Posted in Broad, David Berliner, Gates, Gerald Bracey, MLK, technology, WaltonFamilyFoundation

Money for Nothin’

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

For the past two decades Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have been dropping millions of dollars into education schemes the billionaire was sure would transform America’s schools. Gates tried small schools, teacher incentives, and the Common Core to try to influence the achievement of public schools – all to no avail. (Further reading: Anthony Cody’s, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation)

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has invested millions of dollars into training managers to run school systems like businesses. They’ve put money into large scale teacher merit-pay experiments in school districts. They’ve supported legislation, including the so-called “Parent Trigger” which would allow a majority of a schools current parents to transfer a community owned public school to a for-profit charter company.

The Walton Family Foundation, run by America’s wealthiest family, has invested millions of dollars in the privatization of public education. They have supported the creation and expansion of voucher programs in Indiana and other states.

The attempts to improve America’s education by billionaires, none of whom have any training in education, have several things in common.

First, none of the schemes have been successful enough, or been replicable on a large enough scale to improve the country’s public education system.

Second, the money used to fund the projects hasn’t been sustainable. Some programs have failed when grants ended, because of the inability of the school systems to continue to pay for it.

Third, nearly all attempts to improve schools measure that improvement with standardized test scores which are often inadequate.

Fourth, America’s low international test scores are often cited as the reason for the billionaires’ interference in education. I have explained in detail why our students’ average scores are lower on international tests in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools.

Finally, none of the attempts by these wealthy families, even if we assume that they are altruistic in their desire to help children succeed, attack the root cause of low achievement in America. Poverty.

POVERTY: THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM

The late Gerald Bracey wrote,

When people have said “poverty is no excuse,” my response has been, “Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

David C. Berliner, professor and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education at Arizona State University, presented a brief titled, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. The report explains how improvements of schools are not enough to overcome the out-of-school factors faced by children who live in high poverty areas.

…the negative effects of many [out-of-school factors] are concentrated in the schools that serve poor and minority children and families. This increases the burden on these schools in such a way as to make broad reductions in the achievement gap nearly impossible.

MONEY FOR NOTHIN’

Silicon valley billionaires are dumping their tax write-offs into America’s schools in the hopes, they say, of increasing test scores…and, if they can get a few bucks themselves in the process, so much the better.

The New York Times has a long article detailing ways that projects from tech entrepreneurs, like Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are influencing America’s schools. Once again they aren’t focusing on the real problem.

The influx of money from rich technology-king benefactors has an influence on what teachers are teaching…and how they teach. After all, when a teacher or school gets a grant for a half million dollars in hardware and software they generally don’t turn it down. The students, then, become the “de facto beta testers” for the billionaires’ ideas.

But does it actually help?

The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools

Tech companies and their founders have been rolling out programs in America’s public schools with relatively few checks and balances, The New York Times found in interviews with more than 100 company executives, government officials, school administrators, researchers, teachers, parents and students.

“They have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power,” said Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “It does subvert the democratic process.”

Furthermore, there is only limited research into whether the tech giants’ programs have actually improved students’ educational results.

Once again we have billionaires dumping money into schools, and often into privatization schemes, without regard to actual research and often without public oversight.

Technology can be a powerful educational tool, when used correctly. Where did Mark Zuckerberg get his teaching credentials? Who is determining how these programs are used? Who is monitoring them to see if they work? Will the money disappear if the programs fail?

ANOTHER WAY: A LESSON FOR THE BILLIONAIRES – FROM SOME MILLIONAIRES

A New Jersey family won a lottery of nearly a half billion dollars…guess where it’s going?

Family in New Jersey Wins $429 Million Lottery, Uses Money to Fight Poverty

Last year, the Smith family in Trenton, New Jersey, won the $429 million Powerball lottery, and they planned to use all that money to help fight poverty. Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children meant what they said at a press conference when they promised to give that money back to their community.

…They used the money to pay off bills and student loans before they put it back into their community with the Smith Family Foundation. “We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty,” Harold Smith told NJ.com. “Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”

The foundation will work with the city in order to provide both long- and short-term grants for Trenton. [emphasis added]

Imagine if Gates, Broad, The Waltons, and the rest tried to improve education by donating their billions to help fight poverty, like the Smiths, in cooperation with municipalities and states. If we reduce poverty we can reduce the negative effects of out-of-school factors that get in the way of student achievement.

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

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Posted in climate change, Curmudgucation, David Berliner, Dewey, Pence, Preschool, Public Ed, Quotes, Trump, Tyson

Listen to This #7

PRE-SCHOOL

Building a Better Pre-School: Finding the Right Balance

Russ Walsh looks at two recent studies of preschool instruction, one focusing on academics in preschools, the other on social and emotional learning. The unsurprising results of the research? Developmentally appropriate instruction. [emphasis added]

From Russ Walsh

“In order to ensure that our pre-schools are finding the right balance between academics and play, we need to be sure that we are employing the best teachers available and we need to make sure that these teachers are getting the finest, best informed professional development possible. No program, no research, no policy can come close to matching what the well-informed, well-prepared teacher can provide for children in the classroom.We cannot do pre-school on the cheap just because the children are small. We cannot run pre-school, as is often the case now, with poorly trained, poorly compensated para-professionals. The answer, ultimately, is not in the false dichotomy between academics and play, but in the will of our policy makers to make sure that every child has access to teachers who are prepared to do the job well and who are compensated appropriately for it.

