Category Archives: Duncan

2020 Medley #11: DeVos, Cuts, and Online education

DeVos privatizes with pandemic funds,
The cuts have already begun,
Selfish Americans, the Digital Divide,
Real schools are better than online

DEVOS USES PANDEMIC TO FURTHER DAMAGE PUBLIC EDUCATION

Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education said that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” The test scores of students in New Orleans did improve, though that was likely due to increased funding (by nearly $1400 per student) and the fact that the number of students living in poverty decreased significantly. In any case, the point is that Duncan ignored the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Americans as an excuse to privatize public education.

Not to be outdone by this, Betsy DeVos is all for using the suffering of millions and the deaths of tens of thousands to support privatizing public education throughout the entire country.

Taking Duncan one step further, DeVos has ignored Congressional intent for the millions of dollars set aside to support public schools that serve all children and manipulated its distribution with “guidelines” intended to dump more than originally intended into the coffers of private and religious schools.

Just how much damage can this administration do to public education, and the rest of the country, before they are finally replaced next January?

Betsy DeVos Is Using The Coronavirus Pandemic To Push School Vouchers

Vouchers are a bad policy idea during the best of times, and during this pandemic, they’re even worse. Voucher programs don’t improve student achievement, lack appropriate oversight and accountability and, of course, violate religious freedom by forcing taxpayers to fund religious education at private schools. Public schools need public funds desperately right now. They must pay teachers and staff, provide technology and distance learning, support struggling students, and survive budget cuts. The last thing public schools need during a pandemic is DeVos’ unaccountable, unfair, and ineffective voucher agenda.

Small Things: Secretary DeVos, Twitter, and Teachers Vs. Charters

…I think it’s worth highlighting once again that we have a Secretary of Education who is not a supporter of public education or the people who work there, who is, in fact, far more excited about a privately-run system for replacing the institution that she is charged with overseeing. I can’t say that it’s highly abnormal, because the office has never attracted many people who really support public education, but it’s still weird that when public school teachers look up at state and federal authorities, they find people who are lined up against them. It’s a weird way to run a national education system.

DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

Asked whether she is using crisis to support private school choice, DeVos says ‘yes, absolutely’

“Am I correct in understanding what your agenda is?” [Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York] asks.

“Yes, absolutely,” DeVos responded. “For more than three decades that has been something that I’ve been passionate about. This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted, and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools versus private schools.”

The comments are DeVos’ clearest statement to date about how she hopes to pull the levers of federal power to support students already in — or who want to attend — private schools. She has already made that intention clear with her actions: releasing guidance that would effectively direct more federal relief funds to private schools, and using some relief dollars to encourage states to support alternatives to traditional public school districts.

THE CUTS HAVE ALREADY BEGUN

Schools Will Need Help to Recover

States are going to have to make up the money lost during the coronavirus pandemic somewhere, and if past history is any guide the public schools are going to suffer (Indiana schools are still waiting for money promised after the 2008 cuts). DeVos’s redistribution of funds intended for public schools is just the first in a long line of cuts to public schools.

The cuts have already begun, and they’re sobering. In April alone, nearly 470,000 public school employees across America were furloughed or laid off. That’s 100,000 more teachers and school staff who lost their jobs than during the worst point of the Great Recession a decade ago. At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we are closely analyzing state budget gaps because we know the tremendous harm that can result from funding cuts.

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced plans to cut $300 million in K-12 funding and $100 million in college and university funding for the current year. Meanwhile, Georgia’s top budget officials told the state’s schools to plan for large cuts for next year that will almost certainly force districts to lay off teachers and other workers.

AMERICAN SELFISHNESS

Weekend Quotables

Mike Klonsky, in his Weekend Quotables series, posted this picture. The residents of Flint, Michigan, while the state claims that the water is now ok, and 85% of the city’s pipes have been replaced, are still scared to drink their water. Meanwhile, some Americans are more concerned with their appearance than human lives…insisting that wearing masks make them “look ridiculous” or demanding haircuts.

DIGITAL (CLASS) DIVIDE

The Class Divide: Remote Learning at 2 Schools, Private and Public (Dana Goldstein)

Dana Goldstein, the author of The Teacher Wars, compares two different schools facing the coronavirus pandemic requirement to close. This is a clear description of how money provides more opportunities for some children than others.

Private school students are more likely to live in homes with good internet access, computers and physical space for children to focus on academics. Parents are less likely to be working outside the home and are more available to guide young children through getting online and staying logged in — entering user names and passwords, navigating between windows and programs. And unlike their public-school counterparts, private school teachers are generally not unionized, giving their employers more leverage in laying out demands for remote work.

ONLINE ED CANNOT REPLACE REAL SCHOOLS

Why online education can’t replace brick-and-mortar K-12 schooling

In the Public Interest has gathered research on online education, revealing a track record of poor academic performance, lack of equity and access, and concerns about privacy. Take a look…

Coronavirus has put the future of K-12 public education in question. School districts, teachers, and staff are mobilizing to provide students with online learning, emotional care, meals, and other support. Meanwhile, online education companies—with the ideological backing of right-wing think tanks—are aiming to further privatize public education and profit off of students.

It goes without saying that online education can’t replace the in-person teaching, social interaction, and—for many students—calories that a brick-and-mortar public school provides. However, that isn’t stopping some from arguing that much if not all of K-12 education should stay online after the crisis.

