Category Archives: Gates

2020 Medley #10: Thoughts on Reimagining Public Schools

Thoughts on Reimagining Public Schools

GOV. CUOMO CALLS ON BILLIONAIRES

Screen New Deal: Under Cover of Mass Death, Andrew Cuomo Calls in the Billionaires to Build a High-Tech Dystopia

When it’s time to fix society’s problems — with established ideas or innovations — politicians call on billionaires even if they have no training or experience in the area needing help: economics, education, government, whatever.

Andrew Cuomo has handled the coronavirus pandemic in his state of New York with what many people believe to be high-quality governance. He’s helped his state through the toughest parts of the pandemic with poise and confidence. Now it’s time to plan for the future…so what does he do? He calls on billionaires.

One of the billionaires is Bill Gates. Cuomo has asked Gates to help develop a “smarter education system.” This directive assumes that Gates and his foundation have the ability to create such a system. Unfortunately, Gates’s ideas for school reform haven’t worked in the past, and there’s no indication that they will work on the other side of the pandemic. Gates has no experience in public education. He didn’t attend public schools. He has no teaching qualifications and never worked in a public school. His only experience in education is throwing money into his inexperienced and often poorly thought out educational programs. [For some information on the failures of Bill Gates’s education “innovations” see here, here, here, here, and here. See also Anthony Cody’s book, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation]

Naomi Klein writes…

Just one day earlier, Cuomo had announced a similar partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop “a smarter education system.” Calling Gates a “visionary,” Cuomo said the pandemic has created “a moment in history when we can actually incorporate and advance [Gates’s] ideas … all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?” he asked, apparently rhetorically.

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

The School Year Really Ended in March

This New York Times “Economic View” calls for investing millions of federal dollars to help those kids who have been left behind by the pandemic to catch up. The idea of helping students learn…and helping students catch up is a good one. The idea of increasing federal funding to help the students is also good. Beyond that, there’s not too much innovation in this other than in paying underqualified and unemployed college graduates to tutor students who fell behind during the pandemic. Teach for America, anyone?

The federal government can tap unused energy and talent by funding a big domestic volunteer effort for our schools, in the style of AmeriCorps. There will be far too many unemployed college students — and graduates — in the coming years, because recessions always hit young workers the hardest.

Young people could be paid a stipend to tutor, troubleshoot technology for online classes, assist teachers (virtually or in person) and disinfect classrooms. High school students who typically work during the summer and after school could be paid to attend classes themselves.

IDEAS FROM ACTUAL STAKEHOLDERS

Instead of billionaires might Governor Cuomo (and the rest of the nation) do better to ask people who actually have a stake in the public schools? Shouldn’t we rely on people who attend, work in, or send their children to the public schools? Why do we insist that so-called “business leaders” make decisions about public education with little or no input from teachers?

Ask Moms How to Reimagine Public Schools!

Nancy Bailey asked moms how they thought schools should be “reimagined.” I don’t know the economic status of the moms who were asked…Cuomo might discount their responses because some might not be billionaires, but these are the people whose kids go to public schools.

Bailey listed 23 ideas. Federal funding would be better directed towards these instead of more screen time and more “test and punish.”

For Mother’s Day, I asked Moms what they wanted from their public schools. I collected their comments and added a few of my own. Feel free to add to the list.

1. The Arts. All schools must provide arts education. Music, painting, dance, acting, students thrive with exposure to a rich arts program.

2. Assessment. Drop the high-stakes standardized testing! Mothers know these tests were never about their children. Moms started the Opt-Out Movement! Have less assessment and more teacher-chosen tests to determine student progress.

3. Cafeterias…

4. Career-Technical Education. Students benefit from classes in Career-Technical Education (CTE).

5. Communication. School officials and teachers must stay in touch. Politeness and positivity in forms and business information go a long way with parents.

6. Community. Schools are the hub of the community. Moms want the community to get behind their public schools.

7. Curriculum. Students deserve a rich variety of classes. Elementary students need social studies and science. Civics must be addressed in high school. Many mothers want to see the return of classes like Home Economics and business education. Their students need to understand personal management and life skills.

