Category Archives: Choice

2019 Medley #7: Things I didn’t get to edition

Accountability, School Time,
How to Teach Reading, Management,
30 Years of Charters

I often bookmark an article that I’d like to use as a basis for a blog entry…and then a week later, it seems like there are more important things I have to do so it gets pushed down the list until I forget about it completely. So today I’d like to look back at some still-relevant articles from the last few months that I found interesting, but got buried by other things on my to-do list.

HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE

Politicians Forget that Cut Scores on Standardized Tests Are Not Grounded in Science

The Every Child Succeeds Act still requires states to test every child every year. There are no longer federal consequences to “failure,” but the federal government still requires the states to tell them what the state-level consequences for low scoring schools are.

Here’s an idea…we know that test scores “correlate with family and neighborhood income” so why should all accountability be dumped on teachers and students? Why should third-graders who fail IREAD3 in Indiana be forced to repeat third grade when it’s possible that the child’s academic struggles are caused by the effects of poverty?

So how about if we put the accountability and consequences where they belong…on state and national politicians and legislators.

As John Kuhn wrote a few years ago

…where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”?

Politicians and legislatures are “failing” when poverty is unaddressed or when progress towards easing poverty isn’t enough to qualify as “adequate yearly progress.”

Politicians and legislatures are “failing” when they don’t spend enough on public education or waste money on mismanaged private schools (charter or voucher).

Politicians and legislatures are “failing” when they sign or pass laws such as third-grade retention laws, or laws which misuse standardized tests, which force educators into doing things that are educationally questionable.

It’s time to attach sanctions to states which allow their public schools to suffer while wasting billions of dollars on misused standardized tests, on vouchers, and on charters.

It’s time to attach sanctions to states which spend more money on wealthy schools that poor schools.

It’s time that we stop blaming teachers for things outside of their control and hold accountable those who can help change things…but don’t.

Decades of research show that, in the aggregate, standardized test scores correlate with family and neighborhood income. In a country where segregation by race and poverty continues to grow, it is now recognized among experts and researchers that rating and ranking schools and districts by their aggregate test scores merely brands the poorest schools as failing. When sanctions are attached, political regimes of test-based accountability merely punish the schools and the teachers and the students in the poorest places.

School Accountability Begins With the People Who Make the Rules: A Code of Conduct for Politicians and Test Makers

A code of conduct for the people making pronouncements on education…good idea.

-In fact, you know what? Don’t use standardized tests at all to assess student learning – especially not connected to high stakes. Instead rely on classroom grades and teacher observations for student assessment. Use indexes and audits of school resources to determine whether they are doing their best to teach students and whether lawmakers have done enough to ensure they are receiving fair and equitable resources.

TIME FOR SCHOOL

Squeezing the Clock

Blogger Peter Greene has retired from teaching and recently discovered that time in school is different than time outside of school.

As an elementary teacher, I had to learn how to use time to my advantage. The biggest problems were daily interruptions. One year I had to keep a list of where and at what time I had to send students out of the room.

Student A was diabetic and had to go to the nurse three times a day to have his blood sugar checked.

Student B had to go to occupational therapy three days a week and speech twice a week.

Students C, D, E, F, and G had to go to speech at a different time and different days than student B.

Students D, F, G, and H went to the reading specialist three times a week.

…and so on. In addition, I had to get my students to Phys. Ed on Tuesdays at 9:47, Music on Thursdays at 9:47, and Art on Fridays at 10:02. Library was on Mondays at 9:47, and lunch was every day at 11:20.

I also had to make sure that I picked my students up from their classes on time. The Art teacher had my students from 10:02-10:42 and another class at 10:45, which gave him three minutes between the time my students left and his next class arrived. Time to go to the bathroom? Not likely.

I had to arrange my in-class schedule so that Students A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, didn’t miss anything important when they were at speech, occupational therapy, the nurse, or the reading specialist. And I had to make sure that when they came back — all at different times — I was ready for them.

