unattractive, and thereby created the current teacher shortage, are now telling us we need to make it easier for unqualified adults to teach our children…

Behning said he brought back the proposal because he thought it was a simpler fix to the bill’s original goal of addressing teacher licensure exams. The tests have been criticized recently for being too difficult and keeping potentially qualified teachers out of the classroom at a time when schools have struggled to hire in certain subjects such as math and special education.


Destroy Public Education (DPE) for Dummies

Do you know what “education reformers” are trying to do? Do you know when the “ed reform” movement got started and what drives it?

Thomas Ultican, a retired teacher (in California, I think), gives a succinct history of DPE – Destroy Public Education – beginning in the early 80s with the publication of A Nation At Risk.

His DPE Movement False Taking Points are excellent, as is his list of billionaires working together to privatize public education.

It is unlikely that government spending on education will end any time soon. However, as schools are increasingly privatized, public spending on education will decrease.

Today, we have come to expect high quality public education. We expect trained certificated teachers and administrators to staff our schools. We expect reasonable class sizes and current well-resourced curriculum. It is those expectations that are being shattered.

Many forces are attacking public education for diverse reasons, but the fundamental reason is still rich people do not like paying taxes. Choice and the attack on public education, at its root, is about decreasing government spending and lowering taxes.


Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

Stu Egan, a NC teacher, explains to business types why their ideas about “running a school as a business” is just so much B.S. As a thought experiment, he suggests that we consider what it would be like if we tried to run a business like a school, thereby showing how foolish it is to conflate the two. His main points underscore the fact that, since public schools are required to follow certain laws, they cannot, and should not, be run like businesses.

Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited…
Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM…
You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share…
Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business…
You will not get to choose your raw materials…
Be prepared to have everything open to the press…
You will not get to advertise or market yourself…
Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded…
Your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business… You will have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.

The Blueberry Story


What research really says about closing schools — and why it’s a bad idea for kids

Nationally so-called “failing” public schools are being closed rather than improved. In places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis, school boards and mayors are deciding that helping schools with low test scores isn’t worth the time and the effort. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the “low-performing” closed public schools are replaced by equally “low-performing” charter or private schools. In other words, the only thing that changes is that privatization gets a boost from those policy makers charged with the success of public schools.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, low test scores are not usually the fault of the school. Years of economic neglect leaves schools in high poverty areas with fewer resources, fewer opportunities, and deteriorating facilities. Poor students need more resources to help them achieve, yet the United States is one of only a handful of advanced nations where more money is spent on wealthy students than poor students. This is especially important because the United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty among developed nations and poverty correlates with lowered achievement.

Policy makers who close schools because they are “failing” are themselves at fault for the high rate of poverty in their district or state. The school…the teachers…and the students get punished because of economic circumstances.

Closing schools doesn’t help.

In 2017, three of my colleagues at the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) examined the research on school closings. Many studies, they found, confirm that closing schools in the name of improving student achievement is a “high-risk/low-gain strategy” that fails to increase students’ achievement or their overall well-being.

Chicago Sticks to Portfolio School Reform Despite All the Evidence that It Isn’t Working

Chicago is one of the places where school closings/replacement with charters is a way of life. The mayor and his hand-picked school board have failed the most vulnerable children of the city. Now, instead of admitting that the process has been a failure, the city has doubled down and continues to do the same thing…perhaps expecting different results.

First, as Chicago has continued to launch new charter schools and specialty schools and selective schools, parents have been enticed by the advertising along with the idea that at least at the selective schools, their children will study with a more elite peer group. Parents have been willing to try out the choice schools and have their children travel long distances to elite schools and thereby abandon the neighborhood schools, whose funding drops as children leave. This process has hollowed out the comprehensive neighborhood high schools, which have been left serving a very vulnerable population with a higher percentage of students in special education. Last week’s Chicago Sun-Times reported that there has even been cheating on the lotteries, cheating in which school leaders have been able to find space for their children or relatives’ children in more elite schools, leaving behind students without powerful connections. This is a lifeboat strategy gone bad—a system that saves the privileged and leaves behind on the sinking ship the children who lack means or power or extreme talent.


