Category Archives: Choice

2020 Medley #6: Public Schools Week

Public schools for the public good,
The failure of “choice”,
Where will we find teachers for tomorrow?

PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Public Schools Week ends today, though for ninety percent of American schoolchildren the celebration of public education takes place every day during their local school year.

Why do the vast majority of our K-12 students choose public schools? Because public schools don’t choose their students. Every child has a place in public schools. No child is turned away. All children are welcome: children with different gender preferences, children of any color, any or no religious affiliation, rich, poor, athletically or academically gifted, or physically or academically challenged.

We support public schools because it’s important for us to have a society in which everyone is educated. Educated citizens make informed citizens. Informed citizens make informed choices. Informed choices make for a better society. Jefferson wrote (perhaps naively)…

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be…Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.

John Adams envisioned a public school system that provided for publicly supported schools across the nation.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must 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 expense of the people themselves.

Public Schools Serve The Public Good

The public good is a concept that has always had to fight for survival against human selfishness and it’s no different in today’s world. Tribalism has replaced a shared public responsibility. We have become a nation in conflict, not cooperation.

Vouchers were born out of a desire to avoid integrating schools. When so-called “separate but equal” schools became unconstitutional in the United States proponents of segregation chose to close public schools and set up private schools using voucher programs. Today’s voucher programs benefit mostly religious schools that have the option to choose their students. Only certain students are allowed.

During Public Schools Week, we must recommit ourselves to defend the educational system that serves 90 percent of America’s children: our public schools. One way to do that is by opposing private school voucher schemes.

Reasons to oppose vouchers abound: The plans violate church-state separation and individual conscience because they force taxpayers to pay for private religious education. Voucher schools don’t improve academic performance. Many private schools engage in discriminatory hiring and admissions policies. Vouchers don’t require schools to be accountable to the public.

But there’s another equally compelling reason to oppose vouchers that often gets overlooked: Voucher plans subsidize private schools that serve a private interest, not the public good.

Five Threats To America’s Public School System

Those who feed the forces of tribalism distrust the concept of the public good. Since privatizers are in power, they are a very real threat to public schools.

President Donald Trump…

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos…

Private school lobbying groups…

Anti-government extremists: The simplistic idea that anything the government does is bad has a powerful hold on conservative thought in America. Because public schools are a very common manifestation of a public, government-provided service, they’re a high-profile target for ideologues who favor privatization of as many public services as possible…Never mind that public schools educate the vast majority of American schoolchildren and serve the public good.

Millionaires looking to make a profit: In her new book Slaying Goliath, education writer Diane Ravitch focuses on a band of millionaires (in some cases billionaires) who have decided to make education “reform” a priority. The problem, Ravitch writes, is that these would-be reformers don’t have backgrounds in education and naïvely insist that “market solutions” from the business community can be applied to a public service like education…

National Poll Shows Strong Voter Support for Public Schools

Americans support their public schools and are willing to pay for them, while most are unwilling to pay for private schools. That’s why voucher plans usually fail when put to a popular vote. States rely on legislators to fund voucher programs. [emphasis in original]

We surveyed likely voters. Here’s what they said:

Funding for Public Schools

  • 64% think funding for public schools should be increased
  • 26% think funding should be kept the same, and only 6% thinking funding should be decreased
  • Of those who believe funding should be increased, eight out of ten would support an increase in funding even if it meant they would pay more in taxes.


Public Funds for Private Schools

  • 73% agree with the statement we should NOT take away public funds from our public schools to fund private, religious, and home school education
  • 64% of voters are…less likely to vote for an elected official who supports taking away funds from public schools to give to private schools, including 47% who would be much less likely to do so

Schools And Other Shared Public Spaces

Curmudgucation’s Peter Greene is a fan of public education, the public good, and shared public spaces…

I remain a fan of public education in no small part because it is one of the last shared public places left, even as it is being whittled away. It is a space that reflects the big unruly mess that is a democratic-ish country, and yes that means conflicts and negotiations and an unending clash of conflicting values and goals. But the proposed alternative–these people want something different so they’ll just go over there by themselves–requires a continued breaking of relationships, a repeated running away from conflict in place of resolutions. In fact, a worsening of conflict, because once separated into private slices, everyone can just create cartoon strawman versions of Those People Over There to revile and deride.

