Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #14

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

 LEAVE THE TESTING ANALYSIS TO THE EXPERTS

MI: When Legislators Don’t Understand Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BILLIONAIRES WANT TO “FIX” BRAINS RATHER THAN ADDRESS POVERTY

Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATORS

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

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

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

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

And yet public schools are still doing the job.

 

PAYING FOR EDUCATION: THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

Fact Sheet: Yes, Increase the Salaries of All Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MONEY LAUNDERING FOR SCHOOL “CHOICE”

FL Schools Using Taxpayer Money to Teach Ridiculous Lies

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

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

Where is your educational tax dollar going?

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

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

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

 

THE DOUBLE STANDARD IN SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

‘Wild West of education’

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

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

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

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

 

LA FINALLY ACCEPTS YEARS OF RESEARCH INTO RETENTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, Public Ed

DeVos Gets it Wrong – Again

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

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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

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

THE FALSE CHOICE OF SCHOOL CHOICE

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

President (John) Adams wrote [emphasis added],

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Charters, Children'sLiterature, Choice, Finland, Privatization, Quotes, Segregation, Shock Doctrine, TeacherShortage, vouchers

Listen to This #1: Don’t be a Malfoy!

Random quotes…

DON’T BE A MALFOY

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

In a world full of Malfoys, be a Hermoine.

PRIVATIZATION: PUERTO RICO

Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes

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

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

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

From Steven Singer

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

But somehow that never happens.

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

How the Shock Doctrine works.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICES

Oklahoma pastor: Standing in the gap for our school children

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

From Rev. Clark Frailey

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

PRIVATIZATION: SEGREGATION

Charter Schools Are Driving Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

ALEC and Indiana’s Voucher Program

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

From Sheila Kennedy

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

FOCUS ON LEARNING, NOT TESTING

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

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

From Kristiina Volmari from the Finnish National Agency for Education

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

DEMORALIZATION, NOT BURNOUT

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

The teacher shortage; this is why.

From Doris Santoro in NEA Today

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

NO QUICK FIX

New Jersey Orders Closure of Trenton Charter School

This!

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

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

From Russ Walsh

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

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Preschool, vouchers

2018 Medley #2

Choice, Accountability, Preschool

WHOSE CHOICE?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State supports keeping public money in public schools. Here are two articles about so-called “school-choice”.

Don’t Fall For the School Choice Week Hype: Private School Vouchers Are Bad For Everyone

Starting this week, proponents of private school voucher schemes will be touting National School Choice Week – but what they won’t be touting is all the ways that vouchers harm public education and religious freedom.

We’re Fighting Private School Voucher Programs To Keep Public Money In Public Schools

Public schools are open to all students regardless of race, religion or ability. They are a unifying force in our society. Private school vouchers undermine our public schools by funneling desperately needed public resources away from them to fund the education of a few students at private, religious schools.

Selling Choice

Supporters of so-called “school-choice” generally neglect to tell parents that the school chooses the student, not the other way around.

…what people support in voucher policy is not what voucher fans are prepared to offer. Voucher programs don’t offer nearly enough money for families to send their children to top private schools– assuming those schools are even interested in accepting their child in the first place. Private schools are not flinging wide their doors to enroll students that offer any sort of expensive challenge (or they may discriminate for other reasons), and while voucher advocates can brand themselves champions of choice till the cows come home, the fact remains that it is the schools that get to choose– not the parents. And while folks from many subgroups (minorities, millennials, rural folks) say yes to major changes in public schools, the only major change to come from vouchers would be public schools that are more strapped for resources. Meanwhile, the voucher schools are accountable to nobody– if you think they need changes, you are welcome to just walk out the door. Shut your mouth and vote with your feet.

Weekly Privatization Report 1-22-2018

In the Public Interest provides information about privatization throughout the country. In this week’s edition they report on a charter school that “chooses” to exclude a student due to medical issues.

13) Arizona: A Phoenix mother is suing a public charter school that she says illegally turned away her daughter because she had Type 1 diabetes. “‘Everybody was on the same page,’ says Kohnke. ‘It seemed like it was only the principal that saw the stuff and was like, “No, no, no, no.” Kohnke says the principal sent her away with a yellow Post-it note with a list of other schools. ‘Once she handed me this I was like, OK, so I kind of understood where we were standing at that point,’ says Kohnke.”

School choice reality much less appealing

Can we afford to fully fund a dual system of education? Phyllis Bush, a co-founder of both the Network for Public Education (NPE) and Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), explains what’s wrong with “school choice”.

The expansion of choice is creating two separate school systems. In this parallel system, one pathway will be for those who can afford quality choices. The other pathway will be an underfunded, separate-but-unequal road, marked by poverty and by ZIP codes. As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students, while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don’t speak English.

