Category Archives: Curmudgucation

Choose a Teacher!

IN NOVEMBER: DUMP DEVOS

The upcoming election gives us the chance to change the occupant of the White House, which would also, thankfully, remove the person who purchased the office of Secretary of Education.

Betsy DeVos’s tenure at the US Education Department has not gone well. From her lack of educational qualifications to the “Where are the pencils” tweet to the attempt to “strip public money from public schools,” she has shown, to put it mildly, a general lack of interest in public schools.

The vast majority of American students attend public schools and they will all benefit when “dead end” DeVos goes back to her Michigan mansion and her yachts.

But who should replace her? Joe Biden, should he take the Presidential 0ath of Office on January 20, 2021, will nominate someone other than DeVos for Secretary, and he has promised to nominate a teacher.

But if you’ve been a public school educator in the last 20 years, you know that a promise from any presidential candidate, Republican or Democratic, about public education is questionable. Before DeVos, public schools suffered through sixteen years of attack from two different administrations. Peter Greene, in Forbes, tackles the question. Read the entire article…I’ll wait…

Who Should Biden Pick As Education Secretary?

Of course, he has to win first. But Joe Biden comes into the race carrying the education baggage of the Obama administration, and an announcement of a good ed secretary, even a short list, could help whip up some teacher enthusiasm. Also, it’s far more pleasant to imagine what Biden could do than to contemplate more years of Betsy DeVos in the office…

…when the campaign puts together a search committee to narrow down the field, that committee should be loaded with public school teachers as well. Start soon; teachers are going to be extra busy this fall. And teachers—if you don ‘t get the call to help out, send the campaign your picks anyway.

AN UNFORTUNATE TRADITION

It’s been a tradition for American presidents – since Jimmy Carter – to nominate someone unqualified to the office of Secretary of Education. A quick glance at past Secretaries would give you enough information to understand that the position is not reserved for educators, but for political boosters and hacks.

Of the eleven past and current Secretaries of the US Education Department, only a handful have had any experience in public education or even K-12 education.

John King, the previous Secretary, taught for 3 years (yep…three whole years) and became the hated state education chief in New York. Terrell Bell, who got fired from his job as Secretary after one term because he knew too much about education, was a high school teacher and administrator. Rod Paige, who equated teachers who belonged to their teachers’ union with terrorists, also had education training and earned his stripes as the Superintendent of Schools in Houston during the “Texas Miracle” which turned out to be no miracle at all.

Arne Duncan was the “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools – because “CEO” means that we’re running a school system like a business so it’s all good – and he got that job because…why? His mom was a tutor and he watched her (see here, here, and here).

The rest of the pack’s knowledge of public education was either as a parent, such as Margaret Spellings whose web page at the U.S. ED said that she was qualified because she was a mom or because they might have been a student in a public school…once.

In other words, knowing anything about K-12 public education has rarely, if ever, been a requirement for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education.

It’s time to change that!

CHOOSE A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER

Nearly any American public school teacher would make a better Secretary of Education for the United States than Betsy DeVos.

Take me for example…

Like DeVos, I have no experience at running any organization the size of the U.S. ED. And I don’t have her millions of dollars to purchase politicians. On the other hand, I have more than sixty years of experience as a student, teacher, parent, and volunteer in public education compared to DeVos’s zero years. I have been a teacher of students from age 4 through adult at the elementary school, community college, and university levels. In fact, I have more K-12 teaching experience than any previous Secretary of Education.

And like most American educators…

  • I believe that all children are entitled to a free, appropriate, public education.
  • I believe that public education is a public responsibility which, if fully supported, benefits all citizens, and provides for a more productive society.
  • I believe that if private or privately run schools accept public dollars then they should be held to the same standards and restrictions as public schools.
  • I believe that all schools accepting public funds should accept and provide an appropriate education for all students no matter how expensive they are to educate.

But I’m not the only one.

Most American public school teachers know more about public education than most of the previous Secretaries of Education, and it’s likely that any public school teacher in America knows more about public education than Betsy DeVos.

The nation’s children would be better served with an education professional as the U.S. Secretary of Education, than with someone like Betsy DeVos, who has no understanding of teaching and learning, and whose only interest in public education is to destroy it.