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Filed under Article Medleys, DeVos, DigitalDivide, Duncan, Flint, Lead, NewOrleans, OnlineLearning, Pandemic, poverty, Privatization, SchoolFunding

Republican Teachers: Tell legislators to support public education

Indiana’s Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, was careful to speak in non-partisan terms when she visited Fort Wayne last week. She didn’t call out one specific party for its anti-public education legislation, even though everyone in Indiana knows that the Republicans are doing their best to privatize and skimp on funding for public education.

McCormick is a Republican.

McCormick’s predecessor, Glenda Ritz, was also a Republican before she ran for the Superintendent’s position in 2012. She took office, however, as a Democrat…and ran into the wall of the Republican Supermajority for everything she wanted to do for public schools in Indiana.

In the 2016 election, Ritz and McCormick had similar platforms. McCormick, however, said that she could get things done because she was a Republican. She could talk to the members of her own party and get them to understand what public schools and public school teachers needed. She tried, but she was also stopped by the Republican legislators.

It doesn’t take the logic of Spock to deduce that the Republicans in the Indiana legislature are against public education. For the last dozen years the Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate have introduced and passed legislation aimed at funding vouchers and charters, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and starving public education.

But Glenda Ritz was a Republican before she was a Democrat, and she supported public education…and Jennifer McCormick is a Republican and she supports public education. Obviously not all Republicans, then, want to privatize the public schools.

REPUBLICAN TEACHERS

As a retired teacher in northeast Indiana, it’s been clear to me that many, if not most, of my former colleagues, have been Republicans. As public school educators, I assume that the vast majority of those same colleagues have been supporters of public education. For them to be otherwise would indicate a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

Are Republican public school teachers the only party members who support public education? Again, I’m doubtful of that. Many of my students’ parents were also Republicans and they were, on the whole, very supportive of their children’s schools.

Perhaps it’s only those Republicans who have no connection to public schools who support the legislators who are so intent on funding vouchers and charters at the expense of the constitutionally mandated public schools.

Or maybe it’s something else…maybe it’s money.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I’m not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I’m an ardent and enthusiastic Independent Education Voter. I understand that Democrats can be just as dangerous to public education as can Republicans.

Rahm Emanual in Chicago has worked hard during his tenure to privatize public education.

President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued the punishment of public education started by Bush II and No Child Left Behind. In some ways, Duncan was worse than current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

There is little doubt that campaign donations from pro-privatization organizations would transform at least some currently pro-public education Democrats into pro-privatization Democrats.

Because there’s a lot of evidence that it’s the money.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Hoosiers for Quality Education (H4QE), formerly Hoosiers for Economic Growth, is a pro-privatization group in Indiana. H4QE is funded by the DeVos family (American Federation for Children), Alice Walton (of the Walmart billions), and the Freedom Partners (The Koch Brothers). They support School Choice Indiana (aka The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, now known as EdChoice) (For more information on this convoluted set of relationships see Hoosier School Heist by Doug Martin). Suffice it to say — H4QE supports school privatization.

And they donate freely to Republicans during statewide elections.

H4QE donated $88,750 to Republicans on the House Education Committee

The Republican members of the House Education Committee received approximately $88,750 in 2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Bob Behning received $3000 and Chuck Goodrich got the largest donation, $36,000.

H4QE donated $99,500 to Republicans on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee

The members of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee received approximately $99,500 in 2016/2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Jeff Raatz pocketed a $9,000 donation. Member Linda Rogers accepted a whopping $50,000.

(On the other side, Democratic members of the House and Senate committees also received approximately $10,600 and $17,300 respectively from Indiana teachers’ unions, ISTA and IFT, a small amount compared to the privatizers.)

Republican members of those committees also received contributions from other groups such as Stand for Children, funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.

Privatizers donated $170,000 to Governor Eric Holcomb

Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana, also received 2016 contributions from privatizers…most notably the DeVos family. Holcomb received $15,000 from each of the following for a total of $90,000: American Federation for Children, Richard DeVos, Richard DeVos Jr (Betsy), Doug DeVos, Daniel DeVos, and Cheri DeVos-Vanderweide. Holcomb also received $50,000 from charter school operator Christel Dehaan, $100,000 from Jim Walton (of the Walton Family), and $20,000 from Walmart.

Is it possible that Republican politicians feel obligated to support privatization — vouchers and charters — because of the amount of money donated to their campaign coffers by pro-privatization groups and individuals?

One only has to look at the nomination and confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see how a billionaire donor can have an impact on the way politicians vote on issues.

WHICH CAME FIRST, DONATIONS OR IDEOLOGY?

When our local representative, Dave Heine, ran for the first time, he came to talk to our public education advocacy group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. He was a Republican, but seemed very receptive to listening to us and agreed with us on many aspects of supporting public schools. In 2018, however, he joined ALEC, and received a $1000 campaign donation from H4QE. He votes in line with the Republican supermajority on public education legislation.

Would Rep. Heine have voted with the pro-privatization forces in the legislature if he had not gotten any campaign donations from privatizers? Which came first, the donation which has obligated him to support the positions of H4QE, or his willingness to defund public schools and deprofessionalize public school teachers?

In my corner of the state, the nine Republican House members and the five Republican Senators received 2016/2018 campaign contributions of $48,100 from H4QE.

HOW CAN WE FIGHT THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS GOING TO PRIVATIZATION?

Millions statewide, that is…billions nationwide.

Public schools don’t have the resources to donate thousands of campaign dollars to compete with billionaire-funded organizations like H4QE, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the DeVos family. Neither do teachers’ unions. Neither do public school parents.

So what can Republican teachers, who still want to support the Republican party and vote for Republican candidates do? What should you do if you don’t want to vote for the Democratic candidate — assuming there even is one?