8. Diversity. Laura Bowman, who’s on the Board of Directors of Parents Across America, reminded us of the need to recruit more teachers of color. Classes should reflect cultural differences. We will never become a better nation if we don’t bring children together.

10. Individuality…11. Joy!…12. Libraries…13. Play…14. Physical Education…15. Safety…16. School Boards…17. School Buildings…18. Socialization…19. Special Education…20. Teachers…21. Technology…22. Reading…23. Recess…

One More Question…..

When John Merrow graduated from Harvard with an Ed.D he applied for a job as a school superintendent. They asked him…

“Dr. Merrow…If we hire you to be our School Superintendent, what’s the biggest change you would want to make in our schools?”

His answer was to keep all third graders in place until they could all read. A shocking answer…and one I don’t think he meant literally. On the other hand, he has several more ideas to add including some Nancy Bailey’s collection of moms suggested.

1) Suspension of all high stakes machine-scored bubble tests for at least two years. Use the savings for teaching materials and teacher salaries.

2) Frequent measurement of academic progress, led by teachers, guided by an “assess to improve” philosophy. That is, lots of low-stakes assessments.

3) End-of-year testing of a randomized sample of students, which would produce a reliable analysis of how the entire student body is doing. Sampling is done in every other aspect of society (including when your doctor withdraws a sample of your blood!). It’s far less expensive and highly reliable.

4) A rich and varied curriculum that includes at least five short breaks for recess every day in all elementary schools. Play is essential!

5) A strong commitment to project-based learning, preferably involving students from other schools (perhaps in other states and countries).

6) A school environment that celebrates accomplishments of all sorts–and not just athletics!

7) A school environment that promotes inquiry, one in which it is safe to say “I don’t know” and praiseworthy to be curious. It’s not enough for schools to be physically safe for students. They must also be emotionally and intellectually safe.

8) A public rejection of the philosophy of ‘sorting’ because our economy and our democracy need everyone to be educated to their fullest capacity. 

TESTING, TESTING, TOO MUCH TESTING

Why Johnny Can’t Read? It’s Complicated, Ms. Hanford.

As long as we’re reimagining education, let’s take a look at reading…my particular interest.

When I reimagine reading instruction in public education I imagine a system without wasteful and damaging standardized tests. I imagine a school where students have choices in their reading. I imagine a school where students are not punished if they learn to read more slowly than their peers.

It’s past time to end standardized testing. The tests don’t provide much help to teachers and are part of a massive system of misuse. A standardized test shouldn’t be used to punish a child who takes more time to learn, evaluate a teacher, or grade a school system. Using tests in that way invalidates them. On the other hand, standardized tests do a good job of identifying a child’s race and economic status.

Reading is a big issue in the U.S. The “reading wars” have been bouncing back and forth from “whole language” to “intense phonics” for decades. Many states have third-grade reading laws designed to retain children in third grade until they can pass a reading test showing that they can read “at grade level.” As usual, the reading test is one that is standardized. As usual, the test divides children based on their racial and economic status.

Instead of testing we should help children learn to read by taking them from where they are, to where they can be, using all the techniques available…not just phonics.

There are numerous reasons that some children have trouble reading. It’s not just phonics; it’s not just poor instruction; it’s not just poverty. Here is just the first of a series of posts on why some children have trouble learning to read by Russ Walsh — make sure you check out the later entries as well. Not all children have the same needs. Can we reimagine a public education where all children get what they need?

My old history professor, George Turner, used to warn me away from simple explanations in history. He said that historical events were best understood through the concept of the multiplicity of inter-causation: Lots of things conspire to make something happen or not happen. We might remember that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo led to the First World War, but that is an oversimplification. Various alliances, increasing militarization, imperialism, and nationalism were all contributing factors. We may remember the Watergate break-in precipitated Nixon’s downfall, but Nixon’s arrogance, pettiness, racism, mendacity, and paranoia all played a role.