Our days were scheduled down to the minute…

This is one of the things about teaching that non-teachers just don’t get. If you have an office job and someone says, “Hey, I want you to work in this little project some time this week– it should just take a half an hour or so,” then nobody gets excited because, hey, you can always find a spare thirty minutes here or there. But teachers are desperately sick to death of all the politicians, policy makers, administrators, and public spirited folks who propose, “Here’s a worthwhile thing to do– let’s just have teachers add it to their classroom. It won’t take much time out of their day.” If teachers are feeling polite or restrained (or just resigned) they’ll smile and say, “Sure. Sure. Just send me the materials.” If they’re feeling undiplomatic they will say, “Sure. Please tell me exactly what you want me to cut, because every damn second of my day between now and July is spoken for.” And we’re not talking about blocks of “an hour or so.” Teacher time is measured out in minutes. It is one of those things that you just don’t get if you haven’t been there.

HOW DO YOU TEACH READING?

Reading Instruction, The Attack on Teachers, and Two Areas of Concern

Do teachers not know how to teach reading? Are schools of education at fault for not teaching education students how to teach reading?

It’s my opinion that the one, proven “scientific” way of teaching reading, which works for every child, doesn’t exist. We don’t understand enough about how the brain works when it comes to reading and therefore it’s difficult, if not impossible, to develop a way to teach reading that works for every single child. The word “dyslexia” refers to “trouble with reading.” It’s not any more specific than saying “upper respiratory illness.” In other words, we know something is wrong, and we have seen this difficulty before, but we don’t really understand the exact source or a way to treat it that works for every student.

There are a host of variables which can come into play when a child learns to read; ability, environment, personality, temperament, socio-economic status, experiences, interests. Perhaps the best method for teaching reading is the “try this…” approach which is simply defined as, “Try this. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Repeat.”

What’s most important, however, is that the teacher is familiar with different ways of approaching the teaching of reading and familiar with her students.

The ability to teach reading consists of acquiring the understanding of a large number of ideas, techniques, and concepts related to the reading process, and the ability to choose the correct path at the right time, with specific students.

Almost every day there’s another report attacking teachers for how they teach reading. It divides parents and teachers. It’s also dangerous at a time when there’s a teacher shortage and teachers are banding together to try to save not only their profession, but public education.

I don’t like to see my profession criticized so harshly by those who don’t teach and who have never taught. I fear that with this animosity towards teachers, those with minimal teacher preparation will end up in classrooms pretending to be teachers.

However, I also know parents with children who have dyslexia or reading and writing difficulties. Having taught students with such disabilities in middle and high school, I understand how frustrating it is for young people to struggle with reading and writing.

But everyone focuses on phonics while there are many other variables that could be problematic for children when it comes to reading instruction.

TEACHER MANAGEMENT

Why You Can’t Fire Your Way To Excellence

“Reformers” love to complain about bad teachers and how the union ” protects” bad teachers, yet teachers don’t hire or retain other teachers. Administrators do that.

An administration’s number one job is to make sure that the district’s teachers are working in the conditions that make it possible for them to do their best work. Every bad teacher represents a failure by a principal and a superintendent. That teacher you want to fire is a sign that either your hiring process or your teacher management process is broken.

THIRTY YEARS OF CHARTERS ARE ENOUGH

Can charter schools be reformed? Should they be?

As Diane Ravitch recently said,

There’s only one pot of State money for K-12 schools. Dividing it three ways makes all sectors suffer.

Charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools which get funding directly from the state. A public school implies public oversight. In too many cases, charter schools miss that feature.

It is time to acknowledge that what may have begun as a sincere attempt to promote innovation has given rise to fraud, discrimination and the depletion of public school funding. Thirty years of charters have resulted in an increase in profiteering far more than it has resulted in innovation. Democratic governance is disappearing.

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Filed under Accountability, Administrators, Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Public Ed, reading, scheduling

2019 Medley #5: Privatization

VOUCHERS

The Cost of Choice

Choice numbers

School privatization is once again on the block for the Indiana General Assembly. The House Budget bill includes increases for both charter schools and vouchers.

The “choice” for vouchers, as this article explains, belongs to the school, not necessarily the parent. If a private school chooses not to take your child because he is a behavior problem, she is not the right religion, or your family is not “the right fit,” then the school can “choose” not to accept your voucher.

The cost of school vouchers affects all schools in Indiana, not just the schools whose students go to voucher-accepting private schools. As Southwest Allen County Superintendent Phil Downs explains it,

The voucher money is not taken from the local school, it is taken out of the Tuition Support budget, (there is not a simple transfer of funds between the two schools) thereby decreasing the dollars for all public schools.