Peter Greene suggests that you send the Biden campaign your suggestions for a qualified, public-school-experienced, Secretary of Education. I think that’s a good idea.

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Listen to this – 2020 #3

COVID-19, PUBLIC HEALTH, STARTING SCHOOL

The Covid-19 Experiment: Facing the Sins of a Nation that Quit Caring About Public Education Long Ago

Education is the largest portion of the budget in Indiana, yet it’s underfunded. People want services — like good public schools — but aren’t willing to pay for them. Hoosiers, like many Americans, are shortsighted and selfish. We aren’t thinking about the future when we underfund schools….and we have a tendency to think, “my kids have good schools, too bad for those other kids,” without realizing that the “other kids” futures have an impact on all of us. What could be more foolish than to allow more than half our children to live in poverty? As Carl Sagan said,

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them? This is stupid.

We all benefit from good schools for everyone. We all do better…when we all do better.

From Nancy Bailey

Suddenly it’s important to have clean air to contain the virus. Crumbling facilities with poor ventilation systems have always made air questionable for the children and teachers in poor schools. I’m remembering past students who dealt with allergies and asthma, who’d come to school ill and struggle to learn. Their test scores obviously affected my school’s standardized testing performance. Who listened then?

School reopening plans linked to politics rather than public health

Education is, as usual, a political football. When the pandemic came to the US, teachers were being lauded for their ability to switch gears in the middle of a year and provide online learning to their students. Now, hopefully, everyone understands that school is more than just “passing on information to the next generation.” Unfortunately, the importance of schools to the economy is as a holding place for children so parents can work.

From Jon Valent at Brookings.edu

In reality, there is no relationship—visually or statistically—between school districts’ reopening decisions and their county’s new COVID-19 cases per capita. In contrast, there is a strong relationship—visually and statistically—between districts’ reopening decisions and the county-level support for Trump in the 2016 election. Districts located in counties that supported Trump are much more likely to have announced plans to open in person. On average, districts that have announced plans to reopen in person are located in counties in which 55% voted for Trump in 2016, compared to 35% in districts that have announced plans for remote learning only. Unsurprisingly, the one remaining group in EdWeek’s data—“Hybrid/Partial”—falls right in the middle, at 44%.

Why I’m OK with my kids “falling behind” in school during the pandemic

“Falling behind” what? The standards we use in Indiana are arbitrary. We should adjust them if kids need more time. Forget the tests for once. Think about kids who have been traumatized by the fear of, or the actuality of losing friends, grandparents, and even parents. We need to help them through this…relationships matter more than math facts, or the ability to answer questions on a standardized test. As a bonus, kids will learn better when they’re happy and feel safe.

From Mary Elizabeth Williams

I think often of Lily Tomlin’s decades-old observation: “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

31 school districts go virtual only: McCormick blasts efforts to force in-person teaching

“Threats don’t open schools…” I learned, over 35 years of teaching, that threats, whether directed at teachers or students, don’t produce results. The old adage, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is true.

And while we’re talking about it, elections matter. We need to elect leaders who are strong enough to stand up against the bully in Washington.

From Indiana State Superintendent, Jennifer McCormick

…she had harsh words for Congress and other officials pushing to withhold federal dollars from districts that don’t open to in-person instruction. U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Fort Wayne, has pushed this measure.

“Threats don’t open schools,” she said. “I have no patience for that – that is a poor example of leadership.”

AMERICA’S CULT OF SELFISHNESS

The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America

The current occupant of the White House is not an aberration. He is the logical result of America’s selfish cult of “individualism.”

This morning I read, We are witnessing the fall of a great power in the Canberra Times. It’s worth reading.

From Paul Krugman

I’m not saying that Republicans are selfish. We’d be doing much better if that were all there were to it. The point, instead, is that they’ve sacralized selfishness, hurting their own political prospects by insisting on the right to act selfishly even when it hurts others.

What the coronavirus has revealed is the power of America’s cult of selfishness. And this cult is killing us.

CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE

“I Wouldn’t Give Up My ADHD”: “It’s been hard, but, as with any difficult thing, you learn something, don’t you?” Take notes from these women leaders with ADHD.

