Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, Curmudgucation, Lead, Michigan, Public Ed, Recess, Tenure, Testing

2017 Medley #11

Lead, Defend Public Education, What Tests Measure, Tenure, Recess, Let’s Stop Pretending, Choice, 

POISONING CHILDREN

The EPA (at least until the department is destroyed under the current “we don’t need clean air or water” administration) says that

…there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.

Yet, we don’t know how much lead is getting into homes around the nation. Last year, USA Today noted that upwards of six million people are drinking from systems deemed unsafe, but there are likely more than that because of the way we test for lead.

…almost 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people nationwide have failed to meet the EPA’s standards for lead in drinking water. But people in thousands more communities deemed in compliance with EPA’s lead rules have no assurance their drinking water is safe because of the limited and inconsistent ways water is being tested, the investigation found.

How many of America’s schools are labeled as “failing” because their children suffer from lead poisoning? How many children’s futures are being damaged by unknown amounts of lead in the water?

Is your water safe?

Michigan, Flint Reach Settlement to Replace Lead Pipes

The settlement still needs to be approved by the federal judge presiding in the case. This sounds like a good start, but we need to recognize that Flint was not the only city that has this problem, nor was it the worst. Testing has revealed similar and even higher levels of lead in cities all over the country. The results are devastating for children, dooming many of them in school because of the effect lead has on their brains as they develop. The fact that it tends to be focused in cities with high minority populations only makes it more difficult for those children and families to escape poverty and have stable, productive lives.

E. Chicago residents wait to leave lead-tainted homes

The complex was home to more than 1,000 people, including about 700 children. Tests by the Indiana Department of Health found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. Even at low levels, exposure can cause nervous system damage and lowered IQs, according to experts.

DEFEND INSTITUTIONS: DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defending Public Education from Trump’s Tyranny

Russ Walsh reviews Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Lesson number 2 is Defend Institutions. Snyder writes,

It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about— a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union— and take its side.

Walsh, like me, chooses the institution of public education. He writes,

One way we can be sure that Trump and his minions are coming after our institutions is to see who the Tweeter-in-chief has chosen to head up various government departments. Almost to a person (Pruitt, Perry, Price), people who are opposed to the very institutions they are leading have been put in charge. If public education is to survive, we are going to have to fight for it. We cannot sit back and wait for this current nightmare to pass because by the time we wake up, it may be too late. It should be clear to all of us that the institution of public education is under a very real threat from the authoritarian Trump administration and its anti-public schools Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE COMPASSION?

A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

These thirty things which can’t be measured by the BS Test (big standardized test – h/t Peter Greene) are only the tip of the iceberg. Standardized tests, which in Indiana, are used to measure teacher effectiveness, also can’t measure a teacher’s dedication, her understanding of child development, or his empathy for a child’s emotional crises…and more.

CURMUDGUCATION

Below are two posts from Peter Greene who consistently brings clarity to the issues facing America’s public schools.

Tenure

MN: Vergara III: The Attack on Tenure Continues

Another attack on tenure…this time in Minnesota. Let me repeat it once more: “Tenure,” for K-12 teachers does not mean a job for life. It simply means due process. How do you get rid of “bad teachers?” Hire good administrators.

The plaintiffs are four moms from Minnesota (you get a picture here of how PEJ “found” them), including lead plaintiff Tiffani Forslund, a charter school teacher currently running for a seat on city council. Since the days of Vergara, the people crafting these lawsuits have learned to angle more toward Saving Poor Children, because it’s much easier to attract teachers to underfunded schools with tough populations when you can promise those teachers that they will have no job security at all. The lawsuit wants to implement a solution of “protecting our best teachers and replacing low-performing teachers with effective teachers” which seems magical and simple and completely unrelated to whether or not teachers have tenure.

Recess

FL: Recess Is For Babies

“Florida government– what the hell is wrong with you?”

That’s the question Curmudgucation asks at the end of this post. Why is the state deciding how much time children should spend at recess? Shouldn’t that be left to professionals who understand child development…people like pediatricians, child psychologists, or teachers?

Apparently the Florida legislature believes that the length of time children spend at recess has an impact on their test scores. Test scores are the most important thing in Florida (see also Curmudgucation’s post, FL: Court Rules in Favor of Stupid) and elsewhere. If test scores are low it must be the fault of teachers, which means children must be punished.

Voting against twenty minutes a day for recess for five year olds…insanity.

But a Florida House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday decided that twenty minutes a day is just too generous…

The amended version of the bill cuts the requirement for recess back to only those days without phys ed, and limits it to grades K-3 only, because once you get to be nine years old, it’s time to get down to business, you little slackers! It’s also bad news for phys ed teachers, because it allows schools to count recess as part of their phys ed time– in other words, Florida thinks you phys ed teachers are just glorified recess monitors.

