Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, NAEP, Politics, Privatization, Testing

2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools’ test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for “parents to have choices.” Most refuse to allow “choice” when it comes to opting out of a state’s standardized test, but that’s another story.

The idea behind “school choice” is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it’s not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides “vouchers” to divert money to privatization. We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don’t get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don’t receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn’t receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good…for the community…for all of us.

Is the drive for “choice” in public education just another symptom of America’s growing selfishness? It’s framed in a selfish way focusing on “what’s best for me no matter what it does to the community.” I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can’t blame parents for trying to find a good “fit” for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,

They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either…They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That’s compassion.

But there’s common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation’s future.

The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo…

That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

…So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.

THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven’t been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education “reform” in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton…took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller…and doubled down with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top…all Democrats. There’s a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don’t actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,

…Don’t label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test. We know that’s not true…

President Obama’s Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as “failing” and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an “arbitrary” test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their “privatizing” ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.

Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are “failing.” The fact that it’s not true hasn’t seemed to matter.

Here’s a study showing that charter schools don’t do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the “reformers” say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don’t tell the whole story when it comes to student learning…I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from “failing” public schools. Now it’s about “choice” for “choice’s” sake…just because.

In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, DeVos, Franklin, Segregation, special education, US DOE

2017 Medley #16: Privatization – Leaving Some Students Behind

Special Needs Students, Segregation,
U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The “Free Market,” Ben Franklin

SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND

Indiana’s School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students

Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.

I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don’t qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don’t need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don’t deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?

Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.

…NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne’s public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.

Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it’s just 7 percent. It’s the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here’s Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.

Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.

CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION

School Choice: Designed To Fail

How do we define “good” schools? What does a “failing” school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When “choice” advocates tell parents that they should have the right to “choose the best school for their children” they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.

With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we’re witnessing the return to the “separate and unequal” schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a “public good” is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.

By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”

CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and “educational savings accounts.”

The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that “the market” will eventually eliminate “bad” or “failing” schools because patrons will “shop with their feet.” According to the “market-based” orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.

An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are “failing” and schools with high test scores are “good.” As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, America’s schools aren’t failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.

A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

School Privatization in the Age of Betsy DeVos: Where Are We in Mid-May?

…this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.

The Network for Public Education has made available short explanations of all three school privatization schemes: vouchers, tutition tax credits here and here, and education savings accounts.

EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS

The Free Market Does Not Work for Education

In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of “market-based” education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs…not to students who live in rural areas…not to students who live in low population areas.

The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.

All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald’s could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don’t do it…

…Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It’s because it’s harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald’s in the desert– the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.

Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, “We’ll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn’t make economic/business sense for you to serve.” But now it’s not a free market any more, is it?

BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION

Ben Franklin in a letter to Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780

Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.

In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn’t support itself without government support didn’t deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the “civil power.” Substitute “parochial school” for the word “Religion” in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.

“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

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Posted in Choice, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Teaching Career, Testing, US House, WhyTeachersQuit

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #6

REMINDER

John Kuhn is a strong voice in the fight for public schools. He understands that public education is not just for parents and children who participate in the public school system…public education exists to enrich and preserve our nation, just like public parks, museums, roads, street lights, and water systems.

This is one of my favorite quotes…

POVERTY

Can Schools Cure Poverty?

In order to heal the plague of poverty in America, schools would have to be equipped with medical facilities, counseling services, social workers, and psychologists, as well as all the necessities of a fully funded school like libraries staffed with trained librarians, specialists for students with special needs, specialists in the arts and physical education, nutritionists providing healthy food offerings, administrators with experience in the classroom and in management, and highly trained professional educators in every classroom.

Schools can’t be expected to solve a problem which politicians and policy makers have either failed or ignored for centuries. Even with all the amenities listed in the above paragraph (and any others I might have forgotten), schools would find it difficult to heal the national illness of poverty. Poverty has roots in racism, class structure, economics, a financially ruinous health care system, and a ubiquitous drug culture. Schools can’t repair this societal affliction alone.