Become an Education voter. Learn the education positions of your candidates. If they support private school vouchers and charters, tell them your position…and tell them you expect them to support public schools if they’re elected.

Just because you vote for someone doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything they do.

Get to know your local legislators. Invite them into your classroom and let them see how public education works. Some Republican legislators have never set foot in a public school…never attended public school…never sent their children to public school. Tell them the stories from your school. Tell them how much you donate to your own classroom each year to help your students learn. Be an advocate for your students, your classroom, and your school.

Follow bills in the legislature. Pay attention to how your local Representatives and Senators vote. Let them know if you disapprove. Thank them when they support public education.

Support for public education doesn’t have to be partisan. Jennifer McCormick has proven that a Republican can support public schools. We need Republican citizens to support their public schools as well. We can change the balance if we work together.

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Filed under Charters, Duncan, Emanuel, IN Gen.Assembly, McCormick, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, Ritz, vouchers

2018 Medley #22

Still Poisoning Our Children,
Public Education, Teachers Get Angry, Vouchers,
School Improvement,
Arne Duncan Wasn’t a Good EdSec (but you knew that). 

 

WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR POISONING OUR CHILDREN?

Still a problem and still outrageous: Too many kids can’t drink the water in their schools

History will likely reflect negatively on how we Americans have treated our children. Take their health, for example.

We know that lead causes damage, especially to young children. It causes things like developmental delay, learning difficulties, hearing loss, and seizures (It’s also not that great for adults causing high blood pressure, mood disorders and reproductive problems). There is no safe level of lead in the bloodstream.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on military defense, but can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning at home. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.

…it’s not just in Michigan: A new U.S. government report says millions of children were potentially exposed to unsafe drinking water at their schools, but nobody really knows how many. Why? Because many states don’t bother running the tests.

A July 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which surveyed school districts across the country on testing for lead in drinking water in 2017, found:

● 41 percent of districts, serving 12 million students, had not tested for lead in the 12 months before completing the survey.

● 43 percent of districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead. Of those, 37 percent found elevated levels and reduced or eliminated exposure.

And then there was this: 16 percent of the districts replied to the nationally representative survey by saying that they did not know whether they had tested.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A RIGHT, A PUBLIC GOOD, OR A CONSUMER PRODUCT?

Why School Reform Flounders

Is education a Right, a Public Good, an American tradition, a vehicle for fixing social inequities, an imposition on non-White/non-middle class children, or a public utility? Is it a private matter, a religious affair, a consumer product, or a national security imperative?

It would seem that the Indiana Constitution, quoted above, considers it a right.

Here is an interesting read about public education and its place in our society…

As historians like Prof. Cuban have long pointed out, the question of whether or not education is a basic right needs to take its place in line with all the other fundamental questions about education. Is it a right? Is it a public utility? Is it a tool of class domination?

 

TEACHERS GET ANGRY

The Teachers Movevement: Arizona Lawmakers Cut Education Budgets. Then Teachers Got Angry

It’s been a long time coming, but teachers are finally standing up for themselves and their students. Read this excellent piece on the Arizona teacher uprising.

The attacks seemed only to galvanize teachers. “They called us socialists, Marxists, communists! I’m a Republican!”

ANTI-PUBLIC EDUCATION: FUNDING

Arizona Supreme Court Blocks Ballot Initiative to Fund Public Education

Years of budget slashing, tax cutting, and lack of support for the public good, has left Arizona schools underfunded and struggling.

Paying taxes for the common good? That time has, apparently, passed us by.

From Jan Resseger

Paying taxes for the common good. What a novel idea these days—and something blocked last week by the Arizona Supreme Court. Failing to connect the taxes we pay with what the money buys, many of us find it easy to object to more taxes, but the case of Arizona makes the arithmetic clear. After slashing taxes for years, Arizona doesn’t have enough money to pay for public schools and universities. Not enough for the barest essentials.

 

TEACHERS MUST STAY ANGRY

Standing Up

The test-and-punish, micromanagement, and belittling of teachers/public schools, has been a constant for decades. It doesn’t work to help children learn, but it’s apparent now that children’s learning has never really been the reason for so-called “education reform.” It’s all been done for privatization.

Privatization is not just for better schools any more (since it’s been shown that it doesn’t help). Now it’s for “choice.” The privatizers believe that parents should get to choose where their education tax-dollars are spent, and to hell with the common good.

I wonder how many of those pro-choice parents and politicians are pro-choice when it comes to women’s reproductive choice, or a parent’s choice to opt out of “the test.”

Public school teachers — and those who are hoping to become public school teachers — have to accept the fact that it is up to them (along with parents and pro-public education citizens) to fight for the survival of public schools.

Teachers, you can’t just close your doors and teach anymore.

After twenty years of ed reform, teachers have arrived at a point where they cannot shut the door and teach. Every teacher has to be an advocate for her profession, her school, and the institution of public education. Every policy and directive that descends from above has to be examined for its various effects, both on education and the profession, because teachers can no longer trust the People In Charge. The people who should be helping to smooth the road are building speed bumps and brick walls instead. To shut your door and teach is to the door to your room in a burning building; you may not feel the heat yet, but if you do nothing, you will surely feel it soon.

When we talk about reasons that so many fewer people pursue or stay with a teaching career, I’m not sure we discuss this point enough. You may want to Just Teach, but that will not be an option. You will have to fight constantly just to get to do your job. It’s a huge disincentive– “I would really like to do that job, but it looks like I won’t really get to do the job I want to do.”

 

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Ready, Fire, Aim: Vouchers Hurt Math Scores for Low Income Students

After seven years of running the nation’s most expansive voucher program…

After a half billion dollars of public money diverted to private, religious, schools…

We now hear policy makers suggesting that we “study and evaluate” the concept of vouchers.