AMERICA’S SCHOOLS ARE NOT FAILING

The purported failure of America’s schools, and ways to make them better by David C. Berliner

I posted twice in the last couple of months about the lie promoted by politicians, privatizers, and “reformers” which claims that America’s schools are “failing.”

David C. Berliner, Education Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, writes that real improvement will cost money. He wrote, paraphrasing Dewey –“What the best and wisest (among the wealthiest) parents want for their children, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” [emphasis added]

From David C. Berliner

…“fixing” the schools, about which so many of our editorialists and political leaders talk, needs deeper thinking than a knee-jerk reaction to our mean score on any international test. That mean score hides the diversity of our scores by social class and housing tract, and easily misleads us about what solutions might exist. When our leaders say teachers are not good, we need to point out to them how well some of our students are doing, and that a recent Mathematica report for the U.S. Department of Education states that the quality of teachers working in low-income schools is about the same as the quality of teachers working in high income schools. So blaming teachers won’t fix schools that need fixing!

A PLACE TO VENT

Angry (tl;dr)

During the second half of my teaching career one of my roles was that of (co-) test coordinator for my school. It didn’t take long for me to realize that classroom teachers were being forced to spend more and more time “teaching to the test,” a practice which had previously been avoided.

Each year more tests were added, taking up more and more instructional time, with less and less diagnostic information returned to the teachers. Each year it took longer and longer for the information to be returned to the classroom so that, by the time the results came back, the students had moved on.

I complained loudly…bitterly…obnoxiously. Other teachers agreed with me…even the principal agreed with me, but there was nothing to be done. I complained to the administration, who passed the buck to the State Department of Education…who passed the buck to the State Legislature…who passed the buck to No Child Left Behind.

In 2006 I decided that I needed a place to vent, so I started this blog.

If I were a better writer I could have written this post by Peter Greene.

From Peter Greene

My colleagues at school were, by and large, not interested. They complained when we were gored by the tip of the iceberg that passed by us, but they had no particular interest in finding out what the tip was attached to, or how big and wide the iceberg really was. And I was turning into the staff crank. So I turned to the outlet that has always served me in the past– writing– and for a number of reasons (mostly admiration of the bloggers already out there) I turned to blogging.

It did not occur to me that anybody would read my stuff. My goal was to vent, to rail about policies and articles that struck me as foolish, destructive, blind, ignorant.

POLITICS

Trump dumps Paris climate deal: reaction

The first two quotes need no comment…

From Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh

“The United States will come to rue this day,” said Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. “President Trump has argued that his decision puts economic interests first, that it will cut out interference from foreign bureaucrats and help U.S. business. In fact this move puts all business and economic interests at much greater risk. Climate change knows no borders, its impacts are blind to national flags. If global efforts to limit warming fail then we are all in trouble. From climate change, Mr. President, you can run but you can’t hide.”

We Aren’t Number One…Not Even Close

From Sheila Kennedy

It’s enough to make you think American policymakers put a higher priority on the bottom lines of Big Pharma and Big Insurance than they do on the health of average citizens.

But then, what do we expect when we elect people so corrupt and self-serving they don’t even care about the health of the planet their children and grandchildren will inherit?

MIKE PENCE – OBTUSE AND IGNORANT

Mike Pence: ‘For Some Reason’ Liberals Care About Climate Change

Is Vice President Pence really this obtuse?

From Mike Pence

“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.”

It seems that Vice President Pence hasn’t heard anything about climate change. He doesn’t seem to know why it’s an issue for “the left,” which in this case means anyone who wants to prevent the catastrophic destruction of the earth’s ecosystem by global warming. He hasn’t heard that, with the rise of greenhouse gasses,

  • the earth gets warmer,
  • the oceans get warmer,
  • the ice at the poles melts,
  • the life in the ocean is at-risk,
  • the sea-level rises threatening coastal cities,
  • more moisture is in the air making storms wetter and stronger,
  • causing flooding and more…

The Vice President has apparently not talked to the Secretary of Defense who believes global warming is a threat to national security…or the former Secretary of the Navy…or the U.S. Army…See also, the planet Venus.

Yet we really shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same person who said

…”2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer.”

and

“The truth is, [evolution] always was a theory, Mr. Speaker.”

A few years ago, when he was in the House of Representatives, Pence was scientifically ignorant about smoking…or maybe he was getting money from the tobacco companies.

His ignorance also showed in his use of the word theory when talking about Evolution. In science, a theory is an explanation of a natural process which encompasses facts, laws, inferences, and hypotheses. Pence, like so many other ignorant creationists, confuses the popular meaning of the word theory with its scientific meaning. For an explanation of why theory is not “just a guess” see, Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work.

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Posted in David Berliner, DeVos, MLK, OECD, PISA, poverty, Public Ed, Stephen Krashen, Testing

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

Betsy DeVos, who recently bought the office of U.S. Secretary of Education, spouts the same myth that’s been going around for decades…that American public schools are “failing.”