So, it is with reading difficulty. The answer to why some children do not learn to read is complex. And, therefore, the solutions must match that complexity. Until we recognize this fact, we will continue to search for simple solutions that will inevitably fail.

Reimagine Public Education: A place where all children get what they need.
🙋🏻🚌🙋🏽‍♂️

4 Comments

Filed under Article Medleys, Billionaires, Gates, IREAD-3, NancyBailey, Pandemic, Public Ed, Testing, Walsh

2019 Medley #9

Pre-School, Vouchers and Low Test Scores,
Billionaires Aren’t Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Two reports endorse investment in early childhood education

Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren’t investing in early childhood education the way they should…too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations (Corporations are people, my friend.”) to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.

The supermajority in Indiana still hasn’t been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state’s pilot program in pre-school…a “pilot” now in its sixth year.

A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.

Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.

What Preschool Isn’t: Waterford UPSTART and Any Other Online Program!

Yes…we’re trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We’ll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run “schools,” especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.

Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?

Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child’s creativity to develop…for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).

Any tax money that goes to “virtual pre-schools” is worse than a waste of money.

I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?

Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.

So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.

VOUCHERS — STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no

Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers…a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.

First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color “escape” “failing” public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn’t solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to “choice.” Now, Indiana’s voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.

Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.

Your tax dollars are going…

…instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.

New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.

BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC

Who Should Pay for Public Education?

The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates’s vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university’s education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It’s because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.

Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can’t answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that’s not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.

So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.

Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.

DEAR CHARTERS, HERE’S MONEY. LOVE BETSY

Charter networks KIPP and IDEA win big federal grants to fund ambitious growth plans

Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift…

“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive…”

Maybe that’s because the local community doesn’t need, want, or isn’t willing to pay for another school.

“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.

“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.

“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”

THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH

The teacher weekly wage penalty hit 21.4 percent in 2018, a record high

Let’s admit it. Many of America’s teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher’s salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it’s even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?

First, that’s just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it’s dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you’ll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.

Second, while teachers don’t go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it’s about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don’t pay them a competitive wage?

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.

(((DISINTEGRATING BEFORE OUR EYES)))

Once We Were Free: Mourning the era of American Jewish freedom

I…want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.

This isn’t about public education. It’s about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.

Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.

Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.

The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.

I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.

⛪️💲🚌

Comments Off on 2019 Medley #9

Filed under Article Medleys, Billionaires, Charters, DeVos, Early Childhood, Gates, Preschool, Public Ed, Religion, SchoolFunding, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career, vouchers

Money for Nothin’

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POVERTY: THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM

The late Gerald Bracey wrote,

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

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

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

MONEY FOR NOTHIN’

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

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

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

But does it actually help?

The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🖥⌨️🖨

Comments Off on Money for Nothin’

Filed under Broad, David Berliner, Gates, Gerald Bracey, MLK, technology, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2016 Medley #22

Charters, Why Teachers Quit,
“Failing” Schools, Local Control, Money

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

In the eyes of the NLRB, charter schools are private, not public

In order to cash in on public money spent on education charter school promoters insist that charters are “public schools.” However, in the eyes of the charter operators themselves, when they are put under pressure by the public to “act” like public schools they become private entities. See here, here, here, and here.

Now, the federal government has gotten into the discussion and has decided, through a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that charter schools are, indeed, private.

In other words, charter schools are just another voucher plan that transfers money intended for public education into private pockets.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), concludes that charter schools are private and efforts to start teachers unions in them should fall under their purview, rather than the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which oversees the public sector.

The decision stemmed from efforts by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to unionize teachers at the Hyde Leadership charter school in Brooklyn.

PERB had asserted jurisdiction over the school, but the union ended up arguing that organizing efforts should be overseen by the NLRB which administers labor law in the private sector.

The NLRB in its decision, concluded that “Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school.”

Detroit charter school closes just two weeks before first day of class

Local public school systems generally face a significant amount of opposition when they try to close a public school. Public meetings are held, parents argue for keeping their children’s school open, alumni come back to talk about the impact the school had on their lives, and citizens argue that the school is an integral part of the community. Closing a public school is often a time-consuming and traumatic experience for the community and the students (See this article about schools closing in my community).

