Posted in Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Public Ed

Your School in a Market Economy

DISRUPTION

Betsy DeVos thinks this is a good way to run America’s public education system…allow for the privatization of public education and let the market decide whether or not a school remains open. DeVos thinks the marketplace provides all the safeguards schools need.

In the meantime, school privatization is providing the “disruption” so important to free-market types because schools that close before the school year ends are a feature, not a bug.

Southfield charter school closes shocking students, staff

In just one of many daily stories about fraud and corruption in the mostly unregulated charter industry, students in this Michigan town got to school last week to find that their school closed –
just three weeks before the end of the year.

Teachers were seen packing their belongings. They say they will get paid Friday but the school is not able to pay them through August.

Teacher pay is often budgeted throughout the year. A contract is generally for the length of the school year – 9 or 10 months, but the pay is spread out over the entire length of the calendar year. In other words, teachers won’t receive the pay for days they have already worked.

Taylor International has been beset by money problems since 2013 and according to Renaissance School Services, the company managed it and things came to a head.

“The board has resigned and we terminated our relationship with the school because we haven’t been paid in about six months,” said Richard O’Neill, Renaissance School Services.

The school didn’t pay the management company, so it was closed down. The bottom line for privately owned and operated schools is profit, not children. Was there any governmental oversight of the taxpayer funds spent for this school? Were the books open to all? Where did the money go? Who got paid? Who didn’t?

The resulting “disruption” which free-market “reformers” prize so highly, interferes with learning. School closures can have a negative effect on students.

Ben Kirshner and his colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder documented numerous negative effects of school closure, including higher dropout rates, lower achievement, loss of friendships, and weaker emotional ties between students and teachers.

STABILITY

When schools close before the school year ends, there’s no closure to the year. Students and teachers have no chance to say goodbye to each other and their friends. Teachers are left without a complete year of student work needed to compute grades. In some cases, teachers are left without their full pay and parents are left without a place to send their children for the remainder of the year. The taxpayers’ money is gone – and without public oversight, no one knows where it went.

Russ Walsh, in Creative Stability: A Better Plan for Public Schools, writes,

Every teacher knows that children learn best in a stable environment. That is why teachers spend the first several days of school establishing routines and norms for the smooth functioning of the classroom.

The disruption of a school closing gets in the way of that stability.

Public schools – real public schools, not privately owned and publicly funded charter schools – provide stability. They are part of the community and are owned by the community. The focus is on the students, not profit. The bottom line is education, not stock holders.

The free-market means competition and competition means there will be winners and losers. There should be no losers in public education.

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, Public Ed, reform

DeVos is Still Ignorant

Last week, when she unveiled her education plan and budget, Betsy DeVos said some things which only served to prove her ignorance of America’s public education system and reinforce the belief that she is completely unqualified for the job which she blatantly purchased from Senate Republicans.

OUR CURRENT SYSTEM

Betsy DeVos Compares School Choice Critics To ‘Flat-Earthers’

DeVos said,

The defenders of our current system have been regularly resistant to any meaningful change. In resisting, these flat Earthers have chilled creativity and stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.

For someone who has the job of overseeing the nation’s public schools DeVos has no understanding of what our current system is.

In fact, DeVos’s critics are very much against the “current system.” The current system is actually one based on an overuse and misuse of testing which is manipulated in order to damage public schools and divert tax dollars to private and parochial schools.

For decades we’ve been holding our public schools hostage to standardized tests which measure a student’s family income more accurately than their achievement. We’ve used the tests in invalid ways to judge school systems, schools, and teachers as well as children. The results have been used to close schools, force out experienced teachers, and demean public education as “failing.” On the contrary, our public schools are generally excellent and successful despite the roadblocks being thrown up by policy makers, billionaires, and legislators.