I’ve been reading about the ideal for years–if you want to send your kid to a private school for left-handed druids who don’t believe in evolution but do believe in global warming, and who want to play in a marching band, well, then, you should be able to make that choice. Everyone should have their own choice of a hundred separate different school systems. But we already know how well “separate but equal” works out. And by demanding that such a ecosystem of parallel schools be organized by free market forces, we guarantee failure, because the free market is great for picking winners and losers, terrible for creating equity among disparate groups.

THE FAILURE OF “CHOICE”

National School Choice Week is actually about promoting certain choices over others

Those who are privatizing our public education systems are creating a system of winners and losers.

Surely some well-meaning parents and students celebrated. But they were joined by powerful people who, despite what they say, don’t believe that every child deserves a great school. Instead, these people believe in a certain kind of choice over all others. In their worldview, market choice is more important than democracy, parents are consumers rather than members of a broader community, and education is a competition between students, with winners and losers.

School choice costing taxpayers

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include information about the charter school scandal now swirling in Indiana…where virtual charter school operators paid themselves and their own businesses $85 million. The money came from state tuition support and included funds for students who were never enrolled in the so-called schools.

The legislature blames the Department of Education, despite the fact that the privatization laws passed in the Indiana General Assembly were lax enough to allow such cheating and conflicts of interest to happen.

This is not unique to Indiana. Privatizers around the nation regularly steal tax money from public schools. The Network for Public Education has been tracking charter school scandals. The current list includes more than two dozen scandals from across the nation in January 2020 alone.

For further reading: Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste

Blaming the Department of Education for the abuses of charter school operators is like blaming the BMV for the actions of a drunk driver. Responsibility for lax regulations and oversight for both charter schools and voucher schools falls squarely on Bosma and the GOP supermajority. In cozying up to the deep-pocketed school-choice community, they ignored glaring examples of corruption here and elsewhere. It was almost 11 years ago when The Journal Gazette first reported on the suspicious real estate deals surrounding two Imagine Inc. charter schools in Fort Wayne – schools that eventually shut down with $3.6 million in outstanding state loans.

Charter school scandals are so common that the Network for Public Education began collecting them on a website and tagging them on Twitter: #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal.

WHO WILL BE TOMORROW’S TEACHERS?

The Number Of People Who Want To Teach Has Dropped By More Than Half This Decade

Public schools are being starved by privatizers diverting tax money to charters and vouchers. Teaching in underfunded schools isn’t easy, so it’s no wonder that young people are turning their backs on careers in education.

Federal data shows during the 2008-09 school year, 18,113 people were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in [Indiana]. But in 2016, that number was cut by more than half; the programs training future teachers saw only 7,127 people enrolled.

What message are we sending to the future?
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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Public Ed, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, VirtualSchools, vouchers

2020 Medley #4: Vouchers, choice, and the misuse of tax dollars

School choice fails, Students give up rights,
Tax dollars for discrimination,
Choice and segregation,
Pilot “choice” programs are a trap

“…to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical…” — Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

INDIANA’S VOUCHER PLAN

Indiana’s voucher program began as a plan for low-income students to “escape” their “failing schools” and go to the private schools that wealthier people have always been able to afford. In order to qualify, then-governor Mitch Daniels insisted, a student must have spent at least one year at a public school.

Since its inception in 2011, it has changed into a middle-class entitlement program. Most students who get Indiana “scholarships” are students who have never attended a public school. A third of students who get Indiana “scholarships” are students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches. Less than one percent of Indiana’s “scholarship” students are “escaping” from a “failing school.”

Since private schools aren’t better than public schools, vouchers don’t improve academic outcomes for students.

The purpose of Indiana’s vouchers has changed. Supporters in Indiana no longer talk about helping poor kids get a better education. Instead, taking DeVos talking points, it’s all about “choice.” Parents will choose the best school for their children.