The Answer Sheet, in DeVos: Outcomes at U.S. schools are so bad, they probably can’t get much worse, reported

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Wednesday that U.S. public schools nationwide are in such bad shape that she isn’t “sure how they could get a lot worse.”

And, like other myth-spouters in the “education reform” movement, she invoked international tests, adding,

“I’m not sure how they could get a lot worse on a nationwide basis than they are today. I mean, the fact that our PISA scores have continued to deteriorate as compared to the rest of the world…

She’s wrong.

The U.S. is regularly in the “middle of the pack” when it comes to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test administered by the OECD. In 2015 U.S. students were 31st, 20th, and 19th in Math, Reading, and Science respectively. This score, and previous, similar scores, have been used by politicians and policy makers to claim that America’s public schools are failing.

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren’t achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

PISA

Putting PISA Results to the Test

According to a 2015 report by UNICEF, the U.S. has the second-highest child poverty rate (23.1%) among industrialized nations from the European Union and OECD; only Romania’s is higher (25.5%).

…the majority of children attending U.S. public schools – 51% – are growing up in low-income households, the highest percentage since the federal government began tracking the figure.

Poverty matters when it comes to achievement. Students who live in poverty in the United States come to school with issues that don’t affect wealthier students. Stress, for example...

Children growing up in poverty often experience chronic stress…chronic stress can affect the developing learning centers of the brain, with impact on attention, concentration, working memory and self-regulation.

In other words, the simple fact of growing up in poverty affects a child’s ability to learn. In addition, there are factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

David C. Berliner examined the impact of out-of-school factors on achievement. In Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, Berliner wrote,

OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

These factors include conditions having an impact on developing fetuses, such as the medical care given to the mother, the mother’s general health, and any toxins ingested by the mother either through drug or alcohol abuse, or through environmental toxins in the environment. After the child is born things like low birth weight, inadequate medical care, food insecurity, environmental pollutants like lead poisoning, family stress, and other characteristics of high-poverty neighborhoods all have an impact on a child’s ability to learn.

To place all the blame for low achievement on public schools serving large numbers of students living in poverty is unfair to the schools, teachers, and students.

TEST SCORES REFLECT ECONOMIC STATUS

Mrs. DeVos probably doesn’t know that low test scores correlate exactly with high poverty (see here and here). Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.

We can show these results using graphs from PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’.

The first graph shows where schools with various percentages of students in poverty would fall if only those schools were compared to other countries in the OECD.

This graph compares schools with various percentages of students in poverty to countries in OECD with similar poverty levels. The first side, for example, shows how students from schools with a poverty rate of less than ten percent compare to nations with a poverty rate of less than ten percent.

These two charts from PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’ clearly show the impact that poverty has on American students’ test scores. In every case, students who attend schools with a given percentage of children in poverty 1) score higher than students who attend schools with lower percentages of children in poverty and 2) score higher than countries with similar rates of poverty.

At the very least we can say that the child poverty rate, over which schools have no control, has an impact on student learning. In his blog post, Why Invest in Libraries, Stephen Krashen, USC Professor Emeritus, wrote,

Poverty means, among other things, inadequate diet, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a powerful impact on achievement (Berliner, 2009; Krashen, 1997). The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, undernourished, ill, and have little or nothing to read (emphasis added).

FINDING SOLUTIONS

Can schools do nothing to overcome the impact of poverty on student lives? Not alone. However, with the help of legislators, taxpayers, and parents, support for students struggling to succeed can help.

Here are some suggestions – most of which cost money – to help raise student achievement. These ideas come from various sources, including The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids, Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence, and The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.

Legislators should help by fully funding public education in order to

  • Develop age-appropriate Pre-K programs
  • Reduce class sizes
  • Provide a well rounded, age-appropriate curriculum
  • Include the arts, recess, and physical education in the curriculum
  • Eliminate unnecessary testing (this one saves money)
  • Recruit experienced and diverse staff including classroom teachers and specialists
  • Include non-teaching staff when needed, such as nurses, counselors, and social workers
  • Maintain high quality facilities
  • Introduce parental support programs

THE CHALLENGE TO POLICY MAKERS

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

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

Special thanks to Meg Bloom, Phyllis Bush, and Donna Roof, all members of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, for their help in preparing the presentation from which this blog post was adapted.

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Posted in David Berliner, Evaluations, ISTEP, Lead, poverty, reform, Testing, Uncategorized

Where Toxins Meet Testing

ISTEP

Indiana’s state test, the ISTEP, is misused in the same way many states misuse standardized tests. It’s used to grade schools on an A to F scale and it’s used to determine which teachers get bonuses, which are deemed unsatisfactory, and which are to be fired. (I suppose that it’s also possible that in some places it’s used to see how well students have learned the state standards, but I doubt the state really cares about that.) In addition, another test, the IREAD-3, is misused to retain third grade students who are struggling with reading.

Currently the state is struggling over the ISTEP. A committee looked into problems with the test and made recommendations. Last year’s tests were so screwed up that the legislature agreed to not hold schools and teachers accountable for the results. For the results to be so bad that even Indiana’s “reformist” legislature “pauses accountability,” you know it must be bad.

