Posted in Corporate Charters, Public Ed, Teach For America, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career

Qualified Teachers

THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFICATIONS

Last Tuesday (August 27, 2013) Valerie Strauss featured a piece called, How the public is deceived about ‘highly qualified teachers’. It was written by Kenneth Zeichner, who is

  • a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington, Seattle
  • a professor emeritus in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • a member of the National Academy of Education who has done extensive research on teaching and teacher education
  • a former elementary teacher team leader in the National Teacher Corps.
  • a product of the Philadelphia public school system

Now it’s likely that Professor Zeichner would be disqualified from being an expert on teacher education by the likes of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel and Michelle Rhee…disqualified because he has real life experience in education as opposed to none for Gates, Duncan, et al and only 3 TFA school years for Rhee. For the “reformers” to acknowledge that Professor Zeichner is an expert when it comes to teacher education would be to admit that they know nothing about it and to call into question their apparent goal of sucking the life out of public educators and public education and selling it to the highest bidder.

Nevertheless, Dr. Zeichner’s 40 years as a teacher educator and his degrees in Urban Education and School Organizational Behavior and Change, Teacher Education, are sufficient for me to accept him as an expert. [Of course, those same “reformers” wouldn’t care a whit about my opinion…I am, after all, just a teacher…and a retired one at that!]

In any case, Dr. Zeichner wrote,

Despite the complexity of the issue (e.g., variation in state certification requirements and district hiring practices, controversy over research methods), the weight of the evidence indicates that full certification matters for teacher quality. Recent studies have also shown that teacher experience matters and that the continual teacher “churn” that is associated with the short tenure of many non-certified teachers is disruptive to students’ learning.

In other words, this expert on teacher education teaches us that…

  1. teachers ought to be certified
  2. experience matters
  3. teacher “churn” (teacher as temp) is bad for student learning

This is exactly what Finland figured out on its way to becoming a world leader in education, which is why they increased requirements for becoming a teacher rather than lowering standards for public school educators, like Indiana has done. Truthfully, this is what most of us have known for decades as well, and not just for education.

No one would suggest that we elect a president who had no experience. The founding fathers knew this as well. That’s why they set an age minimum for the president of 35. Anyone younger wouldn’t have the life-experience needed to lead the nation.

No one would suggest that one choose a surgeon with no experience to perform one’s heart surgery. No one would suggest that one choose a beginner to fill one’s prescription, or roof one’s house, or repair one’s car. Beginners — aka apprentices or interns — might assist, but the person doing the work needs to be an expert. Right?

It has always amazed me that business and legal people who insist that “schools be run like a business” complete with CEOs and “Boards of Directors” would then choose to hire inexperienced and inadequately trained people as teachers. Would they do that with their own businesses? Is that how Bill Gates became a multi-billionaire?

CUTTING CORNERS

Perhaps, when it comes to the education of other people’s children, expertise is less important than cutting corners and increasing profit.

The New York Times reports on a charter company which prefers beginners for educators.

At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice

HOUSTON — Tyler Dowdy just started his third year of teaching at YES Prep West, a charter school here. He figures now is a good time to explore his next step, including applying for a supervisory position at the school.

Mr. Dowdy is 24 years old, which might make his restlessness seem premature. But then, his principal is 28. Across YES Prep’s 13 schools, teachers have an average of two and a half years of experience.

As tens of millions of pupils across the country begin their school year, charter networks are developing what amounts to a youth cult in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable. Teachers in the nation’s traditional public schools have an average of close to 14 years of experience, and public school leaders and policy makers have long made it a priority to reduce teacher turnover.

But with teachers confronting the overhaul of evaluations and tenure as well as looming changes in pension benefits, the small but rapidly growing charter school movement — with schools that are publicly financed but privately operated — is pushing to redefine the arc of a teaching career.

Many, if not all of the teachers discussed in this article come from Teach for Awhile America, the program which started out by placing high achieving college graduates as “teachers” in hard to fill positions, but is now being used by “reformers” to provide cheap labor for corporate education factories.

The notion of a foreshortened teaching career was largely introduced by Teach for America, which places high-achieving college graduates into low-income schools for two years. Today, Teach for America places about a third of its recruits in charter schools. [emphasis added]

THE COMMENTS

I generally don’t read comments because I end up getting angry at the level of ignorance of people spouting off the common myths about public education and public educators. However, I did read a few of the comments from the New York Times article above. There were 386 comments when I left..and, truthfully, I haven’t been back to see if there were more. Two, however, piqued my interest…the first from rbowman in Hawaii…

rbowman hawaii
I have been a tenured, successful teacher in 3 different states for close to 30 years. I don’t want to judge the whole TFA movement by a small sample size. Here is my experience. A group of 6 TFA teachers arrived within the past 2+ years. Three left to pursue other opportunities including law school. Another is eyeing medical school after this year and the other 2 I am not sure of their plans are because I haven’t spoken with them. All are young, bright, energetic, and committed. But it is obvious that TFA/teaching is just a step along the way in their path and, seemingly, a nice entry to add to their resume. I recently overheard a 7th TFAer say to another, “After one more year (3rd) I’m going to get a real job,” to which the friend simply nodded her head…

What? “…a real job…”? I’m sorry, but do we really want people teaching our children who look at them as a stepping stone to a “real job?” Is this how we plan to accelerate the learning of struggling students…by providing them with temporary teachers who aren’t in it for the long haul? Shouldn’t we try to attract and retain the best teachers where the students have the highest need?

Let’s hear from one of the young, energetic teachers. We’ll see that the children aren’t the only ones who are being used and abused.

KristenBrooklyn
On the surface, I am the person this article is referring to. I was a TFA corps member in the Bronx for three years and then I left teaching to pursue a graduate program in another field. I knew I had made a short-term commitment and I was fine with that.

However, last year, I decided to go back to teaching and was hired at one of the large charter school networks quoted in this article. I can say that, for the most part, my fellow teachers were the loveliest, most hard-working people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. I was handsomely compensated and had access to resources and technology that no one in my Bronx school could ever dream of. So why did I leave after one year?

It wasn’t because I have a short attention span or because I thought I’d “mastered” the profession, as the article suggests. Ms. Rich writes as if we leave out of arrogance or boredom, which is not only disgusting but grossly inaccurate.

The reason why I left, along with 70% of my school staff that year, was because I was physically and emotionally exhausted. The administration is uncompromising. They know it is easier to cut loose anyone who is struggling, making waves, or who isn’t able to work a 75-hour work week, than to invest in sustainable teaching practices.