Until we, as a people, develop the skill and desire to provide a decent standard of living to all our citizens, poverty will continue to be a major cause of school failure.

From Diane Ravitch

Poverty should be addressed by reducing poverty. No matter how high the standards, no matter how many tests, no matter how swell the curriculum is, those are not cures for homelessness, joblessness, and lack of access to decent medical care. This realization explains why I changed my mind about the best way to reform schools. It is not by turning schools over to the free market but by seeing them as part of a web of social supports for families and children. [emphasis added]

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Teacher: I love my job, but the chaos of urban school reform is wearing me out

I recently took part in a discussion with my Indiana State Senator. This man is not a friend to public education and regularly promotes bills which

  • divert funds from public to private and privately run schools
  • support sectarian practices in public schools such as school sponsored prayer or anti-science legislation
  • support abusive or excessive testing practices
  • encourage the de-professionalization of teaching

During the discussion (which was with other educators), the Senator stated that, “The Senate is suffering from education reform fatigue.”

His point, which I agreed with, was that education reform in Indiana needs to pause and reflect on the changes made. I would, of course, take it a step further and eliminate the damage that “reform” has caused in this state.

In any case, he indicated that members of his branch of the government were tired of focusing on ways to hurt public schools. He blamed the excesses on the Republicans in the State House of Representatives.

My response to him was something along the lines of, “Imagine what it must be like for teachers.”

I wish I had said, “If it’s tiring for you in the Senate to dump all these damaging changes on public education, imagine what it must be like to be a teacher at the end of the dumping.”

From Ryan Heisinger in The Answer Sheet

Lasting relationships with teachers and peers aren’t forged over just a few months. An amazing arts program takes years to build. It takes a long time to develop a wide variety of student-led extracurricular opportunities. School pride comes when students feel they are a part of a community in which they’re able to express themselves and show off their talents. But in a marketplace in which schools compete for test scores, narrowed priorities and school closures erode the stable soil teachers and administrators need to put roots down and grow an enduring culture of success and school community and pride.

TEACHING CAREER

Teacher photographed completing lesson plans while in labor

Every teacher knows the drill…it’s sometimes harder to miss a day at school than to go to school when you’re sick. I remember getting up at 4 AM to get to school and make up lesson plans in order to go back home and collapse into the bed waiting for the pain of some illness to pass.

Naturally, I’ve never been pregnant, but I’m not surprised that a teacher would do this…

From Jennifer Pope of Burleson, Texas

“Really, I’m no different than any teacher that I know,” Pope told ABC News. “They would’ve done the same thing. We think about our students like our own children. I’m grateful [people] are celebrating all teachers and working moms. Being a working mom is hard, but it’s also fulfilling. I can’t imagine not being a teacher.”

CHOICE

Testing Opt Out: Parent Wants Conference; School Calls Police *Just in Case*

The “choice” crowd of “reformers” are adamant that parents know best and should have the tax-funded choice to send their children to any school they want – religious, corporate, or otherwise. They claim that it’s only fair that parents have “choice” in everything having to do with their children…

EXCEPT…testing.

No one should get to “choose” to opt out of state mandated testing.

How many ways can you spell hypocrisy?

From Mercedes Schneider

One of the great contradictions within corporate ed reform is the promoting of a “parental choice” that stops short of the parent’s choice to opt his or her children out of federal- and state-mandated standardized testing.

TESTING: INAPPROPRIATE USES

Anger doesn’t describe it

From rlratto at Opine I Will

Anger doesn’t describe my feelings. Our society is being driven over a cliff by an extreme ideology that will destroy our nation. When we look the other way when children are being forced to fulfill an agenda, when we allow school children to go hungry, when we refuse to provide health care, when we demonize a segment of our population, we are heading for a fall.

AHCA

Despicable and Inexcusable

Sheila Kennedy

Every Republican who voted for this abomination must be held accountable

Paul Waldman

The quote below is from Paul Waldman. He’s quoted in the excellent post by Sheila Kennedy. I’ve included both links.