The committee was charged with coming up with something that didn’t have as many problems as the ISTEP. That task was not accomplished.

‘ISTEP’ Name May Change, But Test Itself May Not For 2 More Years

“We need about two-and-a-half to three years to get a new test that is sound, based on our standards, thought out and vetted clearly through the education system,” says Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate committee on education. “That’ll [be] a better test at the end of that time.”

…Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House committee on education, wants the board to extend that contract. If extended, it would leave ISTEP+ in place through the 2018-19 school year.

The test is a failure, yet it has high stakes consequences for schools, teachers, and students. So, according to the chairs of both the Senate (Kruse) and House (Behning) education committees, we should keep using it.

TEACHER BONUS PAY BASED ON SCHOOL’S FAMILY INCOME

In the area of teacher bonus pay, the results of the state testing shows exactly what one would expect. Those teachers who work in wealthy districts have students who score higher on the ISTEP, and therefore get larger bonuses. In an earlier post, I wrote that

…standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

And that’s just what happened here.

Indiana’s wealthiest districts get most teacher bonus pay

Data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education shows Carmel Clay Schools leading the state in the most performance money per teacher at more than $2,400. Zionsville Community Schools came in second at more than $2,200, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Comparatively, Indianapolis Public Schools will receive nearly $130 per teacher. Wayne Township Schools will see among the lowest payments, at just more than $40 per teacher.

The amount of the “bonus” doesn’t prove that teachers in high-poverty schools aren’t as good as teachers in low-poverty schools. It is just more proof that family income determines school success.*

TOXIC ENVIRONMENTS

One (of many) out-of-school factors which contributes to lowered academic achievement of children in poverty is an environment filled with toxins. Pollutants such as mercury, PCBs, toxic pesticides, and air pollution are all factors contributing to the health and brain function of children living in high-poverty areas. The most prevalent problem is, of course, lead.

In 2009, David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, wrote in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ.

The Centers for Disease Control sets the “safe lead exposure” levels and recently has suggested that the “safe” level should be lowered.

CDC considers lowering threshold level for lead exposure

The CDC adjusts its threshold periodically as nationwide average levels drop. The threshold value is meant to identify children whose blood lead levels put them among the 2.5 percent of those with the heaviest exposure.

“Lead has no biological function in the body, and so the less there is of it in the body the better,” Bernard M Y Cheung, a University of Hong Kong professor who studies lead data, told Reuters. “The revision in the blood lead reference level is to push local governments to tighten the regulations on lead in the environment.”

The federal agency is talking with state health officials, laboratory operators, medical device makers and public housing authorities about how and when to implement a new threshold.

…Any change in the threshold level carries financial implications. The CDC budget for assisting states with lead safety programs this year was just $17 million, and many state or local health departments are understaffed to treat children who test high.

In other words, according to the CDC, the “safe” level is whatever level the bottom 2.5% of American children exhibit. The actual “safe” level is much lower (in fact, the only “safe” level of lead in a child’s system is 0.00), but the cost of reducing lead levels in every child in America is too high.

Children attending schools in high poverty areas are exposed to lead at a much higher rate than in low poverty areas.

Children suffer from lead poisoning in 3,000 U.S. neighborhoods

A new study of public health records has discovered 3,000 neighborhoods in America where children suffer from lead poisoning. The study, by the Reuters news agency, found lead poisoning twice and even four times higher than what was seen in the recent contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

That exposure has an impact on school success. Again, Berliner…

The neurological damage caused by lead pollution has been common knowledge for about a century, but even over recent decades, tragic effects such as this have been documented in families and communities around the world. Even after some obvious sources of lead in the environment were finally banned, reducing the numbers of children showing effects, too many children in the United States are still affected.

MAKING A CONNECTION

Our overuse and misuse of testing during the last few decades has led to over identifying schools in high poverty areas as “failing” without any regard for environmental toxins. Take the case of East Chicago schools…

Turnaround Meetings for Gary and East Chicago Schools

“If the school does receive a sixth F, and we expect those grades to come out this winter, then the board can begin looking at what options it wants to if any, take,” said [State Board of Education chief of staff, Brian] Murphy.

At the same time, the schools being labeled as “failing” exist in an area where lead poisoning is ubiquitous.

East Chicago Lead Contamination Forces Nearly 1,200 from Homes

Both the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are trying to deal with the contamination and moving residents, but the two agencies aren’t exactly working together well. The mayor of East Chicago and the residents are also concerned about how the EPA handled the situation and worried about the long-term ramifications of lead exposure as well as the costs of moving.

Do legislators read newspapers? Are they aware that 1) lead poisoning causes learning problems and 2) the so called “failing” schools are in areas with a high lead exposure? Why hasn’t there been an outcry blaming the low test scores on the lead poisoning of East Chicago children? Can you guess how big a “bonus” teachers in East Chicago schools got this year?*

A Strange Ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in failing schools

“The education community has not really understood the dimensions of this because we don’t see kids falling over and dying of lead poisoning in the classroom. But there’s a very large number of kids who find it difficult to do analytical work or [even] line up in the cafeteria because their brains are laden with lead.”