This article is the cover story charter networks tell their board of directors to justify massive turnover. Don’t be fooled. If they achieve results on paper, please know that it comes at a human cost.

It seems as if the “reformers'” plan is to overwork teachers so that they’ll leave before they can earn too much money, demand a pension, or other benefits. Then, hire the next wave of young graduates and train them for five weeks in the summer, provide them with the expert mentoring of a “three year veteran” and toss them into a classroom.

I can’t imagine how anyone thinks this is good for children…good for teachers…or good for public education.

~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
Advertisements
Posted in Corporate Charters, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, vouchers

Killing Public Education in Ten Easy Steps

While the public schools are struggling with inadequate funding, legislators in Indiana are considering forgiving loans to “failing” privately run charters*…and private schools are getting a significant increase through Indiana’s expanded voucher plan.

There’s an open movement to privatize public education (as well as just about everything else) in America. Those who favor privatization are clear that their goal is to remove public control. One of my posts about privatization got this response from “tiffany“…

Like all rational individuals, I do not support public schooling, I do not support charters which are a pitiful compromise, I do not support vouchers which are a frivolous waste of administrative time and resources. I support 100% private education and home education, because that is the only moral education. I support this the same way I support 100% private food service, hotel service, tanning service, and any other service provided by anyone. This is the only correct position – it’s not a conclusion, it’s the starting place for the discussion. Anything less than this is theft and therefore evil.

While not all pro-privatizers would consider all tax money as “theft” the purpose is clear…to remove public control of institutions and place it in private hands. Their point is, I think, that “the market” always does better than the government in everything.

To that end, the governors and legislators of states like Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have crafted legislation (or taken legislation crafted by ALEC) to “redistribute” public funds from public education to private schools and privately operated charter schools.

A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog listed the steps being taken by pro-“reform” legislatures to destroy public education. Much of the following Surefire Plan to Destroy Public Education has been put into practice (and not just in Texas). Even with the widespread community and parent backlash in places like Chicago and New Jersey, the privatizers are making progress…pushing their agenda.

Obviously many people are in favor of privatization. Those of us who oppose it have less money to buy politicians. The election in Indiana of Glenda Ritz over privatizer-pet Tony Bennett shows, however, that a strong, hardworking group of people can overcome the privatization-based money bent on destroying public education.

Texas: The Surefire Plan to Destroy Public Education

What keeps many of us fighting 20 hours a day and digging into our own pockets to fund the work is our understanding that these bills are not the end game. We’ve read the web sites, beginning with Milton Freidman’s epistle on the Cato Institute’s website, that lay out the insidious plan we are seeing played out. We have also read Naomi Klein’s brilliant book, Shock Doctrine.

[emphasis added]

  1. First, impose ridiculous standards and assessments on every school.
  2. Second, create cut points on the assessments to guarantee high rates of failure. (I was in the room when it was done in the State of Delaware, protesting all the way, but losing).
  3. Third, implement draconian accountability systems designed to close as many schools as possible. Then W took the plan national with NCLB.
  4. Fourth, use the accountability system to undermine the credibility and trust that almost everyone gave to public schools. increase the difficulty of reaching goals annually.
  5. Fifth, de-professionalize educators with alternative certification, merit pay, evaluations tied to test scores, scripted curriculum, attacks on professional organizations, phony research that tries to make the case that credentials and experience don’t matter, etc.
  6. Sixth, start privatization with public funded charters with a promise that they will be laboratories of innovation. Many of us fell for that falsehood. Apply pressure each legislative session to implement more and more of them. Then Arne Duncan did so on steroids.
  7. Seventh, use Madison Avenue messaging to name bills to further trick people into acceptance, if not support, of every conceivable voucher scheme. The big push now as states implement Freidman austerity budgets to create a crisis is to portray vouchers as a cheaper way to “save” schools. The bills that would force local boards to sell off publicly owned facilities for $1 each is also part of the overall scheme not only to destroy our schools, but also to make it fiscally impossible for us to recover them if we ever again elect a sane government. Too, districts had to make cuts in their budgets in precisely the areas that research says matter most: quality teachers, preschool, small classes, interventions for struggling students, and rigorous expectations and curriculum. See our report: http://www.equitycenter.org. Click on book, Money STILL Matters in bottom right corner.
  8. Eighth, totally destroy public education with so-called universal vouchers. They have literally already published the handbook. You can find it numerous places on the web.
  9. Ninth, start eliminating the vouchers and charters, little by little.
  10. And, tenth, totally eliminate the costs of education from local, state, and national budgets, thereby providing another huge transfer of wealth through huge tax cuts to the already-billionaire class.

And then only the wealthy will have schools for their kids.

During the last presidential election Mitt Romney gave voice to the effect of privatization on America’s public education system. He said,

I want to make sure we keep America a place of opportunity where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford and with their time they’re able to get…and if they have a willingness to work hard and with the right values they ought to be able to provide for their family and have a shot at realizing their dreams. [emphasis added]