From a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial…

“The (Department of Education) continues to be diligent in compiling and reviewing the trend data as it relates to the Choice Scholarship Program,” [Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick] told The Journal Gazette in an email statement. “Knowing the K-12 budget proposals are inadequate and given the House budget proposal adds an additional $18 million to the Choice Program, we are committed to the full transparency of data to better inform communities and policymakers. Our travels across Indiana have revealed a lot of confusion and questions from taxpayers regarding the intent, expense and impact of the program as it relates to our most vulnerable students.”

“This program continues to be a choice not for students, but for the schools receiving them,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. “If a (voucher) school doesn’t feel like accepting a student for whatever reason, they don’t have to. Oftentimes, that means students who are in need of special education services or special discipline aren’t welcome there. Often those families turn to us, and we’re happy to take them – because they are our children. Not all schools feel that way.”

DeVos: Let’s Voucherize the Nation

Betsy DeVos Backs $5 Billion in Tax Credits for School Choice

There are people who disagree with the Madison/Jefferson concept of the separation of church and state. They want your tax money to spend on their churches.

[I wonder how pro-voucher folks would handle a voucher for a school sponsored by the Church of Satan, a Jedi Church school, or a school run by Pastafarians?]

They believe that since they pay taxes they should be able to put their tax money anywhere they choose.

They can’t.

We don’t give taxpayers a voucher to use at Barnes and Noble if they don’t want to go to the public library. We don’t give taxpayers a voucher for the local country club because they don’t want to mix with the “riff-raff” at the public park. You can’t get a voucher for a private police force for your gated community. You can’t get a voucher simply because you choose to drive and not use public transportation. We don’t give vouchers for any other form of public service…just education.

Secretary DeVos is fond of calling vouchers a parental “choice.” That’s not always the case. It’s not the parents’ “choice,” because when a student doesn’t fit the criteria required by the private school (race, religion, achievement level, the cost to educate, the ability to pay extra for the difference between the voucher and tuition, to provide transportation, to pay for the uniforms), it’s the school that makes the choice.

While the program is meant to offer a more politically palatable alternative to budgetary proposals by the Trump administration to create a national voucher program by diverting federal funding from public schools, public school advocates denounced it as a backdoor way to generate voucher dollars if states choose to primarily use the program for private school tuition scholarships.

JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, called the proposal “particularly tone deaf” as school leaders across the country struggle to retain teachers who are fed up with low pay and declining work conditions.

“Mobilizing behind a scheme to further starve public schools and nine in 10 American students of the resources they need is not only unresponsive but insulting, and it reflects this administration’s persistent disdain for public education,” she said.

Vouchers as Entitlement

Voucher program serves the top 20 percent

In 2011, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and other voucher supporters told us that vouchers were needed to help “save” poor children who were “trapped” in so-called “failing” schools. Indiana’s voucher plan is now, however, an entitlement for the middle class.

Over 1,300 households that participate in Indiana’s school voucher program have incomes over $100,000, according to the 2018-19 voucher report from the Indiana Department of Education.

That puts them in the top 20 percent of Hoosier households by income. So much for the argument that the voucher program, created in 2011, exists to help poor children “trapped” in low-performing schools.

Like previous state reports on the voucher program, the current report paints a picture of a program that primarily promotes religious education and serves tens of thousands of families that could afford private school tuition without help from the taxpayers.

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Indiana blogger Doug Masson comments on Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld post (above). The voucher plan wasn’t about saving poor children after all…[emphasis in original]

…the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

The Fight Over States’ Private School Voucher Proposals Is Heating Up

Legislatures bring up vouchers every year.

Private school vouchers are bad public policy for so many reasons, including the fact that they funnel desperately needed funds away from public schools to private, primarily religious education. Taxpayer dollars should fund public schools – which 90 percent of students in America attend – not unaccountable private schools that can limit who attends them. Nonetheless, there have been 121 bills filed this year in states across the country to expand or create new voucher programs. So far these bills have seen mixed results.

PRISONS AND SCHOOLS

Privatizing Public Services | Prisons and Schools

Published on the Knowing Better YouTube channel.

An interesting discussion on the privatization of prisons and (mostly charter) schools. If you don’t want to watch the entire video, the section on schools starts at 9:15.

Privatizing public services has rarely ever worked out for the taxpayer. We’ve looked at prisons, infrastructure, emergency services, and now schools, and it’s the same story every time. But every time we seem to think that this will be the one where it works.