As a consequence, teachers and school systems get blamed for what is beyond their control. The legislature can’t (or won’t) see the connection between the two situations, and children’s futures, and their future contributions to the state, are damaged by their environment.

Legislators and “reformers” should quit placing the blame on schools, teachers, and children through punitive legislation aimed at “fixing” low achievement. It’s the state’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all citizens…including those who don’t have enough money to buy lobbyists.

When the legislature assumes its share of responsibility for “failing” to provide safe environmental conditions in our communities, and for “failing” to address the state’s child poverty rate, then…maybe…we can start to talk about “failing” schools.

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East Chicago ANOTHER Race-Based Lead Poisoning

…with lead pipes it’s like a recall on a product, but nobody wants to go back to the manufacturer and say, “Hey, you’ve made a mistake. You’re poisoning people.” We’ll recall a vehicle, but we won’t recall a pipe that is lead…a lead pipe that people are consuming water through. It’s part of their daily consumption.

…We’ll also recall leaded paint. But we’re not recalling leaded pipes.

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*Data on the Teacher Performance Grants can be found on the Indiana Department of Education site. Click here to download a spreadsheet for each school district in Indiana. Pay special attention to the number of special education districts at the $0 end of the spreadsheet.

For demographic data on each school district see Indiana School District Demographic Characteristics. Note the family poverty rates for the school districts mentioned above: Carmel Clay=3.5%, Zionsville=3.1%, Indianapolis Public Schools=26.8%, and Wayne Township=14.7%.

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Posted in Article Medleys, BAT, Charters, David Berliner, Election, Indiana, library, poverty, Privatization, Teaching Career, Testing, vouchers

2016 Medley #15

Request for White House Conferences on Public Education, Indiana Election, Myths, Poverty, Vouchers, Charters, School Libraries, Experience, Testing

STANDING UP FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

BATs Request a White House Conference on EDUCATION and EQUITY

It’s time to take the issue of public education equity to the nation. The US is one of only three advanced nations which spend more money on our wealthy students than on our poor students. Successful nations do just the opposite!

The Badass Teachers Association, representing a network of over 70,000 teachers and education activists throughout the United States, formally request a White House Conference on Education and Equity. Our organization stands firmly against the serious harm being perpetrated to public education by both corporate privatization and right wing fiscal starvation policies. The current political rhetoric strengthens our resolve to reclaim the rights of all children to a free public education.

Learn more *here*.

Our organization proposes that a White House Conference be initiated immediately. Like much of the American landscape, Public K-12 Education requires infrastructure overhaul that have been installed to insert barriers that inhibit authentic learning. We do not accept the mendacity that racial and ethnic minorities must fail due to a manufactured system that sets them up to do so.

LOCAL: INDIANA

Truth versus myth – Mike Pence’s education record

Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, has spent the last four years fighting for education…not public education, but private education: vouchers and charters. The Indiana State Teachers Association highlights the falsehoods in his recent campaign commercial.

Gov. Mike Pence recently released a campaign commercial highlighting what he considers his positive record on education in Indiana. His wife, Karen, was the messenger.

One could argue that his commercial contains more electoral mythology than actual truth. Here are some facts clarifying Pence’s record on education…

Pre-K tops Ritz education priorities

A main target of Mike Pence’s anti-public education agenda has been Democratic State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. Pence and his cronies in the State Board of Education and supermajority packed General Assembly have done everything they could to make her job all but impossible.

Here Ritz emphasizes the importance of early childhood education. Earlier Pence refused a federal grant for Early Childhood to the tune of $80 million. Now, because it’s an election year, he’s jumped on the early childhood bandwagon…

Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz on Tuesday outlined her 2016 education policy priorities with a spotlight on expanding pre-kindergarten to all Hoosier children.

She wants to make high-quality pre-K available within the boundaries of every school district in the state regardless of income of the child.

“Through a combination of leveraging federal dollars, reverting state allocations and eliminating wasteful spending in the state’s budget, the funds are there if the political will exists,” she said. “With less than 1 percent of the state’s annual budget, we can ensure more of our children are kindergarten ready.”

MYTHS AND LIES

Deconstructing the Myth of American Public Schooling Inefficiency

“Reform” propaganda focuses on “bad teachers,” public schools that are “failing,” and other myths about public education in order to encourage privatization. See also 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools by David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass.

In this report, Rutgers University Professor Bruce D. Baker and Rutgers Ph.D. student Mark Weber address the common myth that U.S. public schools are inefficient – that is, spend way more money than do other nations and get worse results. They begin with a discussion of the typical presentations of data on U.S. educational efficiency, particularly those comparing the U.S. with other nations, as well as a discussion of key concepts, approaches, and research in the evaluation of educational efficiency. They then go on to present a more refined analysis of the data by adjusting for student characteristics, inputs such as class size, and other factors.

POVERTY

Same old story: Test scores reflect demographics

Just like always…test scores mirror family income.