The phrase, as much education as they can afford has, as its corollary, the fact that those who can’t afford it won’t get it. So the Romneys, the Obamas, the Gates, the Emanuels and the Duncans will continue to attend expensive private schools while those who have no money will have to make do with whatever “they can afford.” That’s the definition of Romney’s “fair shot.”

~~~

Shopping for Legislators

How School Privatizers Buy State-Level Elections

A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.

The implications are huge. But the school privatizers, and their lobbyists in the states, have so muddied the waters that the public does not get a clear picture of what is at stake.

So it was fascinating when investigative reporter Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ripped the veil off a secretive organization and its hidden political activities by publishing a copy of the American Federation for Children’s “2012 Election Impact Report.”

The report, which was clearly meant only for members and donors, outlines how the American Federation of Children pours millions of dollars into state races around the country to back candidates who support school vouchers and other measures that siphon public money private schools.

Addendum to The Surefire Plan to Destroy Public Education

5a. Claim that “poverty is not destiny” and use that as an excuse to ignore the high levels of child poverty in America and it’s relationship to lowered achievement.

Krashen writes,

To the editor

Re: Obama wants faster Internet in US schools. Would you pay $5 a year for it? (June 6). Twenty-three percent of American children now live in poverty, the second highest among 34 economically advanced countries. In comparison, Finland has less than 5.3% child poverty. Poverty means poor nutrition, hunger, and inadequate health care; all of these have a profound negative impact on school achievement.

Instead of 99 percent of American students connected to the internet with the latest, but soon-to-be-obsolete technology, how about making sure that 100 percent of American children are protected from the impact of poverty?

Next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless are of little help when children are hungry or ill.

What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?

In recent years the “no excuses”’ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school. Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.

For me the latter is right. In the United States today, 23 percent of children live in poor homes. In Finland, the same way to calculate child poverty would show that figure to be almost five times smaller. The United States ranked in the bottom four in the recent United Nations review on child well-being. Among 29 wealthy countries, the United States landed second from the last in child poverty and held a similarly poor position in “child life satisfaction.” Teachers alone, regardless of how effective they are, will not be able to overcome the challenges that poor children bring with them to schools everyday.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
Posted in Corporate Charters, Legislatures, Teacher Licensing, vouchers

On Wisconsin

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is sneaky…instead of taking his privatization agenda out into the open for discussion and debate he tossed some education policies into the budget bill where they could remain hidden until it was too late.

WI Gov. Walker pushes extremist ALEC education agenda through budget, bypassing public

…at least 46 non-budgetary items have been slipped into the proposed 2013-2015 budget, including ALEC-connected proposals limiting local school board oversight for charter schools, expanding “voucher” programs, and creating new teaching licenses for individuals with no education background.

Hoosiers who followed the work of the Indiana Legislature earlier this year will find those items familiar…

CHARTERS*

  • Wisconsin

Wisconsin created a “Charter School Oversight Board.”

One budget provision creates a “Charter School Oversight Board” that would approve nonprofit entities as independent charter school authorizers. It tracks the general ideas in the ALEC Next Generation Charter Schools Act.

Currently, only local school boards, elected by the community, can authorize a charter school; in Milwaukee, the Common Council and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are also authorizers.

The same legislators who scream bloody murder when the federal government wrests local control away from the public are here voting for the state to do the same.

“There would be no local control here,” Mead says. “It would wrest control from school boards, and likewise from the community that elects those school boards.”

  • Indiana

Indiana already has that…

Meet The Other Group That Can Charter Schools In Indy – Indiana’s Charter School Board

…two years ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law that created a statewide board that could also accept applications for charter and approve applications for charter schools to open anywhere in Indiana.

Local control?

And…to add insult to injury…

Indiana Charter Schools Could Be Forgiven $12M in Loans

Seven schools whose charters were revoked by Ball State University in January would be absolved of payments along with another school which did not seek to renew its charter. The Indiana Department of Education loaned the money to the schools to help them with startup costs.

What about the $300 million that the state sucked out of the school budgets during the Great Recession?

VOUCHERS

  • Wisconsin

The plan is to spend more money on the voucher program like the one in Milwaukee which hasn’t worked for the last 20 years.

The budget also expands the school voucher program that diverts taxpayer dollars away from public schools to subsidize private and for-profit schools, not only by increasing funding for vouchers, but also by requiring voucher programs in any district with more than two schools deemed “failing.” The private school accepting the student would receive the aid for the student and the former school would lose it. This reflects the principles in the ALEC Education Accountability Act.

  • Indiana

This year the Indiana Legislature expanded our “state of the nation” voucher program.

It took last-minute changes and precisely-timed legislative maneuvering to complete passage of the voucher expansion bill on the last day of the session. As I left the Statehouse at 1am Saturday morning after both the voucher bill and the budget bill had passed…

PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS

  • Wisconsin

Bad teachers are causing public schools to fail, so we lower the standards for becoming a teacher…

Another budget provision would create a new teaching license for individuals with no formal education background but subject-matter experience to teach in charter schools. This reflects the ALEC Alternative Certification Act.

Lower the standards to improve the profession?

The legislature recently created a new educator effectiveness evaluation system that ratchets up state oversight over teachers by creating performance criteria based on student performance and other standards. But at the same time, with this bill, Republicans are simultaneously reducing requirements for becoming a teacher

  • Indiana

In Indiana, it’s not just teachers who don’t need to know anything about education…but principals and superintendents, too.

Teachers: Bennett and Co. Double Down on the Nonsense

Last month the no-nothings on the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) decided — in the face of substantial public objection — to allow anyone with a college degree to teach the subject of their degree area in the public schools of Indiana…no education training necessary. The idea that you have to know your subject to teach apparently trumped the idea that you have to know how to teach.

Principals: Non-Sense

The new rules also reduce the teaching experience needed for a person to get a principal’s license from 5 years to 2.

Superintendents: Unqualified – Unbelievable

…the [Indiana] House passed the bill saying that neither a teacher license nor a superintendent license are needed to be a superintendent in Indiana…

So…now you can open a charter school and hire a principal with only 2 years of teaching experience…a superintendent with none…and teachers for your classrooms…all with absolutely no education training at all.

THE DIFFERENCE…

…between Indiana and Wisconsin?

In true ALEC style, Governor Walker is stealthily pushing for radical change…by putting anti-public education items in the budget bill to avoid public discussion.

In Indiana we elected legislators and a governor who didn’t even try to hide the steps they took this year to starve public schools and de-professionalize the education profession.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
Posted in Article Medleys, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, Privatization, vouchers

2013 Medley #9

“Reform”, Vouchers, Saving Public Education,
Charters, Cost of Education

“Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, find some other, less significant line of work.”

“REFORMERS”