You can only benefit from competition when you’re able to increase demand. which you’re not able to do for schools and I would hope you wouldn’t want to do for prisons, though they seem to find a way.

So the next time a politician tells you that “this time it’ll work, I promise,” hopefully now, you’ll know better.

CHARTERS

The Wild, Wild West of Charters

Ohio charter schools want more tax dollars

Charter school operators find out eventually that low student performance has more to do with the social, physical, economic, and political effects of poverty than it does with bad teachers and poor teaching. Years of neglect by municipal and state governments can’t be overcome by a few changes in technique and curricula. That’s why “a third of charter schools close their doors before they are a decade old.” Education is harder than they think…and it’s even harder when they are in it for the profit.

Ohio is home to some of the weakest charter laws in the country…and they’re asking for more money.

If there is no need for an additional school in a neighborhood, then there won’t be enough students to support one (see the video above). States can’t afford to support two parallel school systems when only one is needed.

…supporters of school districts, who often view themselves as competing with charters for students and dollars, scoff at that argument. The whole original justification for charter schools, they note, was that privately-run schools would get better results at less cost.

“It seems like the charter schools have figured out that it’s harder than they thought,” said Howard Fleeter, who analyzes finances and school funding for Ohio’s school, boards, school administrators and school business officials. “Now they want every last dime that school districts get.”

There’s also an accountability issue. The state has been fighting with several charter schools the last few years over what it calls overstated attendance counts, which then lead to more money going to schools than should. The battle over ECOT’s attendance and funding was the most public, though several fights with smaller schools are still ongoing.

The state also has a reputation nationally of having too few controls over charters and allowing profiteering managers to fill their pockets by offering low-quality schools. A few years ago, a national charter official referred to Ohio as the “Wild, Wild West” of the charter school world.

And four years ago, Stanford researchers found that Ohio’s charters performed far worse than traditional public schools, showing less academic growth than similar students in districts.

ICYMI: The Cost of Charter Schools

Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

Charters are often called “public schools.” But, they don’t follow the same rules as public schools…they don’t have to accept all students…they don’t have the same requirements for teachers…and they aren’t run by publicly accountable school boards.

They also drain money from the local school districts. This report describes what happens when charters move into the neighborhood.

Reasonable people may disagree about education policy. What reasonable people should not do, however, is pretend that unregulated charter school expansion comes at no cost. For public officials to plan for community education needs in a rational manner, two policy innovations are critical:

  • First, each school district should produce an annual Economic Impact report assessing the cost of charter expansion in its community, and more targeted analyses should be a required component in the evaluation of new charter applications.
  • Secondly, public officials at both the local and state levels must be able to take these findings into account when deciding whether to authorize additional charter schools. Thus the state’s charter authorization law must be amended to empower elected officials to act as effective stewards of the community’s education budget in balancing the potential value of charter schools against the needs of traditional public school students.

FIGHTING BACK

The Oakland Teachers Strike Isn’t Just a Walk Out—It’s a Direct Challenge to Neoliberalism

The recent teachers strike in Oakland was about more than teacher salaries. It focused on the damage done to public education through privatization, underfunding, and school closures.

Yet press briefings by the Oakland Education Association (OEA)—the union representing the teachers—and a website created by a community supporter, show an extraordinary shift: a fusion of attention to racial and gender justice alongside labor’s mission to defend the dignity of work and workers. “It’s really, really exciting—a movement that is connecting the dots” observed Pauline Lipman, whose research on the racial significance of neoliberal school reform in Chicago helped inform the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) widely-adopted template for union demands: “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”

The Oakland school district, like the Chicago Public Schools and urban school systems in most blue states are, as CTU researcher Pavlyn Jankov explains, “broke on purpose.” Local and state politicians, in conjunction with the corporate elite, have refused to pursue progressive taxation for public services and public employee pensions. In Oakland, these actors have trapped the city and its school system in the pattern Jankov identifies as “a cycle of broken budgets and a dependence on financial instruments” that exploit residents.

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2018 Medley #21

The New Segregation, “Choice,” Vouchers,
Environmental Toxins: Lead,
Read-aloud to Big Kids

THE NEW SEGREGATION

The New Segregation of Schools

The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was, for all practical purposes, reversed in 1999 when a federal court ruled that forced integration was no longer necessary because “intentional” segregation no longer existed.