She claims that critics are the one who have “stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.” Instead, it’s a system that allows children from wealthy families to do just that – compete at the highest level. Our students who come from schools with poverty rates of less than ten percent achieve at levels higher than any other students in the world. The problem is that those who denounce public schools as failures have worked to segregate our children based on educational classification, economic status, and race. DeVos and the proposed federal budget only make the “current system” more inequitable

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL TESTING

Education Department Faces Deep Cuts; DeVos Faces Tough Questions

“The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions,” DeVos said. “Too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them. We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.”

The one-size-fits-all approach she claims her critics favor is actually what her critics oppose. The fight against so-called “education reform” has been a fight against the system that judges all children based on a single standardized test. It’s been a fight against a those who use tests to denounce public schools, and as an excuse to divert needed funds to privatization schemes like charter schools and vouchers.

If Secretary DeVos knew anything about public schools she would know that teachers work every day to differentiate programs for individual students. Most public school teachers understand that every child is different…that children need to learn based on where they are and how much they can accomplish, which is different for every child. But Betsy DeVos doesn’t know this about public schools. She never attended public schools. She never worked in public schools. She never sent her children to public schools. She is completely ignorant of the excellent work that public schools and their teachers do every day.

Those children who are “trapped in schools that don’t work for them” are mostly poor children of color, forced into underfunded schools in neighborhoods which have been economically abandoned by oligarchs like DeVos who work to cut taxes for the rich, and divert much needed resources from public schools to private and religious schools.

In addition, parents aren’t the ones who have choices once they leave the public school system. That option belongs to the charter school or voucher accepting school which, more often than not, rejects the hardest and most expensive to educate children. The people best equipped to make choices for children’s education are trained educational professionals with input from parents, working in well staffed and well resourced public schools.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, DeVos, Franklin, Segregation, special education, US DOE

2017 Medley #16: Privatization – Leaving Some Students Behind

Special Needs Students, Segregation,
U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The “Free Market,” Ben Franklin

SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND

Indiana’s School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students

Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.

I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don’t qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don’t need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don’t deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?

Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.

…NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne’s public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.

Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it’s just 7 percent. It’s the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here’s Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.

Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.

CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION

School Choice: Designed To Fail

How do we define “good” schools? What does a “failing” school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When “choice” advocates tell parents that they should have the right to “choose the best school for their children” they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.

With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we’re witnessing the return to the “separate and unequal” schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a “public good” is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.

By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”

CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and “educational savings accounts.”

The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that “the market” will eventually eliminate “bad” or “failing” schools because patrons will “shop with their feet.” According to the “market-based” orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.

An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are “failing” and schools with high test scores are “good.” As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, America’s schools aren’t failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.

A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

School Privatization in the Age of Betsy DeVos: Where Are We in Mid-May?

…this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.

The Network for Public Education has made available short explanations of all three school privatization schemes: vouchers, tutition tax credits here and here, and education savings accounts.

EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS

The Free Market Does Not Work for Education

In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of “market-based” education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs…not to students who live in rural areas…not to students who live in low population areas.

The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.

All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald’s could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don’t do it…

…Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It’s because it’s harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald’s in the desert– the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.

Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, “We’ll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn’t make economic/business sense for you to serve.” But now it’s not a free market any more, is it?

BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION

Ben Franklin in a letter to Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780

Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.

In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn’t support itself without government support didn’t deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the “civil power.” Substitute “parochial school” for the word “Religion” in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.

“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

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Posted in Booker, Charters, DeVos, Politics, Preschool, Public Ed, Quotes, reform, Tenure, Testing, theArts, Trump

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #5

BUILDING SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defeating the DeVos Agenda

Competing on an uneven playing field, public school corporations have taken to advertising in order to keep their students from going to charter schools or using vouchers to attend private schools. Instead, John Merrow offers additional advice on how to “advertise” by involving community members, especially those who have no current connections to the public schools.

Public schools belong to their communities, not to the school board members, or the parents of current students. Schools are investments in a community’s future, paid for by everyone, for the benefit of everyone. Closing schools and opening charters, or offering vouchers, is taking years of community investment and throwing it away.