Is it lies, misinformation, or just plain stupidity? If there was ever a reason to include teachers’ voices in the nation’s education conversation Bill Gates personifies it with his monumental ignorance. Wealth doesn’t automatically give you expertise and/or experience in education. “You don’t know education just because you went to school.”

Bill Gates’s Ridiculous TED Talk, Part I

I have copies of every one of my teaching evaluations…from six different principals. Every one of them is more than “just one word.” Every one of them has comments about my teaching, my development as a professional and my successes or failures. Could it be that my experience is unique among all the millions of teachers in the nation? Not likely. Bill Gates is wrong…as Jersey Jazzman says, “…astonishingly wrong.”

(1:06) Until recently, over 98% of teachers just got one word of feedback: “Satisfactory.”

That is astonishingly wrong. No teacher I’ve ever heard of ever got a one-word evaluation. Every principal I’ve ever worked for has written multiple pages about my teaching when doing my summative evaluation. Principals are, in fact, required to give meaningful feedback to their teachers; if they don’t, they are derelict in their duties. All good school leadership programs require training in teacher evaluation.

Ten Things Legislators Should Know and Do When Making Education Policy

Those who view education from the outside, like those who view any profession from the outside, don’t understand the concepts and complexities unique to being an educator. Having been a student does not qualify one to teach any more than being sick qualifies one to practice medicine. Teaching, like any profession, takes training and experience. Every profession has its own language and its own concepts.

Nancy Flanagan, blogging at Teacher in a Strange Land, reminds legislators that they don’t know everything about education. Bill Gates and Arne Duncan need copies of this, too…

#1) You don’t know education just because you went to school. Even if you were paying attention in high school, your perspective as a student was extremely narrow and is now completely obsolete. Study the issues, which are more complex and resistant to change than you think. Here’s a brief list of things that, in my experience, legislators don’t know diddly about:

  • A cooperative classroom and how to achieve it.
  • Formative assessment.
  • Impact of class size on daily practice (not test scores).
  • Difference between standards and curriculum.
  • Special education.
  • Research-based value of recess and exercise.
  • Differentiation vs. tracking.
  • What quality teaching looks like in practice.
  • The fact that all learning is socially constructed.

And on and on.

Where is your legislator on the Scale of Knowing about Education? 

PRIVATIZATION: I. VOUCHERS

IN voucher students often choose private schools no better than public ones

The voucher program was originally promoted as a way to improve public education. Not any more.

Supporters of Indiana’s voucher program—the largest of its kind in the nation—justified draining badly needed tax dollars away from public schools by asserting that students could use vouchers to attend better private schools.

However, a new report is showing that is not the case. According to records from the Indiana Department of Education, students receiving vouchers are choosing private and/or religious schools that are no better than the public schools they left.

In fact, records show the following:

  • About one in five students who received a voucher this year is using it at a school rated C, D, or F by the state’s accountability system;
  • About 300 of the state’s 9,324 students getting vouchers chose private schools with an “F” rating; and
  • About 21 percent of voucher students left schools with an “A” or “B” rated school district to attend private schools.

Gov. Mike Pence signs school voucher expansion: Governor indicates possible future expansion

It’s not about improving education. It’s about subsidizing religion, promoting “separate” education, and the foolish obsession with removing government from everything. The idea that “government makes everything worse” is as stupid a sentiment as “government makes everything better.” There are appropriate areas in which the government ought to be involved. Licensing professionals like doctors, lawyers and teachers, for example…supporting public institutions like libraries and public schools. We all benefit from a well-informed citizenry.

INDIANAPOLIS – As he signed a measure to expand Indiana’s two-year-old private school voucher program, Gov. Mike Pence signaled that he could push to once again grow the program in the coming years.

The new Republican governor signed the voucher expansion into law while surrounded by 147 students from seven schools who had packed into an auditorium at Calvary Christian School, on the south side of Indianapolis.

PRIVATIZATION: II. BREAKING PUBLIC EDUCATION

What’s the Plan for Chicago Public Schools? Look No Further Than Detroit

The criminal destruction of America’s public schools continues…

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) “Emergency Manager” Roy Roberts stepped down from his position on May 2. During his announcement, Roberts said that his instructions when he took the job were to “blow up the district and dismantle it.”

“Emergency managers” were tasked with fixing local governments in Michigan after the state declared a financial emergency.

The decimation of public school districts is nothing new in the world of slash-and-burn education reform, but his candidness is extremely rare. The justification for closing neighborhood public schools while opening publicly subsidized, privately profitable charter schools is constantly changing. Currently, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is switching between “utilization” and “achievement” as reasons to close 61 public schools, about 10 percent of the district. These reforms will effectively “blow up” and “dismantle” the district without ever using those words.

ALEC’s star performer

Things like evaluating teachers using student test scores, having no accountability for home schoolers, and closing high poverty schools improves a states “education” score on ALEC’s “quality” rating. Actual education best-practices, proven through research and experience, don’t matter.

ALEC, the corporate-controlled legislative group promoting a systemic destruction of public education, has released its annual report card. Indiana, ALEC’s poster child for destructive reform, earns a B+ on the dubious roll and ranks it first in the nation with a 3.49 GPA.

The state loses points for its “Teacher Quality and Policies,” including an F for “exiting ineffective teachers.” The state’s best marks are for its charter school policies, its voucher program and its lack of home-school regulation. That’s no surprise given the organization’s interest in promoting free-market policies at the expense of evidence-based methods.

ALEC gives Massachusetts, generally regarded by credible sources as the top-performing state in the nation in K-12 education, a “C” and a GPA of 1.88, the same score as Arkansas and just ahead of Mississippi.

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education offers its own grade on the ALEC report card: “A” for ideological fealty; “F” on research quality.”

PRIVATIZATION: III. CORPORATE CHARTERS*

An ally for charter schools

Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman is willing to give charters a pass on “effectiveness” and instead of close them down, “rally around them, find out what the problems are and fix them.” Say what? I wonder if he believes we need to do the same with our traditional public schools. Has he ever advocated for closing “failing schools” or is his “rallying ’round” only to help the corporate bottom line?

Stutzman said that some charter schools – “as in anything” – will struggle. Ball State University announced this year it will not renew the charters of three schools it authorized in Fort Wayne: Imagine Schools on Broadway, Imagine MASTer Academy and Timothy L. Johnson Academy. Ball State cited poor academic performance and inadequate improvement at the schools, which together enroll nearly 1,500 students.

“There’s going to be some that come up short,” Stutzman told reporters. “I think the best thing we can do is rally around them, find out what the problems are and fix them. Because at the end of the day, it’s about making sure our parents and students are getting the best opportunity and education that they need.”

Instead of Teacher Appreciation Week, President Obama asks us to celebrate Charter School Week

I read President Obama’s proclamation for charter schools in “celebration” of Charter School Week. I don’t think he realizes that this week has also been National Teacher Appreciation Week and Tuesday (May 7) was National Teacher Day. I haven’t found his proclamation for that yet…someone ought to let him know.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some great charter schools out there. But there are a lot more great teachers out there—in traditional public schools, in charter schools, in private schools—and the fact that the president is trying to replace the week to appreciate them with a week honoring an educational form that has, according to the most in-depth research available, performed less well than traditional public schools far more often than it has performed better, with the differences in performance being, on the whole, pretty small, except that one of these systems has meant big profits and big paydays for some charter management companies and their executives, is an unfortunate reminder of how disappointing, how flat-out bad this president’s education policies have been.