Finally, Indiana schools that accept vouchers don’t have to be accountable for the tax money they are given. At an education forum last month, my local state senator said that this was intended. They don’t have to be accountable. They get the money with no strings attached. Perhaps they’ll use the money they get for their school to fix the church steeple…or pay for the new football field. It doesn’t matter. The taxpayers shouldn’t care about accountability for tax dollars paid to religious institutions.

See also: James Madison’s 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” was written in 1785 in opposition to a proposal by Patrick Henry that all Virginians be taxed to support “teachers of the Christian religion.”

To this day, the “Memorial and Remonstrance” remains one of the most powerful arguments against government-supported religion ever penned.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Constitution (Article 1, Section 6), which seems to agree with Presidents Jefferson and Madison, states,

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

SCHOOL CHOICE

The current administration, supported by Mike Pence as VP and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, hates public education. In the State of the Union Address on February 4, 2020, the President sneered about “failing government schools.” DeVos, who purchased her job with political contributions, has called public education “a dead end.” Neither the President, the Secretary, nor any of their children, ever attended a public school.

Despite the lack of evidence, the administration chooses privatization over public education.

School Choice Fails Students and Parents

Ultimately, the school choice debate is a distraction from a sobering fact: the U.S. has failed public education by never completely committing to high-quality education for every child in the country regardless of their ZIP code.

There is no mystery to what constitutes a great school, high academic quality, or challenging education, but there is solid proof that almost no one in the U.S. has the political will to choose to guarantee that for every child so that no one has to hope an Invisible Hand might offer a few crumbs here and there.

STUDENTS GIVE UP THEIR RIGHTS WHEN THEY LEAVE THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights

When students participate in a voucher program, the rights that they have in public school do not automatically transfer with them to their private school. Private schools may expel or deny admission to certain students without repercussion and with limited recourse for the aggrieved student. In light of Secretary DeVos’ push to create a federal voucher program, it is crucial that parents and policymakers alike understand the ways that private schools can discriminate against students, even while accepting public funding. Parents want the best education possible for their children, and voucher programs may seem like a path to a better education for children whose families have limited options. However, parents deserve clear and complete information about the risks of using voucher programs, including the loss of procedural safeguards available to students in public schools.

SHOULD TAX DOLLARS BE USED TO DISCRIMINATE?

Anti-LGBT Florida schools getting school vouchers

Suzanne Eckes, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University asks, “Hey citizens of the state of Florida … Do you want your taxpayer money used in this way?”

Do the citizens of Florida want private schools that receive state dollars to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? Do they want private schools to be able to refuse service to certain groups of people? The article authors don’t come out and say it, but the answer is, apparently, “yes.”

All of the schools the Sentinel found with anti-gay policies were Christian, with the largest group — about 45 percent — Baptist, not surprising given that the Southern Baptist Convention says Christians must “oppose” homosexuality.

Nearly 40 percent of the schools were non-denominational and a smattering were affiliated with Assemblies of God, Catholic, Lutheran, Nazarene, Pentecostal and Presbyterian Church in America denominations, among others.

There could be more campuses with discriminatory policies, as some private schools that take the scholarships do not publicly post their rules, and a small number don’t have websites.

The schools with these anti-gay rules are found across Central Florida, in suburban DeLand (Stetson Baptist Christian School), near downtown Orlando (Victory Christian Academy) and in historic Mount Dora (Mount Dora Christian Academy). They are in Florida’s rural communities from Okeechobee to the Panhandle and its cities from Miami to St. Petersburg to Tallahassee.

The schools see the proposed legislation as an unconstitutional attack on their religious rights, and many likely wouldn’t change their policies, even if the scholarship law gets amended.

Subsidizing Bigotry

Columnist Sheila Kennedy points out the necessity of public schools.

As the country’s diversity and tribalism have grown, America’s public schools have become more necessary than ever. The public school is one of the last “street corners” where children of different backgrounds and beliefs come together to learn–ideally–not just “reading, writing and arithmetic” but the history and philosophy of the country they share.

Today’s Americans read different books and magazines, visit different websites, listen to different music, watch different television programs, and occupy different social media bubbles. In most communities, we’ve lost a shared daily newspaper. The experiences we do share continue to diminish.

