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.
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.
For the most part, however, I’ve posted about public education in America.
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.
- In 2006 there were one million students in publicly funded charter schools around the country. Since then that number has grown to more than three million. Charter schools are private schools…in many cases, unaccountable private schools. They need to be phased out.
- 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.
- We’ve spent millions on student achievement testing in Indiana. This year’s failed ILEARN test cost Indiana taxpayers $45 million. We still misuse tests by using them to grade schools and school systems. The A-F grading system continues to punish schools with high-need students. We misuse tests by using them to evaluate teachers. Tests should be used for what they were designed for. Achievement tests are designed to measure student achievement, not teacher effectiveness. It’s invalid to use the tests to evaluate teachers.
- We misuse the IREAD-3 (included in the $45 million) test to punish third-graders through in-grade retention. Apparently, our lawmakers still haven’t learned that retention damages children. They still haven’t learned that we have a poverty problem, not an academic achievement problem.
- Since 2006 Indiana’s teachers have lost most of their collective bargaining rights, have had student test scores added as a basis for their evaluations, and have had the lowest rate of salary increase in the nation (since 2002).
- Since 2006 our nation’s presidents have mostly continued the tradition of appointing non-educators to the position of Secretary of Education. Since 2006 the only person serving as Secretary of Education who had any experience in K-12 education was John King Jr. He served for 12 months.
- About seven percent of Indiana students are retained in grade between kindergarten and age seventeen. The best I can say about that is that we’re not the worst in the country.
Until things improve for public schools in America, I’ll still need this blog as a place to vent.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.