THE COST OF EDUCATION

From my Facebook friend, John Stoffel…

To every person who comments on an Indiana online newspaper article with, “We continue to throw more money at education and we aren’t getting any better results…”

I say, “I couldn’t disagree with you more.”

Millions of dollars to McGraw-Hill for an online ISTEP test is not money spent on education.

Millions more dollars for a longitudinal database to collect our children’s information and give that private information to corporate edu-businesses is not money spent on education.

Millions of dollars for contracts with Pearson and other corporations for superfluous data-collecting programs is not money spent on education.

Millions of dollars simply to build infrastructure to support Federal standards that are copyrighted and out of control of the local educators is not money spent of education.

Millions of dollars given to failing, for-profit charter schools as a bailout is not money spent on education.

Money our state representatives have recently spent for a punitive A-F system or a flawed and impossible RISE evaluation model is not money spent on education.

Perhaps your legislators are throwing more of your taxpayer money at huge corporations raking in record profits from education (which in turn are bankrolling your elected officials next campaign), but, as a classroom teacher, I assure you, your money has not been spent on education.

Three Decades of Lies

“When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Health Care and No Child Left Homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind” — Susan Ohanian

Frankly, it looks to me like our nation is more at risk from critics like these than it is from the hard-working teachers and administrators trying to help poor kids and their families get ahead in a nation that is increasingly stacking the deck against the poor. It really is not an achievement gap between the United States and other nations that is our problem. We actually do quite well for a large and a diverse nation. It’s really the opportunity gap, not the achievement gap that could destroy us. If only the wealthy have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for a post-industrial economy we are, indeed, a nation at risk.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
Posted in Achievement Gap, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Testing

Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?

It seems to work for wealthy children.

Read on…

Reformers assert that test-based teacher evaluation, increased access to charter schools, and the closure of “failing” and under-enrolled schools will boost at-risk students’ achievement and narrow longstanding race- and income-based achievement gaps. [A] new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education examines these assertions by comparing the impacts of these reforms in three large urban school districts – Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago – with student and school outcomes over the same period in other large, high-poverty urban districts. The report finds that the reforms deliver few benefits, often harm the students they purport to help, and divert attention from a set of other, less visible policies with more promise to weaken the link between poverty and low educational attainment. (Emphasis added)

So says a new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. The complete report, Market-Oriented Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality, won’t be available until April 18. However, the Executive Summary is available now and has quite a bit of information.

Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.

“Reform” hasn’t worked in New York, D.C., and Chicago. The “reform” strategy of closing failing schools, opening charters, and shuffling students from one place to another has resulted in stagnating achievement test scores for minority students. Meanwhile, in other urban areas, the achievement gap narrowed and more progress was made.

The goal of the “reformers” is apparently not improved achievement. The real goal, privatization, has increased dramatically. Chicago Mayor Emanuel is poised to close 54 neighborhood schools in his quest to destroy the nation’s third largest school system. The Renaissance 2010 plan, Arne Duncan’s plan (under Mayor Daley) to improve the schools, didn’t work since it consisted of closing “poor performing” schools and opening charters.

Six years after Mayor Richard Daley launched a bold initiative to close down and remake failing schools, Renaissance 2010 has done little to improve the educational performance of the city’s school system, according to a Tribune analysis of 2009 state test data.

Scores from the elementary schools created under Renaissance 2010 are nearly identical to the city average, and scores at the remade high schools are below the already abysmal city average, the analysis found.

Race to the Top, however, which is Renaissance 2010 for the rest of the nation, continues unabated.

Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.

The huge gains reported for targeted students turned out to be false as a closer examination revealed that the numbers had been manipulated.

“There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” – Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people

The “reformers” apparently used lies and statistics. The report said…

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed to halve the white/Asian to black/Latino achievement gap in city schools from 2003 to 2011, but scores on state-administered tests, averaged across fourth and eighth grades in reading and math, show that the achievement gap had stagnated; it was 26.2 percentage points in 2003, versus 25.8 percentage points in 2011 (a 0.01 standard deviation change). Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas, who calculated the 1 percent reduction, noted, “The mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50.”

Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.

District of Columbia Public Schools’ IMPACT system, which bases teacher evaluations (and dismissals) heavily on test scores, is associated with higher teacher turnover. The share of DCPS teachers leaving after one year increased from 15.3 percent in 2001–2007 (before IMPACT began in 2009) to 19.3 percent in 2008–2012; the share leaving after two years increased from 27.8 percent to 33.2 percent; the share leaving after three years increased from 37.5 percent to 42.7 percent; and after four years fully half (52.1 percent) of teachers left the system, up from 45.3 percent.10 Few teachers reach “experienced” status, generally considered at least five years and, by some experts, seven years or more.

It appears that the “reformers” evaluation plan had the desired effect of saving the district money. Older, more experienced, more expensive teachers left in large numbers.

School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.

The only students who had improved achievement in Chicago were the 6% who were moved from “underperforming” schools to schools with greater resources. I look forward to the complete report to find out what those “resources” were. Why weren’t all schools receiving those resources? Instead of closing schools, would supplying the missing resources have helped the schools improve? Who was “underperforming,” the school or the district administration?

Meanwhile the majority of the disrupted students moved from one “underperforming” school to another…presumably another with inadequate resources.

Although Arne Duncan closed Chicago public schools deemed “underperforming” in order to move students to better schools, the closings had almost no effect on student achievement because almost all displaced elementary school students transferred from one low-performing school to another, according to a study of 18 schools closed between 2001 and 2006. Only the 6 percent who moved to better schools with greater resources had improved outcomes.

Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.

Closing neighborhood schools and replacing them with charters* doesn’t help. Charters in general don’t have any more success than regular public schools. In NY, the charters were able to skim students and get higher per-pupil spending but then the “reformers” will tell you that money doesn’t matter…

It is clear, however, that New York City charters benefit from more funding per student and better facilities in co-located spaces. While they serve more minority and low-income students, they serve fewer students who are special needs, very poor, or English language learners (ELL), and these high-needs students are costlier to serve. Comparing charters with nearby public schools illustrates stark differences. At Samuel Stern public school, where 86 percent of students qualify for free lunch and 19 percent are ELL, per-pupil spending is $12,476. At nearby Harlem Day charter school, 62 percent of students qualify for free lunch, and there are no ELL students, but per-pupil spending is $19,632.

Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.