The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with the most difficulties will be housed in the least well-financed schools. Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.”

School choice no substitute for well-funded schools

Instead of funding a dual system of schools by using public funds to pay for private schools, religious schools, and privately run charter schools, states should fully funded public schools, based on the needs of the students. This would allow every public school to provide an excellent education for their students.

The mantra for privatization is that students of poverty deserve an equal chance for a better school. The deception here is that it’s not the parents who choose, it’s the charters and private Schools who choose. The neediest and most underperforming students are not being selected or kept by charters and private schools. In fact, more than half of all vouchers go to students already in private schools, not the poorest from public schools. Private schools are allowed to discriminate in their selection/retention of students resulting in intensified segregation — all with public tax dollars.

What do schools need to provide their students? Fully funded, fully supported education with wrap-around services where needed. Here’s an excellent model still waiting for implementation:

MISSING: SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY

Public schools are not responsible for the child poverty rate in the communities they serve. Legislators and policy makers have abdicated their responsibility for childhood poverty and dumped it on schools. When the schools are unable to overcome the effects of poverty they get labeled as failures.

All community stakeholders must accept their share of responsibility and be held accountable for the success or failure of schools – including legislators and policy makers.

Test-and-Punish Just Hangs on as Failed Education Strategy

…If our society were intent on helping the children who have been left behind, we would invest in ameliorating poverty and in supporting the hard working teachers in the schools in our poorest communities. Things like reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program would help! The ESSA plans being submitted to the Department of Education aren’t having much impact at all. The old, made-over NCLB jacket is slowly slipping to the back of the closet.

PRESCHOOL

Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

Increasing access to high quality preschool is on the ESSA list of things-to-do. Yet, we still consider the job of preschool teacher to be akin to that of babysitter – and preschool salaries show it.

Preschool is important. We need to invest in well trained teachers. We need to invest in our future.

…But if teachers are crucial to high-quality preschool, they are also its most neglected component. Even as investment in early-childhood education soars, teachers like Kelly continue to earn as little as $28,500 a year on average, a valuation that puts them on par with file clerks and switchboard operators, but well below K-12 teachers, who, according to the most recent national survey, earn roughly $53,100 a year. According to a recent briefing from the Economic Policy Institute, a majority of preschool teachers are low-income women of color with no more than a high-school diploma. Only 15 percent of them receive employer-sponsored health insurance, and depending on which state they are in, nearly half belong to families that rely on public assistance. “Teaching preschoolers is every bit as complicated and important as teaching any of the K-12 grades, if not more so,” says Marcy Whitebook, a director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. “But we still treat preschool teachers like babysitters. We want them to ameliorate poverty even as they live in it themselves.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, books, Choice, Immigrants, poverty, Public Ed, Quotes, Teaching Career

My Year-End Favorites

The “Year’s Bests” and “Year’s Mosts” list…images, blog posts, quotes, podcasts, and books.

Thanks for reading…

MY FAVORITE BLOG POST OF THE YEAR: by SOMEONE ELSE

The Success of America’s Public Schools

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

In which Steven Singer teaches us how well our public schools are doing. Facts matter.

From Steven Singer

…America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

Here’s why: the United States educates everyone. Most other countries do not.

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.

FAVORITE BLOG POSTS: MINE

My Own Favorite Blog Post of the Year

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

I follow Steven Singer’s post with one of my own about the amazing success of America’s public schools.

When she looks at the U.S. international test scores, Secretary DeVos, and other policy makers see “failing schools.” This is wrong. The low average scores, and the even lower scores aggregated for low income students, indicate that economic inequity is overwhelming the infrastructure of our public school systems. Instead of blaming public schools, politicians and policy makers must take responsibility for ending the shameful rate of child poverty and inequity in America.

My Most Popular Blog Post of the Year

Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

This post about how Indiana and Wisconsin are destroying the teaching profession,  received the most attention of anything I wrote this year, picking up several thousand hits.

From Live Long and Prosper

…in order to offset the loss of teaching staff in the state, rules for becoming a teacher have been relaxed…

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

FAVORITE IMAGE

Trump fires Lady Liberty.

Retired Chicago-area teacher Fred Klonsky provides an editorial comment about the nation’s immigration policy. This sums up the year accurately…

From Fred Klonsky

FAVORITE ED PODCAST

Have you Heard: Truth in Edvertising

With a “market-based” education economy comes advertising. Jennifer Berkshire, Jack Schneider, and their guest, Sarah Butler Jessen, discuss “edvertising”. If you are at all concerned about the privatization of public education you owe it to yourself to listen to this.

From Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider

…in schooling certainly there is a private good aspect to it. But schooling is also a public good. It’s something that benefits our society, our neighborhoods, our communities. It benefits the most advantaged, but it also benefits the least advantaged at least theoretically. So when we acting as consumers, we’re only acting in alignment with the private good aspect of education.