TRUTH

Can We Please Stop Pretending …?

Let’s stop pretending that politicians, legislators, and other policy makers have any clue about what makes a good school.

Let’s stop pretending that those same politicians, legislators and policy makers are not directly responsible for much that happens in America’s classrooms.

Let’s stop pretending that money doesn’t matter.

Rob Miller has more…

For no other reason than I’ve grown weary of thinking and writing about the Oklahoma budget crisis, I decided to dust off my original list and add about 65 more items that literally poured forth from my brain. Sorry, but I get a little snarky towards the end…

  1. That all 5-year-olds arrive at the schoolhouse ready to learn.
  2. That policy-makers who have never taught or earned an education degree know more than the practitioners who work with kids every day.
  3. That charter schools that accept the same students as public schools achieve better results.
  4. That class size doesn’t matter.
  5. That higher academic standards will automatically result in more kids being college and career ready.

CHOICE: SEARCHING FOR A GOOD SCHOOL

The masquerade of school choice: a parent’s story

Here is a story of a parent trying to choose the best school for her child. Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S., like Finland and other high achieving nations, provided high quality public schools in every town and neighborhood? Students and their neighborhoods benefit from the stability of public schools. Unfortunately, we’re so concerned with figuring out how we can privatize public schools in order to line the pockets of edupreneurs, that we have, in many areas, given up on the public schools.

I navigated the school choice maze as a university professor with good income, flexible hours, reliable transportation, and a strong parent network. Imagine the process of school choice for parents of students attending failing schools, with limited income, or relying on public transportation.

Don’t let school choice trick you. The best way to provide quality across social class, race and ethnicity is to invest in public schools.

CHOICE: SCHOOLS MAKE THE CHOICE

Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice

From USA Today.

In this article, Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute said that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet.”

That’s wrong.

School choice allows families to use their “feet” to look for schools which will accept their children. Schools make the choice, not the students.

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute agreed, adding that a federal voucher or tax credit “can essentially push out of the way programs that have been created by states … and that kills what Justice (Louis) Brandeis called ‘laboratories of democracy.’ We want to have states trying different ways of trying to deliver education and school choice, so we can see what works well, what works well for specific populations.”

Noting that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet” by choosing another school, he added, “The way you vote with your feet against the federal government is you’ve got to move to another country, which can be somewhat onerous.”

Petrilli said accepting federal funding could be most painful to private — and especially religious — schools, which will face “really difficult choices.” Would the funding force them to accept LGBTQ students — or teachers, for that matter — against their religious beliefs?

“They just won’t participate,” he said. “And then what’s the point? You don’t have a program.”

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Posted in Choice, Curmudgucation, poverty, Privatization, Quotes, vouchers

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #3

A collection of quotes from around the (mostly) education blogosphere…

CHANGE THE STATUS QUO

I Am Not Hostile To Change

As a nation we’ve stopped even pretending that we’re trying to help schools with struggling students. Instead, we’re choosing to let them languish, underfunded, while we throw away needed resources on religious school vouchers or divert money to the charter school ripoff industry. Meanwhile, we’ve continued to bludgeon America’s public schools with worthless test and punish policies to “prove” that schools are failing while ignoring the real cause of low achievement in America – poverty.

That is the status quo in American public education.

From Peter Greene [emphasis added]

I would love to see a change in the rhetoric about failing schools. Instead of declaring that we will “rescue” students from failing schools and offering lifeboats for a handful of students, I’d like to change to a declaration that where we find struggling and failing schools, we will get them the support and resources that they need to become great.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – POVERTY

DeVos and charter schools pose major threat to education

The most serious problem facing America’s public schools is still poverty.

From Paul Donnelly

Those who support for-profit charter schools are distracting the public from the real issues facing our children. America has a shameful child poverty rate (over 20 percent), communities suffer from underfunded schools, and our society has a broken criminal justice system that sends too many young people to jail instead of college. There’s no question that America’s schools need to be fixed, but more importantly, we need to fix our democracy.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – VOUCHERS

School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

It has never really been about the students and their achievement. All the talk about helping poor students “escape” from the “failing” public schools has just been a smokescreen for diverting public money into church collection boxes and corporate bank accounts.

This report shows once more that vouchers don’t increase student achievement. What are the chances that “reformers” will reverse their position and work to end the transfer of tax dollars to unsuccessful voucher programs? Where are the calls for “helping children escape failing schools” now?

From Martin Carnoy, Economic Policy Institute

The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. All of these yield much higher returns than the minor, if any, gains that have been estimated for voucher students.

The Studies Agree: Voucher Plans Simply Do Not Work

From Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

…these days, the battle over vouchers is primarily about ideology. The plans continue to be promoted by think tanks and politicians who don’t like public schools, public services or public anything, really. Their goal is privatization at all costs.