It almost seems like the “reformers” want to avoid that which really works.

Michelle Rhee expanded DCPS’s full-day voluntary prekindergarten program to serve 3- and 4-year-olds at all income levels, and the district adopted a holistic curriculum designed to nurture all domains of children’s development. Though third-graders who had participated had higher test scores than their nonparticipating peers, pre-K is not even a component of the agenda on which Rhee’s advocacy group, StudentsFirst, grades every state’s education system.

The full day preschool worked for Michelle Rhee when she ran D.C.’s public schools. Apparently that was a good enough reason to leave it out of her new “reform” agenda.

The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

The “reformers” habit of ignoring poverty is getting old.

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

Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the [out-of-school-factors] that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.

Should we spend more money to help students in poverty? Jonathan Kozol has an answer to that

“People agree with everything I say,” Kozol continued. “They say, ‘Yes, it is unfair they don’t get as much per pupil as our children.’ Then they say, ‘Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?’ And I say, ‘You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.'”

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
Posted in Article Medleys, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, Parent Trigger, Public Ed, Teaching Career, Test Cheating, vouchers

2013 Medley#7

Teachers, Charters, Parent Trigger, 
Cheating, Vouchers

THE ROLE OF TEACHERS

Gerald Gerald Conti’s retirement letter and here.

Veteran teachers are leaving the profession in high numbers. The average years of experience of the American teacher has dropped precipitously in the last few years. One of the stated goals of the “reform” movement is to do away with seniority. Driving out veteran teachers by making the profession unpalatable is a way to make that goal a reality.

My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom.

Yet Another Education Reform Scam

Silent teachers…

And one of the most remarkable things is that the campaign for education “reform” — which must needs include the ongoing political and social villainization of public school teachers, without which the “reform” movement cannot succeed — has managed to bully teachers into silence about obvious ethical catastrophes like the one that allegedly occurred in Atlanta. The “reformers,” and the avaricious politicians who have their own reasons for breaking the political power of the public school unions, have convinced the world that any criticisms of their methods is merely the caterwauling of overpaid featherbedders in the Music departments.

Cheating

Standardized Exam Cheating In 37 States And D.C.; New Report Shows Widespread Test Score Corruption

When the test becomes the goal then cheating is the result.

The solution to the school test cheating problem is not simply stepped up enforcement. Instead, testing misuses must end because they cheat the public out of accurate data about public school quality at the same time they cheat many students out of a high-quality education.

The cheating explosion is one of the many reasons resistance to high-stakes testing is sweeping the nation…

VOUCHERS

Dear Indiana Politician

One of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education has written a personal and heart-felt letter in support of public funds for public schools and against using tax money for vouchers. Will the Indiana General Assembly listen or have they already made up their minds?

…the educational reform (and all that it encompasses) rages across our country out of control without many, if any, educational experts weighing in. Those educational experts valued by teachers are dismissed by those making legislation in favor of individuals with business savvy and big bucks but no expertise—no experience—in the classroom. Why would educators be left out of the decision-making process?

FWCS Resolution Against Voucher Expansion

Kudos to the Fort Wayne Community Schools School Board for passing this resolution against the state’s voucher expansion plans.

  • students can receive vouchers upon leaving schools with high achievement
  • current system diverts funds necessary to support the public schools
  • expanded to include students who have never been in the public schools
  • increases taxpayer funding for parochial and private schools by an estimated $21 million while FWCS continues to suffer the effects from a $10 million cut

Fighting school voucher program

Another Indiana school board resolves that vouchers would hurt the students of the state…

“For a student who enters the Lake Central system in seventh grade, we would receive $4,700 per year. If that student enrolls in a private or parochial school, that school receives $5,500,” [Superintendent] Veracco said.

The School Board’s resolution cites…a $21 million economic impact in the area. It asks the Indiana General Assembly to put HB 1003 on hold and to establish a study committee to evaluate the impact before any further changes are made to the voucher program.

Wait, Vouchers Can Fund Muslim Schools?

In some places legislators are having trouble with their own voucher plans since they can’t pick and choose which religious organization’s schools get the vouchers.

Notice that there was no complaint at all from these same legislators over diverting money to private Christian schools. They’re perfectly find [sic] with tax money going to support Christian schools. But Muslim schools? That’s an outrage! Who could possibly support such a thing? More importantly, how can they pass a law that prevents that from happening while ensuring the flow of funds to Christian schools? They can’t. And you know what prevents it? That damn constitution they claim so loudly to revere.

PARENT TRIGGER

Public Schools, Private Agendas: Parent Revolution

The parent trigger laws do not give parents more choice. The group Parent Revolution is not a broad based parent support or advocacy group. It was founded by a charter school operator in order to improve his business.

“My kids are not going to go there,” she says. “They’re taking away all the teachers my kids have been around for years. They took over our school, and I don’t think it’s fair. They’re not for the kids.”

CHARTERS*

Ohio

Charters Don’t Deserve State Windfall

For two decades, the money has been following Ohio’s children out of the doors of our public schoolhouses and through the doors of charter schools. Despite losing over $6 billion to charters during the past 15 years, traditional public schools continue to vastly outperform their charter-school counterparts.

ECOT Charter School continues siphoning money from Ohio’s top-rated school districts

Charters like ECOT (Ohio’s largest by a mile) are not the saving grace of education in Ohio — they are siphoning students and money away from the best school districts in the state, causing unnecessary strife and lowering statewide student achievement.

California

Charter school operators guilty of misusing funds

“You can’t spend the charter school funds for anything you want. It has to be money spent on the kids and the schools.”

PUBLIC EDUCATION

School Segregation Leads To More Violent Crime, Study Finds

The privatization movement is leading to a re-segregating of America’s schools. In 2007 the Supreme Court essentially took down the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday, the Supreme Court told local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits.

With the re-segregation of schools comes this report…

Modern inner-city schools are often underfunded, while dropout rates are high and violence is common. Police officers routinely intervene to discipline students for minor infractions, exposing minority kids early to the criminal justice system. Greater allocation of resources may not be enough to halt the cycle of racially-skewed poverty and crime as long as racial and class segregation continues, according to an analysis by Columbia Business School professor Ray Fisman.

The Public Purpose of Public Education

As the U.S. Department of Education has introduced competitive grant programs, it has frozen formula programs from the civil rights era that awarded funds according to the specific needs of the children to be served. Title I is an important example of a formula program frozen in recent federal budgets and being slowly transformed into competitive programs. Title I was created in 1965 in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide federal aid for schools serving children in poverty. Although the Title I formula program is small relative to state and local funding, it has been one of the federal government’s primary tools for equalizing educational opportunity as a civil right for every child. “There are those who would make the case for a Race to the Top for those who can run,” declares the Rev. Jesse Jackson. “Instead ‘lift from the bottom’ is the moral imperative because it includes everybody. We should be fighting for one set of rules—a common foundation beneath which no child falls.”

The Service of Democratic Education