From John Merrow

Only when ‘outsiders’ become convinced that what’s happening in our public schools is not just test-prep and rote learning pushed on sullen teenagers by demoralized instructors, only then will Betsy DeVos and her militant Christian army of ideologues and profiteers lose this war.

TEACHING THE ARTS

Piecemeal Privatization of Arts and Music in Public Schools

The latest Kappan (April, 2017) is focused on the Arts.

Many school systems in the U.S. have had to cut back on their arts programming due to budget cuts and the obsessive focus on reading and math. Music and art teachers are stretched thin trying to educate large numbers of children in areas that aren’t tested, and therefore, not considered important by “reformers.” Articles in the journal discuss the influx of public/private partnerships which are replacing in-house education specialists in places. Nancy Bailey acknowledges that these partnerships are beneficial where no arts programming exists, but the loss of the arts programming is the real problem.

From Nancy Bailey

This country needs to quit with the trickery. Pretending the arts are returning with partnerships, or through subject integration, or technology, is only a charade. Our tax dollars should go directly to public schools for these programs and to real arts and music teachers.

EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD

Truth in Edvertising

Are private and privately run schools better than traditional public schools, or do they just have better PR and better advertising? Traditional schools don’t usually spend money on advertising because money spent on advertising isn’t spent on instruction.

Are schools commodities like widgets, where money needs to be spent on advertising? If we, as a society, accept the marketplace version of education…if we accept that competition improves education…if we accept that it’s up to the parent to find the school with the best “fit” for their child…then public education will probably not be a priority.

On the other hand, if we accept that public education benefits the whole society…that public education is a public good, then we won’t waste money on advertising, and the “bottom line” will be educating our children, not turning a profit.

From Sarah Butler Jessen on Have You Heard Blog and Podcast

There’s been a lot of talk about how much money they [Success Academy] spend. We were able to look at some of their budgets from the 2012 and 2013 year, along with a bunch of other charter management and charter organizations in New York City authorized by SUNY. Again, as we raised in recent earlier article about the 2010 data, in Williamsburg and Cobble Hill in particular in that year, they’re spending more than $1,000 per entered student on marketing alone.

LACK OF SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IS BIPARTISAN

Democrats link party rivals to DeVos as 2018 fights emerge

In Indiana it’s the Republicans who support so-called “education reforms” which have the effect of damaging public education, deprofessionalizing public school teachers, and re-segregating our schools. But it’s not just a Republican movement. It’s bipartisan. There are Democrats across the nation who are apparently hell-bent on replacing public education with privatized, corporate, charter schools.

Cory Booker (and here)…Andrew CuomoRahm Emanuel

From Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association

“What’s happened over time is that we have seen the Legislature has changed very significantly, and we’ve really seen that among Democrats, we have just many more folks that are supportive of charter schools,” he said. “Do these national winds, do they affect things here? Absolutely, absolutely. But it’s not like we’re just going to be blown across the map.”

Still, Wallace suspected charter school opponents would view DeVos’ appointment as a political opportunity to cut into charter schools’ gains.

“Yeah, that’s going to happen, and we have to be aware of that,” he said.

POLITICS

Trump Restocks the Swamp

President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” telling the American people that the government wouldn’t be made up of special interests and their lobbyists.

From Ed Brayton

[Trump] criticized Obama for his lack of transparency, yet just reversed the policy of releasing visitor logs so the public could know if the president or his close advisers were meeting with lobbyists and others with a clear stake in public policy. And a man whose big selling point was that he was rich so he would not be beholden to big corporations and the wealthy. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to name a single thing he’s done since taking office that wasn’t what moneyed interests would want him to to in order to make him more money.

Update for Trump Voters

From Robert Reich

He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.

…He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

PRE-SCHOOL IN INDIANA

IN: Welcome UPSTART Pre-K Cyberschool

Putting a three- or four-year-old in front of a computer screen and calling it “pre-school” is the most insane thing to come out of the education “reform” cesspool.