Perhaps this bill will never become law, and its harm may be averted. But that would not mitigate the moral responsibility of those who supported it. Members of Congress vote on a lot of inconsequential bills and bills that have a small impact on limited areas of American life. But this is one of the most critical moments in recent American political history. The Republican health-care bill is an act of monstrous cruelty. It should stain those who supported it to the end of their days.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, Science, Tenure, Testing, VirtualSchools

2017 Medley #13

Choice, Alternate Facts, Tenure, Testing,
Virtual Charters, Accountability,
Lead Poisoned Children

CHOICE

School Choice: The Faustian Bargain

“…corporate education reformers,” says Russ Walsh in this blog post, “are anti-democracy.” That statement rings true, especially now, at the end of this year’s Indiana General Assembly Session. Legislation making the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position first failed, and then passed the General Assembly after significant political manipulations from legislators who were anxious to take the right to vote for education away from the people. The state Board of Education is already filled with political appointees, and now, beginning in 2025, the office of the Superintendent will be as well making Indiana one of only six states where both the executive head of the Department of Education and the members of state’s board of education are appointed.

These are the same anti-democratic legislators who have spent the last half dozen years transferring tax money from public schools to the pockets of corporate charters and church-run private schools. The budget for this year, for example, gives public schools a 1.6% increase while increasing funding for “Choice Scholarships” (vouchers) by 7% and giving SGO tax credits a whopping 31%…all paid for with public tax dollars.

I suggest that those of us who oppose vouchers and charter schools call school choice what it is in the eyes of that Ohio voter, tax theft. The government collects our taxes in order to provide essential services to all of us. There is no choice involved, we all must pay taxes (unless, apparently, we are hugely wealthy). Those essential services include providing for a military, promoting research on health and welfare, providing for police and fire protection, and funding public schools. When money is diverted from the support of the public schools, it amounts to, as the Ohio voter said, theft. Or maybe another way to say it is “taxation without representation”, since voters have no voice and no oversight of how tax money is spent in schools that receive money through vouchers or charters.

Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

The goal of “reformers” is, apparently, the complete and total destruction of public education.

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

This op-ed by David R. Currie, Ph.D., of Pastors for Texas Children, could easily have been written about the state of Indiana.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.

ALTERNATE FACTS

THIS Is What’s Wrong With America

Congressman: “Don’t confuse me with facts…”

A Facebook friend who lives in Todd Rokita’s Congressional district attended his recent Town Hall. In a post following the event, she reported on an exchange she had with the Congressman:

My question was “What evidence do you require in order to revise your opinion on climate change?”

His response was “No evidence could ever exist that would change my mind. It’s all Liberal science.”

…I really never expected to live in a country where science and empirical research required defense, but evidently Luddites aren’t simply historical oddities. So later this morning, I will join other Hoosiers at the Statehouse to participate in a “March for Science.”

TENURE

Checker Still Doesn’t Understand Tenure

“Reformist” politicians in Indiana have frequently commented on how there are too many well-rated teachers. The complaint is that if there are so many “A” or “B” rated teachers, why aren’t there more “A” or “B” rated schools?

This reflects a basic misunderstanding of the process of education and why it’s essential that educators participate in the policy-making process. Yet we continue to see “education” conferences, panels, and gatherings where the teachers’ voices are absent. We continue to see the federal government education department staffed with non-educators – and those who are hostile to public education. We continue to see the movement for laws and policies which restrict teachers’ ability to do their job.

…instead of saying, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the profession must be in good shape,” reformsters say, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the evaluation system must be broken, because we just know that a huge number of teachers suck.” So, data is good, unless it conflicts with your pre-conceived biases, in which case, just throw the data out.

“Tenure” is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in K-12 education. It’s also a concept which “reformers” disingenuously claim, allows teachers a “job for life.” “Tenure” in K-12 education doesn’t mean “a job for life” as Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes. Instead, the K-12 version of “tenure” simply provides teachers with due process.