Much has been written about the Valentine’s Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in which 17 students and teachers were killed. Here are three articles which focus on the insane recent proposal to arm teachers because increasing the number of guns in a school will somehow make schools safer.

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

A radiologist explains why a bullet from an AR-15 is worse than a bullet from a handgun.

[Note: While both are unacceptable and both are horrible. One makes it much more difficult to survive.]

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

Have I Got This Straight?

Peter Greene describes the irony of giving “failing” teachers the responsibility of carrying guns and using them to protect students.

Teachers cannot be trusted with fragile young minds, because we will try to inculcate them with Very Naughty Ideas, like socialism…

But we can be trusted to use guns around those young minds.

…Teachers in public school are so terrible and have failed so badly that an entire new system of schools should be opened up so that students can escape those terrible public school teachers…

But we terrible teachers should be allowed to use guns in our schools. 

Despite Parkland’s opposition, Florida House panel votes to arm teachers

Follow the money. The NRA gets most of its money from “contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” It keeps the money flowing by buying legislators who do their bidding.

…just one more shameful aspect of American society…

The mother of slain geography teacher Scott Beigel, who gave his life to save his students, pleaded with lawmakers not to put loaded guns in the hands of teachers, even after a rigorous training and screening program.

“It could easily cause additional chaos and fatalities,” Linda Beigel Schulman told legislators. If another shooter attacks a school, she said, “with the ongoing chaos, law enforcement could unintentionally shoot at a teacher.”

Her voice breaking, Beigel Schulman said her son became a teacher to teach, “not to be a law enforcement officer.”


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Filed under Article Medleys, Chicago, IN Gen.Assembly, poverty, Public Ed, reform, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage

Picture Walk – December 2017

Some images from around the internet related to children, education, and teaching.


Chris Savage, at Eclectablog, has been tracking the condition of water in Flint, Michigan. Would this environmental travesty still be a unresolved if the city wasn’t Flint, with an average income of $30,567? Would you expect this problem to drag on for more than two years in a place like Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, with an average income of $108,432? Most definitely not.

Yet, the people who have been responsible for this are still in power and still making decisions which impact people’s lives.

The same type of behavior towards communities made up of predominantly low income and/or people of color continues, as Governor Rick Snyder has recently shown. Snyder decided that Michigan’s 13th district (covering parts of Detroit and Dearborn Heights) must wait until next November to choose a replacement for John Conyers who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. This means that approximately 700,000 Michiganders, the majority of them people of color, will be unrepresented for the next eleven months – effectively punishing the voters for their representative’s indiscretions. They will be unrepresented when the House votes on the Donor Relief Act of 2017 – aka the Republican tax bill. They will be unrepresented when votes are taken to keep the government running. They will be unrepresented when they pay their taxes on April 15th.

Back in Flint, the children (and their families) are still exposed to poisoned water daily. When the public schools “fail” because the children were exposed to toxic levels of lead in their water, who will get the blame? The children…the teachers…the schools…or the municipal and state leaders who are actually responsible?

Since this graphic was posted on December 12. 2017, it’s now (as of this writing) 806 days.


Betsy DeVos knows nothing about education, yet she lectures the public on the “failure” of the public schools.

Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, George W. Bush, and Margaret Spellings knew nothing about education, yet they had no trouble making policy for the 50+ million public school students in the U.S.

Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings, and Jeff Bezos know nothing about education, yet they spend their money and time working on the privatization of public schools.

Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels knew nothing about education, yet they damaged the teaching profession and made policy damaging to public schools.

The Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly (Bob Behning, et al) know nothing about public education and work tirelessly to allow the privatization and destruction of the state’s public education.

Educators have the expertise. Educators deserve a voice.


Rahm Emanuel appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show earlier this week. Colbert asked no questions about public education. He asked no questions about the closing of community schools in poor neighborhoods, and, I assume, their eventual replacement with charter schools with no record of higher performance…since the problem is poverty, not the schools. There were no questions about the lack of funding for public schools. There were no questions about the difference in the way schools are treated in different neighborhoods.