From Peter Greene

…we’re assured that UPSTART will provide “program sponsors” with data. Because, you know, it’s never too early to start building your tiny human’s data file, so that the trouble she had picking out vowel sounds when she was four flippin’ years old can follow her around for the rest of her life.

In Indiana, the legislature wants to make UPSTART part of the Pre-K expansion bill.

TESTING AND MANDATES

Standardized Testing Creates Captive Markets

The Republicans have railed for years against the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and it’s forced health insurance mandates. Yet, forced testing mandates, which every state must waste tax dollars on, is supported.

A must read

From Steven Singer

The reason public schools give these tests is because the government forces them. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school take certain approved standardized assessments. Parents are allowed to refuse the tests for their children, but otherwise they have to take them.

TENURE AGAIN STILL

Teacher Tenure and Seniority Lawsuits: A Failure of Logic

They’re not giving up. Even after the Vergara Decision was overturned anti-teacher forces are still fighting against tenure and seniority. Their goal – the complete destruction of teachers unions at any cost, even if it means also destroying the teaching profession.

From Jersey Jazzman

The backers of these lawsuits will make occasional concessions to the idea that schools need adequate and equitable funding to attract qualified people into teaching. But they never seem to be interested in underwriting lawsuits that would get districts like Newark the funds they need to improve both the compensation and the working conditions of teachers.

THE FEDERAL ROLE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

The War on Public Schools

The Federal government has helped public education by requiring equal access to educational opportunities for all children regardless of race, sex, or disabilities. They have provided funds for disadvantaged students, for teacher preparation and continuing education, and materials.

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core, the Federal government increased it’s influence on public education, but evoked a backlash. It’s true that some Federal intrusion into public education is necessary and important…

From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights quoted in the American Prospect

The hard-learned lesson of the civil rights community over decades has shown that a strong federal role is crucial to protecting the interests of educationally underserved students

‘REFORM’

Closing schools is not an educational option

No school was ever improved by closing it.

From Mitchell Robinson in Eclectablog

Whenever I hear public officials and education policy decision makers suggest that closing schools is a legitimate strategy, I know that person is not serious about actually improving educational outcomes.

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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 Anthony Cody, Article Medleys, DeVos, John Kuhn, Religion, vouchers

2017 Medley #8 – Vouchers Come Up Short

Vouchers Come Up Short

VOUCHERS IN THE NEWS

The latest research on the efficacy of school vouchers shows that receiving a voucher does not guarantee a better education. One wonders, then, why Republicans (and some Democrats) are fighting so hard to impose more vouchers on the public to the detriment of public schools?

The current administration, under Trump, Pence, and DeVos, is pushing vouchers nationwide despite the mediocre showing of private schools compared to their public counterparts (see The Public School Advantage as well as here, herehere, and here). This is not to say that private and parochial schools are all inferior to public schools. On the contrary, some elite private schools have excellent programs unburdened by teach-to-the-test policies. However, when you consider the economic status of the students the advantage disappears.

In Indiana, vouchers began as a way to help high poverty students “escape” from “failing” public schools. The truth is that the “failing” public schools were often struggling due to the state’s neglect of the economic conditions in the school communities. Children in East Chicago, for example, have been combatting the effects of lead poisoning for years. “Failing” schools in Indianapolis are due, at least in part, to a child poverty rate of 33% and an overall poverty rate of 20%, both well above the national average. Vouchers wouldn’t help all those students even if private and parochial schools were “better.” Public schools can and should try to improve, of course, but improvement requires support from the larger community, in this case, the state legislature and governor’s office. Until politicians accept their share of responsibility for the high rate of child poverty, schools – public, charter and private – will continue to “fail.”

The Indiana voucher plan began in 2011 with the promise of saved money and increased achievement. Under the Republican-led legislature and Governors (Daniels and Pence), the program has been expanded significantly. Once it became clear that private and parochial schools can’t overcome the effects of poverty any better or more cheaply than public schools can, the argument has changed from “improved achievement and money saved” to “parental choice.” Should parents have the “choice” to spend public tax dollars, earmarked for a public institution, at a religious or private location?