It takes a long time to get to the point of not worrying what others think of you…and most of us never get there entirely. As a middle and high school student, I remember wanting to be able to be like my friends. Aside from the usual teenage feelings of insecurity about looks and popularity, I had the added worry of being a poor student who tested high, so I was constantly told to “try harder,” “put forth more effort,” and labeled “lazy.” (See You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?!)

From Trudie Styler, Actor and filmmaker, New York, New York

As a kid, you obsess about wanting to be normal. As you get older, being normal is not such a big thing. Your gifts are important. Celebrate who you are, and listen for the small voice.

TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU

Don’t Waste Time

Finally, Peter Greene wrote something that touched me. I retired in 2010, but I still miss much of what made teaching my life’s work. I miss talking to kids. I miss helping them find their way. I miss sharing a love of books with them.

I volunteered for nearly seven years after I retired, but had to give that up after health issues made continuing difficult, if not impossible. I still feel the tug when August rolls around and “back to school” is in the air.

From Peter Greene

After retirement, you become sort of a ghost at your old school, but the magic of texting and social media blunts much of that effect.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, Blue Cliff Editions, 1988

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please.” — Mark Twain

“Science bestowed immense new powers on man, and, at the same time, created conditions which were largely beyhond his comprehension.” — Winston Churchill

🎤📚🎤

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Filed under Curmudgucation, DrSeuss, John Kuhn, McCormick, Pandemic, Public Ed, Quotes

2019 Medley #18: A Blogoversary

Blogoversary, Online Pre-K, The Waltons, Privatization, Teachers work hours,
Teacher morale, Vouchers, Readaloud,
Let Children Play

2019, BLOGOVERSARY #13

Today, the 14th of September marks the thirteenth year that I’ve kept this blog. I’m too stubborn to give it up…and I still feel the need to vent about what’s happening in the realm of public education

…my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year’s “Teachers’ Spring” will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I’ll keep going…just in case someone is listening.

Off-Topic

Most of the time I focus on education. Now and then, I’ll venture into national politics, music or baseball.

Yesterday, September 13, for example, was the birthday of Roald Dahl, a horrible man who wrote delightful books which I read to dozens, if not hundreds of second and third graders during my years in the classroom. Check out this thoughtful article about reading Dahl’s work, Problematic Favorites: Re-reading Roald Dahl. Also, see my own discussion about Dahl…in the section titled “Facing Racism” in this post from 2017.

I also regularly blog about the birthdays of famous composers Mozart or Beethoven, as well as baseball heroes like Jackie Robinson.

For the most part, however, I’ve posted about public education in America.

Changes

Much has changed in the state of public education since I began this blog in 2006…not much of it for the better (I haven’t given up hope, however). Some examples…

  • In 2006 Indiana taxpayers supported one publicly funded school system. In 2019 we pay for three — charter schools, the constitutionally mandated public schools, and Indiana’s largest-in-the-nation school voucher program.
  • The voucher program in Indiana began in 2011. Since then the state has spent more than a half-billion dollars on mostly unaccountable voucher schools…around $160 million for the 2018-2019 school year. Vouchers don’t help students improve their learning. The program has never been evaluated. Let’s just call it a failure.

I could go on…and I have, here, and here.

Until things improve for public schools in America, I’ll still need this blog as a place to vent.

THE PLAGUE

Online Pre-K Continues To Spread Like A Big Stupid Plague

Among the most stupid new ideas to come out of the digital revolution is that of online preschool…digital nursery school.

But what about children who have no preschool to go to…kids who live in preschool deserts…kids in rural areas where there are no preschools? Peter Greene answers with this…

Yes, the argument is going to be that this will reach children who don’t have access or finances to go to pre-school, that this can be a resource for isolated families, to which I say this is like saying there are families that don’t have access to enough nutritionally rich food, so let’s mail them all cases of diet soda and arsenic. Yes, this targets families and children who need something– but what they need is not this. Nobody needs this.

SEND MONEY TO WALTONS AND DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION

Inside the web of Arkansas’s School Privatization Empire

The Walton Family Foundation and members of the Walton family are at the forefront of the movement to privatize public education. Every time you shop at Walmart (or at these other companies) you’re sending money to folks who use their billions to destroy public education.