The Chicago Sun-Times, a slightly more progressive media outlet than the conservative Tribune, has called for the democratization of CPS, the Chicago Public Schools, by including elected members of the Board of Education. Because of its size, Chicago has local school councils which are elected, but the Board of Education, which makes most of the large decisions, is appointed by the Mayor. The local school councils can object if one of their school’s is marked for closing, but they have no real power. That’s why closing schools can be based on demographics – which it has been under Mayor Emmanuel.

The real problem is twofold. First, the schools marked for closing over the last few years have been in less affluent areas of the city. Once again we have schools targeted because they were/are “failing” – which in “reform” language, means filled with low income students who need more services (and which the city is unable, or unwilling to provide). The second problem in Chicago is the Emmanuel’s penchant for charter schools. Despite the scandals involving charter payoffs, and despite the fact that charters do not improve educational outcomes for students, the Mayor continues to push for charters.

Emmanuel went on The Late Show in order to join Colbert in bashing President Trump. He claims that Chicago has been declared a “Trump-Free Zone,” and is a sanctuary city (in Emmanuel’s words, a “welcoming” city), welcoming immigrants. This is all very well and good, IMHO. I applaud cities which are fighting the current administration’s anti-immigrant policies (as well as the policies which deny and exacerbate climate change which Emmanuel also mentioned).

Still, the damage that Mayoral Control is doing to the Chicago Public Schools should be acknowledged.

In 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union produced a report titled, The Schools Chicago Students Deserve. Mayor Emmanuel ought to read it…and follow its advice.

Here’s Fred Klonsky’s drawing describing the Mayor’s impact on the city schools.


A repost from years past…support your local library.


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Filed under 1000 Words, Chicago, Lead, library, Michigan, Public Ed

Random Quotes – August 2016


Teachers are not the problem, poverty is

Stephen Krashen reminds America to quit scapegoating teachers and public schools for low achievement due to poverty. We have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the industrialized world – nearly one-fourth of our children. Where are the policy makers who take their share of the responsibility for our failure as a nation to take care of our children?

by Stephen Krashen

Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases, and the other Gates ideas that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries.


John Oliver on Charter Schools

John Oliver takes on the abuse and corruption in the charter school industry. (NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by John Oliver

The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market. And by the time it’s obvious a school is failing, futures may have been ruined.


Select Group is Served by Vouchers

Terry Springer is a former high school English teacher from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She’s one of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, a public education advocacy group (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the same group).

In the linked article she discusses Indiana’s voucher program.

by Terry Springer

…[Executive director of Indiana Non-Public Education Association, John] Elcesser’s argument that voucher parents are taxpayers and their tax dollars should go to the school of their choice is rather like the argument that my tax dollar should only go to repair the roads and bridges I travel on or to pave my driveway. Public education benefits the whole community; private education does not. The arguments for the money following the child fly in the face of that perspective…


Out with the old. In with the new.

Here’s a cartoon by Fred Klonsky. Earlier this month Chicago Public Schools laid off 1000 employees, half of whom were teachers. Two weeks later they announced they were hiring 1000 new teachers.

A teacher: Why I am not going to keep my bonus

Are teachers “in it for the money?” Are teachers holding back, instead of teaching well in order to get more money?

by Stuart Egan

I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

Reasons for mass resignations: 28 Dodgeville teachers leave over money and student behavioral issues

This article discusses the teacher shortage facing Dodgeville, Wisconsin. In the comments below the article, Tim Slekar, Dean at nearby Edgewood College, explains why there’s a teacher shortage.

by Tim Slekar, Dean at Edgewood College’s School of Education, Madison, WI

Dodgeville is just ONE example of the exodus. Teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves all across the state and enrollment in teacher education programs is plumetting. We have a teacher exodus problem.

Our elected officials will use this as evidence of a “teacher shortage” and then bitch to lower standards to let any jackass teach.