Given this fragmentation, the assaults on public education are assaults on a shared America.

DESPITE BROWN v. BOARD, SEGREGATION CONTINUES UNDER “CHOICE”

Report: Where Parents Have More Choice, Schools Appear To Become More Segregated

Another not-so-hidden “feature” of school “choice” is economic and racial segregation.

…(families) are making judgments about school quality … but they’re basing those judgments often on poor data, on average test scores at a school, which is not a good indicator of school quality. And sometimes all kinds of biases can get in the way too. It looks like, from other research, that white advantaged parents often make decisions based on the number of other white advantaged parents at a school, not based on any real research about school safety or school quality or these kinds of important indicators.

DON’T GET FOOLED LIKE INDIANA

Don’t Be Fooled! Voucher ‘Pilot’ Programs Are A Trap

Legislators use “pilot” programs as ways of getting their pet projects started. Once a program is funded — even as a “pilot” — funding is easier to continue. Changes to the “pilot” program can come later, as in the all-inclusive changes to the Indiana voucher plan. It might begin as a restrictive plan, for certain students “in need.” Given the nature of political donations, however, it will undoubtedly expand…just as Indiana’s plan has expanded.

Last week a South Carolina Senate Education Subcommittee debated SB 556, which would create a new private school voucher program. Before the hearing, Americans United sent a letter to the committee telling its members to reject the bill because vouchers have been shown to harm students’ academic achievement, fail students with disabilities and violate religious freedom.

Sensing that a statewide voucher would be unpopular, some senators offered to make the program a temporary “pilot” or to limit its eligibility to a “narrow” population of students. Hopefully, South Carolina’s legislators won’t buy this false compromise.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Choice, Constitution, DeVos, Indiana, Jefferson, Madison, Privatization, Trump, vouchers

2019 Medley #22

Respecting teachers, Vouchers,
Shaming children, Stuttering,
An ADHD prosthetic, Looking back

RESPECT FOR TEACHERS

Are Teachers Allowed to Think for Themselves?

Teaching isn’t, as some legislators apparently think, professional babysitting. Teachers don’t just “tell” students what they need to know, and students don’t just “remember” everything.

Teaching a class of children — whether they are 6 years old, or 16 — is not easy. To do it well takes training, experience, support, resources, and a fair amount of luck.

Most licensed teachers in Indiana have four-year degrees from accredited university teacher training programs; many have master’s degrees. Yet almost half of all new teachers leave the field within the first five years. Perhaps they didn’t realize that teaching is hard work. Perhaps the hours are too long and they thought they were just getting a 7 – 3:30 job with lots of vacation time. Perhaps the pay isn’t good enough. Perhaps they find out that they’re not cut out for teaching.

The teachers who stay, then, are those who are committed to education. One would think that, with years of training, teachers would be considered experts in their field. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Panels of “education experts” regularly have no teachers on them. The National Reading Panel had only one middle school teacher. The Panel, which explored the way young children learned to read “included no teacher of early reading instruction.”

The National Commission on Education, authors of A Nation at Risk, consisted of twelve administrators, one businessperson, a chemist, a physicist, a politician, a conservative activist, and only one practicing teacher.

This lack of respect for the teaching profession seeps in from the various state legislatures. Teachers in Indiana, for example, are told what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess what they have taught. Then they are blamed for failure when the scores on the assessment (currently ILEARN) are lower than the arbitrary cut scores.

Teaching may be the only profession where you are required to get an advanced degree including a rigorous internship only to be treated like you have no idea what you’re doing.

DIVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

The Supreme Court Is Considering Forcing You To Fund Religious Education

Since 2011 more than half a billion Indiana taxpayer dollars have gone to fund private and parochial schools despite the fact that vouchers don’t go to “better performing” schools…and despite the fact that the First Amendment (as seen in Madison’s support of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) establishes a wall between Church and State.

Indiana’s voucher program, like others around the country, is free from any conflict between Church and State because the money is laundered through a parent “voucher” in which the parent “chooses” the school their child will go to. In truth, however, it is the school that does the choosing.