Now?

Low income students were the ostensible reason for Indiana’s aggressive voucher policy. I’ve argued for a long time that this was a pretext — the real reason was 1) subsidizing religious education; 2) hurting teachers unions; and 3) diverting money to friends and well-wishers of policymakers — but, if you take lawmakers at their word that this was being done to help low income students, then it looks like we’ve wasted a lot of money and done some harm in the process.

Says State Board of Education member, Gordon Hendry, “The conclusions are somewhat concerning. It demonstrates the need for further study and evaluation so we can have more data about the results of this program.” With all due respect (and at least Hendry responded to the South Bend Tribune), the time for study was before we jumped into the voucher pond with both feet…

 

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

Indiana officials didn’t have to go far to find a new model for improving schools

I’m all for school improvement and it’s possible that this program will provide needed help, although I’m not sure that Chicago should be our role model for improving schools. You can learn about 5Essentials here and here.

My big fear with this program, and others like it, is that politicians and policy makers will impose a program on the public schools and then blame students, teachers, and schools if and when it doesn’t work. They don’t accept their share of the responsibility. Accountability is never taken by the policy makers, it’s only imposed, along with the mandates, on those in the schools.

Politicians and Policy makers, try this program, to be sure, but accept responsibility for our state and nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty and it’s impact on school achievement!

The 5 Essentials model focuses on five qualities that strong schools share — effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. The Indiana Department of Education has built its own evaluation around these attributes. The state will start using its model based on the 5 Essentials at low-performing schools in their annual school quality reviews, which begin in October and are done by a team of experts, local educators, and school administrators or board members.

Arne Duncan with his boss…lest we forget that the Democrats are/were complicit in school “reform.”

THE EDUCATION LIES

Duncan and DeVos Are Both Wrong, We Need Old School Reform

The education lies discussed in this article are

  • money does not matter
  • ineffective teachers are ruining public schools
  • charter schools will outperform public schools
  • federal leadership on rigorous standards will save us all

Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings may have been worse. Betsy DeVos might be the VERY worst. But Arne Duncan was no slouch when it came to running a damaging U.S. Education Department!

The “education reforms” that Duncan says worked—desegregation and more equalized school funding—preceded his tenure as Secretary. He did nothing to further those reforms. Instead, he routinely pushed through reforms that didn’t work. An honest appraisal of the past decade reveals that Duncan caused more harm than good.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Duncan, Lead, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, reform, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

Public Education is a Public Responsibility

John Merrow’s latest blog post is a review of Arne Duncan’s new book, “How Schools Work.”

My first thought about Duncan’s book was how ironic it was that someone who had never attended a public school or worked in a public school, claimed to know how schools actually work. But that’s something I’ve ranted about many times, and I’ll try not to do it again in this post…

 

As I was reading I thought that Merrow’s review was generally thoughtful and fair, but then I read the comments.

Blogger GF Brandenburg commented…

gfbrandenburg
August 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm

You didn’t really expect him to admit that all his efforts to improve education, USING HIS OWN YARDSTICKS, namely the NAEP, actually failed miserably, do you?

I draw an additional lesson: you should let neither professional athletes nor neophytes (ie neither Michelle Rhee’ nor her two husbands, nor Arne Duncan, nor Andre Agassi, nor Lebron James, nor Betsy DeVos) run education.

Merrow replied…

John Merrow
August 17, 2018 at 7:27 am

Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present….End of story.

Am I wrong in thinking that Merrow’s response seemed to imply that it’s ok for non-education-professionals such as Rhee, DeVos, Gates, et al, to run schools, create and implement school policy, and make decisions affecting the 50 million public school children in the U. S.? Because, “Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present…”

I agree that they have the “legal” right to do those things…but the “ethical” right, the “professional” right, the “educationally sound” right? Not so much.

Education is still something that most people think “anyone can do” since “we all went to school.”

Why is education singled out as something “anyone can do?” Public Health is also a public responsibility, but we generally find health professionals making choices and policy in that area.

When has there ever been a Surgeon General who did not have some connection to a medical profession? (Answer: Never) When has there ever been an Attorney General who hadn’t studied law? (Answer: Never) Yet only 3 of the eleven Secretaries of Education had degrees in education or teaching experience in K-12 education (Bell, Page, and King).

Unfortunately, the problems facing education are complicated and generally come from the outside such as the effects of poverty on children and their families and the inequity of funding. If Duncan, as a sociologist (Harvard, BA, 1987), had used his position to try to impact the social order that has led to one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, that would have been different. But he didn’t. He pushed policies that had a direct impact on how schools were run, how teachers were evaluated (junk science), and how tests were used (misused). Duncan, like most education “reformers” who are ignorant of what goes on inside a school, tried to affect the education of America’s students by doing things to schools, rather than aiming at the out-of-school-factors.

Public education is a public responsibility, but that is not the end of the story. There can be no “race to the top” when kids, schools, and school systems don’t all have the same starting point. We can’t have “no child left behind” while children are still being left behind economically and socially. We will never be a nation where “every child succeeds” until we are a nation where every child is given a fair chance to succeed.

The achievement gap will continue to plague us until we can rid ourselves of the economics gap…and the racial gap. No amount of charter schools, vouchers, or the misuse of testing will change that.