In Indiana, when K-12 teachers had tenure, teachers who administrations wanted to fire were allowed a hearing before an impartial observer. When administrators did their jobs, teachers who were guilty of immorality, incompetence, or illegal behavior, were fired. Since 2011, however, teachers in Indiana longer have “tenure.” A teacher who is going to be fired may request a meeting with the superintendent, or with the school board, but no impartial observer is required.

…while there are some large districts where the process is long, convoluted and prohibitively difficult, mostly “We can’t fire her because if tenure” is administrator-speak for “I could fire her, but it would take a lot of time and I’d have to, you know, work really hard, and then I would have to find a replacement and you know how hard that would be and I’m already backed up on meetings this week and now some kid just threw up in the hall, so how about I just blame her on the union and tenure and get back to my own work.” Where burdensome dismissal procedures exist, they have been negotiated into contracts. Fixing those contracts by outlawing tenure is like fixing the electoral college by installing a dictatorship– little bit of overkill.

TESTING

The Wrong Medicine

When school “reform” was in its infancy the “reformers” insisted that their policies would improve student achievement and reduce the economic/racial achievement gap. After several decades of “reformist” policies such as excessive testing and test prep, vouchers, and charter schools, the results are in. Students do no better now than they did before the “reforms” were initiated.

One of the worst problems features of “reform” is the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Teachers no longer use test results to guide their instruction because, in most cases, the results of the tests are not timely or specific enough to help. When results are finally returned, they are used to evaluate teachers, grade schools and school systems, and as justification for closing neighborhood schools, none of which are appropriate or valid uses of the test scores.

At what point do parents, teachers, and administrators stand up and say “Enough is enough?” When do we begin to refuse to allow the removal of even one more dollar from our classrooms to continue to support this enormous exercise in futility.

How about now? Today.

The right number of standardized tests that we should be forcing down the throats of our children is precisely zero. The tests do not help our children, our teachers, or our parents. They have not improved education in America one bit.

VIRTUAL CHARTERS

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017

Note the recommendations in this report – virtual charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as public schools.

During her confirmation hearing, when Senator Tim Kaine asked her about equal accountability for private and privately run schools accepting public tax dollars, Secretary DeVos repeated the phrase, “I support accountability” over and over again, refusing to answer whether all schools should be held to the same accountability. This report would seem to indicate that the answer to the question should have been “Yes, all schools receiving tax dollars should be held to the same accountability standards.”

Given the rapid growth of virtual schools and blended schools, the populations they serve, and the relatively poor performance of virtual schools on widely used accountability measures, it is recommended that:

  • Policymakers slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual schools and the size of their enrollments…
  • Policymakers should carefully and continuously monitor the performance of fulltime blended schools…
  • Authorities charged with oversight should specify and enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that fail to perform adequately.
  • Policymakers should specify a maximum student-teacher ratio for virtual and blended schools…
  • Policymakers should regulate school and class sizes…
  • State agencies ensure that virtual schools and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ…
  • State agencies should continue the work they’ve started in revising accountability systems…
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures appropriate to the unique characteristics of full-time virtual schools
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should support more research to identify which policy options—especially those impacting funding and accountability mechanisms—are most likely to promote successful virtual schools and blended schools…
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should also support more research on exactly how special education is being provided in virtual and blended schools….

FLINT, LEAD

Marc Edwards – How to Address the U.S. Water Crisis in Flint and Beyond

Is your water safe?

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Posted in Charters, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, Segregation

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools – Part 2

Last month I posted The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools. I tried to show that America’s average international test scores are low (in the middle of the pack) because of our embarrassingly high rates of child poverty.

Other factors, however, compound the problem of more than 20% of American children living in poverty.

SEGREGATION

A major problem in America’s schools, for example, is economic and racial segregation.

Christine Organ writes that we’ve put low-income kids in separate schools that are definitely not equal.

Public Schools Aren’t Failing Us. We’re Failing Our Schools (And Our Kids).

…we’ve created a system that relegates low-income students to the farthest corners of public education. We’ve created a system that, by design, segregates schools by socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity.