Call that what you will – but let’s stop pretending voucher plans are designed to help children. More than 25 years of facts, figures and statistics prove otherwise.

Facts About Vouchers

Click the link above to see information about the statements below.

From the National Coalition for Public Education

Private school vouchers undermine public schools.
Private school vouchers don’t improve academic achievement.
Private voucher schools don’t provide the same rights and protections.
Private school vouchers don’t offer real choice.
Private school vouchers harm religious freedom.
Private voucher schools underserve students with disabilities.
Private school vouchers underserve low-income students.
Private school vouchers fail to provide accountability to taxpayers.
Private school vouchers often fund poor quality schools.
Private school vouchers do not save taxpayer money.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – CHOICE

“School Choice” is like diverting money from parks to backyard swingsets and calling it “recreational choice”

Two quotes from Doug Masson. The first – “choice” ignores the concept of the public good.

From Doug Masson

Public education isn’t important merely because it serves the public, it is important because it creates the public. The school’s role as a public institution is something that often gets left out or ignored when the subject of “school choice” and vouchers are brought up. Disregard of the public school’s role in creating the public is a fundamental flaw in the “money-follows-the-child” model of funding education.

The second – “choice” is a movement based on selfishness, weakening our communities and our society.

The more we turn ourselves from members of the public into an atomized collection of individuals, the weaker our communities and democratic institutions become. Dressing up these decisions in the language of “choice” does not change this fact.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – PRIVATIZATION

Who in their right mind thinks improving “failing” schools means defunding then shutting them down? Republicans.

From Chris Savage, Eclecta Blog

In a rational society, if a school is struggling, there would be a recognition of a systemic problem that needs to be dealt with. In the case of schools, that problem is invariably crippling poverty. Shutting down community schools doesn’t resolve that problem. Making these schools compete on an uneven playing field with for-profit charter schools doesn’t resolve that problem. Instead, our government should be INVESTING in schools and INVESTING in rebuilding communities. This is the only way improving our so-called “failing” schools will work.

And, let’s be clear: These schools aren’t “failing”. These schools have been FAILED.

FINLAND: A LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS

This is why Finland has the best schools

From William Doyle

In class, children are allowed to have fun, giggle and daydream from time to time. Finns put into practice the cultural mantras I heard over and over: “Let children be children,” “The work of a child is to play,” and “Children learn best through play.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, Curmudgucation, DeVos, Edushyster, Lead, music, poverty, read-alouds, retention, Testing

2017 Medley #2

Retention in Grade, Poverty, Lead Poisoning, Testing, DeVos, Read Aloud, Musical Interlude

END RETENTION IN GRADE LAWS

Time to Eliminate 3rd Grade Retention

States continue to adopt third grade retention laws. They do it based on the erroneous reasoning that since kids who don’t learn to read by third grade have the most trouble in school, it makes sense to retain the ones who can’t read by third grade. This is another case of confusing correlation with causation. Promoting third graders with reading problems to fourth grade is not the cause of poor reading skills. The problem begins much earlier than third grade.

The answer to the “reading problem” is twofold First, we need to spend enough money to catch children with problems early in their school career, pre-school, if possible. Intensive intervention, when started early enough, can help most children. Second, many school failures are caused by the conditions of poverty…emotional or physical trauma, lead poisoning (see Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores, below), etc. Dealing with the high rate of childhood poverty in the U.S. will go a long way to solving our low achievement problems.

Rob Miller discusses the issue on his blog…

Please don’t tell me that “third grade retention is working” because state reading scores in 3rd or 4th grade have increased slightly. One or two years of data based on a multiple choice test with constantly changing standards is not convincing.

As I’ve shared before, recent short-term increases in fourth grade state or national reading scores are thoroughly predictable, given the fact that most of the lower scoring readers have been removed from the sample, or are tested a full year later than normal.

Who will be around eight to ten years from now to talk with these same students about the long-term effects of grade retention? Will they come back to share with us the number of dropouts in the class of 2025 who were subjected to retention in third grade?

Long term studies show that short term gains drop away after three or four years, and by the time a child is four years past his “retention year” he is just as far behind – or further – than before.

Miller says that he has misgivings about social promotion, but in my experience, there are very few cases where retaining a child is the best option. The best option is usually intensive intervention.

Retaining students is a shortcut answer to a problem that actually works against our goals as educators. We would do better to attend to struggling students with programmatic changes than with this mean-spirited “hold them back” approach.

Don’t misread what I am saying. I also have misgivings relative to blanket practices of social promotion. There are children for whom grade retention is the best option to address the unique social and academic needs of a child.