There’s nothing new or surprising here, of course. It’s just another illustration of the well-known fact that test scores are largely an indication of socioeconomic status and only secondarily a reflection of school effectiveness.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

On negative effects of vouchers

We were told that vouchers were the only way poor children could leave “failing” schools to attend “successful” private schools. Then the voucher program was expanded to children who weren’t so poor. Then the voucher program was expanded to children who were already in private schools.

Voucher programs are not a way to help children get a better education. They’re a way to take public money and drop it into the collection plates of religious institutions.

Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large. These studies used rigorous research designs that allow for strong causal conclusions. And they showed that the results were not explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers transferred out of above-average public schools.

Another explanation is that our historical understanding of the superior performance of private schools is no longer accurate. Since the nineties, public schools have been under heavy pressure to improve test scores. Private schools were exempt from these accountability requirements. A recent study showed that public schools closed the score gap with private schools. That study did not look specifically at Louisiana and Indiana, but trends in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for public school students in those states are similar to national trends.

In education as in medicine, ‘first, do no harm’ is a powerful guiding principle. A case to use taxpayer funds to send children of low-income parents to private schools is based on an expectation that the outcome will be positive. These recent findings point in the other direction. More needs to be known about long-term outcomes from these recently implemented voucher programs to make the case that they are a good investment of public funds. As well, we need to know if private schools would up their game in a scenario in which their performance with voucher students is reported publicly and subject to both regulatory and market accountability.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charter schools’ purpose forgotten

Why turn over public funds to private organizations if they don’t do better than real public schools? Wouldn’t it be better for us to support our already existing public education system?

If a charter school can’t perform better than a conventional public school, there is no point in having the charter school.

After all, Ohio embarked on the charter-school experiment to see if there is a way to improve on the dismal results being achieved in many urban and poor school districts, not simply to replicate their failure. The idea was that if student outcomes improved in charter schools, then the schools would continue. But if charters failed to improve on the performance of conventional schools, they would be closed.

Now, years after the experiment began, some schools are persistent failures, but instead of being shut down, they want to change the performance measuring stick so that they can remain in business.

LIBRARIANS

Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement

A school library without a certified librarian is like a classroom without a certified teacher. A school without a library is a travesty.

Simply put, students suffer when they don’t have adequate resources—and, in particular, we’ve found that student achievement suffers when schools lack libraries that are staffed by full-time librarians. “Nearly every public school in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties has a library with certified staff, which has been proven to increase student reading and comprehension,” notes Kintisch. “In contrast, most public schools in Philadelphia do not employ a certified librarian, and more than 140 do not have a library.”

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research

Teacher effectiveness grows with experience. It is common sense, and it’s fact.

Based on a review of 30 studies published within the last 15 years, the authors find that as teachers gain experience throughout their careers, their students’ achievement gains increase. Although the steepest gains in effectiveness are in the first few years of teaching, this improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers, especially when they work in collegial work environments.

Read the report *here*.

TESTING: A New Level of Third Grade Testing Punishent

FL: District Officials Lose Their Damned Minds

[Note: See the update following this]

In Florida, like Indiana and elsewhere, third grade students must pass a test to be promoted to fourth grade. The utter stupidity and abusiveness of this policy is part of America’s “Learn or be Punished” mentality developed by “reformers” who don’t know anything about children and education. It proves without a doubt (in my mind) that legislators who pass these sorts of laws don’t care about children (other than their own, perhaps), and are just interested in lining the pockets of their testing company campaign donors – because you know that’s who is bankrolling their election campaigns.

In addition, Florida education policy punishes students who attempt to opt out of the test. This would be an example of “choice,” except of course, parents are not allowed to “choose” something that “reformers” don’t like. Choose charter schools? Yep. Choose vouchers? Absolutely. Choose to opt your child out of a developmentally inappropriate high stakes standardized test? No way!

The result is that students in third grade whose parents choose to opt them out of the test – it’s the parents who decide because, let’s face it, most eight and nine year olds don’t know much about the opt out process – may be retained in third grade.

This year a third grader can have great grades, the recommendation of her teacher and principal, and the admiration of her peers– but if she didn’t take the BS Test, she will fail third grade.

Let me say that again. An eight year old child who had a great year in class, demonstrated the full range of skills, and has a super report card– that child will be required to repeat third grade because she didn’t take the BS Test.

This is what happens when the central values of your education system are A) compliance and B) standardized testing. This is what happens when you completely lose track of the purpose of school.

UPDATE:

FL: Dept of Ed Says, “Don’t Blame Us!” (w/Update)

Now comes word courtesy of the Gradebook at the Tampa Bay Times, talking to the Florida Department of Education–

“Our primary guidance to the districts is to follow the law,” spokeswoman Meghan Collins said Tuesday. “Obviously, the law says participation on the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) is mandatory. But we never said you must retain a student who doesn’t have an FSA score.”

Collins also elaborated that there was no requirement to take the test before an alternative assessment could be used.

Collins also told Jeffrey Solochek at the Times that the department would not be sending out a letter of clarification. “We’ve already made ourselves plenty damn clear enough for supposedly educated people who can read and speak English,” she did not actually say, but I thought I’d paraphrase. “Local decisions are to be made locally, particularly if they are so glaringly dumb that the fallout will be terrible,” she only sort of approximately continued. This is, honestly, better than I expected, given that Florida is the state that once insisted a dying child take the Big Standardized Test.