A free quality public education for every child is a foundational principle of American society and a right guaranteed by Arkansas’s Constitution. Everyone in this state, regardless of religion, race, income, disability or any other characteristic deserves an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.

Unfortunately, a vast network of corporate interests and wealthy individuals are chipping away at this bedrock of our democracy in an effort to turn public education into a marketplace where private interests can profit off of our students.

Across the nation, states have implemented and expanded charter schools that are unaccountable to the public and voucher programs that have siphoned off public taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition.

This powerful and well-funded effort is nationwide, but one of the biggest contributors is based right here in our state, and each year the network of privatizers working in Arkansas is growing.

TEACHERS DONATE THEIR TIME

Teachers Work a Shocking Amount of Overtime Hours and It’s All Unpaid

I’ve been retired since 2010. Most teachers still donate large amounts of their time.

…teachers are putting in close well over 2,000 hours a year, depending on their situation. How does that measure up with other professions? Well, according to the Pew Research Center, the average American only works about 1,811 hours a year. Factor in the thousands of teachers that need to take on a 2nd or 3rd job just to pay the bills and the number of hours teachers work throughout the year is off the charts. It’s a staggering mathematical exercise and one that doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon.

Source: Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

LACK OF RESPECT

“Tired Of Being Treated Like Dirt” Teacher Morale In The 2019 PDK Poll

Teacher are leaving the classroom…and young people aren’t becoming teachers. We have a shortage of teachers in Indiana and the U.S. because teachers are underpaid, overworked, and disrespected. It’s not hard to understand why young people would choose a different profession.

Normally, if there’s an employment shortage in a particular area, management will raise salaries and improve working conditions to incentivize new hires to enter the field. Not so with education. The shortage seems to be preferred by legislators and policymakers. I’ve suggested before that this is likely gender based…that teachers, being mostly female, are disrespected by our paternalistic society.

Add Peter Greene’s Curmudgucation to your daily blog list.

Inadequate pay is the marquee reason, and notably regional. Public school teachers are far less likely to feel fairly paid in the South and Midwest. That reason is followed closely by stress and pressure, which is followed by a lack of respect. Lack of support. Teaching no longer enjoyable. Testing requirements. Workload.

These are tied together with the single thread of distrust and disrespect for teachers. This has been evident on the national stage with issues like installing a Secretary of Education who had previously dismissed public education as a “dead end” or a Secretary of Education who asserts that student failure is because of low teacher expectations. Education has also carried the modern burden of the thesis that poor education is the cause of poverty, or even our “greatest national security threat,” and so the entire fate of the nation rests on teachers’ backs. And yet, teachers are not trusted to handle any of this; instead, we’ve had decades of federal and state programs meant to force teachers to do a better job. In the classroom, much of these “reforms” have sounded like “You can’t do a good job unless you are threatened, micromanaged, and stripped of your autonomy.” There is a special kind of stress that comes from working for someone who says, in effect, “You have a big important job to do, and we do not trust you to do it.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

The new terrain of the school voucher wars

Vouchers haven’t improved student learning. When vouchers were first introduced in Indiana we heard from their supporters that private schools were better than public schools. We heard that students learned more and that poor students should be given vouchers so they could “escape failing schools.” But, despite protestations from “reformers” that was never really the point.

Now we know voucher schools don’t outperform public schools so the supporters of vouchers have changed their tune. Now it’s all about “choice.” The truth is, it’s always been about the money. Private schools want public money (with as little accountability for it as possible). With vouchers in Indiana, they get it.

Researchers — including several voucher advocates — have conducted nine rigorous, large-scale studies since 2015 on achievement in voucher programs. In no case did these studies find any statistically positive achievement gains for students using vouchers. But seven of the nine studies found that voucher students saw relative learning losses. Too often, these losses were substantial.

THINGS TO DO

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Parents, read to your children every day, starting from the day they’re born. Even when they have “leaerned how to read” themselves, continue to read to them.

Teachers, read to your students every day, starting from the first day of school. This will be the easiest, most enjoyable, and most effective part of your reading program.

The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. 

PLAY IS CHILDREN’S WORK

Let the Children Play! A Book You Should Read

A new book by Pasi Sahlberg. It’s next on my list to read.