This issue simply illustrates the problems associated with bureaucrats at the state and national level establishing mandates that strip local teachers and administrators from making the best decisions for individual children.

POVERTY MATTERS

The Long Shadow of Poverty and School Segregation by Income

Teachers struggle daily to help children learn. We could help them by focusing on the high level of child poverty in America.

Family background is of great importance for school achievement; the influence of the family does not appear to diminish over the child’s school years. Neither the impact of one school or another nor the impact of facilities nor the impact of curriculum is as great as the impact of the student’s family background. Of in-school factors that matter to children, the teacher is the most important. Finally, “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student’s own social background, than is any school factor.”

Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores

If we were serious about helping our children learn, we would be dealing with the causes of low achievement, child poverty and its concomitant problems.

One major issue facing children who live in poverty is environmental toxins in general, and lead poisoning in particular. It’s expensive to clean up, but which of our children aren’t worth some expense to ensure healthy brain development?

We find that since 1997, when the state of RI instituted measures to reduce lead hazards in the homes of RI families, lead levels fell across the state, but significantly more so for African American children. This is likely because their lead levels were considerably higher than other children in the state in 1997, including other low income children, and African American families were disproportionately located in high concentration poverty areas where outreach efforts were focused. We find that this translated into reductions in the black-white test score gap in RI witnessed over this period.

“REFORM”

7 Educational Reforms Needed in 2017

“Standardized tests shold only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability.” Exactly.

1. Decrease the Number of Standardized Tests
Notice I suggest fewer standardized tests as opposed to no standardized tests. Standardized tests do have their place in education, but like with anything else, too much is overkill. Perhaps student progress can be tracked every 3 years as opposed to every year. This would save many states a great deal of money and students a great deal of stress. Furthermore, standardized tests should only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability. There are other, more effective means to measure a teacher’s worth, such as observations, lesson plan reviews, and student surveys.

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt

“Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality,” Deming wrote. “Routine inspection becomes unreliable through boredom and fatigue.” That recommendation should be applied to the annual testing of students in reading and math mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Instead of “routine inspection,” Deming urged detailed analysis of small samples. Bucking widespread practice, the Finns do exactly that, with high-quality exams administered to small groups of students. Teachers consequently feel no pressure to “teach to the test,” students get a well-rounded education and administrators gain superior understanding of student progress. Finnish teens score at or near the top of international educational assessments.

MORE ON DEVOS

The Red Queen

One of the most complete exposés of the oligarchy in Michigan led by the DeVos’s. This is a long article…worth spending the time it takes to read!

By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

More Baloney in Support of DeVos

The Finnish philosophy of education is that you may choose whatever public school you want for your child, but because they are all excellent you can be assured that choosing your local school will be a good choice.

Instead of closing schools, wasting money on vouchers and charters, and disrupting children’s education, we need to invest in all our public schools. If children are struggling to achieve, then we need to give their school more resources, not strip it of funding.

All children should NOT have “access” to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had “access” to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, “We think this school si failing, and that’s unfair to the students in it, so we’re going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we’re leaving them in.” How is that a solution??!!

READING ALOUD

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

For your encouragement.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are a Changin'” in 1963.  I think that after fifty-three years we need it again…

“This song was written at a moment in our country’s history when people’s yearning for a more open and just society exploded. Bob Dylan had the courage to stand in that fire and he caught the sound of that explosion. This song remains as a beautiful call to arms…” – Bruce Springsteen, 1997

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Posted in Curmudgucation, Teachers Unions, Tenure

2016 Medley #10: Vergara Overturned

Vergara Overturned

Two years ago a judge in California found for plaintiffs who essentially claimed that low student achievement of  children in poverty was caused by due process and teachers unions. They blamed due process, sometimes called “teacher tenure” for allowing “bad teachers” to remain in the classroom. Here’s what I said back then.

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

SO MANY “BAD TEACHERS

How many bad teachers are there in California…and why do they seem to be located only in schools with high levels of student poverty?

  • FACT: High levels of poverty interferes with student learning to a much larger degree than is publicly acknowledged by “reformers.”
  • FACT: Many states (here, for example) aware permanent status to K-12 teachers giving them the right to an impartial hearing in disputes. The right is to due processwhich simply means that there must be a legitimate reason to fire them. This is frequently misnamed “Tenure.”

After an extended discussion with a (non-teacher) friend who lives in California it’s clear that there are some aspects of California laws that could be changed. California has one of the shortest probationary periods in the country before permanent status is awarded. It was also clear that (in my friend’s opinion) the process of firing a teacher for cause in California is too cumbersome and takes too long (similar objections have been made about the process in New York and other states).

This week the appellate court reversed the decision. Here’s what the California Teachers Association had to say…

Breaking News: Vergara Overturned!