Schools in low-income areas don’t have the same resources as schools in wealthier areas. The common complaint about “throwing money at schools won’t solve the problems” is usually made by someone whose local schools have enough money to provide an adequate education for their children. Personnel, materials, upkeep and maintenance cost money. When an impoverished neighborhood needs to come up with money to support its local school it’s going to have more trouble than a wealthier neighborhood.

She continues…

Instead of taking money away from or closing those schools that serve lower-income students, we need to give them more money. We need stop funding schools with property taxes. We need to provide quality summer school programs, parent education classes, and after-school programs. We need to work on making sure that low-income students aren’t also food insecure or coming to school hungry. We need to stop holding PTA fundraisers where parents can “bid” on time with teachers and other activities that give some kids a leg up. We need to pay teachers more and evaluate them on their performance, not on their students’ test scores.

Of course, this will take additional funding, and if our kids go to a school that benefits from this messed up have/have-not system, they might be asked to give up something. But as they say, equality feels like oppression when you’re used to benefiting from your privilege, so get used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable. We all want what’s best for our children, but that can’t come at the expense of other innocent children when it comes to education.

Those of us who have enough must accept that those who don’t have enough need more, and it’s up to us to share. We should have learned that in kindergarten, after all. Besides, the children of the nation belong to all of us. They are our future. If we improve the lot of “the least among us” we all benefit from an educated workforce and lower incarceration rates. Even if we increased the amount of money going to schools with low-income students by 25% it would still cost less per child than prison…and higher graduation rates means lower prison rates. We would save money in the long run.

Those with more than enough, the 1% of the population who received the largest portion of the post-2008-recovery wealth, need to share as well.

The point is, we’re either one nation or we’re not. We’re either “in this together” or we’re not.

CHOICE

“Choice” is the mantra of the school reformers. They insist that parents should have the choice of where they send their children. The truth, however, is that, when it comes to private and privately run schools, it is the school which chooses its students. Private schools which accept vouchers and charter schools using public funds can either not accept students, “counsel out” those who “are not a good fit” or just expel them outright. In this way, they minimize the number of low achieving students who are allowed entrance. Those children who are rejected often the most expensive to educate. They must then return to the public schools. Public schools accept everyone.

Why selection bias is the most powerful force in education

Selection bias hides everywhere in education. Sometimes, in fact, it is deliberately hidden in education. A few years ago, Reuters undertook an exhaustive investigation of the ways that charter schools deliberately exclude the hardest-to-educate students, despite the fact that most are ostensibly required to accept all kinds of students, as public schools are bound to. For all the talk of charters as some sort of revolution in effective public schooling, what we find is that charter administrators work feverishly to tip the scales, finding all kinds of crafty ways to ensure that they don’t have to educate the hardest students to educate. And even when we look past all of the dirty tricks they use – like, say, requiring parents to attend meetings held at specific times when most working parents can’t – there are all sorts of ways in which students are assigned to charter schools non-randomly and in ways that advantage those schools. Excluding students with cognitive and developmental disabilities is a notorious example. (Despite what many people presume, a majority of students with special needs take state-mandated standardized tests and are included in data like graduation rates, in most locales.) Simply the fact that parents typically have to opt in to charter school lotteries for their students to attend functions as a screening mechanism.

UNIVERSAL PUBLIC EDUCATION

Some countries restrict which students go to school and which students take standardized tests. Not in the U.S. We educate everyone, and everyone, even the most academically challenged students, take “the test.” Steven Singer explains…

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

We have developed a special education system to help children at the edges that many other countries just can’t touch. In some countries these students are simply excluded. In others they are institutionalized. In some countries it’s up to parents to find ways to pay for special services. The United States is one of the only countries where these children are not only included and offered full and free access, but the schools go above and beyond to teach these children well beyond their 12th academic year.

In every public school in the United States these students are included. In math, reading, science and social studies, they are there benefiting from instruction with the rest of the class. And this, in turn, benefits even our non-special education students who gain lessons in empathy and experience the full range of human abilities.