Pasi was flummoxed by the bizarre education concept of “preschool readiness.” Compounding the culture shock was the stunning price tag: $25,000 a year for preschool, compared with the basically free, government-funded daycare-through-university programs that the boy would have enjoyed back in Finland.

Pasi had entered an American school culture that is increasingly rooted in childhood stress and the elimination of the arts, physical activity and play—all to make room for a tidal wave of test prep and standardized testing. This new culture was supposed to reduce achievement gaps, improve learning and raise America’s position in the international education rankings. Nearly two decades and tens of billions of dollars later, it isn’t working. Yet the boondoggle continues, even as the incidence of childhood mental-health disorders such as anxiety and depression is increasing.

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2019 Medley #2

N.J. Charters, “Bible Literacy” Courses,
Teacher Shortage, Kg Readiness,
IN General Assembly, L.A. Strike, Vouchers, Science Facts, Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson!

FALSE PROMISES

Broken Promises: Camden’s “Renaissance” Charter Schools

We keep looking for ways to fix public schools, but it’s just as important for us look for ways to fix inequity and poverty. Our schools are just a mirror, reflecting the societal conditions our policy-makers, and we the voters, are unable or unwilling to correct. Until we focus on the source of the problem — that some people are given rights and privileges denied to others — we’ll continue to fail.

[emphasis in original]

Students who enter charter school lotteries are not equivalent to students who don’t. Plenty of research backs this up (see the lit review in this paper for a good summary of this research). Combine this with the high attrition rates in many “successful” charters, and the high suspension rates at many more, and you have a system designed to separate students by critical family characteristics that do not show up in student enrollment data.

…It’s important to note that the Camden City Public Schools do not have the luxury of setting caps on enrollments, deciding which grades to serve, or not enrolling students who move in after the kindergarten year. Everyone in Camden must get a seat at a CCPS school. But only a lucky subset of students get to attend a renaissance school.

 

“BIBLE LITERACY” COURSES

The Threat Behind Public School ‘Bible Literacy’ Courses

Not all of America’s public school students are Christian. Not all Christians in the United States use the same translation of The Bible. When we try to include religious texts in school we run up against the problem of whose version of the text to use, which religious texts should be included, and which religions or sects to include. Teachers who teach such courses need to be well-versed in the law making sure they don’t express a preference for one religion, sect, religious text, or version of a religious text over another.

This is one of the reasons that the First Amendment separates church from state. Madison, the author of the first amendment, grew to recognize the need for the separation of church and state through…

…his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation…Madison wrote. “This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think anything relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

The current crop of Bible-in-public-school bills does nothing more than attempt to inject religion into public schools. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, in his bill, SB 373, makes it especially plain that this is his goal since his bill adds “creation science” into the mix.

Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.

…Let’s not be misled: Barton, the backers of Project Blitz and other far-right groups behind this new push aren’t interested in truly objective classes about the Bible in public schools. They want classes that indoctrinate children in a specific religious perspective – theirs.

NO TEACHER SHORTAGE

There Is No Teacher Shortage

This post by Peter Greene (the first of two in here) explains that the teacher shortage is the result of stagnant working conditions and lack of respect for teachers.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers can’t do their job, that teachers won’t do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, “What’s wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it’s supposed to be done.” And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we’ve been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.

 

KINDERGARTEN READINESS MAY NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

When I began teaching my first class of third graders (after a half year of teaching kindergarten) I discovered that the achievement range of my 38 students was much larger than I had imagined. Some students were reading several years above grade level, and some were reading one or two years below grade level. One student in particular, John*, was reading at a pre-primer level. In retrospect it was plain that this child was a candidate for special education, but, as a first-year teacher in a system with minimal provisions for special needs children (at least at that time), I was responsible for figuring out what to do to help him learn to read.

What should a teacher do with a child reading at a pre-primer level in third grade? I decided that I would do the same for him as I did for the students who were reading several grade levels above average. I would provide material at his level. That meant that John wouldn’t be exposed to grade-level reading material. In other words, I changed the curriculum to fit his needs, rather than make a futile attempt to force him into a curriculum in which he would fail, become frustrated, and learn to hate reading. The latter is what many schools have forced teachers to do since No Child Left Behind.