So think for instance, buying an alarm for your house versus trying to cultivate safer cities or safer neighborhoods. Whereas one of those is an inherently private good. The alarm is only going to protect me and my family. The public good is going to benefit everyone in the community and that’s not something I can promote via shopping.

FAVORITE QUOTABLES

My favorite quotes from the year…from actual, real-life educators.

The Hypocrisy of “Choice”

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

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.

Poverty

School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

From Russ Walsh

Those of us who continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education are accused of using poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Right up front let me say I am against the status quo and I have spent a lifetime in education trying to improve teacher instruction and educational opportunities for the struggling readers and writers I have worked with. 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.

2 School Districts, 1 Ugly Truth

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.

MOST IMPORTANT BOOK I READ IN 2017

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

We need to learn from history.

By Timothy Snyder

Lesson 10: Believe in Truth: To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Publisher’s Description

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

Here’s a video of Timothy Snyder talking about his book, HERE.

2018 TO-READ BOOK LIST

Books I hope to get to in 2018…

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools, by Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi

Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education, by John Merrow

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

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Posted in Choice, Curmudgucation, DeVos, JanResseger, Quotes, Testing, vouchers

Listen to This #14

LEST WE FORGET

The Margaret Lambert Story

19-year-old Jewish high jumper Greta Bergman left Germany for England in 1934 at the top of her career. Two years later the German government, by then under Nazi control, forced her (by threatening her parents) to return to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the end, however, she was not allowed to compete.

She moved to the United States, continued her career by becoming the American women’s high jump champion in 1937 and ’38, as well as the women’s shot put in 1937. She lived in the US with her husband Bruno Lambert until his death in 2013, and her death in July of this year at the age of 103.

This short documentary (23 minutes) is worth your time. Aside from the story of an athlete trying to compete under Hitler’s Germany, it has some very familiar, very disturbing images. Click the link above to sign up for the free Olympic Channel, and watch the documentary.

From Foul Play: The Margaret Lambert Story on The Olympic Channel (access with free account).

There was nothing worse Hitler and his people could imagine but a German athlete of Jewish belief winning a gold medal for Germany.

THE OVERUSE AND MISUSE OF TESTING. IT DOESN’T HELP KIDS

Better tests don’t lead to better teaching, study finds

What better way to introduce this quote…than with another quote. Here is what a local public school superintendent tweeted about this article…

From The Hechinger Report

…a more demanding test didn’t help improve the quality of the teacher’s instruction. A teacher’s test-prep lessons were generally of lower instructional quality than when the same teacher wasn’t prepping students for the test. More surprising, the researchers found that the quality gap between a teacher’s regular lessons and her test-prep lessons was largest in a school district where the teaching quality was the highest.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Stinesville: Can a small school in a quarry town survive Indiana’s school choice program?

Funding for public education gets diverted to private and privately run schools. Public schools and the students they serve suffer. Our priorities are misplaced.

From Jenny Robinson

As the voucher and charter programs were explained and advertised as “school choice” to the public, one corollary fact was not included: Indiana residents might lose a choice that many of us have taken for granted for decades: the ability to send our kids to a local, well-resourced public school. The kind of school that serves lunch and participates in the federal school lunch program. The kind of school that provides transportation. The kind of school that has certified teachers and a library and is in a district obligated by law to accept all children in the attendance area, including those with profound special needs, and to provide them a free and appropriate public education.

Reblogged at Alternet: In Rural America, School Choice Poses Agonizing Choices

DEVOS: THE DAMAGE DONE

School Choice: The Old Wolf in New Sheep’s Clothing

From Arthur Camins in Huffpost

During the term of President Obama, there was a push to expand funding for charter schools, despite evidence that they increased racial and socioeconomic segregation and were on average no more effective. The election of Donald Trump and his selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has energized demands for tuition vouchers for private schools. Taken together, these efforts represent a profound bipartisan shift in how we think about the purpose of public support for education and school governance, from meeting community needs and values to attending to the demands and proclivities of individual shoppers in a marketplace.

A quarter of the schools Betsy DeVos has visited are private

Twenty-five percent of the schools that Betsy DeVos has visited since she took over as US Secretary of Education have been private or religious schools. Ten percent of American children attend such schools. Her preference for private and religious schools is obvious.

From the Washington Post

Neither DeVos nor the Education Department have much say in what happens in the nation’s private and religious schools, which have wide latitude in selecting students and are not bound by federal education laws that require public schools to show how much their students are learning.

The Hard Right’s Planning Document for Education

Conspiracy, or long term plans? Peter Greene takes us on a scary ride.

From Peter Greene

…there’s a group with an explicit plan for destroying the Department of Education and installing theocratic control over US education, and the secretary of Education as well as key folks at the White House are directly tied to that group.