Of course, most of our special education students are also included in our test scores. Yes, other countries that ignore these children and exclude them from testing get higher scores. But so what? Do you mean to tell me this makes them better? No, it makes them worse.

When politicians pander to “reformers” and “reform” minded donors by calling our schools “failures,” they do an injustice to America’s public schools.

Kelly Day, who blogs at Filling My Map, writes,

It is no accident that academic achievement mirrors the country’s economic structures. We will never fix our broken education system in the U.S. until we fix our broken economic system. Students will continue to fail academically as long as they live in fear, hunger and poverty- no matter what educational reforms or policies we enact.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, Curmudgucation, Lead, Michigan, Public Ed, Recess, Tenure, Testing

2017 Medley #11

Lead, Defend Public Education, What Tests Measure, Tenure, Recess, Let’s Stop Pretending, Choice, 

POISONING CHILDREN

The EPA (at least until the department is destroyed under the current “we don’t need clean air or water” administration) says that

…there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.

Yet, we don’t know how much lead is getting into homes around the nation. Last year, USA Today noted that upwards of six million people are drinking from systems deemed unsafe, but there are likely more than that because of the way we test for lead.

…almost 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people nationwide have failed to meet the EPA’s standards for lead in drinking water. But people in thousands more communities deemed in compliance with EPA’s lead rules have no assurance their drinking water is safe because of the limited and inconsistent ways water is being tested, the investigation found.

How many of America’s schools are labeled as “failing” because their children suffer from lead poisoning? How many children’s futures are being damaged by unknown amounts of lead in the water?

Is your water safe?

Michigan, Flint Reach Settlement to Replace Lead Pipes

The settlement still needs to be approved by the federal judge presiding in the case. This sounds like a good start, but we need to recognize that Flint was not the only city that has this problem, nor was it the worst. Testing has revealed similar and even higher levels of lead in cities all over the country. The results are devastating for children, dooming many of them in school because of the effect lead has on their brains as they develop. The fact that it tends to be focused in cities with high minority populations only makes it more difficult for those children and families to escape poverty and have stable, productive lives.

E. Chicago residents wait to leave lead-tainted homes

The complex was home to more than 1,000 people, including about 700 children. Tests by the Indiana Department of Health found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. Even at low levels, exposure can cause nervous system damage and lowered IQs, according to experts.

DEFEND INSTITUTIONS: DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defending Public Education from Trump’s Tyranny

Russ Walsh reviews Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Lesson number 2 is Defend Institutions. Snyder writes,

It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about— a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union— and take its side.

Walsh, like me, chooses the institution of public education. He writes,

One way we can be sure that Trump and his minions are coming after our institutions is to see who the Tweeter-in-chief has chosen to head up various government departments. Almost to a person (Pruitt, Perry, Price), people who are opposed to the very institutions they are leading have been put in charge. If public education is to survive, we are going to have to fight for it. We cannot sit back and wait for this current nightmare to pass because by the time we wake up, it may be too late. It should be clear to all of us that the institution of public education is under a very real threat from the authoritarian Trump administration and its anti-public schools Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE COMPASSION?

A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

These thirty things which can’t be measured by the BS Test (big standardized test – h/t Peter Greene) are only the tip of the iceberg. Standardized tests, which in Indiana, are used to measure teacher effectiveness, also can’t measure a teacher’s dedication, her understanding of child development, or his empathy for a child’s emotional crises…and more.

CURMUDGUCATION

Below are two posts from Peter Greene who consistently brings clarity to the issues facing America’s public schools.

Tenure

MN: Vergara III: The Attack on Tenure Continues

Another attack on tenure…this time in Minnesota. Let me repeat it once more: “Tenure,” for K-12 teachers does not mean a job for life. It simply means due process. How do you get rid of “bad teachers?” Hire good administrators.