The result is that the U.S. has returned to separate schools for rich and poor, separate schools for black and white…and the schools are not “equal.”

When some students walk through the door, they will take their first steps toward an endless potential of possibilities.

Their schools have been cleaned and polished, new textbooks and computers await them, and their long-tenured teachers will comment on how much they look like their older siblings.

Other students will walk into an entirely different setting. Students and teachers will be forced to learn in hot classrooms because the air conditioning has not been looked at since last spring. Their textbooks will have broken spines and the inscriptions of graduates from 1992.

Some of the teachers who greet them at the door are kind enough, but they are scared to death because they just received their emergency certificate last week due to the dwindling teacher pool.

Realistically, as students return to class after the summer break, they will be walking into two different public school systems.

There is the public school system for the privileged, another for the poor and powerless.

 

School Choice Is the Enemy of Justice

“Choice” has become the new tool of segregation.

Choice and innovation sound nice, but they also echo what happened after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, when entire white communities in the South closed down schools to avoid the dread integration.

This kind of racial avoidance has become normal, embedded in the public school experience. It seems particularly so in Los Angeles, a suburb-driven city designed for geographical separation. What looks like segregation to the rest of the world is, to many white residents, entirely neutral — simply another choice.

How America’s public schools keep kids in poverty by Kandice Sumner, Boston Public School teacher.

If we really, as a country, believe that education is “the great equalizer,” then it should be just that — equal, and equitable. Until then, there’s no democracy in our democratic education.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

More Bad News For Private School Vouchers In Florida And Indiana

The success or failure of students no longer matters to education “reformers.” Now it’s all about the “choice.” Unfortunately, most school “choice” advocates don’t mention that it is the school that makes the “choice,” not the student.

Public schools accept all students.

The latest study highlighting vouchers’ poor academic results looks at Indiana’s program, the nation’s largest. Researchers studied thousands of low-income Indiana students who used a voucher to switch from public to private schools beginning in the 2011-12 school year.

Focusing on students in grades five through eight over the course of four years, the study found the voucher students consistently scored worse in math than their public school peers. The results for English proficiency were a wash; “there were no statistically significant positive effects after four years,” was how the education blog Chalkbeat described it. These study results echo those from an Indiana voucher study released last year.

So, Indiana diverts more than $150 million per year in taxpayer money away from public schools and into private schools with little to show for it. “Although school vouchers aim to provide greater educational opportunities for students, the goal of improving the academic performance of low-income students who use a voucher to move to a private school has not yet been realized in Indiana,” wrote the study’s authors.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Improving education Across America with guest Linda Darling-Hammond

What kind of schools and teachers do we need for our children? Linda Darling-Hammond lists the top five actions we need to take to improve education in the U.S.

tl;dr More money is needed to reduce out-of-school factors which interfere with achievement.

How do countries that have built an education system that is really strong, do it? And what’s the difference between what they’re doing and what we see in the united states right now?

Number 1, they take care of children. They have a child welfare system. They don’t allow high rates of child poverty. In the United States, one out of four children lives in poverty — homelessness has increased astronomically, children with food insecurity and so on, raggedy early childhood system for learning in the United States. And these nations…Canada is one of them, also, by the way, that’s near the top…take care of children. They have food and housing and they have early learning opportunities that are high quality.

Number 2, they fund schools equally…[in the United States] the rich get richer, the poor get poorer…

EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE: LEAD POISONING

Educators Demand Safe School Water as Nationwide Lead Crisis Comes to Light

Policy makers have long held public schools solely responsible for their students’ achievement. The A-F school grading system in Indiana and other states places the burden on schools alone to solve the problems of low test scores — as if tests alone were an adequate measure of student achievement…as if there were no out-of-school factors that had an impact on student achievement.

Policy makers must be held accountable as well as schools.

From John Kuhn

Educational malpractice doesn’t happen in the classroom. The greatest educational malpractice in the Unites States happens in the statehouse not the school house.

If we truly cared about how our students end up, we would have shared accountability, where everyone whose fingerprints are on these students of ours, has to answer for the choices that they make.

One of the out-of-school factors having an impact on student achievement is the presence of environmental toxins in neighborhoods, like lead.

Exposure to lead has an impact on children’s school achievement and behavior. Public schools in areas with high levels of lead exposure (according to the CDC any exposure to lead is too much) are labeled “failures” because of the students’ low achievement. Yet, in many cases, it’s public policy which allows exposure to lead.