There is no “shortage.” Those that have been waging the war on teachers are winning.


Who profits from a “broken public school” narrative?

Shouldn’t the goal of public education be to have good public schools for all children, in all areas? Why do we have cities where children have to “apply” to public schools instead of just having excellent public schools in every neighborhood? Why aren’t we working towards a system where every public school is excellent?

by Ali Collins

If you want to help a district function effectively, you work with leaders to fix underlying problems, you don’t create workarounds or do the work. In this way, non-profits enable failure. They become complicit in creating and maintaining problems they then profit by fixing. [emphasis added]


Making Joy a Reading Standard

Wouldn’t it be nice if at least one reading “standard” focused on creating readers who loved to read?

by Mary Anne Buckley

Joy is in listening to and being moved by words and joy is in crafting words that move others. Joy is in recognizing ourselves in characters as well as challenging ourselves to see things from a different perspective. Joy is connecting and reflecting with one another.  I wrote that I answered the last question from the interview panel without thinking but in all actuality I’ve been thinking about that answer for years. When we remember our own personal joy of reading and infuse that into our instruction the lessons themselves become joyful.


AMERICA, DAMMIT! – Thoughts from Glacier National Park (starting at about 2:00)

(NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by Hank Green

…We work so hard to demonize each other that everyone comes out looking like demons…


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Filed under Charters, Chicago, Election, JohnOliver, NEIFPE, poverty, Quotes, reading, Stephen Krashen, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, vouchers

2015 Medley #33

Punishing Children, Poverty, 
Disrespecting Teachers, Diversity in Teaching,
A Courageous Principal, Charters, “Reforms,” Politics, Resources

Today’s medley is especially long, but, in my opinion, is worth working through. First, and most important to me, is the article about the Michigan House passing a “punish third graders” bill which would retain students in third grade if they can’t read well enough. I also include several articles which speak to the continued disrespect of American teachers, including one from a usual supporter of public education. I include the usual articles about poverty and “reform,” and a shout out to a courageous principal. Finally, I’ve included an outstanding resource for supporters of public education.


Yet another state has made it their business to punish third graders, 8 and 9 year olds, because the adults in the state have failed. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan House have joined together to pass a bill requiring children to be retained in third grade if they can’t read.

One legislator, showing his complete lack of understanding of the problem, railed against “social promotion” which he apparently believes is the only alternative to retention in grade. Decades of research has shown retention in grade to be ineffective as a means to improve achievement and to increase the likelihood of students dropping out.

The legislation also has a provision to punish teachers for working with high-risk or low achieving students by evaluating them based on student test scores.

The damage done by legislators making education policy continues.

(See also For You Michigan!—You Are WRONG about Retention!)

House OKs bill to hold back struggling third graders

The Michigan House today approved a controversial bill that would require students to repeat the third-grade if they’re not proficient readers.

…Meanwhile, the educator evaluation bill passed with no debate. The bill limits the number of consecutive years a student is assigned to an ineffective teacher, requires that 40% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student test score data and gives schools the ability to choose how they’re going to evaluate staff.

…The current law says 50% of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student growth data — data showing how much improvement a student made while with the teacher. State test scores are a key part of that data.

But that changes under the bill approved today. Beginning this school year, 25% of the evaluation must be based on test data. That rises to 40% beginning with the 2018-19 school year.


Peter Greene provides a link to information about students living in poverty. He discusses and provides a link to a map showing the increase in child poverty rates yearly beginning in 2006.

Student Poverty on the Map

…consider that the increase [in poverty] is not because more children are being born into poor families, but more families are learning what it means to be poor. Think about how much of that struggle our students are bringing into our classrooms.


Is there some research that shows that removing office furniture from classrooms increases student achievement? Donna Connelly, a Bronx principal apparently believes there is. She has ordered teachers to remove their desks and filing cabinets from their classrooms. No need to keep supplies in your desk, no need to keep files on students or teaching helps. Teachers shouldn’t sit.