…many religious schools engage in blatant forms of discrimination. They may refuse to admit students who are LGBTQ, nontheists or religious minorities. Many apply similar religious litmus tests to faculty and staff. Unlike public schools, which are open to all, religious schools serve a private interest.

Finally, any diversion of taxpayer money to religious schools threatens the public education system. Public schools serve 90 percent of America’s children. They ought to be our priority when it comes to allocating taxpayer funding.

All of these reasons are important, but at the end of the day, this is an issue of freedom of conscience. Our founders understood that no one should be forced to support religion against his or her will. It’s one of the primary reasons why they built church-state separation into the First Amendment. The Supreme Court must not abandon this vital principle.

STOP BLAMING KIDS FOR THE IMPACT OF POVERTY

Penalizing kids for school lunch debt can harm their mental health

Nearly half of Indiana’s children are low income; more than one in five live in poverty. With this many children coming from homes without a lot of money, it’s even more important for schools to remember that it is not the student’s fault if their lunch bill isn’t paid. We have to stop blaming children for the impact of poverty on their lives.

Even when parents have enough money it’s not the child’s fault when parents are late with their payment.

Facing stigma around school lunches can negatively impact kids’ mental health, stress levels, and overall cafeteria experience, Cohen says. That’s seen with kids who feel labeled by receiving school lunch, for example. “When we remove that stigma, it makes a big difference in kids’ lives.” Some schools do so by giving all students cafeteria swipe cards so that it’s not apparent who is or is not paying for the meal. On the whole, Cohen says schools are getting better at free meals, but not lunch debt. “When you give a kid a cheese sandwich, you’re bringing that stigma back.”

ARE SOME OF JOE’S GAFFES SIMPLY COVERING UP HIS STUTTERING?

What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say

I’m not going to comment on Vice President Biden’s education plans, but this article about his history of stuttering might explain some of his hesitations, and misstatements. “He lifts his hands up to his face like he did on the debate stage in July, to guide the v sound out of his mouth…”

“The paragraph I had to read was: ‘Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentleman. He laid his cloak upon the muddy road suh-suh-so the lady wouldn’t soil her shoes when she entered the carriage,’” Biden tells me, slightly and unintentionally tripping up on the word so. “And I said, ‘Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man who—’ and then the nun said, ‘Mr. Biden, what is that word?’ And it was gentleman that she wanted me to say, not gentle man. And she said, ‘Mr. Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s that word?’ ”

Biden says he rose from his desk and left the classroom in protest, then walked home. The family story is that his mother, Jean, drove him back to school and confronted the nun with the made-for-TV phrase “You do that again, I’ll knock your bonnet off your head!” I ask Biden what went through his mind as the nun mocked him.

“Anger, rage, humiliation,” he says. His speech becomes staccato. “A feeling of, uh—like I’m sure you’ve experienced—it just drops out of your chest, just, like, you feel … a void.” He lifts his hands up to his face like he did on the debate stage in July, to guide the v sound out of his mouth: void.

I stuttered. I stutter.

Blogger Fred Klonsky says he plans to vote against Biden in the primary election, but understands first hand that the story of Biden’s stuttering is a story about how we treat children with differences.

But Atlantic’s senior editor, who has a stutter himself, has written an article that is about way more than Biden.

It is about how we treat differences.

And it is about me, since I had a severe stutter as a child and I still stutter when I am tired or stressed.

TREATMENT AS AN ADHD PROSTHETIC

What Is an ADHD Prosthetic?

Is medication for ADHD a “crutch?”

“My concern,” the parent continued. “Is that if we get him glasses, we are sending him the message that it’s okay not to try to see. It feels like an excuse. Like we’re enabling him. I mean, he has to learn to see someday, right? He can’t go through life using his poor vision as an excuse not to see.”

A LOOK BACK AT CHANGE THAT HASN’T HAPPENED

School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

This quote from a June 2017 blog post is a good reminder that not much has changed in the field of public education. There are still those of us who “continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education” and there are still politicians who refuse to take their share of the responsibility for that poverty. Apparently, politicians think that schools are the sole public institution responsible for overcoming the effects of poverty. If they can’t, then they are blamed, castigated, taken over by the state, or privatized…none of which changes a damn thing.