And it’s not just the children. Adults who work in schools are also exposed to high lead levels.

According to a new study by the Government Accountability Office that was also prompted by the Flint crisis, only 43 percent of school districts test for lead in drinking water. About a third of districts that do test reported elevated lead levels.

That means tens of millions of students and educators could be exposed to lead—a proven neurotoxin that is especially devastating to children’s developing brains—through water they consume at school. Educator unions are leading the charge in many communities to demand water testing and access to the results and advocating for policies to ensure future monitoring.

 

READ-ALOUD

Read Aloud in Middle and High School? Of Course

Russ Walsh presents the case for read-aloud after elementary school.

If we want students to value reading we need to let them know that we value reading.

Research supports the use of read aloud for motivation. Qualitative studies by Ivey and Broadus (2001) and Ivey and Johnston (2013) found that student read-aloud was an integral part of a reading engagement strategy. As the authors said in the 2001 study

For the students in our survey, it is clear that high-engagement reading and language arts classrooms would include time to read, time to listen to teachers read, and access to personally interesting materials [emphasis mine].

 

🚌📝📚

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Filed under Article Medleys, Choice, Darling-Hammond, Lead, poverty, Privatization, read-alouds, Segregation, vouchers

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

It’s August and the back-to-school march has begun. In many cases, America’s public school students are going to schools whose funding is at levels lower than a decade ago and whose teachers’ chores have continued to expand. Indiana is one of those places.

It happens every year. The responsibilities of teachers and schools increase mostly from legislated mandates and “accountability.”

Mr. Fitz, a teacher, author, and comic strip artist, listed his Top Ten Cognitive Dissonances That Give Teachers Headachesthings like,

Number 8: You should teach creatively, as long as you can be creative just like everybody else.

and

Number 5: You should promote love of learning for its own sake, but also push students to focus on getting grades, scoring well on tests, and collecting credits so they can get a diploma.

His number one cause of cognitive dissonance headaches is

You hear them say they want to hire and retain the best teachers, even as they create a system that drives the most passionate teachers out of the profession.

 

MORE WORK…

Increased responsibility — often for things outside of a teacher’s control — lower salaries, lowered expectations of salary increases, less autonomy, insufficient building or classroom resources, lack of wraparound services and support, and larger class sizes, are only a few of the millions of tiny cuts contributing to a nation-wide teacher shortage.

Teachers are leaving the classroom…new teachers, experienced teachers. Here’s what former teachers had to say about why they left teaching…from Florida

I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process

from here in Fort Wayne, IN

While [former Indiana Governor] Daniels promised that reform would bring good teachers higher pay, it never happened. Instead, great teachers perform unrealistic legislative mandates only to receive minuscule stipends. Years of experience? Higher education? Doesn’t matter. Since the teacher rubric model was implemented, teachers’ salaries stay around $35,000. Forever.

A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new…

Are Indiana school districts required to do too much?

“There’s more and more and more put on the plate of the schools and eventually something has to give…said [TSC Superintendent Scott Hanback]…

“Our day hasn’t increased, our school year hasn’t increased but our requirements have increased,” said [Lafayette School Corporation Superintendent Les Huddle].

Teachers are overworked, and with the stagnation of school funding, underpaid. Is there any wonder why there’s a teacher shortage?

 

…AND LESS PAY

Legislators in our state will quickly claim that “52% of the budget goes towards education spending.”

Unfortunately, that 52% includes public school losses due to corporate tax incentives, the constitutional requirement of a property tax cap, and money being diverted from public schools to private and charter schools.

Since its inception in 2011, Indiana’s voucher program has accounted for a half billion dollars of public money being taken away from the state’s public schools…quite a lot for a program that was supposed to save money for the state.

When the voucher plan was first implemented then-Governor Mitch Daniels said,

Every child deserves an equal chance to be all they can be. Regardless of race, regardless of income, every child and every parent deserves an equal chance…

By “equal chance” Daniels was implying that public schools were “failing” and private schools were better…a falsehood then, and now.

Study: Learning loss persists for voucher students

“Although school vouchers aim to provide greater educational opportunities for students, the goal of improving the academic performance of low-income students who use a voucher to move to a private school has not yet been realized in Indiana,” the authors write.