* not his real name

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem…if you still think that children raised in poor families have “too many” needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.

NO VOTER INPUT FOR EDUCATION POLICY IN INDIANA

Bill gives governor unusual power over schools

I wrote about a related issue in this bill last week. This bill, should it become law, would mean that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be an appointed position beginning in 2021, rather than a position voted on by the citizens. Since members of the State Board of Education are also appointed, the voters will have no direct input in the state’s education policy except through the governor.

Governor Holcomb will be the one to appoint the Secretary of Education which means that of the eleven members of the SBOE, nine will be appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With HB 1005, Indiana would become one of 15 states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer. The most common procedure – used in 21 states — is for the state board of education to appoint the chief state school officer.

Indiana’s governor appoints members of the state board of education; so, with approval of the bill, the governor will control both the setting and administering of education policy.

In states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer, the governor has total power to appoint state board members in only Iowa, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, board members are elected; or they are chosen by the governor but confirmed by the legislature.

The House approved the measure Thursday by a vote of 70-29, with most of the yes votes coming from Republicans and most of the no votes from Democrats. It rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment to require the secretary of education to have experience in education.

L.A. TEACHERS STRIKE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for our schools – and the country

Americans still prioritize now over future. We have cut funding for public schools through actual reductions and through the transference of tax funds from public schools to charter and voucher schools. Indiana, for example, paid $154 million to school voucher schools. The actual cost of charter schools is much more difficult to find, but a Duke University study of charters’ impact on North Carolina schools determined that

…charter school growth results in a “large and negative fiscal impact” on the districts evaluated.

and

…the findings are consistent with previous studies and show that charter growth generally results in a lower quality of education for students who remain in a district’s traditional public schools.

The Los Angeles teachers who went on strike earlier this month didn’t strike only for more pay and benefits. They were offered a 6% increase before the strike. They accepted a 6% increase to end the strike. What they gained were improvements to the learning conditions of the students in the form of lowered class sizes and much-needed wraparound services.

It was clear, however, that part of the problem with funding in Los Angeles and California, as well as in other parts of the country, is that money is being diverted from public schools to privately run charter schools. States can’t afford to support multiple school systems.

We believe every student, however challenged, ought to have access to success. And we know that in our classes with more than 40 students, there are often five or 10 with special needs and another 10 or 15 still learning English as a second language while as many as half or two-thirds are homeless or in foster care or in a continual state of crisis. Students collapse in class from hunger and stress and fatigue and depression.

Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. No one except the dedicated teachers who every day give a damn about them. And we’re going to keep giving a damn and hope that one day those in power give a damn.

 

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Side effects in education: Winners and losers in school voucher programs

One size does not fit all. Some teaching methods work for some children, other methods work for other students. Some schools are better for some students, other schools are better for others.

Think about this in terms of the evaluation of teachers, for example. Teacher A might be able to help student A, who is homeless, adjust to school, while Teacher B may not. But Teacher B’s classes usually have higher test scores. If you were the parent of student A which teacher would you want for your child?

As much as we might want to seek a perfect solution for all students, one student’s medicine may very well be another one’s poison. As students’ characteristics and education treatments interact, negative side effects may occur. Funding private schools with public dollars probably does not affect all students positively in a uniform fashion. To date, studies of school voucher programs have found their effects to vary among different populations of students.

Moreover, besides the side effects resulting from the interactions between students’ characteristics and education treatments, side effects also occur because of the broad range of desirable and potentially competing education outcomes. So far, evidence of the effects of voucher programs has been limited to a narrow set of outcomes such as academic achievement. Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other equally important outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society (Abowitz & Stitzlein, 2018; Labaree, 2018). Thus, we do not know their effects, negative or positive, on other important outcomes. It is, however, reasonable to believe that voucher programs and other forms of privatization of education can have negative side effects on individual students, the public school system, and the society (Labaree, 2018).

A WARNING

The most disturbing news yet

I recently saw a discussion on social media where someone stated…

“Science is facts. Theory is not yet science.”

After a quick facepalm, I responded with the article, “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words. This didn’t work, of course, because the person in question had been “educated” at a “Bible Institute.” He was obviously mistaught basic science concepts.