The plaintiffs are four moms from Minnesota (you get a picture here of how PEJ “found” them), including lead plaintiff Tiffani Forslund, a charter school teacher currently running for a seat on city council. Since the days of Vergara, the people crafting these lawsuits have learned to angle more toward Saving Poor Children, because it’s much easier to attract teachers to underfunded schools with tough populations when you can promise those teachers that they will have no job security at all. The lawsuit wants to implement a solution of “protecting our best teachers and replacing low-performing teachers with effective teachers” which seems magical and simple and completely unrelated to whether or not teachers have tenure.

Recess

FL: Recess Is For Babies

“Florida government– what the hell is wrong with you?”

That’s the question Curmudgucation asks at the end of this post. Why is the state deciding how much time children should spend at recess? Shouldn’t that be left to professionals who understand child development…people like pediatricians, child psychologists, or teachers?

Apparently the Florida legislature believes that the length of time children spend at recess has an impact on their test scores. Test scores are the most important thing in Florida (see also Curmudgucation’s post, FL: Court Rules in Favor of Stupid) and elsewhere. If test scores are low it must be the fault of teachers, which means children must be punished.

Voting against twenty minutes a day for recess for five year olds…insanity.

But a Florida House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday decided that twenty minutes a day is just too generous…

The amended version of the bill cuts the requirement for recess back to only those days without phys ed, and limits it to grades K-3 only, because once you get to be nine years old, it’s time to get down to business, you little slackers! It’s also bad news for phys ed teachers, because it allows schools to count recess as part of their phys ed time– in other words, Florida thinks you phys ed teachers are just glorified recess monitors.

TRUTH

Can We Please Stop Pretending …?

Let’s stop pretending that politicians, legislators, and other policy makers have any clue about what makes a good school.

Let’s stop pretending that those same politicians, legislators and policy makers are not directly responsible for much that happens in America’s classrooms.

Let’s stop pretending that money doesn’t matter.

Rob Miller has more…

For no other reason than I’ve grown weary of thinking and writing about the Oklahoma budget crisis, I decided to dust off my original list and add about 65 more items that literally poured forth from my brain. Sorry, but I get a little snarky towards the end…

  1. That all 5-year-olds arrive at the schoolhouse ready to learn.
  2. That policy-makers who have never taught or earned an education degree know more than the practitioners who work with kids every day.
  3. That charter schools that accept the same students as public schools achieve better results.
  4. That class size doesn’t matter.
  5. That higher academic standards will automatically result in more kids being college and career ready.

CHOICE: SEARCHING FOR A GOOD SCHOOL

The masquerade of school choice: a parent’s story

Here is a story of a parent trying to choose the best school for her child. Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S., like Finland and other high achieving nations, provided high quality public schools in every town and neighborhood? Students and their neighborhoods benefit from the stability of public schools. Unfortunately, we’re so concerned with figuring out how we can privatize public schools in order to line the pockets of edupreneurs, that we have, in many areas, given up on the public schools.

I navigated the school choice maze as a university professor with good income, flexible hours, reliable transportation, and a strong parent network. Imagine the process of school choice for parents of students attending failing schools, with limited income, or relying on public transportation.

Don’t let school choice trick you. The best way to provide quality across social class, race and ethnicity is to invest in public schools.

CHOICE: SCHOOLS MAKE THE CHOICE

Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice

From USA Today.

In this article, Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute said that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet.”

That’s wrong.

School choice allows families to use their “feet” to look for schools which will accept their children. Schools make the choice, not the students.

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute agreed, adding that a federal voucher or tax credit “can essentially push out of the way programs that have been created by states … and that kills what Justice (Louis) Brandeis called ‘laboratories of democracy.’ We want to have states trying different ways of trying to deliver education and school choice, so we can see what works well, what works well for specific populations.”

Noting that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet” by choosing another school, he added, “The way you vote with your feet against the federal government is you’ve got to move to another country, which can be somewhat onerous.”

Petrilli said accepting federal funding could be most painful to private — and especially religious — schools, which will face “really difficult choices.” Would the funding force them to accept LGBTQ students — or teachers, for that matter — against their religious beliefs?

“They just won’t participate,” he said. “And then what’s the point? You don’t have a program.”