Meanwhile, nearly 20% of America’s children live in poverty. If we include “low income” children the number doubles….for Black, Hispanic and American Indian children, it triples. The relationship between school success to economic status is well known, but they still blame the schools and teachers.

…To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

We can’t ignore the impact of poverty on our students’ achievement.

From March 2009

The U.S. has set as a national goal the narrowing of the achievement gap between lower income and middle-class students, and that between racial and ethnic groups. This is a key purpose of the No Child Left Behind act, which relies primarily on assessment to promote changes within schools to accomplish that goal. However, out-of-school factors (OSFs) play a powerful role in generating existing achievement gaps, and if these factors are not attended to with equal vigor, our national aspirations will be thwarted.

This brief details six OSFs common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

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Filed under ADHD, Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Speech&Language, Teaching Career, vouchers

2019 Medley #21

Retention-in-grade, Low Test Scores,
Reading wars, Charters and Choice,
Mississippi Strategy,
Vouchers and Discrimination, Poisoning Children

RETENTION HURTS CHILDREN

The Haunted Third Grade Classrooms Children Fear: Enter and… Stay Forever!

It’s time again for another article dealing with retention…complete with references.

In-grade retention doesn’t work. More often than not it harms students psychologically and emotionally, increases the chances of students dropping out, and doesn’t improve achievement. Yet we continue to do it in order to appease the gods of “test and punish.”

I’ve also collected dozens of articles, research articles, blog posts, and position papers on retention-in-grade, the vast majority of which document the damage done by this outdated and abusive practice.

Students who have academic struggles, but who move on, do better in the long run. Students who are retained might seem to do better at first, but they drop back to having difficulties later. Many students who are retained go on to drop out of school.

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING SCHOOLS – LOW TEST SCORES

While I Wasn’t Paying Attention……

In a long, rambling blog post, John Merrow touches on a variety of topics. I disagree with one area he discussed in which he talks about how American students score poorly on the PISA test. Our students don’t “underperform their peers in most other countries”. We have a higher rate of child poverty, which lowers our average.

As I wrote in March of 2017,

American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested…

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty…

Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.

Other topics covered by Merrow are…

  • How do you teach appropriate behaviors when the current President role models bullying and vulgarity?
  • the Secretary of Education’s assault on public education
  • What should we measure in our schools? We approach measurement the wrong way.
  • the value of play in education
  • the cost of testing
  • the poor quality of our standardized tests and our undemanding curriculum

A sampling…

A social studies teacher right now is a modern-day Hamlet. Should he or she embrace the chaos and encourage students to debate the morality of the flood of demonstrable lies coming from the Oval Office on a daily basis, knowing that doing so is guaranteed to incur the wrath of some parents, and perhaps some administrators as well? Or should the teacher studiously avoid controversy, knowing full well that doing that sends a powerful value-laden message? To teach, or not to teach, that is the question…..

Or suppose you were an elementary school teacher trying to model appropriate behavior for your impressionable students. How do you respond when one of your kids asks you why the President said Joe Biden was kissing Barack Obama’s ass? Or why Trump can say ‘bullshit’ but kids get punished for swearing?

…We have to learn to Measure What We Value, instead of simply Valuing What We Measure.

…Ironically, the PISA results revealed that American kids score high in ‘confidence in mathematical ability,’ despite underperforming their peers in most other countries…

NRP AND THE READING WARS

Problematic “Scientific Based” Phonics: The Flawed National Reading Panel

The “reading wars” have heated up again and the report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) is being hauled out as proof that we need to dump current methods of teaching reading (balanced literacy) and teach “systematic phonics.” However, the NRP didn’t actually find that “systematic phonics” worked better than other methods of teaching reading.

Metcalf mentions educational researchers who raised questions concerning the National Reading Panel.

Elaine Garan an education professor and author was one.

She believes there are wide discrepancies between what was reported to the public and what the panel actually found. Most blatantly, the summary proclaimed that “systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade,” while the report itself said, “There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above first grade.” [emphasis added]

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND CHOICE

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 1: The “I Didn’t Do It!” Excuse

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 2: The “EVERYONE’S DOING IT!” Excuse

An excellent summary of the problem with charter schools in two blog posts by Steven Singer.