Would any other professionals ever get treated like this? What an ass!

Principal forbid teachers to sit — so she threw out their desks

A Bronx principal ordered her teachers to give up their desks last week, and had the furniture dumped at the curb — telling staff she doesn’t want them sitting in class.

Donna Connelly, principal of PS 24, the Spuyten Duyvil School in Riverdale, also told teachers to empty their filing cabinets, which she then discarded.With class in session, teachers were told to push their desks and cabinets into the hallway. Custodians then hauled them outside and piled them like trash on the blacktop of a school across the street…

…“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.


Herein I am told that the decades I spent as a reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher were years I spent harming my colleagues. The implication is that my job – which included diagnostically testing students, helping them to improve their reading skills through instruction, working as my building’s co-test coordinator, assisting the principal with professional development, spending an hour a day at bus duty, lunch duty, and recess duty, and working with teachers to improve instruction – had only a vague, poorly defined, purpose. There is also the suggestion that my evaluations were faked…since I didn’t have “as much accountability” as other teachers…and if true, that was somehow my fault. The mountains of paperwork I had with Reading Recovery, the scoring and analysis of diagnostic tests, and the daily preparation needed to work with dozens of students a day seems to this author to have been just what I did to “look busy.” My real goal, according to him, was to “look busy” and increase my influence over the principal.

The generalizations in this piece are offensive – as generalizations often are. It seems that “specialists” are highly trained teachers educational parasites who suck up to the principal…and the principal is someone who is there only to make life more difficult for teachers.

Yes…I knew there were teachers who felt this way when I was working. I’m extremely disappointed, however, because this article is by someone who supports public education and who I hitherto respected. I would have expected less generalization about “specialists” and more specifics about how we can improve the teaching profession and get rid of bad teachers no matter what their role.

Typical “reformist” divide and conquer attitude…

Teachers, beware of the “specialists.”

Enter your “specialists.” Unlike classroom teachers, their job duties are more vague, ill-defined. Their time is not micro-managed. In that role, I’ve seen them become experts at looking busy, but accomplishing very little. What is crucial to their work, however, is the proximity in which they are able to work with the principal, thereby participating in decision-making that should be better left to classroom teachers. Contrary to classroom teachers, their jobs don’t require as much accountability, yet the decisions they make with the principal’s ear can impact the accountability to which classroom teachers are held.

Inasmuch as teaching is different than, say, office work, a school is still a workplace. And just like any other office, there are certain individuals who jockey for positions and favors, trying at all times to make their jobs seem more important, relevant, more interesting, and busier than they actually are, while at the same time increasing the demands on classroom teachers.

Beware the specialists.


Read this to see the lack of logic behind treating teachers differently than other professionals.


Imagine that these parallel organizations were given prime locations in existing facilities (built and paid for with public monies), displacing the professionals that had served your community for many years.


Sometimes satire comes too close to reality.

Department Of Education Hires Art Teacher To Spread Evenly Across All U.S. Public Schools

…officials from the Department of Education announced Tuesday they had hired 26-year-old art teacher Kelsey Alexander to be spread evenly across all U.S. public schools. “Ms. Alexander is a well-qualified teacher, and we have the utmost confidence that she will provide quality art instruction to our nation’s students as she rotates through each of the 98,000 public schools in this country,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan…

…As of press time, Alexander had spent an estimated $3.2 million out of pocket on the art supplies needed for her lessons.


It’s not a fact that only teachers of color can be effective with students of color, however, this article makes some very important points about how black and Latino teachers leave teaching at an even greater rate than white teachers…

Why Teachers of Color Quit: Low pay and high stress drive black and Latino teachers to leave the profession at higher rates than their white peers.

Though 40 percent of students in the American public education system are black and Latino, only 13 percent of teachers nationwide are. In Teach for America specifically, 90 percent of the students corps members teach are black and Latino, while 39 percent of corps members are teachers of color. While this lack of proportional diversity exists in several professions, when your job focuses on leading a mostly black and Latino student population to succeed academically and socially in a predominantly white society, race matters so much more.