 

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Filed under Duncan, poverty, Public Ed

2018 Medley #20

Segregation, Testing Toddlers, VAM, Duncan Still Unqualified, Why Teachers Quit, Giving Kids Books, Charters

SCHOOL SEGREGATION

Why Is This Happening? Investigating school segregation in 2018 with Nikole Hannah-Jones: podcast and transcript

The U.S. gave up on integrattion. Public school systems are more segregated than when Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down sixty-four years ago. This is all complicated by our underfunding of public education, especially for black and brown students.

So where is the concept of the public good — where is the concept of “promote the general welfare”?

Nikole Hannah-Jones is one of the few voices calling for Americans to teach their children…all their children…together.

…who the hell pays your social security one day?

Right, when we’re a country that is very quickly going to be a minority white country and you’re gonna continue to under-educate half of the population of your country, then what jobs are they gonna get that are gonna help pay for the infrastructure of this country, that are gonna help pay your social security.

 

TESTING

Toddlers and Preschool Testing? Don’t Steal the Joy of Reading!

From the makers of DIBELS comes a new test…this one for toddlers. The next step in educational malpractice.

A child three years old is still a toddler. What demands, if any, should be placed on a child this young when it comes to learning to read? Will it harm their chances of enjoying reading in the future? This is what we should ask when it comes to the new PELI testing.

The same creators of DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills), the controversial assessment started with the controversial program Reading First, following the recommendations of the controversial National Reading Panel, now have reading assessment for children as young as three years old.

DIBELS uses nonsense syllables which might not mean anything to a child. There are other problems with the assessment according to reading expert Ken Goodman who edited Examining DIBELS: What it is What it Does.

 

Top 10 Reasons You Can’t Fairly Evaluate Teachers on Student Test Scores

Using student test scores to evaluate teachers isn’t appropriate, yet we still do it. There’s no rational reason for continuing a practice that even the American Statistical Association says is statistically unreliable and invalid. This ignorant use of numbers is just another example of America’s anti-science and anti-intellectualism.

Steven Singer lists 10 reasons why VAM is junk science…

2) You can’t assess teachers on tests that were made to assess students.

This violates fundamental principles of both statistics and assessment. If you make a test to assess A, you can’t use it to assess B. That’s why many researchers have labeled the process “junk science” – most notably the American Statistical Association in 2014. Put simply, the standardized tests on which VAM estimates are based have always been, and continue to be, developed to assess student achievement and not growth in student achievement nor growth in teacher effectiveness. The tests on which VAM estimates are based were never designed to estimate teachers’ effects. Doing otherwise is like assuming all healthy people go to the best doctors and all sick people go to the bad ones. If I fail a dental screening because I have cavities, that doesn’t mean my dentist is bad at his job. It means I need to brush more and lay off the sugary snacks.

 

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan says U.S. education system “not top 10 in anything”

I agreed with some of what Duncan had to say in his interview on Face the Nation. Unfortunately, when he had the chance to change things he made them worse.

In 2015 I wrote,

Look what we got…Arne Duncan — who never set foot in a public school as either a student or a teacher — and Race to the Top which doubled down on No Child Left Behind’s labeling of low test takers as losers. Arne Duncan, who cheered when an entire school full of teachers in Rhode Island were fired because the school was “low achieving” (aka filled with high poverty students). Arne Duncan, who manipulated federal dollars meant for low income students so that it became a contest to see which states could raise the caps on Charters fast enough and evaluate teachers based on test scores.

It’s the ultimate of ironies that this man wrote a book called “How Schools Work.”

“We say we value education, but we never vote on education. We never hold politicians accountable — local, state or national level — for getting better results,” Duncan, the education secretary under President Obama, said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday. He added that the “toughest lie” for him personally is that “we say we value kids, and we’ve raised a generation of young people, teens, who have been raised on mass shootings and gun violence, and that simply doesn’t happen in other nations.”

“I don’t look at what people say. I look at their actions, their policies. I look at their budgets. Our values don’t reflect that we care about education or we care about teachers or that we truly care about keeping our children safe and free of fear,” Duncan said.

 

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Brittani Pollock: “I Left Teaching. I Had To.”

Here is yet another story about a teacher who left teaching. In this case it’s because of lack of funding in poorly funded Oklahoma. Americans are so intent on paying no taxes that we’re sabatoging our future.

I’m donating my blog today to a former student, now friend, Brittani. She was my student and an officer in my club, Teen Volunteers, at Norman North. I always knew she wanted to be a teacher, you could see her deep love of children when she volunteered. I watched her get her teaching degree and watched as she began what we both thought would be a long career in the classroom. I planned to watch her become a National Board Certified Teacher. Things did not work out the way we hoped. And my heart is broken for every student who will never know Miss Pollock’s love.

 

GIVE KIDS BOOKS

Dolly Parton’s literacy program donates its 100 millionth book to Library of Congress

Before LeBron James, there was Dolly Parton. She started the Imagination Library in 1995. From the Imagination Library web site

…a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income.

After launching in 1995, the program grew quickly. First books were only distributed to children living in Sevier County, Tennessee where Dolly grew up. It became such a success that in 2000 a national replication effort was underway. By 2003, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library had mailed one million books. It would prove to be the first of many millions of books sent to children around the world.

Earlier this year the Imagination Library sent out its 100 millionth book.

Alongside Carla Hayden, who heads the Library of Congress, the iconic country singer dedicated the 100 millionth book from her Imagination Library to the research library. Through the nonprofit, she has been donating millions of books to children for more than 20 years.

 

…as of August 1, 2018

The 4th Annual National Give-A-Kid-A-Book Day

Speaking of giving kids books, last July 6 was the fourth annual Give-A-Kid-A-Book day. Did you remember? Russ Walsh reminds us every year.

It’s not too late…give-a-kid-a-book today.