Not much has changed since Linda Darling-Hammond wrote this in 2011. We’re still blaming the teachers and the schools, closing schools instead of supporting them, ignoring poverty, and shuffling poor children around so the privatizers can take our tax money as profits.

And the new scientific managers cleverly construct systems that solve the problem of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepening levels of severe poverty an “excuse,” rewarding schools that keep out and push out the highest-need students, and threatening those who work with new immigrant students still learning English and the growing number of those who are homeless, without healthcare or food security. Are there lower scores in under-resourced schools with high-need students? Fire the teachers and the principals. Close the schools. Don’t look for supports for their families and communities, equitable funding for public schools or investments in professional learning. Don’t worry about the fact that the next schools are—as researchers have documented—likely to do no better. This is the equivalent of deciding that if the banks are failing, we should fire the tellers. (And whatever you do, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

PRIORITIES

The U.S. Collects Less In Taxes Than All But Two Industrialized Countries

We’re a selfish lot. We, as a nation, don’t really care about each other or our children very much…other than the lip service we pay during elections. The “common wisdom” is that we’re over-taxed. Unfortunately that’s just a lie. We’re among the least taxed people on earth…and we have the lack of social safety nets to show it. Poor medical care and our incredibly high child poverty rate lead to a crisis in learning for our most vulnerable children…and we, as a nation, are unwilling to pay more. The “community” of America doesn’t exist. The attitude has become “what’s mine is mine and you can’t have it.”

The premise of the argument from Republicans is that Americans already face an extraordinarily heavy tax burden. Citizens for Tax Justice, however, compared levels of taxation in 2010 in the other industrialized countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and found that the U.S. not only collects far less in tax revenues than the average OECD country, but that it also collects less in taxes as a share of its economy than all but two other OECD nations…

Lead poisoning toll revised to 1 in 38 young kids

An estimated 535,000 young children in the United States have harmful levels of lead in their bodies, putting them at risk of lost intelligence, attention disorders and other life-long health problems, according to a new estimate released Thursday by federal health officials.

The new number shows lead poisoning affects 1 in 38 children ages 1 to 5, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To the extent that Americans think this is a problem of the past, clearly this is evidence there is still a problem,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, a non-profit lead-poisoning-prevention advocacy group.

The warping of public education

The well-being of our young people is just not a high priority in the United States. The social safety-net is inadequate, poverty is rampant, economic segregation via private and so-called “choice” is growing.

We have to undo the damage that has turned public education into a crisis. That means dumping the pretend science of high-stakes testing and valuing rather than criminalizing students of color; it also means moving from punishment- to healing-based systems of maintaining order, taking police and armed security guards out of the hallways and learning to value and respect young people more than we value metal detectors and surveillance cameras.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
Posted in Article Medleys, Corp Interest, Corporate Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Teaching Career, Testing

2013 Medley #4

The Profession of Education,
Charters, Indiana, Testing.

THE PROFESSION OF EDUCATION

This past week saw the release of the 2013 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. I wrote about the results as did others across the educational and political spectrum. First, the actual report…

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher

Principals’ satisfaction with their jobs in the public schools has decreased nine percentage points since it was last measured in 2008. In that same period, teacher satisfaction has dropped precipitously by 23 percentage points, including a five-point decrease in the last year, to the lowest level it has been in the survey in 25 years. A majority of teachers report that they feel under great stress at least several days a week, a significant increase from 1985 when this was last measured.

Principals and teachers with low job satisfaction report higher levels of stress than do other educators and are more likely to work in high-needs schools. Less satisfied principals are more likely to find it challenging to maintain an academically rigorous environment and an adequate supply of effective teachers in their schools, while less satisfied teachers are more likely to be working in schools where budgets and time for professional development and collaboration have decreased in the last 12 months.

John Kuhn, in his piece, used a phrase which I love. He said…

…the Church of Reform chooses to place teacher-bashing into their book of orthodox behaviors…

His article however, is much more valuable as a call to arms for teachers.

Circling the Wagons

We are often accused of defending the status quo, but really what we defend is our dignity and worth, not just as teachers but as people. As contributing members of the American experiment. We defend our integrity. The insults that pour from the ivory tower edu-minds as freely as the pollution their patrons dump in our rivers isn’t inconsequential to us. It comes across as a personal attack. And it makes us lean even more on one another. No one understands us, but us.

When they flippantly decry the quality of instruction–and decline at every opportunity to critique the quality of school funding equity or the legislative provision (or lack thereof) of social supports for learning–when they pooh-pooh the quality of the American teacher as the isolated source of all our problems, they are advertising to the general public that my people are bad people. The worst people. We are a threat to the future safety of our nation, per Condi and Joel. Teachers are bad Americans. Teachers are takers.

We may reply, “Hey, the business-first public policies adopted by our leaders are not irrelevant here. They are counterproductive to the academic well-being of our most vulnerable learners. For every step we lead a learner from poverty, our social policies drag him or her two steps back.”

But when we try and make that point, we are shushed and labeled as excuse-makers. The dialogue between the most hostile of public school demolitionists and the most defensive of educators is similar to a dialogue between an abuser and his victim: “You’re such a whiner,” as we point to the yellowing bruise from the last black eye we received.

Those who would fix us should walk a mile in our loafers and see how it feels to “take” what we take on a daily basis.

Walt Gardner expresses the frustration of many education professionals…and includes the reminder that teachers don’t work in a vacuum. The low morale of teachers affects students.

Teacher Morale Plummets

What’s given short shrift is the effect that low teacher morale has on students. Let’s not forget that no one goes into teaching for fame, fortune or power. Those who choose teaching as a career – not as a resume builder – genuinely want to help young people be all they can possibly be. They don’t always succeed, but they spend enormous energy and time trying. As a result, the last thing they deserve is unrelenting bashing. And that’s precisely what they’re getting. I liken the matter to kicking a person when the person is down. Burnout is slow to develop, but when it does it undermines the ability of even the most dedicated teacher to teach students.

Reformers are quick to respond that teachers have plenty of time to recover. They trot out the usual factors: long summer vacations, short teaching days etc. Of course, few, if any, reformers have ever taught in a public school, or if they did, it was decades ago when conditions were entirely different. I guarantee that they wouldn’t last a week in front of a class of students now. I say that because teaching was once fun. That’s no longer the case. When teachers’ jobs largely depend on posting ever increasing standardized test scores, the atmosphere in the classroom is unavoidably altered for the worse. Survival becomes the No. 1 concern.

CHARTERS*

I add a disclaimer at the bottom of a blog entry whenever I include something about charters. Not all charters are bad. The original idea behind charters, as described in Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a vision of a school where

…groups of teachers should be able to run their own schools within regular schools and to pursue innovative ways of educating disaffected students.

There are places where charter schools are a positive force in the education of children, but the corporate takeover of public schools using public funds where profit is the bottom line, is not what charters were supposed to be.