It takes a certain kind of hypocrite to be a charter school champion.

You have to deny any wrongdoing one minute. And then admit you’re guilty but explain it away with the excuse “Everyone’s doing it!” the next.

Take cherry picking – one of the most common admonishments leveled against the school privatization industry.

Detractors claim that charter schools keep enrollment low and then out of those who apply, they pick and choose which students to accept.

Charters are run by private enterprise but funded with public tax dollars. So they are supposed to accept all comers just like the authentic public schools in the same neighborhoods.

But charter schools don’t have to follow the same rules as authentic public schools. They pretty much just have to abide by whatever was agreed upon in their charter contracts. Even then states rarely check up on them to make sure they’re in compliance.

So critics say many of these institutions are circumventing enrollment procedures. They’re welcoming the easiest kids to teach and dissuading others from enrolling – even to the extent of kicking out hard to teach children or pretending that an “unbiased” selection process just so happened to pick only the most motivated students.

WORKERS OR EDUCATED CITIZENS?

Indiana’s “Mississippi Strategy” for Education Will Bear Bitter Fruit

Should we raise and educate our children to supply the economy with workers (the Mississippi strategy) or should we teach our children to be educated citizens? Our goal should be towards citizens who think, rather than workers for a corporate state. In The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark, Carl Sagan wrote,

If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

In this post, Doug Masson agrees…

I think there is a fundamental difference between policymakers with respect to whether they see people as liabilities or assets. When we see people as liabilities, then the goal of government is to spend as few resources on them as possible, getting them from cradle to grave with as little fuss as possible. When we see people as assets, then the goal of government is to maximize their potential as efficiently as possible, knowing that the return on that investment will exceed the expenditure as the children become productive, well-rounded citizens contributing to the community. The Mississippi Strategy takes the former approach.

FREE EXERCISE VS. ESTABLISHMENT

Vouchers And Federally-Supported Discrimination

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment gives religious groups the right to hire and fire at will even if they choose to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. However, when the religious group takes government money, then they ought to follow the secular laws of the nation as required by the establishment clause.

…in Indianapolis, as in many areas around the country, the Catholic school system is now funded in part by school vouchers, a system of using public tax dollars for tuition to private schools. Indiana has been aggressive in pursuing school choice policies, particularly under then-Governor Mike Pence, who in his 2013 inaugural address said, “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices.” Indiana’s voucher program directs taxpayer dollars primarily to religious schools, and the majority of those are Catholic schools. Cathedral High School participates in both Indiana’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs.

There was a time when private religious schools might have resisted taking government dollars, even indirectly, for fear of having the government push its rules on the institutions. But now we are seeing that the lever can be pushed in the other direction, and it’s the government that may have to bend to the will of private religious institutions.

POISONING OUR CHILDREN

NC got an ‘F’ for unsafe school drinking water. Activists want the lead out of schools.

North Carolina got an “F” when it comes to protecting its children against lead poisoning.

Environmental activists have launched a new campaign to protect children from drinking lead-contaminated water in schools following a national report that gave North Carolina a failing grade for safe school drinking water.

North Carolina was among 22 states that got an “F” grade for not getting rid of lead from school drinking water, according to Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. This week, Environment North Carolina released a back-to-school toolkit that gives the public information on how to get the lead out of schools.

“There is no safe level of lead for our citizens but especially for our children,” Krista Early, clean water advocate for Environment NC, said at a news conference at Moore Square. “North Carolina does not currently require testing of drinking water in our children’s schools.

Indiana also got an “F”.

There is no safe level of lead for children. Lead in the environment damages children…permanently. It lowers their school achievement, causes behavior and growth problems, and can increase criminal behavior.

We’re still discussing the damage that lead poisoning does to our children…and we’re still blaming the low achievement of lead-damaged children on schools, teachers, and parents through our reliance on test scores and our underfunding of those schools serving children who need the most help.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on testing, but apparently can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.

📖🚌📚

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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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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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