Literacy research has shown that the single best way to combat summer reading loss is to get books in kids hands. One way to do this is to give children books.

Participation is easy. All you need to do to is find a child and give that child a book. The child could be your own, a neighbor’s child, a student, a grandchild, one of your own kid’s friends, children in a homeless shelter. Just give the child a book and say, “I thought you might enjoy this.” Some participants like to include a lollipop or other small sweet treat to send the message, “Reading is Sweet!”, but the most important thing is to give a kid book.

 

CHARTERS

In the Public Interest’s weekly privatization report

In the Public Interest posts a weekly privatization report. The reports cover more than just the privatization of public schools. Here is just one of eleven different reports about charter schools from this week’s report.

You might also be interested in taking a look at Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts.

29) Pennsylvania Just a few weeks before the start of the new school year, Wonderland Charter School in Ferguson Township is closing its doors, sending students and parents scrambling after they received email notification. “During the charter review, several people associated with Wonderland, including board members, teachers and parents, informed the board of directors of their concerns with the charter: ‘long-standing, calculated, inappropriate, and unlawful practices with respect to students with special needs,’ according to a letter to the board from Superintendent Bob O’Donnell.”

 

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The Common Knowledge is Wrong

NATIONAL “REFORM” IS BIPARTISAN

Here in Indiana we’re used to blaming Republicans for the “reformist” changes to public education – changes which are ongoing! Changes which are the not-so-new status quo.

It is the Republicans who, over the last decade, have authored and expanded the voucher and charter programs which divert funds from public schools to private pockets. It is the Republicans who still push to continue the test and punish policies of the Bush II and Obama administrations. It is the Republicans who worked hard to deprofessionalize the teaching profession by reducing collective bargaining options, evaluating teachers using student test scores, allowing off-the-street college grads to start teaching with no pedagogical training, and eliminating the option to pay higher salaries to teachers with more experience and training (In what other profession is experience a detriment to salary increases?).

Lest we forget, however, the Democrats nationwide have not necessarily been friends to public education. Arne Duncan did his best to coerce states into expanding charter schools while no research existed to suggest any advantage. He was not above threatening states who didn’t accept the Common Core, expand charters, or continue test and punish policies.

So, nationally, the “reforms” have come from bipartisan sources. Sometimes Republicans. Sometimes Democrats. What is it about public education that makes it a target of political tampering, obstruction, and destruction? The answer is power…and most importantly, money.

Control over public education is, by definition, political. Public education is funded with public money which needs public oversight – a political activity. There is also the lure of billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on public education every year. Privatizers of all political stripes want to get their hands on that money and they are using political means to get it. One important way has been to promote the myth that America’s public education system is “broken” and schools are “failing.”

TALKATHON

From noon on February 6th to noon on February 7th the Democrats in the U.S. Senate staged a “talkathon” against the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education – with the occasional interruption by a Republican Senator to speak in her favor. The event was, of course, unsuccessful, and we’re now faced with the least prepared U.S. Secretary of Education since the department was created in 1980, and possibly since the creation of the Office of Education in 1867.

I listened to the “talkathon” for several hours on February 6th, and I heard Democrats decrying the inexperience, conflicts of interest, and general unpreparedness of DeVos…along with lofty and passionate calls to unite to save our public schools.

I agreed with most of what they said, but there were some who used the same arguments from the Bush/Cheney and Duncan/Obama privatization agenda. It isn’t clear from their speeches (Full Disclosure: I have not listened to or read all of them) whether they are against closing schools and replacing them with charters or not. Still, there were examples of disinformation which perpetuated the myth of “failing” schools.

One example came from Colorado Senator Michael F. Bennet who quoted these statistics…

Congressional Record – Senate, February 6, 2017, p.S725

As a nation, we are falling behind the rest of the world…American 15-year-olds score lower than their peers in 14 countries in reading, 36 countries in math, and 18 in science.

Those who have studied the PISA scores, which is the “score” he is referring to, should understand that it’s America’s greater number of students who live in poverty that has skewed our international scores lower than those of other OECD nations.

This isn’t anything new, by the way, so we’re not “falling behind.” American students’ test scores have always been middling, since the international tests were begun in the 1960s.

The U.S. child poverty rate of over 20% compares unfavorably to most other advanced nations in the world (Finland, for example, has a child poverty rate of 5%). The fact that children in poverty don’t achieve as high as their wealthier peers puts the U.S. at a disadvantage when comparing test scores. Our average test scores are lower because within that average is a larger number of scores from students who live in poverty.

Steven Krashen explains [with my emphasis]…

The secretary of education’s first priority

Research consistently confirms that low academic achievement is the result of poverty. In some urban areas, the child poverty level is 80% (the national average is an unacceptable 21%; in high-scoring Finland it is 5%).

When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students’ performance on international tests is near the top of the world. This shows that low achievement is not due to poor teaching, low standards, or unions. The major cause is poverty.

Poverty means food deprivation, insufficient medical care, and little access to reading material; each of these has a strong negative impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world will not help if children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.

Krashen kindly cites research for his statements – See here. Check out his blog for dozens of other posts with similar conclusions and loads of research citations.

The test scores of our wealthier students show that American schools are not failing and that high rates of child poverty are causing our scores to be unremarkable. Of course there are some teachers, administrators, and schools who could do a better job of reaching their students, but on the whole, our schools do well. However, politicians, including Democrats, have a hard time assuming their share of the responsibility for the shamefully high child poverty in our nation. It’s easier to talk about “failing” schools and “bad” teachers…it’s easier to blame the teachers unions and even college teacher preparation programs…than to face the fact that our lowest performing schools are often under-resourced and under-supported. It’s easier to blame schools and teachers than share any responsibility for schools filled with our most economically challenged children who come to school with significant disadvantages.

THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE IS WRONG

Senator Bennet is not the only one, of course, and it’s even possible that his reference to test scores was only to make a political point and he actually understands that poverty plays a significant role in student achievement. But his quote reinforces the idea that American schools are “failing.” It’s common knowledge.

Well, the common knowledge is wrong.

Steven Singer, blogger at gadflyonthewallblog, recently posted an article about this subject (I used a quote from his article in a previous post) which also ran on the Huffington Post.

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

Here’s why: the United States educates everyone. Most other countries do not.

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.

That can’t be said of many countries with which we’re often compared – especially countries comparable to the U.S. in size or diversity. So from the get-go, we have an advantage over most of the world.

We define education differently. Though our laws are woefully backward, in practice we look at it as a right, not a privilege. And for a full 13 years (counting kindergarten) it’s a right for every child, not just some.

But that’s not all! We also provide some of the highest quality education you can get in the world! We teach more, help more, achieve more and yet we are criticized more than any system in any country in the world.

We don’t exclude economically disadvantaged students from our schools. We don’t exclude students with special needs from our schools. We don’t exclude students with behavioral challenges [added later, h/t Joe V]. America’s public schools, unlike private and privately run schools, must accept everyone.

Instead of blaming schools for societal problems…instead of privatizing…we ought to spend our time, energy, and resources on improving the schools we have. All of us, politicians included, should accept responsibility for the national shame that is our high child poverty rate.

The challenge that faces us is to teach our fellow citizens the truth. The truth is that our schools have not failed, our teachers are not incompetent, teachers unions are not responsible for low achievement, and test scores should not define the success or failure of a child or a school.

With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, that challenge just got a lot harder.

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2016 Medley #1

Hope for Public Education, Duncan, Privatization, Elections, Children As Products, ESSA, Testing

EXPERTS SPEAK

Can Schools Be Fixed? Experts on K-12 education offer their reasons for optimism and pessimism going forward.

This article has the wrong title.

Herein we get predictions from people who are “experts” in education (In this case, there are some people who have actually taught school and studied education, for a change). Some of their comments are thought provoking. Many of the writers claim that ESSA is a reason to hope for improvements to public education. Diane Ravitch, on the other hand, ignores ESSA which will do little to help our children escape test-and-punish education which is now the norm in America (see ESSA is a Lot of Suds, below). Instead she writes of the trust American’s have with their own, local school systems. She says she is hopeful for two reasons…

The reasons for hope are two-fold: first, the public doesn’t want to abandon its community public schools. No district or state has ever voted to privatize its schools. Second, every so-called “reform” has failed to promote better education or equal opportunity for the neediest children. Neither charters nor vouchers consistently get better results for children, unless they exclude the weakest students. Measuring teachers by student test scores has been a costly failure. The great majority of the public admires their public schools and their teachers and wants them to be better, more equitably funded, not eliminated. If democracy works, these misguided “reforms” will be consigned to the ashcan of history.

But the focus of this article’s title is wrong. “Can Schools Be Fixed?” In their introduction the authors themselves explain why there’s more that must be fixed besides America’s schools [emphasis added].

…Education is often touted as a means for boosting social mobility and making communities more equal, but inequality in school funding and resources has made that difficult to achieve, especially amid increasing poverty rates. Segregation in districts, both tacit and explicit, is holding scores of children back, and performance on math and reading assessments has remained relatively stagnant…

QUESTIONS FOR DUNCAN

Race To the Top Redux

Arne Duncan is gone and John King is the new acting Secretary of Education. The damage done by Obama’s Education Department remains, however. Mark Naison lists questions which need to be answered. [bullets added to improve readability]

When the full accounting of the Obama Administration’s Race to The Top is made, the following questions will have to be answered

  • How many schools were closed?
  • How many great teachers were fired or forced into retirement?
  • How many teachers still on the job were placed under a doctors care because test based accountability had destroyed their self-confidence
  • How many communities experienced sharp declines in the number of teachers of color working in their schools?
  • How many new charter schools were created which were embroiled in controversy because of financial irregularities or abusive practices?
  • ….

SCRAPING

WEEKEND QUOTABLE

Mike Klonsky and his brother Fred are bloggers from Chicago. The picture below is one done by brother Fred and posted on brother Mike’s blog. It depicts Arne Duncan looking for his replacement, John King.

A PRIMER ON PRIVATIZATION

A primer on the damaging movement to privatize public schools

An excellent summary of the test-blame-privatize movement from Marion Brady.

Look at standardized tests from the kids’ perspective. Test items (a) measure recall of secondhand, standardized, delivered information, or (b) require a skill to be demonstrated, or (c) reward an ability to second-guess whoever wrote the test item. Because kids didn’t ask for the information, because the skill they’re being asked to demonstrate rarely has immediate practical use, and because they don’t give a tinker’s dam what the test-item writer thinks, they have zero emotional investment in what’s being tested.

As every real teacher knows, no emotional involvement means no real learning. Period. What makes standardized tests look like they work is learner emotion, but it’s emotion that doesn’t have anything to do with learning. The ovals get penciled in to avoid trouble, to please somebody, to get a grade, or to jump through a bureaucratic hoop to be eligible to jump through another bureaucratic hoop. When the pencil is laid down, what’s tested, having no perceived value, automatically erases from memory.

POLITICS

Bernie Sanders: I Oppose Charter Schools

At last Bernie gives us a glimpse – but only a glimpse – of his K-12 education agenda. It’s nice to know that he is against privatization through charters. Now, what about excessive testing, accountability based on test scores, vouchers, “turnaround schools,” and the rest?