This is what we are up against. When the effects of climate change are no longer deniable, these same people will, at that point, point to “god” and claim we are being punished for allowing gay marriage, transgender soldiers, unisex bathrooms, or some such nonsense. Until that time, they will go along with the right-wing talking point denying climate change claiming it’s just a conspiracy to get more money for scientists.

In the meantime, there are places where insects are disappearing and the entire food chain is at risk. Those places shouldn’t be taken as exceptions, but rather as warnings.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

…We are part of a complex web of interdependencies, and it’s also a non-linear dynamical system. There’s a word for when parts of such a system show a pattern of failure: it’s called catastrophe. By the time you notice it, it’s too late to stop it.

JACKIE ROBINSON – JANUARY 31, 1919

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

📚📝📖

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Challenging the myths about teachers

It’s always dangerous to read comments on the internet. The anonymity afforded users makes it easy for them to rant, bitch, and promote myths and lies. The last week of 2018 was no different.

 

The Wall Street Journal posted the following article on Dec. 28th…

Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record by Michelle Hackman and Eric Morath.  (Note: This article is behind a paywall. You can read a review of the article at The Hill, Teachers in America quitting jobs at record rate)

The authors discussed the teacher shortage, last year’s state-wide teacher strikes, and the lack of support that teachers get. You can read about all that on your own…today I’m going to focus on the comments the article generated.

Now, I know that the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is very conservative so it’s not surprising that many of the people who comment are similarly inclined. For one reason or another, some of those conservatives, seem to hate public education, public school teachers, and public sector unions (surprise, surprise!). Many left angry and ignorant comments about teachers and public schools (comments on The Hill report are similar). Not all, of course. There were people who were defending public schools, teachers, and unions, but they were in the minority and fought a losing battle against ignorance and envy.

The anti-public education comments fell into three general categories focusing on teachers, teachers unions, and failing schools.

  • Teachers are the cause of school failure: Teachers aren’t very smart, make a lot of money, only work part-time, and get plenty of benefits.
  • Unions are the cause of school failure: Unions have destroyed the teaching profession, the union bosses make huge salaries, and unions protect bad teachers.
  • Other causes of school failure: Parents, students, administrators.

Most of the comments were based on myths and popular media images of public schools and teachers. Every public school teacher/parent should be ready to challenge those myths.

MYTH: AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The basic assumption for nearly every anti-teacher/public education comment is that America’s public schools are failing.

Wrong.

They’re not.

Over the last couple of years, I have written, read, and reported on posts that explained that America’s public schools are generally successful. Please read one or more of those before proceeding. I’ll wait…

Now that we understand that America’s public schools are among the best in the world and that poverty along with the neglect, ignorance, or avoidance of the effects of poverty are the cause of low student achievement, let’s address the first set of comments, those about teachers.

 

MYTH: TEACHERS’ SALARIES AND BENEFITS MEAN HIGHER TOTAL COMPENSATION

Teachers are not paid too much compared to other college graduates when you factor in their benefits. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high

The teacher pay gap is growing. From 1996 to 2017 weekly wages for teachers dropped by $27. For other workers, weekly wages grew more than $130. The weekly wage penalty (not including benefits) for teachers reached more than 18% in 2017. The weekly wage gap varies by state, but in no state does the teachers’ weekly wage equal other college graduates. In Indiana, the difference in 2017, was -21%!

Benefits do not make up the difference, either. The total compensation penalty for teachers reached 11% by 2017. In other words, teachers, on average, make 11% less than other equally-educated workers even when you include benefits.

What about pensions? Don’t teachers get fabulous pensions which suck taxpayers dry?

Different states have different rules regarding teacher pensions, and those rules change frequently. Some states, like Illinois, have been fighting over teacher pensions for years. Other states have good pension plans…some have terrible plans. You can check out this article for an overview. If you’d like to see what the average monthly pension is for teachers in your state, read What Is the Average Teacher Pension in My State?

 

MYTH: TEACHING IS JUST PART-TIME WORK

How about the teaching year…do teachers work only 6 hours a day, for only 8 or 9 months? Do “summers off” and vacation days mean that teachers work only a fraction of what the average American worker does?