REASONS FOR VOUCHERS

Vouchers do not improve education

Vouchers in Indiana don’t save money…and don’t improve education. Doug Masson provides three “reasons” for vouchers that hits three nails right on the head.

In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.

STUNNING NEWS ABOUT VOUCHERS

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is getting some very bad news about her favorite thing, school vouchers

The LA Times reports that vouchers and school privatization doesn’t really work. The reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter named Michael Hiltzik, apparently needs more education when it comes to education reporting.

…DeVos’s patron, President Trump, proposed during his campaign to shovel $20 billion to the states to support magnet and charter schools in voucher programs.

The sentence should end, “…$20 billion to the states to support magnet, charter schools, and voucher programs.” Do vouchers pay for school system magnet programs and charter schools? I don’t think so, but perhaps I’m wrong. It’s my understanding that vouchers pay for tuition to private schools, while magnet schools are part of public school systems, and charter schools are privately run publicly funded schools. Feel free to correct me on this in the comments.

Hilzik continues, reporting the news that recent research has voucher students scoring lower on standardized tests than public school students. The claim that “education experts” are stunned by the results is, in itself, stunning. Simply changing the venue of a child’s education isn’t sufficient to improve achievement if the child continues to live with the out-of-school-factors related to poverty.

…the latest findings, which emerge from studies of statewide programs in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana, have left education experts stunned. In a nutshell, they find huge declines of academic achievement among students in voucher programs in those three states.

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

Kevin Carey in the New York Times, echoes the “surprise” over the results of the studies. The results, he says, are “startling.”

In this piece, “well-regulated charter schools” refers to charters which are “open to all and accountable to public authorities.”

The last sentence is the most important. [emphasis added]

The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.

‘REFORMERS’ FIND THAT VOUCHERS DON’T IMPROVE LEARNING

I voted for school vouchers. Now I know I was wrong.

The pro-“reform” Thomas Fordham Institute studied the effectiveness of Ohio’s voucher programs. Just like in Louisiana and Indiana, they don’t help children achieve better than public schools and they strip public education of funding.

In this article a former North Carolina legislator concludes that tax money for vouchers would be better spent on the state’s public schools.

So what did this report say that the Fordham Institute undertook, ostensibly to promote the expansion of vouchers in America? It said that vouchers have failed miserably. That’s right, a pro-voucher group had to put out a report that concluded that vouchers are failing our children. And keep in mind, this isn’t an outlier of empirical studies of vouchers’ effectiveness in educating our children. Two other recent studies (one in Indiana and another in Louisiana) came to the same conclusion.

…North Carolina is scheduled to spend over $1 billion in the next 10 years for a voucher system that simply doesn’t work. It’s time for the General Assembly to recognize this and correct course so that we can reinvest that billion dollars in public schools.

RELIGIOUS ENTITLEMENT

Vouchers a new entitlement to religious education

At first it was for poor kids to escape from “failing” schools. Now it’s a way to provide public funds for religious schools and to increase the segregation of Indiana schools. [emphasis added]

When lawmakers created the program in 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels said it was a way to help children from poor families find a better alternative to failing public schools. But the program has evolved into a new entitlement: state-funded religious education for middle and low-income families.

Some 54 percent of students receiving vouchers this year have no record of having attended an Indiana public school, the report says. Voucher advocates initially insisted the program would save the state money, because it would cost less to subsidize private school tuition than to send a student to a public school. But increasingly vouchers are going to families that never had any intention of sending their kids to public schools; that’s an entirely new cost for the state to take on.

Also, vouchers are more and more going to students who are white, suburban and non-poor. When the program started, more than half of participating students were black or Hispanic. Now over 60 percent are white, and only 12.4 percent are African-American. It’s reasonable to ask if, in some cases, vouchers are a state-funded mechanism for “white flight” from schools that are becoming more diverse.