The profit motive, so lauded by privatizers, has a tendency to put students a distant fourth, behind the stockholders, public relations, and the cutting of corners to increase profit.

In order to meet their goals of high test scores many charters will skim students. Valerie Strauss writes,

How charter schools choose desirable students

Charter schools educate about 5 percent of K-12 students in the country, but the sector is growing and gets a great deal of financial and public attention from school reformers. The charter school-dominant Recovery School District of New Orleans is repeatedly praised as being a model for how charter schools can transform a city’s public education system — though those who do the praising ignore the fact that the charters in that district are performing at a very low level.

Strauss reported on the following article from Reuters.

Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want

Among the barriers that Reuters documented:

  • Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.
  • Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.
  • Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.
  • Mandatory family interviews.
  • Assessment exams.
  • Academic prerequisites.
  • Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.

INDIANA

Last November Glenda Ritz defeated “reformer’s” poster-boy Tony Bennett in the race for the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Unfortunately, the 1.3 million voters who supported Ritz didn’t make a similar change in the state legislature. Republican legislators, who overwhelmingly supported Bennett in his quest to privatize Indiana’s schools, were elected in even greater numbers and now own a Super Majority in both houses of the state General Assembly. The House Education Committee, led by district 91 (southwest of Indianapolis) representative Robert Behning, has been especially zealous in its quest to remove the “public” from “public schools.”

Indiana officials to Ritz voters: Drop dead

// House Bill 1003 would expand Indiana’s private-school voucher program
// House Bill 1358 is a “parent trigger” bill
// Several bills are being considered that would reduce Ritz’s authority as state superintendent or transfer functions and programs involving education from the Department of Education, which Ritz heads, to state agencies controlled by the governor.

The Corporate Takeover of Indianapolis Public Schools

The Mayor’s office is slowly taking powers away from other branches of government. For example, they now have oversight of four former IPS schools taken over under Tony Bennett’s watch.

There is legislation pending that would allow those schools to become “independent” schools at the end of the takeover period…

There is also legislation which would remove the involvement/oversight of the city county council in approving new Charter schools.

Another bill takes a funding source from public schools (proceeds from auctioned properties due to non-payment of taxes) and gives it to Mayor-sponsored charter schools.

Other legislation forces the sale or lease of closed public schools to Charter schools and other private entities.

All of this collusion is no accident…

Sour Grapes — Again!

Another measure approved on party lines casts a blow on the state teacher unions, already battered by anti-collective bargaining laws approved two years ago. The latest measure prohibits school districts from allowing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues…No local school district officials spoke in support of the dues amendment. They currently deduct annuity payments, United Way contributions, pension payments and more from teacher paychecks. The bill would not affect those deductions.

The only purpose for this amendment is to damage the teachers unions. The only reason for adding it is spite.

Dan Carpenter: Actions by his allies make Tony Bennett’s election loss a mulligan

The aptly named “parent trigger” bill is of a piece with a spate of “reform” legislation — expansion of vouchers for private schools, dropping licensing requirements for local school superintendents, diminishing the role of the state superintendent on state panels — aimed at two basic prizes: consolidation of GOP control over the multibillion-dollar public education system, and diversion of those dollars to private entities unencumbered by professional credentialing and collective bargaining.

Reform-weary teachers say state leaders missing the mark

• The testing process now outweighs the overall benefit of the student
• Problems in many students’ home lives continue to go unaddressed, making it harder and harder for youth to concentrate in school, no matter what reform strategy is employed.
• The heavy-handed, at times arrogant and tunnel-vision approach some politicians have displayed toward education has greatly damaged the morale of teachers, some of whom said they feel like giving up and applying for jobs as greeters at department stores.

TESTING

The bias described in this article could be also be called an economic bias. Tests are designed for the dominant culture. Some test makers work hard to remove bias, but no matter how hard they try, some inequity seeps in. I don’t try to argue that all tests are useless or that all tests are bad, but they definitely shouldn’t be used for high stakes decisions.

Minority Testing Bias Persists

Education equity should be the norm, but from the makeup of standardized tests to the circumstances surrounding the lives of the students taking them, this equity remains elusive. Fiction-wise, it didn’t exist on “Good Times” in 1974 or when Diff’rent Strokes presented the same theme four years later, and it isn’t a reality for some minority students today. If schools are to test — and reasoning for that alone is debatable — then districts cannot expect fair evaluation when circumstances are different for each child. For many children, the burden of life alone is often so great that their primary goal is not a quality education, but day-to-day survival. And culturally, when academic outcomes are averaged across race and class, the achievement gap grows even greater.

CORPORATE “REFORM”

Corporate “reformers” like Bill Gates, whose only qualification as an education expert is his money, constantly harp on the “failure” of America’s public schools and its teachers (read: the inability of schools to solve the problem of a nearly 25% child poverty rate), support the overuse and misuse of tests to evaluate schools, school systems and teachers, and are in favor of “teacher-proof” curricula which anyone can deliver. In Indiana, for example, one no longer needs to have a degree in education to teach…one no longer needs to be a teacher first before becoming a principal or superintendent. The profession of education, according to the “reformers,” doesn’t need to be a profession at all.

On the other hand, the wealthy supporters of school “reform” like Bill Gates (and Mitt Romney and Barack Obama) make sure that their own children attend schools with highly qualified professionals. They send their children to schools which focus on learning, not testing. The dumbing down of the American Public School System by the insane obsession with test preparation and testing is supported by our elected officials in our states and in Washington D.C. Where did people like Gates, Rhee, Obama, Romney, Duncan and their colleagues in the corporate “reform” movement go to school? Where did they send their children? Do Gates’ children go to public schools? Did Obama attend a struggling public school with no school library in Chicago? Did Romney send his children to public schools? Did Arne Duncan ever set foot in a public school as a student or teacher? The answer to all those questions is, of course, no. Yet they feel qualified to dictate to the rest of us what schools should be like for our children…

…and we let them.

A Kindergarten Teacher Stands Up to Bill Gates

Expert educators, including teachers, as well as students and families, understand that these undemocratic, and unproven practices are extremely harmful to the students that you say you want to help. Sadly, this seems to have little or no influence on you to stop and consider that perhaps it is time that you respect the educators and listen to the experts.

Perhaps your wealth and influence could be put to better use and have greater results in real solutions to our public schools, if your programs were designed to function like the schools you send your children to, in collaboration with teachers, parents and students. This could help you understand that public schools are not factories, where children are viewed as commodities; that our children are not to be used as guinea pigs to satisfy the greed in the lottery style profit making schools. We know that certainly these are not the kind of schools where you would ever consider sending your own children.

So here is a challenge for you, if indeed you are sincere that the reforms you are proposing for our children are the answer. Why not try these reforms with the schools that educate the children of the rich and politically influential? Why not take the children in the schools where you, the President and the rich send their children; trade places with the children in the schools of the poor, where your education experiments are being implemented.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~