“This is a great day for educators and, more importantly, for students,” said CTA President Eric C. Heins. “Today’s ruling reversing Treu’s decision overwhelmingly underscores that the laws under attack have been good for public education and for kids, and that the plaintiffs failed to establish any violation of a student’s constitutional rights. Stripping teachers of their ability to stand up for their students and robbing school districts of the tools they need to make sound employment decisions was a wrong-headed scheme developed by people with no education expertise and the appellate court justices saw that.”

…and from  NEA…

Vergara v. State of California Decision Reversed

“Today was a win for our educators, our schools and most importantly, our students.

“Now we must return to working on real solutions to ensure all of our students succeed. Only when teachers, school boards, and administrators work together can we ensure that there is a great public school for every student.

“The Vergara v. State of California lawsuit was an example of using our court system for political goals. The unanimous three-judge panel’s opinion states it clearly. The plaintiffs’ case–instead of addressing and proposing solutions to the real problems–focused on the wrong issues, proposed the wrong solutions, and used the wrong legal process. It was not about helping students and has become a divisive distraction from the real work needed to improve student success.

Peter Greene, at Curmudgucation, did his usual excellent job of analysis. First, the reason Vergara was pursued in the first place…

Vergara Pt. II– Now What?

There is no question that Vergara (and the New York case and the new Minnesota case) were breathed to life for one reason and one reason only– to try to stick it to those damn unions. We know the people– we’ve read their articles, talked with them on twitter, seen them in the comments section of a thousand different online conversations. They hate the union. Hate it. They think the roadblock to everything decent and good is the teachers’ union, that the teachers’ union is a giant scam to make teachers and union reps rich while thwarting the plans of brilliant visionaries who just want to be free to implement their grand design without having to answer to anybody, least of all the hired help. They think that public schools are a scam that the union came up with to suck the taxpayers dry while teachers sit and eat bon-bons and ignore the cries of downtrodden children. They hate the union, and like many people on many sides of many issues these days, they are looking for any argument, no matter how disingenuous and cynically constructed, that can be used to make the union shut up and go away.

He continued with a good description of why teacher seniority is a positive thing…and why job protections such as due process (aka tenure) are important.

I believe that the benefits of a seniority-based system are huge. Huge. It incentivizes people to look at teaching as a career, a job to which they can devote their entire life, which in turn encourages them to be the very best they can be and to invest themselves in training and self-improvement. It gives stability and institutional memory to a school, creating ties that bind a community together and making a school a community institution that connects people to a history that matters. It helps draw good people to the work because you may not ever be paid real well, but at least you don’t have to spend half your time worrying about losing your job over something stupid. And it protects teachers so that they can do their job like professionals with an educational mission instead of political appointees who are busy trying to suck up to whoever has the power to fire them this week.

School boards and teachers unions negotiate together for a contract. Outside arbitrators can be used when there are stalemates. The two parties should work together to give teachers a decent contract which includes ways to help teachers who need help and to remove teachers who are not doing their jobs.

There is no need to keep bad teachers in the classroom. Teachers and school boards can work together to help school systems function efficiently and allow teachers to teach. Due process for teachers means that administrators have to do their jobs and document why they think a particular teacher needs to be removed from the classroom, and what they have done to help the teacher improve.

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Posted in Charters, Curmudgucation, library, Privatization, Quotes, reform, TeacherShortage, Testing, Walsh

Random Quotes – April 2016

I’m on vacation this week. Most of my comments are short so I’ll let the quotes speak for themselves. I finish my week off with attendance at the 3rd Annual Network for Public Education Conference in Raleigh, NC. See you there.

TESTING

Say No to Standardized Tests

From Russ Walsh

…The only thing that standardized tests measure with any certainty is the relative income levels of the children who attend that school…

How To Promote the Test

Peter Greene has written an instant classic.

From Peter Greene

“Sure, we could have built a new school and filled it with just the kids who do well on the SCHNARCC. But that would have meant abandoning the rest of them, the ones who showed the most need in those test results. Why start from scratch for just a few students when we can invest in what we already have and serve all students?”

Governor Pat Jones chimed into the conversation. “That was when my office got involved. If the tests are showing pockets of poverty in the state that keep our students stuck behind their wealthier peers, then clearly we need to address the issues of poverty in the state while at the same time addressing the specific resource needs of districts like Upper Baldweasel, as well as long hard conversations about system inequities and, frankly, some of the racist impulses behind those inequities…

PARCC testing begins again but still no opt-out policy

Threats to punish students who don’t take the test…

From Student Dontae Chatman quoted in the Chicago Sun Times

My school is threatening to take away our field day to students who refuse PARCC, I think we all should get treated the same way, if we take it or if we don’t take it.

Testing time at schools: Is there a better way?