JOHN KUHN SPEAKS OUT

John Kuhn: Vouchers Serve Adults at Children’s Expense

Anthony Cody wrote this about John Kuhn.

John Kuhn is a Texas school superintendent and long-time advocate for public schooling. His essays have been read hundreds of thousands of times online, videos of his speeches have gone viral, and his book, Fear and Learning in America, has sold thousands of copies. He continues to advocate for teachers and fight for the constitutional promise of free public schools for all American children.

I’ve quoted Superintendent Kuhn quite a few times on this blog and included YouTube videos. He’s an important voice for public education in America…not just Texas.

Superintendent Kuhn presented this speech on March 5 to the Association of Texas Professional Educators, an independent association of educators (i.e. affiliated with neither NEA nor AFT).

The great American experiment of free public schools, open to all children and overseen by locally-elected citizens—this bold vision is being challenged by an army of wealthy and interested parties who are dead set on dismantling the public education system and trading it for a voucher system…

John Kuhn at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011

Be sure to read John Kuhn’s Alamo Letter.

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, Privatization, Public Ed

DeVos Watch, February 2017

DeVos Watch

She has never worked or taught in public schools.
She has never attended public schools.
She has never been a parent of public school students.

This billionaire has spent her (and her husband’s) money to privatize public education in Michigan. She bought state legislators to pass legislation which the people had rejected.

Now she wants to bring the same privatization plan to the rest of the nation. She used her billions to buy her cabinet position by bribing federal legislators with campaign contributions.

Her nomination and confirmation mobilized millions and people learned that she is unfit for her job. The nation educated itself on how she has spent her money to privatize education in Michigan, Indiana, and elsewhere across the country.

But America supports its local public schools and we’re watching.

DEVOS WATCH

If Anyone is in “Receive Mode,” It’s Betsy DeVos

After her first visit to a public school as Secretary of Education (or possibly ever?), DeVos said, “They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

She was talking about teachers…professionals who had spent years in preparation for their job and held college-level credentials which allowed them licensure to teach. She was talking about teachers who had spent a varying number of years in public school classrooms teaching children.

These are people who she claims are “waiting to be told what to do?” No, Secretary DeVos. Public school teachers know what to do.

People knew that the democrats on the HELP committee were not given much time to give questions to receive more glaring answers from a lady who does not give a damn about public schools.

So if anybody is in “receive mode,” it is Betsy DeVos.

She certainly gave a lot to receive her office.

What she should be willing to receive is an education about how public schools have been doing despite the obvious pressures that influence academic outcomes that schools have no control over like poverty. But that takes willingness, honesty, integrity, and humility.

And Betsy DeVos has not given much of that.

Clueless Betsy DeVos Blames School Teachers, Doesn’t Get that Test-and-Punish Is Core Problem

Test and punish is still the rule in America. Betsy DeVos said, “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.” What does she mean by “facilitate great teaching”? For “reformers” great teaching has come to mean raising test scores.

While Betsy DeVos insulted teachers last week as “in receive mode,” in my community and my state, teachers are dismayed and up in arms about what they are receiving. Here in the words of Steve Nelson’s new book about progressive education—First Do No Harm, is the kind of pressure our teachers are irate about receiving from the U.S. Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Education: “Public schools all over America are judged by the standardized test results of their students. In many, perhaps most, communities the test results are published in local newspapers or available online. The continued existence of a school often depends on its standardized test scores… Neighborhood public schools are labeled ‘failing’ on the basis of test scores and closed, often to be replaced by a charter operation that boasts of higher test scores… What has occurred is a complex sorting mechanism. The schools, particularly the most highly praised charter schools do several things to produce better scores…. (S)tudents are suspended and expelled at a much higher rate than at the ordinary public schools in their neighborhoods. Several studies show that charter schools enroll significantly fewer students with learning challenges or students whose first language is other than English.” (pp. 68-69) All this pressures school administrators to force teachers to teach to the test at all cost.

DeVos: No Real Role for Feds

It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job, but I’m not sure that — I’m not sure that there will be a champion movement in Congress to do that.