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Posted in Choice, Detroit, Jefferson, JohnGreen, Public Ed, Quotes, Testing, vouchers

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #4

A FOUNDER’S VIEW: USING TAX MONEY TO SUPPORT RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists

Thomas Jefferson, as many free market conservatives will tell you, was in favor of strong states and a weaker, smaller, federal government. However, on one thing he was firm…the influence of religion on government. The legal gymnastics used which allows tax money to flow from public coffers into religious schools in the form of education vouchers is something Jefferson would have objected to.

We don’t “give vouchers” for other public services. Taxes support local police departments, fire departments, parks, libraries, road commissions, and water services. Federal taxes are used for national parks and military services. There is no widespread call for vouchers in those areas. How far do you think someone would get if they demanded a “voucher” for their portion of tax money that goes towards the public library so that they could buy books from Amazon?

Public education is no different.

From Thomas Jefferson

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State (emphasis added).

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist, and the Religious Right

Where are all the “failing” public schools in the U.S.? Almost exclusively, America’s “failing” public schools – and by “failing” we mean schools populated by students with low achievement test scores – are in poor and poorly financed school districts. The economic inequity of America is reflected in its public schools, not caused by it. The schools are not failing. The American system of greed has failed the nearly one-fourth of our children who live in poverty. The legislatures of the various states have compounded that failure by underfunding public schools in areas of high poverty. Children who come to school from impoverished backgrounds need more services than other children…and that support is either hit-or-miss, or nonexistent altogether.

From Russ Walsh

So why the push for vouchers? Because vouchers are very good for the rich. If the rich can sell vouchers as the cure for educational inequality, they may be able to get people to ignore the real reason for public education struggles – income inequity.

No matter what they’re called, vouchers won’t improve public schools

From the Austin American-Statesman

As the saying goes, a rose by any other name still smells as sweet.

Similarly, vouchers by any other name still stink.

(LACK OF) SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Which Choice Would You Choose?

Why are we spending money on vouchers and charters instead of just fixing the public schools we have? In the following quote, “Option A” is a well-staffed, well-managed, well-maintained, well-funded, public school, something children in wealthy areas get without a second thought.

From Peter Greene

…if we want all students to be able to choose the school in Option A, why not do what it takes to transform every public school into Option A? Option A actually offers more choice, more flexibility, but most of all, more of the things that families actually want. Once upon a time reformsters made noises about charters developing great ideas to create great schools, but we already have a plethora of model public schools– why not use them as a template? Why not muster the sort of “War on Poverty” or “Get To The Moon” or “Endless Battles in Other Countries” willpower we’ve mustered before and direct it toward making all schools great schools?

Detroit parents steered to ‘better’ schools — that don’t actually take Detroit kids

What community of middle-class or upper middle-class white Americans would stand for this sort of treatment? We are closing the very public schools which most need to remain open – those in high-poverty neighborhoods. Support public schools. Fix them. Don’t close them.

From Chalkbeat

“You are receiving this letter because the school your child attends is at risk of being closed by June 30, 2017 due to academic failure for many years…”

TESTING

We enter the darkest days of education.

It’s that time of the year again. Schools all over the country have stopped teaching and learning in order to fulfill the insanity that is standardized testing. In Indiana the standardized tests are used for evaluating students, grading schools and school districts, and evaluating teachers. The tests themselves are barely valid as a student achievement measure. They are completely invalid as a measure of an entire school’s value, the value or a school system, or a teacher’s competence. Time to end this mess.

From Rlratto at Opine I will

…this is institutional child abuse! I have written about this and about how this is the time of year that I am ashamed to be a teacher. We all should be ashamed, when we make these children take these tests to fulfill a political agenda and provide absolutely no valid data that helps children excel.

THEY’RE GIVING US WHAT WE WANT

In this video John Green talks about American health care, and inadvertently (or perhaps not), says something insightful about American politics in general. At 6:57 in the video he says,

From John Green

…because when we allow ourselves to be pandered to, our elected leaders seem more than happy to oblige us.

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