We all know about the wasted time and energy of the standardized tests and all the test-prep that goes along with it. This quote, however, struck me because of the last phrase…”scores on fourth-grade exams are among the factors New York City middle schools consider for admission.”

Kids and parents are expected to apply to middle schools and high schools like students applying for college. What happened to the concept of every neighborhood having an excellent public school? I went to a K-8 elementary school a half mile from my house. My 9-12 high school was a short bus ride away (on the CTA – Bus 96).

From Kelly Wallace of CNN

Those tests are especially on the mind of my fourth-grader. Testing begins on her 10th birthday (poor girl!) plus she knows, even though we’ve never discussed it, that scores on fourth-grade exams are among the factors New York City middle schools consider for admission.

PRIVATIZATION

Ohio: 50 School Districts Have Billed the State for Costs of Charters

Here is a list of Ohio school districts which have sent a bill to the state for funds diverted from public schools to charters!

From Diane Ravitch

CONGRATULATIONS to Bill Phillis and the 50 public school districts that have adopted resolutions to bill the state for charter school deductions!

Public money for schools is lining private pockets

Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union. Here he identifies the main problem with the privatization movement…it takes resources away from fully accountable public schools and gives them to private organizations.

from Ari Klein

Somehow, in the twisted thinking of our state legislature, tax money collected for our school district is diverted to several private enterprises over which our district has no control, and financially supports students the district does not serve.

The beatings will continue until morale improves…

Education “reform” has failed to help students learn. “reform” is simply a way of privatizing the public education system for personal profit. Follow the money.

From Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools (MA)

After 20 years of these standardize accountability driven based policies our nation’s scores on the international PISA test are essentially flat and achievement gaps remain. At what point do we stop blaming teachers and the system rather than focusing the blame squarely where it belongs: on these education “reform” policies that have failed our schools.

TEACHERS

Teachers of the year in their home states

What do teachers of the year see happening in their own states? Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, a social studies teacher from Washington, sees a profession in distress.

From Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington

…said he has seen an “exodus” of mid-career teachers who are fed up. “There’s a lot of demoralized educators right now,” he told Morning Education. “A demoralized educator just isn’t as effective. … And I don’t see any efforts to change that coming out of policy.” Teacher pay and working conditions are problems, he said, but a bigger problem is that teachers don’t feel valued or empowered.

Chicago Teacher: Why We Will Strike

On April 1, 2016, the Chicago Teachers Union staged a one-day walkout to highlight the lack of funding and resources for public schools, while charters proliferate, in the city school system. As usual, it’s about more than just money.

by Michelle Gunderson

A teachers’ contract is not just about money. It’s an agreement between government and a community about how children will be treated.

LIBRARIANS ARE IMPORTANT

I Love Libraries: FAQ’s and Definitions

The public schools I’ve worked in have never had school librarians…[emphasis added]

A school library without a librarian is like a classroom without a teacher. An effective school library program involves more than making books available to students and letting learners borrow those books. An effective school library program supports students’ learning and their exploration of the world. School librarians can:

  • match students with appropriate resources,
  • co-teach lessons that require research and technology skills, and
  • help students develop inquiry and information-literacy skills they will need throughout their lives.

In addition, school librarians provide professional development to other educators in their schools. Certified school librarians make the whole school more effective. They teach students how to learn and help teachers drive student success.

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Posted in Curmudgucation, Testing

Choice – No Choice

PARENTAL PERMISSION NEEDED

I was a reading specialist in my school for the last 15 years of my career. Each time I wanted to screen a student using aptitude, diagnostic, or achievement tests I had to get written parental permission. Most times parents signed the permission to test because they were as anxious as we were to figure out how to best help their children. Sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they wanted a conference to gather more information.

Those tests were used to diagnose a child’s learning issues…sometimes to refer them for further psychometric testing (which also need parental permission), but ALWAYS to help the classroom teacher and other support staff figure out how to tap into the child’s learning potential. In other words we used the tests to help the child.

The tests I gave were only given to a handful of students each year, and once we purchased the test materials all we had to do was to order additional forms to continue using the test.

Standardized student achievement tests, on the other hand, are given to all students and must be purchased each year. Parental permission is not needed. In fact, the tests are required by federal law. Students (and their parents) who choose to opt out are often punished, depending on which state they live in. Instead of helping students, the tests are (mis)used to retain students in grade, to evaluate teachers and schools, and to reward and punish school stakeholders based mostly on the neighborhood they work in. They were developed to measure student achievement, but they actually measure the socio-economic status of students.

A SIMPLE, LOGICAL QUESTION

Peter Greene, author of Curmudgucation, asks

…if I have to ask permission to give an IQ test, why not the same for the [Big Standardized] Test?