The elaboration is where it gets interesting– She sees that the feds have had a useful role at certain “important inflection points” in the past, like “when we had segregated schools and when we had a time when, you know, girls weren’t allowed to have the same kind of sports teams.” But then the question– “are there any remaining issues like that where the federal government should intervene?”

I can’t think of any now.

So there you have it. Racial and gender bias are completely under control, totally solved, no longer need any sort of federal oversight. There are no states or districts that are trying to maintain any sort of systemic inequity. Nothing to see here. Go home.

FWCS chief ‘insulted’ by ill-informed Ed. secretary

“To choose someone to have the highest position connected to education who has basically no knowledge of just even the theories and the concepts in education, I am insulted but I’m also sad for her because I cannot imagine how effective a person can be when you are in a field that everyone is translating for you,” [Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, Wendy] Robinson said.

Beware of Trump and DeVos’ grand plan to privatize public education

Drivers don’t get to choose which roads their tax money is spent on. That’s left to the municipal government. The roads are kept in good condition as a public good.

Readers don’t get to choose to direct their taxes to a privately run book store. That money goes to public libraries, because libraries benefit the entire community.

Citizens don’t get to divert tax funds designated for police services to private security companies. Police and sheriff departments have resources provided by the government to benefit everyone.

When it comes to public schools, Americans seem to have forgotten what “public” means.

To Betsy DeVos, school choice is not simply the inherent right that every parent has to choose their child’s educational setting, it is all about requiring taxpayers to pick up the tab for that parent’s private individual choice, regardless of whether the parent chooses a public school, a charter school, a nonprofit private school, a religious school or even a fly-by-night online virtual school.

Historically, the United States has devoted itself to a comprehensive system of public schools, locally controlled and funded by public resources. Parents who didn’t want their children to attend the public schools, could, of course, pay for them to go to a private school.

But DeVos and her associates in the corporate education reform movement have been working hard to undermine that historic concept and replace it with one in which public funds are used to subsidize whatever “choice” a parent makes for their child.

In First Week on the Job, DeVos Shows She Likes Choice, Doesn’t Understand Public Education

In her radio interview with Smith, DeVos states her goal is to ensure that all schools ‘meet the need of every child that they serve, and in the cases that they don’t, parents and students should have other alternatives.’”

Secretary DeVos is wrong. Students should have schools that meet their needs. If a neighborhood public school doesn’t have the resources needed for every student, then it’s the responsibility of policy makers to provide those resources. Closing public schools and opening charter schools, or providing vouchers for parochial education, doesn’t improve public education. America’s public schools are improved when the stakeholders in the community and state provide the resources needed.

In her first week as education secretary, Betsy DeVos has given no indication that her grasp of school choice is any deeper than an ideological preference for individualism and the free market. I would have been at least a little reassured if DeVos had shown any sign of having thought about the issues that will complicate any efforts on her part to expand privatization through school choice. School choice must be evaluated by the way the expansion of “portable funding” affects all the children in a given geographic area, not merely by the test scores of the relatively few individual children who escape by winning a voucher or a place in a charter school. Here are just two research-based examples of easily available material DeVos could have studied, if she had been interested.

So far, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is just what her critics feared

Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos has been U.S. education secretary for only a few weeks, but already she has shown herself to be exactly what her critics feared. In her brief time running the Education Department she has (among other things):

*insulted teachers at a middle school
*bashed protesters, saying they are “hostile” to change and new ideas
*said she would be fine if the department she runs is shut down
*complained that critics want “to make my life a living hell”
*failed to participate in the first Twitter chat her department had for teachers on Feb. 21
*suggested schools should be able to compensate for troubles children have at home, such as absent fathers
*had U.S. marshals protect her after protesters blocked her entrance to a D.C. school door
*made a confusing statement about the Common Core State Standards
*made crystal clear that a top priority will be pushing for alternatives to traditional public schools, otherwise known as “school choice.”

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