In Indiana, teachers teach at least 180 days a year. In most school systems teachers are required to be in school between seven and eight hours each of those days. Before I retired, my school system’s contract required that we work 7 3/4 hours a day. We also had an additional 5 days each year that we had to work…classroom preparation, in-service days, etc. Our contracted days and hours each year were 185 days at 7 3/4 hours a day which (when divided over the entire year) comes to about 27.6 hours a week ((185 x 7.75)/52=27.572).

The average American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 2018), works 34.5 hours a week. So, is it true that teachers work an average of seven hours a week less than the average American worker?

Actually, no.

Most teachers work more than the required daily hours. Some come in early to prepare for the day’s lessons or tutor students, some stay late grading or, again, tutoring. Some do both. The actual number of hours the average teacher spends working each day varies, but it’s almost always more what’s written in the contract. When I was a classroom teacher, I averaged about nine hours a day, plus another hour or two at home grading and planning…and sometimes on weekends…

Furthermore, many of the “vacation days” during spring break, summers, winter break, etc., are work days for teachers, who spend several weeks each year in continuing education (required in Indiana), curriculum planning, and classroom preparation.

So, do teachers work fewer hours than other college graduates? No. If you want more information on this topic, read this…

Teachers work more overtime than any other professionals, analysis shows

 

MYTH: THOSE WHO CAN, DO. THOSE WHO CAN’T, TEACH

It’s true that in past years the average SAT/ACT test scores for teachers has been higher. There was once a time where teaching was one of the only careers open to bright, young women. Now that other occupations are open to those women who achieve higher test scores, the average test score of teachers in the U.S. is…well…average, at about the 48th percentile. Teachers are not the top test takers in the nation, but they well within the average range. The old canard about teachers coming from the bottom third of their graduating classes is not true. Some do, of course, but that’s true in every profession. Did you ever stop to think that your family physician might have finished in the bottom third of her graduating class? What if the pharmacist who fills your prescription scored the minimum on his licensing test?

What about the course of study for teachers? Is the teacher preparation program at state and local universities easier than other courses of study?

Peter Greene, who blogs at Curmudgucation, wrote that asking whether the classes are hard or easy is the wrong question (emphasis added).

I agree that college teacher training programs are, at best, a mixed bag, and at the bottom of that bag are some truly useless programs. Talking about “hard” or “easy” is really beside the point; we’d be better off talking about useful or useless, and some teacher prep programs really are useless. Some programs involved a lot of hoop jumping and elaborate lesson planning techniques that will never, ever be used in the field; this kind of thing is arguably rigorous and challenging, but it’s of no earthly use to actual teachers.

Some classes are very difficult but useless. Other classes may seem easy, but have a lot of practical use for pre-service teachers.

When I look back at what was useful in my own preparation I can acknowledge that The History of Education wasn’t that difficult. Neither were some of the other courses I took like Math for Elementary Teachers or Children’s Literature. On the other hand, when I was a student I learned something that served me well as a pre-service teacher.

I got out of my courses what I put into them.

So, while The History of Education wasn’t all that useful when I started teaching, Educational Psychology and Child Development were…Math for Elementary Teachers was…Curriculum Development was (at least it was back in the day, when teachers actually had an impact on curriculum)…as were my “methods classes” and many of the other courses I took.

The most useful courses, however, were the ones in which I spent time with children, learning to relate to them and learning how to explain things to them. And, like most teachers, once I started teaching, I understood that being an educator is not easy.

Since I put some work into my courses, my college teaching preparation was useful even if some of the classes weren’t very difficult. Other teachers often talk about what a waste of time some of the classes were. Perhaps for them, they were. Maybe I was just lucky.

Those young people who go into education because the preparation is easy, or go into education after they graduate in order to pad their resume, find out quickly that teaching is not as simple as your third-grade teacher, your middle school math teacher, or your high school English teacher made it look. That’s why so many beginning teachers leave the field within their first five years. That’s why the ones who make a career in education are the ones who are willing to work…the ones who love what they do enough to invest their time, energy, and passion.

So, do people become teachers because it’s an easy course of study? Possibly. But those who do, usually don’t last in the field of education. Perhaps some of them even become state legislators

 

🙋🏽‍♂️👨‍🏫🙋🏻

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