In his blog post titled Opting In (which you should read), he writes,

…you can’t give a child an IQ test without parental permission…

…Imagine if we did that with the Big Standardized Test in every state. Imagine if we recognized parental authority when it came to administering Big Standardized Tests to children. Imagine if the state and the school had to get parental permission before administering to your child the PARCC or SBA or PSSA or WhateverTheHellAnagramYourStateIsPlayingAt. Imagine if the people fighting so hard against opt out had to fight to get everyone to opt in.

“Reformers” are all for giving parents “choice” when it comes to “choosing” a private or charter school, but not when it comes to high stakes achievement tests.

We must get parental permission to test when we are using psychometric or individual tests, but no permission is needed when mass produced group tests are misused to evaluate teachers and schools.

When there are consequences for students, teachers, and schools, not only do parents not get a chance to give their permission, but they are allowed absolutely no “choice” at all.

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Posted in ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Curmudgucation, DIBELS, Diversity, Evaluations, gifted, Lead, Michigan, Value-Added, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2016 Medley #3

No Evidence, Failure in Michigan, 
Diversity and Gifted Students, 
VAM, ADHD and DIBELS, Waltons

THERE’S NO EVIDENCE

We’re onto the phony education reformers: Charter school charlatans and faux reformers take it on the chin: After years of attacks on teachers and public education, Americans are catching up to the real story in our schools

If I were an optimist I would say that this article is a good sign…showing that the general public is finally catching on to the damage done by “reform” to America’s public education. Perhaps it’s because I live in the super-“reformist” state of Indiana – near the super-“reformist” states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and the super-“reformist” city of Chicago – but I see continued, if not stronger inroads made by privatizers against a fully funded public education system. The attack is slowly killing public education…

…comments made by establishment presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will reverberate through the election in 2016. Specifically, at a town hall held in South Carolina, broadcast by C-SPAN, Clinton responded to a question about charter schools by saying, “Most charter schools, I don’t want to say every one, but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids. Or if they do, they don’t keep them.” A week or so later, Clinton transgressed the status quo again by remarking, in a conversation with members of the American Federation of Teachers, “I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence.”

FAILURE IN MICHIGAN: DETROIT

Here are two versions of the same story…and both give the same information about a city which has abandoned its children. This is not just a problem for Detroit…it’s a problem with our nation and is happening in other places as well. When will the nation as a whole understand that our future depends on the way we treat our children. 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 are one of only three wealthy nations in the world who spend more money to educate the children of the wealthy than we do to educate the children of the poor.

How bad are conditions in Detroit public schools? This appalling.

The odorous smell of mold and mildew hits you like a brick wall when you step through the front doors at Spain Elementary-Middle School in Detroit.

I have been at Spain for 19 years, first as a first-grade teacher, then, after earning a master’s degree in counseling, as a school counselor. When I first started, it was a school any city would be proud to have in its district. Today, it’s the poster child for neglect and indifference to a quality teaching and learning environment for our 500 students. The gym is closed because half of the floor is buckled and the other half suffered so much rainwater damage from the dripping ceiling that it became covered with toxic black mold. Instead of professionally addressing the problem, a black tarp simply was placed over the entire area like a Band-Aid. That area of the school has been condemned.

The once beautiful pool sits empty because no one has come to \fix it. The playground is off-limits because a geyser of searing hot steam explodes out of the ground. What do our kids do for exercise with no gym, playground or pool? They walk or run in the halls. Seriously. Our pre-K through eighth graders move like mall walkers.

Exposed wires hang from missing ceiling tiles. Watermarks from leaks abound. Kids either sit in freezing classrooms with their coats on or strip off layers because of stifling heat.

How can you teach or learn in conditions like these?

Detroit Public Schools: Beyond a State of Emergency

Since 1999, the state has been “taking over” Detroit Public Schools. Since 2009, Detroit’s schools have been subject to a stream of emergency managers who move in for just under 18 months, do not answer to voters, and can basically do what they want without consequence.

FAILURE IN MICHIGAN: FLINT

This Is What Happens To Humans When They Are Exposed To Too Much Lead

Flint, Michigan has become ground zero for the battle against America’s poor. Democracy was canceled, a state sponsored dictator was imposed upon the people, and, through neglect and shortsightedness the families of Flint were poisoned. The dictator, after doing his damage, has now moved to Detroit, to manage the public schools.

This isn’t specifically about Flint…just about what happens when an entire city has been poisoned.

Infants and children exposed to lead may suffer in various ways, including delayed puberty, speech impairment, high blood pressure, hearing loss, decreased muscle and bone growth, kidney damage, and a weakened immune system. Breastfed infants are also at risk if there is lead in their mother’s bloodstreams.

Equally important, lead also affects children’s brains and nervous systems. Those exposed to lead at a young age may suffer from a coma, convulsions, or even death. Children who survive serious lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and changes in behavior, like a shortened attention span or increased antisocial behavior.