Orlando Sentinel: Betsy DeVos’s Dream Is Really a Nightmare

Accountability is appropriate for every tax supported school – public school, charter school, and voucher accepting school. Every school that accepts public money ought to follow the same rules, and have the same level playing field.

From Jan Resseger

The limited oversight of Florida’s scholarship programs allowed a principal under investigation for molesting a student at his Brevard County school to open another school under a new name and still receive the money…

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Posted in A-F Grading, Choice, DeVos, ESSA, Public Ed, Quotes, retention, special education, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage

Listen to This #9

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Sometimes They’re Right

America’s public schools are not “failing.” However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve. After reminding us how the nation’s public schools are the best in the world, Rob Miller goes on to remind us that many criticisms of public education are true. It’s up to us to make public education the “unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children.

From Rob Miller

…public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.

CHOICE

I got to choose private schools, but will vouchers really help other kids make it?

Indiana’s voucher program began as a way to “save poor children from ‘failing’ schools.” It was restricted by income, and parents had to try the public schools before they could get a voucher to send their child to a private school. It didn’t matter that it was the state, not the schools that was “failing” the students. All that mattered was that privatizers rationalize a way to give tax money to private schools and churches.

Once it was clear that private and parochial education didn’t provide better services for poor children, the argument changed.

The voucher program has been expanded to include middle class students, and students who have never set foot in public schools. Public dollars are being used to pay for religious instruction.

The call is now for “choice.” There’s no attempt to claim that private and parochial schools are better. The entire reason for the voucher program is now “choice.”

From Emmanuel Felton in The Hechinger Report

School choice by its very nature uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.

GRADING SCHOOLS IN INDIANA

Board members favor counting test scores more than growth

From Christopher Tienken quoted by Steve Hinnefeld

Whether you’re trying to measure proficiency or growth, standardized tests are not the answer…

ESSA INDIANA

Diploma rule a setback for Indiana schools, students

Federal law requires that students with special needs have an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. It’s required that the IEP describe a modified program appropriate to the student. Yet, now we find that the same Federal laws which require those accommodations for special needs students, requires that they, along with their teachers and schools, be punished for those accommodations.

Since charter schools and schools accepting vouchers enroll fewer special needs students than public schools, it is the “grade” of the public schools which will suffer because of this loathsome and abusive practice. It is the students who were told what they needed to do, and who did it, who will be told, “your diploma doesn’t really count.”

From Steve Hinnefeld

…students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.

TRUMP-DEVOS

After Six Months, What Has Trump-DeVos Department of Education Accomplished?

The sooner this administration is history, the better.

From Jan Resseger

To summarize—Betsy DeVos has said she intends to “neutralize” the Office of Civil Rights, which can only be interpreted as weakening its role. DeVos is delaying rules to protect borrowers who have been defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit colleges. While DeVos promotes school accountability through parental school choice, her staff are busy demanding continued test-and-punish accountability from the states. And finally, the D.C. voucher program remains the only federally funded tuition voucher program, despite that DeVos has declared the expansion of several kinds of school vouchers to be her priority.

DEVOS ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education

From Valerie Strauss, in the Answer Sheet

We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes.

The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

The attack on public education, and on eight year old children in particular, continues. Florida uses a “third grade reading test” that students must pass, else they face retention in grade. Just like Indiana…
Just like Ohio…
Just like Mississippi…
and Oklahoma…
and Arizona…
and Connecticut…
California…
Michigan…

Another abusive “learn or be punished” policy.

From Peter Greene in Curmudgucation

What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida’s power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

…the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn’t believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.

TEACHER SHORTAGE: PAY

Teacher Pay Penalty Driving Educators Away From Profession

8 steps to destroy public education…

  1. Schools are labeled “failing.”
  2. Teachers are demonized for not raising test scores.
  3. Tax money is diverted to private and charter schools creating a public school funding crisis.
  4. Funding crises yields a drop in teacher salaries.
  5. Fewer young people choose a career in education creating a teacher shortage.
  6. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes.
  7. Larger class sizes means lowered achievement, especially for poor students.
  8. Lowered achievement means more schools will be labeled “failing.”

This quote deals with step 5 in the process.

From Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“We are moving into a world where fewer people are trying to enter teaching, in part because the profession has been degraded by misguided accountability measures and also because of the erosion of pay,” says Mishel.

TEACHERS UNION

Blaming Unions for Bad Schools

From Walt Gardner

It’s so easy to scapegoat teachers’ unions for all the ills afflicting public schools (“State of the Teachers Union,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). The charge is that they are more interested in protecting teachers than in teaching students (“This is what teachers unions really protect,” New York Post, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.

But what these critics don’t admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong? (Correlation is not causation.) Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means.

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