“I’m not in favor of privately run charter schools. If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. I believe in public education; I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education. I really do.” – Bernie Sanders (Quote begins at 1:48:32)

For a more detailed discussion see the following two entries in Anthony Cody’s blog, Living in Dialogue.

Cruz campaign official says Christians must take over public schools to stop ‘deception of the seed’

Elections matter. Voting matters [emphasis added].

Dunbar said nearly all American students attend public schools — which she warned were a secular plot to turn children away from Republican values.

“When we have 88 to 90 percent, which is approximately the number of the students that are being educated within our socialized education system, effectively indoctrinating our children with our own tax dollars, guess what?” she said. “We lose every other issue. We lose life, we lose marriage — we lose all of it. So I think this is the linchpin issue.”

CHILDREN ARE NOT PRODUCTS

My Daughter is Not a Widget

Here’s a beautiful piece by Steven Singer (the gadflyonthewall) about why Exxon-Mobile’s CEO’s view of America’s children is misguided. Children are not products. Education is not a business. There’s more to educating children than “college and career-ready standards.”

I am but a simple man. I don’t bring in a six-figure salary. I’m a teacher in that same public school system. I’m also the father of an elementary student. I am a man of no monetary means and thus little merit. But I say this: the Tillersons of this world are wrong. Our children are worth more than these tiny bean counter brains realize. The purpose of education is not to provide more resources for their pointless game of Monopoly.

My daughter has a life, and her education is a tool to enrich that life. It is her vehicle of understanding the world around her. It is a process to invigorate her sense of wonder. It is a method of understanding how things work and where she fits in the universe.

Yes, she will one day need to seek employment. But what she chooses as her occupation will be up to her. SHE will decide where she fits in, Mr. Tillerson, not you. SHE will decide what is valuable in her life. SHE will decide if she wants to spend her hours in the pursuit of profits or less tangible enterprises.

As such, she needs literature – not standardized tests. She needs mysteries to solve – not Common Core. She needs equitable resources – not charter schools. She needs teachers with advanced degrees and dedication to their jobs – not Teach for America temps… [emphasis in original]

ESSA IS A “LOT OF SUDS”

New education law: a lot of suds

A lot has been written about the new education law, ESSA. Here are four point that must be remembered when thinking about the new law. In essence, the horrible parts of NCLB and RttT are not necessarily gone…they’ve just been handed over to the states to oversee. The overemphasis on testing is still there. The developmentally inappropriate standards are still there. The accountability (aka punishment) based on test scores is still there. The financial incentive for charters is still there [emphasis added].

— Testing: The issue of greatest public concern was too much standardized testing, which generated a parents’ rebellion. The administration said the onerous requirements should be relieved. So what got relieved? Well, nothing. The same grades still have the same tests. In addition, some states are developing “interim” assessments. Psychometricians are getting apoplexy trying to figure out how such Rube Goldberg contraptions can work. Tighter restrictions are placed on testing severely handicapped children and on those who do not speak English. The quadra-power may not be so mountain fresh.

— Standards: The Common Core State Standards were reviled on both the left and the right. So the new law contains tough, unequivocal “ultra deep” language prohibiting the U. S. secretary from forcing or even encouraging states to adopt the common core or any other particular set of state standards. Instead, states must still adopt federally approved “challenging,” state standards, at a “comparable” level.

— Accountability: Previously, schools had to meet ever-increasing goals for each year or be subject to state intervention. Whereas the new system requires the state to intervene in the lowest performing 5 percent, any high school that has a low graduation rate, and those schools that are not making sufficient progress in closing the achievement gap. In the old system, all schools faced sanctions if every student could not meet very high standards. In the new system, since every state has a lowest 5 percent, schools in high-scoring states will be subject to intervention no matter how high they score. (You may be having problems telling the difference between the 100- and the 92-ounce jugs).

— Federal spending: Here’s where the price increase slides in. Much was hurrahed about the increase in federal spending of $1.4 billion. That’s a nice piece of change until you consider that the nation currently spends about $650 billion per year on education — which makes the increase a touch over one-fifth of 1 percent. Not mentioned is that federal education spending was cut 20 percent over the past five years. We haven’t caught up with where we were before the recession. The new law also slips $333 million of the money to charter schools.

As weak and inadequate as this effort is, we can be pleased our federal government was able to act on something. We can also take some limited comfort in this token effort to address the needs of our economically deprived and children of color.

Unfortunately, the new suds look disappointingly like the old suds. But it isn’t the similarity of the old and new that is the problem — it is the mindless repetition and continuation of an utterly ineffective test-based reform system that must concern us.

ISTEP IS “ILL-SUITED”

United on ISTEP+: State leaders show they grasp test’s weaknesses

I know I’m beating a dead horse…because the state has decided that student achievement testing should be used to evaluate teachers and schools, even given that the tests haven’t been developed for that purpose.

However, if enough people hear this and raise the question, perhaps the policy can be changed.

ISTEP is an “ill-suited tool for measuring the performance of students, teachers, schools and school corporations.” The problem is not that the testing process had some problems last year (although that surely is an issue to correct). The problem is that, as Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “We’re using the wrong kinds of tests…We’re using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.”

ISBA’s position speaks to the much larger problem with ISTEP+: It is an ill-suited tool for measuring performance of students, teachers, schools and school corporations. The push to do so comes from so-called school reform groups like Stand for Children and the pro-voucher Institute for Quality Education, both of which testified Wednesday in opposition to the accountability delay.

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