Some principals have the courage to stand up to “reformers.”

Troy Laraviere: My Statement on CPS’ “Warning Resolution”

Parents submitted forms directing us not to give the test to their students. CPS responded by telling principals that we must defy parents and sit the student down in front of a test—that only when the student refused it, could we allow him or her not to take it.

I know of no other field in which the professionals are ordered to disregard parents’ choices and force children to refuse to participate in what their parents have already refused to allow them to participate in. If a parent tells a doctor that she does not want her child to take a particular prescription, the doctor is not ordered to disregard the parent and put the medicine in the child’s hand and make the child refuse it himself.


Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters, and a member of the Network for Public Education Executive Board, tries to teach “reformers” about charter schools.

Six Charter School Myths; my testimony before the City Council today

Testimony before the NYC Council Education Committee
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

4. Charter schools get higher test scores because of the superior quality of education they provide.

Whether or not they achieve superior results, and there is much dispute about this, it may be due to charters’ increased funding, the socio-economic and demographic background of their students, and/or their much higher suspension and attrition rates. Probably all these factors contribute. Of course, the more a school pushes out struggling students, the higher their test scores will likely be. 


John Thompson expresses hope that the era of “education reform” might be coming to an end. If it ceases to be profitable maybe they will leave education to the professionals…

John Thompson: A Sad, Sad Year for Corporate Reformers

John Thompson, historian and teacher, explains why corporate reformers are in a bad mood. Nothing seems to be working out as planned. The word is getting out that Néw Orleans was not a miracle. Worse, black communities are angry at the white elites who took control of their schools.


We know where Republicans stand on public education: destroy it, privatize it, bust the unions, and bring an end to professional educators.

Democrats in general, however, have been friends of public education, at least until President Obama appointed Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and doubled down on the George W Bush administration’s test and punish philosophy. And, just like in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, very little of substance with regards to K-12 education policy is being discussed by any Democratic presidential hopeful.

They offer vague assurances that they support universal pre-school, affordable college, and some even claim to want to get rid of “too much testing,” but Barack Obama wanted us to stop “teaching to the test,” too and look where that got us.

Near Silence on Education at First Democratic Debate

I wonder if CNN would have felt more pressure to ask even a single token education question if the largest national teachers unions hadn’t already endorsed Clinton. Both the American Federation of Teachers representing 1.5 million members and the National Education Association representing 3 million members have backed Clinton.

Well, leadership has. Member outreach, polling, even voting by the organizations largest representative boards has been almost entirely absent.

But now that teachers have been pigeonholed in Clinton’s camp, what’s the point of asking education questions? In the public eye educators have already chosen their candidate. Why would they need to hear Clinton’s thoughts on education policy? Why hear her opponents thoughts? Their minds are made up.


Nancy Bailey’s Education Website

Nancy Bailey is a retired special education teacher, an author, and a voice for public education. Her website contains her blog, which is well worth following. I’ve linked to her latest blog post in my comments above about retention in grade 3.

She also maintains a valuable resource – a listing of blogs and groups which support public education. It’s definitely worth checking out.

[Full disclosure: My blog (the WordPress mirror version) is included under the Activism tab – Anti-Corporatization of Public Schools, and my group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), is included under the Activism tab – State Action Groups – Indiana]


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.



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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Chicago, Michigan, Politics, poverty, Public Ed, reform, retention, Teaching Career

2015 Medley #6: Privatization

Privatization, Accountability,
Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Chicago

Dave Johnson has an accurate description of the privatization of America

The conservative/Wall Street/1-percent/Republican anti-government strategy is to set government up to fail (usually by starving it of funding). Then they point to the resulting “crisis” they created and say that it proves that government doesn’t work and that we should therefore “privatize” it — in other words, rig the system against the majority by handing our common wealth over to a few wealthy people to harvest for personal profit.

When applied to public education, it’s a simple three step recipe.

  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools “failures” because they couldn’t do more with less.
  3. Use “failure” as the reason to increase funding for privatization.