 “I’m nervous about failing FCAT”
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Posted in Accountability, Charters, David Berliner, ESSA, Evaluations, ICPE-MCSCI, JohnOliver, NCLB, Ritz, Sagan, Testing

Videos 2015

Teaching, Testing, and Acountability: Poverty and Charters

Every now and then I’ll embed a video in my blog. Here I have chosen six – informative and inspiring – from 2015, comprising about 2 hours of video. I’ve added emphasis with boldface and italics.

February 1

What would happen if state and federal legislators actually listened to educators? Notice how many of the legislators in this video talk about “accountability.” The assumption is that before “reformist” type accountability (aka standardized tests used to rank students, teachers, and schools) we never knew how our children were doing in school.

So long as public education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children we will resist these unjust testing laws.

Jia Lee…the only woman at the hearings, from a female dominated profession…tries to teach legislators about the damage done by runaway testing.

Watch her testimony in the video below and read more about the hearings in…Teachers Rally Against Standardized Testing At No Child Left Behind Hearing.

The sad thing is that, despite the fact that NCLB has been replaced, annual, high-stakes testing is still with us.

Jia Lee, a New York special education teacher, said the tests “can only measure right or wrong,” not complex questions. “I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave.”

Jia Lee – Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015 from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

February 22

In February several hundred pro-public education supporters went to Indianapolis to “Rally for Ritz”…a rally in support of Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Superintendent Ritz was continually at odds with the appointed members of the pro-charter, pro-voucher, “reformist,” school board.

Bloomington mom, and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County and South Central Indiana, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech to the assembled crowd was memorable, calling for, and defining legislative accountability, not just school accountability. Click here for the complete text of the speech.

My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD

…Accountability is representing your constituents, not your donors

…Accountability is research driven education policy. Standards don’t educate kids, teachers do.

Accountability is seeing to it that every child has a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym, art, and music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, and band. Every. Single. Indiana. Child.

…no six year old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity

Legislators and “reformers” are all for accountability…for others.

May 4

John Oliver shows us just how inane and stupid our obsessive focus on standardized testing really is – test-pep rallies, school cheers – trying to convince children that high-stakes tests are “fun.”

Yet, we all know that high-stakes tests are inappropriate for our most vulnerable students…and they make the pain of the also inappropriate test-prep-standards-based education even more painful.

Official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student vomits on his or her test booklet…and something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit. Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills…

[NOTE: NSFW Some images and language might be offensive…just like Pearson’s tests.]

October 24

JOHN MERROW vs. EVA MOSKOWITZ

Success Academy procedures hurt children. They are used by charter school chains to get rid of “undesirables” (aka, students who are difficult and/or expensive to educate or whose test scores don’t measure up) despite what Moskowitz says in this report.

The fact that the two schools highlighted at the beginning of this report – one public, one charter – share the same building, is part of the problem. “Dual occupancy” – two or more schools sharing one building – is a problem. Public schools and their buildings belong to the community which built them. Taking part of a building away from a public school and turning over part of a building to a privately run charter school is like stealing the community’s property for profit. We don’t turn over control of certain parts of public parks for privately run athletic teams. We don’t close of parts of public libraries and let for-profit book sellers “share the space.” Neither should we do that with public schools.

Merrow said it all when he said…

In the end, how charter schools conduct their business is basically their own business.

November 22

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

Policy makers regularly talk about how important it is to have good schools, but there’s no follow through on their part. They blame schools for low achievement, but don’t accept their responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation, the main cause of low achievement.

Schools…the education of our citizens…is not a high priority for this nation, despite the rhetoric. Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” If that’s true, then the nation is in jeopardy.

The late Carl Sagan had this to say more than 25 years ago…

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

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.

December 19

This is the latest and longest of the videos I posted this year. It’s an important one because, despite ESSA, many teachers and schools around the nation are still judged by the test scores of their students, a practice which Dr. Berliner says is invalid. He also discusses the fact that outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to carry the process one step further and evaluate schools of education by the test scores of their students’ students.

We’re using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year’s ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

Student achievement tests measure only student achievement.

David C Berliner’s presentation is titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.

Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America’s education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

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Posted in Accountability, David Berliner, ISTEP, Testing

Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

MISUSE OF ISTEP

On December 15 I wrote that, instead of “pausing accountability” and waiting a year to use ISTEP to label teachers and schools, we ought to stop using it altogether because, there is no

proof that the ISTEP has been developed to include measuring the effectiveness of schools and teachers, in addition to measuring student achievement.

DAVID BERLINER

By coincidence, the following day, Diane Ravitch reported on a talk given by David C Berliner titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.

Berliner discusses the worthlessness of evaluating teacher competence and teacher training program effectiveness with standardized achievement tests. His impetus for writing the paper was the call by Arne Duncan for the evaluation of teacher training programs based on their students’ students’ test scores.

Berliner maintains that the tests are invalid measures of teacher quality. To use them to measure the quality of teacher training institutions and programs is even worse.

He lays the blame for low test scores on America’s high child poverty levels..

Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America’s education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

He lists 14 points which explain why using test scores to evaluate teachers and teacher training programs is invalid.

Effects of Poverty vs. Effects of Teachers

The first point is that “reformers” who insist on using standardized test scores for evaluation of teachers and teacher training programs confuse the effects of poverty with the effects that teachers have on their students.

When using standardized achievement tests as the basis for inferences about the quality of teachers and the institutions from which they came it is easy to confuse the effects of sociological variables on standardized test scores for the effects that teachers have on those test scores. [14:15 on the video]

Blaming Teachers is Inconsistent with our Moral Code

Point 2 – We don’t hold pastors responsible when parishioners kill themselves or others. We don’t hold parents responsible for the actions of their adult children.

The logic of holding schools of education responsible for student achievement does not fit into our system of law or into the moral code subscribed to by most western nations. [19:48]

Clients Don’t Always Comply

Point 3 – Medical schools and dental schools aren’t held to the same standard. Poverty will result in lower life expectancies, poorer dental health, and poorer health in general, yet we don’t blame doctors for their patients’ illnesses, or dentists for their patients’ oral problems. We don’t tell them that “poverty is no excuse” or “poverty isn’t destiny.” We don’t close hospitals or dental offices which treat the poor and we don’t blame health professionals who work with poor people.

Professionals are often held harmless for their lower success rates with clients who have observable difficulties in meeting the demands and the expectations of the professionals who attend to them. [20:09]

Berliner added,

No one is proposing Heal for America so recent college grads can spend two years in an inner city emergency room.

Competent Teaching can Occur Independent of Learning

Berliner fourth point is that practicing good medicine is the goal of medical care, even when diseases can’t be cured. The same is true for teaching and learning.

People accept the fact that treatment in medicine may not result in the cure of a disease. Practicing good medicine is the goal, whether or not the patient gets better or lives! It is equally true that competent teaching can occur independent of learning, although this appears to be too difficult a concept for our Secretary of Education.[23:48] [emphasis added]

We don’t have to use invalid measures just to evaluate teachers. Other methods are available. See, for example, Linda Darling-Hammond’s Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching and PARS, from Montgomery County, MD (note: the latter is no longer in use because the legislature requires that tests be used to evaluate teachers!).
Berliner said,

There are other quite acceptable sources of data besides standardized achievement tests for judging the efficacy of teacher education programs and their graduates.

Is Teaching to the Test Good Instruction?

What is good instruction? Berliner says, in point 5, that there is a confusion about good instruction because of the reliance on standardized tests. Is success in raising test scores good instruction?

My government’s reliance on standardized achievement test scores as the only acceptable source of data about teacher quality, will inevitably promote confusion between what we mean by successful instruction on tests, and what we mean by good instruction, about some values we hold about what teaching and learning should be like. [27:20]

Tests Are Not Sensitive to Teachers’ Effects

The effect of teachers on student achievement tests is actually very small. Berliner’s 6th point begins at 37:14 and continues for several minutes. He says,

Although teachers may have profound affects on individual students, they do not affect standardized achievement test scores much at all. [43:28]…Teachers are not affecting test scores very much, yet the test scores are used as ways to blame teachers, schools of education in New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and dozens of other cities.

Teachers’ Effects Aren’t Permanent

Not only is the teacher effect on student test scores small, but what there is of it doesn’t last – his 7th point.

Teachers affects on standardized achievement test scores fade quickly. [43:50]

Student Achievement Tests Aren’t Validated for Anything Other Than Student Achievement

I wish Dr. Berliner’s paper was available to read. Because of lack of time, he rushed through points 8 through 14. Here they are…

8. Observational measures of teacher competency and achievement tests of teacher competency do not correlate well. [44:18]

9. Different standardized achievement tests, both purporting to measure reading or math or science at the same grade level, will give different estimates of teacher competency. [45:40]

10. The administration of standardized achievement tests at different times of the year, will yield different estimates of teacher effectiveness. [46:13]

11. No standardized achievement tests have provided proof that their items are instructionally sensitive. [46:32]

12.Teacher effects show up more dramatically on teacher made tests than on standardized achievement tests because the former are based on the enacted curriculum, while the latter are based on the desired curriculum. [47:46]

13.The opt-out testing movement invalidates inferences about teachers and schools that can be made from standardized achievement tests results. [49:56]

14.Assessing new teachers with standardized achievement tests is likely to yield many false negatives. [50:17]

He concludes…

Standardized achievement tests are remarkably insensitive to teacher effects. [51:24]

In other words, standardized achievement tests aren’t changed much by classroom teachers. Other variables are more important, especially those outside of school.

[This explains why] Teach for America’s new and grossly untrained teachers do not seem any worse on standardized achievement test given to poor children than do experienced teachers. The tests are simply too insensitive to instructional quality, while being highly reactive to the income, social class, quality of the neighborhood, and the home lives that are presented by the students of Teach for America instructors, as well as the better trained and more experienced instructors. [53:33]

STOP MISUSING TESTS

We’re using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year’s ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

The incompetence comes from those who insist on and/or pass laws requiring schools, states, and state departments of education, to misuse already questionable measures of student achievement. That’s not accountability. It’s irresponsibility.

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