Lead Exposure in Children

DIVERSITY IN TEACHER MAKEUP HELPS KIDS

Bright black students taught by black teachers are more likely to get into gifted-and-talented classrooms

Diversity in our teaching force is essential.

A better, quicker solution to reducing the racial gap in gifted classrooms, according to Grissom, is to test every child in the school system for giftedness, so that you’re not relying on subjective humans to decide whom to test. Education geeks call it “universal screening.”

Indeed, after Broward Country, Florida, adopted universal screening in 2005, the number of Hispanic students in gifted programs increased by 130 percent and the number of black students by 80 percent. Low-income students increased by 180 percent. But it proved expensive to test everyone, and the district stopped testing all children in 2011. The number of disadvantaged students in gifted classrooms fell back to pre-2005 levels…

People often say the solution to our education problems isn’t more money. But in this case, it might be.

VAM

Fact Sheet: Value-Added Measurement (VAM)

Thanks to Parents Across America for this well thought out and comprehensive information sheet about the evaluation of teachers using student test scores. VAM is built on junk-science and tries to put a number on something that can’t be measured by numbers – the impact that a caring adult has on a child. It also doesn’t even attempt to include other valuable aspects of teaching such as the ability to motivate and inspire students.

Now is the time to write to your state legislators and urge them to end this practice. If you’re an Indiana resident you can find your legislators at iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/legislators/

The proliferation of high-stakes standardized tests has had many negative side effects. Overtesting has led to increased stress, a narrowed curriculum and widespread teaching to the test. It has caused students to lose interest in school and learning, driven excellent teachers from the profession and discouraged young people from pursuing teaching careers. It has fueled the school-to-prison pipeline, sparked cheating scandals, and diverted time, energy and resources from other educational goals. These negative effects have been especially evident in schools that serve low-income children of color. Even if VAM ratings could be calculated accurately, the limited information they provide is simply not worth the effort or the consequences.

MEMO FROM THE REAL WORLD

School Testing Makes My Daughter Feel Stupid

Here’s a story from the mom of an ADHD and Learning Disabled child…and the damaging effect of testing. Specifically, the piece is about DIBELS, and how difficult it is for her child to focus and succeed. The child says “I’m stupid,” a common response from students with learning challenges when they are faced with impossible tasks and tests.

At the end of the article the mom says, “DIBELS has affected my home life and my daughter’s self-confidence. I know that there are many benefits to conducting this test in schools.” That’s wrong. DIBELS is not a good test. Its benefit is that it’s short and it provides numbers. Whether those numbers mean anything is questionable and it’s still in wide usage.

DIBELS sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. It is one of North Carolina’s ways of testing our kids to make sure they meet the requirements for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). DIBELS is a computerized test, administered by a teacher to acquire a child’s knowledge in oral reading fluency, retell fluency, and word use fluency. Teachers hold a handheld device that records a student’s response to the content being assessed. Why would this test cause my daughter to feel like she is not smart, can’t read, doesn’t know how to write, and to hate school? It is a timed test that some adults would find stressful. DIBELS allots one minute to each section of the test. One minute? Give me a break. I can’t even pack a lunch in one minute, much less think about being tested on my knowledge.

WAL-MART ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

The Walton Billion Dollar Plan

My Medley wouldn’t be complete without something from Curmudgucation’s Peter Greene.

The last paragraph below shows Greene’s insight into the “reform” movement. Treating school like a business, like Wal-Mart, for example, provides billions for those at the top, but “cheap mediocrity” for the rest of us.

If they were truly concerned about the well being of students, and improving schools, the Waltons would notice this cognitive dissonance. The fact that they don’t implies either the conscious misuse of their economic power for more economic gain, or a lack of ability to comprehend what they are actually doing.

The thought was that more choices would generate more competition. Competition would catalyze systematic improvement.

Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s really think about whose theory this was. This was the Walton theory, the theory of people whose entire fortune is built on being hugely competitive, leading to several results, over and over– the systemic destruction of most retailers in a community who aren’t Wal-Mart. Nor have they achieved this by pursuing excellence– raise your hand if you associate the Wal-Mart brand with excellence. No, the Wal-Mart brand is built on “broad mediocirty that’s cheap and good enough for unwealthy people” and the very goal of their competitiveness has been to win the retail competition by eradicating other choices. Wal-Mart’s business plan is not, “We will go into a community, compete by providing excellent products to the community, and when we’re done, there will be a broad range of excellent choices among many retailers.”

I continue to be gobsmacked that the Waltons, of all people, would imagine that school choice would spark competition that would lead to excellence, because these are people who seem to have a pretty good idea of how the free market works– and the free market does not work in ways that go well with public education.

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