That is exactly what’s happening to American public education. School crises have been manufactured and blame has been placed on the victims for its “failures.” Privatizers swoop in and declare that everything is better privatized.

So, here in Indiana, more money is being directed towards charter and private/parochial schools. Schools in high poverty districts get less while low poverty districts get more.

The problem is not unique to Indiana.


I refuse to call charter schools, “public schools.” They are private schools run with public funds. Charter schools can manipulate their population so only well motivated and higher achieving students remain. This is, according to Michael Petrilli, a feature of charter schools, not a problem.

True public schools serve the public…not shareholders. True public schools aren’t interested in profit. True public schools accept every child in their district and don’t council children out when the “school is not the right fit.”

Separating fact from fiction in 21 claims about charter schools

There are a number of actions charter schools take to help ensure that they can end up with a more homogeneous set of higher-performing students. In some cases charter schools use admission tests to determine “academic interest.” In other cases, charter schools such as KIPP use “admission” or “placement” tests to make decisions on student grade levels assignments. Rather than be held back one to three grade levels, struggling students often simply return to the district school so they can stay with their peer group.

Many of the so-called “no excuses” charter schools use grade repetition as a means of weeding out weaker students. (Empirical research shows that the most prominent predictor of a student dropping out of school is requiring them to repeat one or more grade levels). Harsh or push-out school discipline practices can also drive away more difficult students or drive them out once enrolled.

The Trouble with Belief

Where charters succeed (or do at least as well as their public counterparts) it is because they believe only in certain students who meet certain qualifications and behave in certain ways and produce certain results. [emphasis added]

Peter Greene’s article about belief includes an accurate articulation of what a public school ought to be…

There are very few charters out there using a sales pitch of, “We believe that all students can succeed and we will accept any and all students and keep them till the bitter end, no matter what, because we will find a way to help them succeed.” [emphasis added]

[It must be stated that Greene is correct when he states, “There are very few charters…” This means that there are some charters which do a good job and place students before profits. You know who you are.]


Why Don’t We Have Real Data on Charter Schools?

Public education systems are run by publicly elected school boards (or ought to be). They hold public meetings, are required to have annual audits, and are accountable to the voters in their district.

The problem here is that charter schools are frequently not accountable. Indeed, they are stunningly opaque, more black boxes than transparent laboratories for education. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, only 29 percent of charter schools outperformed public schools with similar students in math, while 31 percent performed worse. Most charter schools, in fact, obtained results that were no better than traditional public schools. So what was that 29 percent doing right? And what went so wrong with the failing 31 percent? There are a few reasons why it’s nearly impossible to find out.



Recipe for privatization of public education:

  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools “failures” because they couldn’t do more with less.
  3. Use “failure” as the reason to increase funding for privatization.

Kasich budget plan increases funding to all charter schools

About half of traditional public schools would see funding cuts over the next two years under Kasich’s education funding plan, though it spends $459 million more. The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission calculated that charter-school funding will rise 5.4 percent over two years, with no schools facing a cut.


Recipe for privatization of public education:

  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools “failures” because they couldn’t do more with less.
  3. Use “failure” as the reason to increase funding for privatization.

Ed Hughes: Scott Walker’s plan for charter schools outdoes ALEC in privatizing education

These new, private charter school authorizers “would have no disclosure obligations, would not be subject to the open records law, and would not be bound by conflict of interest restrictions,” he wrote. And they could pay their officers whatever they choose to.

Funding for the new charter schools — $8,075 per student — would come right off the top of the state’s appropriation for general state aid to the state’s school districts. Hughes said.

So, Walker’s “unprecedented scheme” to establish new charter schools all over the state would tap the funding of local public schools to fund private schools approved by private organizations with little accountability.


An important step in the privatization of public education (and other public services) is to buy legislators who will then be beholden to their donors.

Charter Schools USA, H4QED, and the Indiana State Board of Ed

Red Apple Development, the real estate branch of CS USA, has also given big money: $17,000 since 2012. This year they contributed $5,000 to the Hoosiers for Quality Education PAC, which funds David Long, Brian Bosma, and a whole slew of Republicans now attacking Glenda Ritz and teachers.