Much news coverage last year of the preliminary results focused on the finding that voucher students regained the learning they lost. But that finding disappeared, Waddington and Berends said, as they fine-tuned their statistical analysis in response to suggestions from reviewers and editors at the academic journal.

In addition, public funds are now being spent by schools which are allowed to discriminate in hiring, blurring the separation of church and state…

Roncalli High School defends why a counselor would lose job over same-sex marriage

“As role models for students, the personal conduct of every teacher, guidance counselor and administrator and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Roncalli officials posted on the school’s official Facebook page Sunday night.

Should a private church school be allowed to choose who their teachers are based on their own standards and beliefs? If so, should they be allowed to use public tax dollars to do it? If not, shouldn’t the state have something to say about how its money is spent? Mixing public money with religious schools seems to be damaging to both the church and the state.

Trying to support three separate school systems, a public one, serving 90% of the students in the state, and two private school systems through vouchers and charters, has made it difficult for Indiana to support schools and pay teachers. Can we really afford that?

Only one school system is mandated by the state constitution…the one that serves all students who enter — no exceptions.

 

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2018 Medley #14

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

 LEAVE THE TESTING ANALYSIS TO THE EXPERTS

MI: When Legislators Don’t Understand Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BILLIONAIRES WANT TO “FIX” BRAINS RATHER THAN ADDRESS POVERTY

Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATORS

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

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

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

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

And yet public schools are still doing the job.

 

PAYING FOR EDUCATION: THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

Fact Sheet: Yes, Increase the Salaries of All Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MONEY LAUNDERING FOR SCHOOL “CHOICE”

FL Schools Using Taxpayer Money to Teach Ridiculous Lies

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

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

Where is your educational tax dollar going?

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

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

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

 

THE DOUBLE STANDARD IN SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

‘Wild West of education’

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

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

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

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

 

LA FINALLY ACCEPTS YEARS OF RESEARCH INTO RETENTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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DeVos Gets it Wrong – Again

In a recent address to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attacks the very concept of public education. Her inability to understanding the “Public Good” is proof of her lack of qualifications for the office she purchased. America’s children deserve better.

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

In her remarks DeVos denounced public schools for low scores on the most recent PISA test, yet ignored, or is ignorant of the fact that the low achievement averages of our children are the result of America’s high rate of child poverty. When poverty is taken into account, America’s scores are among the highest in the world.

More than half of America’s public school children live in low income homes. The effects of poverty on achievement are well known, but DeVos doesn’t know or care about that. She is pathetically ignorant of how children learn and how public schools work.

THE FALSE CHOICE OF SCHOOL CHOICE

As we knew she would, she turned her attention to the lie of so-called “school choice,” and claimed that “choice” is the answer to our children’s low achievement. According to her, the addition of the Blaine amendments to state constitutions, those amendments which forbid the usage of public money for sectarian purposes, was a “bigoted” attempt to “force” the government to control the lives of children.

Wrong.

In the interest of the “Public Good” children are required to attend school. The choice is available for anyone to attend a private school or to be schooled at home, but it is in the interest of the state for all its citizens to be educated. In the past – before vouchers – parents worked with parish councils and churches to help pay for a parochial education for their children if that’s what they wanted.

An educated populace, is necessary to a free society. President Jefferson wrote,

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Public education serves everyone and is available for everyone. Public education provides the means to eliminate the ignorance of the entire populace. We only need to support our public schools and give them the means to do their job. Tax dollars should be reserved for public schools. We can’t afford to support two school systems – one public and the other private.

President (John) Adams wrote [emphasis added],

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.

Meanwhile, the private and religious schools that DeVos claims parents want to “choose” do not give a “choice” to parents. It is these same private schools, which take tax dollars in the form of vouchers, who are free to “choose” to reject the behavior problems, the learning problems, and the insufficiently pious.

In her remarks, DeVos refers to America’s “ugly history of unjust laws” which prevent tax dollars from going to parochial interests. She’s got it wrong. The ugly history associated with American education is the state sponsored segregation of children of color – despite Brown vs. Board of Education – into enclaves of neglect.

The “choice” needed by the parents of America’s children, is the “choice” of a fully funded, professionally staffed, and well maintained public school in every neighborhood.

DeVos is woefully ignorant of what public schools are for, what public schools do, and what public schools need. She doesn’t belong in the office she holds.

Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation

Our country has an ugly history of unjust laws that force families to violate their consciences or that disrespect their preferences. In the late 1800s, anti-Catholics tried to amend the U.S. Constitution. They failed at the federal level, but they maneuvered to enact the amendment in state constitutions throughout the country. 

These Blaine provisions prohibit taxpayer funding of “sectarian” – a euphemism at that time for “Catholic” – activities, even when they serve the public good. Activities like addiction recovery, hospice care, or — the amendments’ primary target — parochial education. 

These amendments are still on the books in 37 states. They were bigoted then, and they still are today. 

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Listen to This #1: Don’t be a Malfoy!

Random quotes…

DON’T BE A MALFOY

From a sign at the Women’s March, January 20, 2018, in Oklahoma City. Published in The Oklahoma Observer, February 2018.

In a world full of Malfoys, be a Hermoine.

PRIVATIZATION: PUERTO RICO

Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes

America’s inadequate response to the hurricane damage done to Puerto Rico has opened the door to the vulture capitalists who have decided that the solution should include school privatization – because it worked so well in Chile and New Orleans.

It’s time to reread The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Whose interest is being served by privatizing the schools of Puerto Rico? I guarantee, it’s not the students.

From Steven Singer

Corporate school reform is not about making better schools. If it was, you would see plans like this being proposed in Beverly Hills and rich white neighborhoods across the country.

But somehow that never happens.

These schemes only show up in poor communities populated predominantly by people of color.

How the Shock Doctrine works.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICES

Oklahoma pastor: Standing in the gap for our school children

“reformers” don’t mention that the “choice” of attending a school on a voucher belongs to the school, not the student; the “choice” in the management of a charter school belongs to the corporate board of directors, not the voters through an elected school board.

From Rev. Clark Frailey

…children in public schools deserve the choice not to be marketed and sold as investments in profiteering schemes.

PRIVATIZATION: SEGREGATION

Charter Schools Are Driving Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The nation has reneged on the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education, and has stopped trying to integrate public schools. Corporate school “reform” has brought on more segregation. I’d say it was an unintended consequence, but…

From Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor’s Professor and professor of Sociology, Public Policy and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Charlotte, quoted by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

…Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were once the nation’s bellwether for successful desegregation. Today, the district exemplifies how charter schools can impede districts’ efforts to resist re-segregation…This research has important implications not only for schools and communities in the Charlotte Mecklenburg region, but for the national debate over the growth and role of charter schools in our nation’s education system.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

ALEC and Indiana’s Voucher Program

Millions of Indiana’s tax dollars are going to subsidize parents who wish to send their children to a religious school. Vouchers are no longer directed towards the poor. Voucher recipients no longer have to “try” the public schools or have come from a “failing” public school. And voucher schools can choose their students. These tax dollars are spent with no public oversight.

From Sheila Kennedy

Indiana’s voucher program has “become increasingly affluent and white,” which shouldn’t surprise us, since these schools “set their own admission standards and can reject students for any reason.”

FOCUS ON LEARNING, NOT TESTING

No school until age seven: Finland’s education lessons for the future

We can’t duplicate Finland’s educational system in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but we can learn from them…

From Kristiina Volmari from the Finnish National Agency for Education

We want our teachers to focus on learning, not testing. We do not, at all, believe in ranking students and ranking schools…

DEMORALIZATION, NOT BURNOUT

Teacher Burnout or Demoralization? What’s the Difference and Why it Matters

The teacher shortage; this is why.

From Doris Santoro in NEA Today

This teacher was not burned out. This woman was saying ‘I can’t teach the way I know I’m supposed to be teaching.’ The profession had changed. This isn’t burnout. This is demoralization.

NO QUICK FIX

New Jersey Orders Closure of Trenton Charter School

This!

Instead of trying to “fix” education by privatizing public schools and throwing money to private and privately run schools that don’t do any better than neighborhood public schools, we should be doing a better job of supporting local public schools.

Privatization of public education is an example of policy makers refusing to accept their share of  responsibility for supporting the children of our nation. Improving the lives of our young people is not the sole responsibility of public schools…nor should it be.

From Russ Walsh

…Learning happens best in consistent, predictable environments. The disruption that often accompanies the charter sector is antithetical to learning. Adults in charge need to stop looking for quick fixes like charter schools and vouchers and get down to the serious work of addressing income inequity, segregation, and the wise investment of funds and educational expertise in the public schools.

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