In total, Jeb Bush friend Jon Hage’s CS USA and Red Development have dropped $40,000 into Indiana campaign funds since 2012.


Recipe for privatization of public education:

  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools “failures” because they couldn’t do more with less.
  3. Use “failure” as the reason to increase funding for privatization.

The School Closure Playbook

This video explores how Chicago’s education “reformers” manufactured a budget crisis through a combination of creative accounting, secretive tax schemes, and media cooperation. It then looks at the dramatic consequences of school closures, the corruption endemic to privatization, and the community organizing that developed to regain control of schools and fight for public education.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Filed under Accountability, Article Medleys, Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, Privatization, Wisconsin

Random Quotes – February 2015


A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation’s Public Schools

The U.S. has closed its eyes to our high level of child poverty for too long, choosing to blame the victims — the poor — and schools for economic and academic stagnation. High poverty is an embarrassment to us as a nation. Why aren’t we ashamed of it

[Southern Education Foundation] Vice President Steve Suitts wrote: “No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness… Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

Wait! I’m a Radical Educator?

James Boutin is a national board certified teacher of language arts and social studies…and has been a strong voice for children. Here he reminds us that there’s more to life than Math and Reading.

In low-income communities, schools should serve as centers for civic dialogue, healing, and humanity. While learning the basics like math and language should certainly constitute some of what goes on in schools, our primary effort should not be to stress everyone out trying to bring underprivileged students’ math and language skills up to par with their counterparts in affluent communities. Because, the truth is, those skills are not the only skills in life that matter. And so they shouldn’t be the only skills that determine whether you receive a high school diploma. [emphasis added]


A Just Chicago: New Report from CTU

In 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union published The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve, a study which argued in favor of proven educational reforms to improve the education of Chicago’s children. Needless to say, it was ignored by the Mayor and school board.

This year, the Union has issued a report…more like a wish list…connecting health, housing, jobs, segregation and funding to education.

It’s the quote below which caught my attention. It could easily have read, “”Do your job, legislators, executives and policy makers, so we [teachers]  can do ours.”


Teachers Need to Step Up and Speak Out

Teachers are so worried about their livelihoods that they have trouble speaking out. Retribution from administrators or state bureaucrats is a real possibility, but things won’t change until we get loud.

“I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave.” — Jia Lee, NY Special Education Teacher

Indiana education dean: Teacher measures aren’t fair

The attack on public education, public school teachers, and public school teachers unions continues unabated. As the U.S. Congress debates changes to NCLB, the Governor, Legislature and State Board of Education in Indiana are working hard to marginalize the Indiana State Teachers Union, and by doing so they are marginalizing the profession of teaching. [That’s not all the damage they’re doing to public schools and public school children, but that’s what relates to the quote below. Read some of the Statehouse Notes from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.]

“I think that in this country, we have taken too much for granted about teachers,” he said. “I think there are people who believe that if you just know your subject … that you can stand up in front of a classroom and teach it. We know that simply isn’t true.”


School “choice” is a scam

School “choice” is a scam. Parents shouldn’t have to “choose” a good school for their children to attend any more than they should need to “choose” clean water, clean air or safe food for their families. — Mitchell Robinson


23 Inspirational Maurice Sendak Quotes To Get You Through The Day

Maurice Sendak understands that reading is more than the words…


Against the Common Core Standards and Tests (Occupy US Dept of Education, April, 2013)

Once more Stephen Krashen debunks the basis for education “reform.”

The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims:
(1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students’ scores on international tests;
(2) We must improve education to improve the economy;
(3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests that enforce the standards.

Each of these claims is false.

More than a test…

The title of this article is a wonderful quote.

What If Education Was Measured By More Than A Test? by Janaye Ingram is the Acting National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN)


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under Chicago, Choice, CTU, poverty, Quotes, reading, Teaching Career, Testing