Free-market proponents want schools to be subject to the whims of the marketplace. In such a system, they believe, “bad” schools will close and “good” schools will be supported. The problem is that school closings hurt children. Two weeks before school started, this charter school in Detroit closed its doors. Parents are left having to frantically search for another school for their children. This, it seems to me, is an important benefit of a public school system under the oversight of an elected school board. Real public schools don’t close two weeks before school starts, or in the middle of the year. School boards generally create a plan for relocating students from schools which are closed.

But for the charter industry…school closing is a feature, not a bug.

Just two weeks before the first day of class, a charter school on Detroit’s west side notified parents and students today that the high school has closed.

Officials for University YES Academy held an impromptu meeting today to tell high school students they needed to find another school to attend. Only parents and students were allowed in the meeting, and they were barred from using recording devices.

How charters became the most segregated schools in Indianapolis

See also The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

…as charter schools expand their reach across the country and every year educate a larger share of the nation’s children, the issue of racial segregation has raised significant concerns among integration advocates who warn that it can push low-income students into low-achieving schools and reduce the resources going to high-needs schools.

Even at schools like Tindley that are relatively high performing, critics say graduates will be less prepared to interact with people from different backgrounds later in life.

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Why Do Teachers Stay? What Makes them Leave?

How do teachers live with the cognitive dissonance inherent in today’s educational environment? How can you justify government sponsored malpractice? Each teacher must decide if they can do enough to overcome the damage done by the test-and-punish education promoted by statehouses and the the US Education Department, or whether they will succumb to that which hurts their students.

Teachers must decide…do they stay or do they go? Either way they choose, teachers usually feel guilty.

There are some who say that teachers who recognize the draconian classroom goals and objectives and their professional emasculation, should all quit. They should announce to the world that they hate high-stakes testing, or Common Core, Competency-Based Education (CBE), or an innumerable array of insidious reforms, and then they should proudly stake their career on their beliefs and walk out the door.

Some do this, and then they go fight like hell for the rights of teachers and students.

Some teachers of like mind, ban together and put up a fight, like the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School who boycotted testing.

Some teachers cry for awhile, then they turn away. They believe the only thing they can do is work on something else that will bring joy and happiness. They focus on their corner of the world, where they feel they have some control.

Who’s the best kind of teacher? That is not for me to judge, although I wonder about teachers who buy into every school reform that comes their way.

Every teacher must make up their own mind what their career means to them and how to best serve the children in their care. And there are always a whole lot of deeply personal outside factors that enter into the decision.

“FAILING” SCHOOLS?

Grading the schools

Are America’s public schools failing? The latest PDK poll once again reports that people who have children in public schools give their schools a good rating. Approximately two-thirds of public school parents rate their local schools as an A or B. When you add a grade of C, the number increases to 90%. Nationally, schools are rated much lower. Why? Could it be that the media, politicians, pundits, and “reformers” are promoting the myth of America’s “failing public schools?” What do local parents know that the general public doesn’t?

Failing schools or inaccurate reporting?

Stephen Krashen provides an answer to the questions above…

The explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been reporting more academic failure than actually exists.

LOCAL CONTROL

A Simple Solution to Fix the Problem of our Failing Public Education System

No two public schools are alike…

A simple solution infers that a single strategy, or group of strategies, will be sufficient to address problems across a wide variety of settings–in this case, our public schools. As anyone who has ever spent a day teaching in a public school knows, no two public schools are alike, so the notion that any one idea or approach holds the answer to wide-spread, systemic change in an ecosystem as large and diverse as America’s public school system is either naive or disingenuous. And neither of those traits is a good thing when it comes to making suggestions about our nation’s education policy.

MONEY DOES NOT MEAN EXPERTISE

Mr. Gates Chats with Mr. Bowling

Bill Gates can’t understand that he’s not an education expert simply because he’s rich. Nate Bowling does his best to explain things.

At the beginning of 2016, Bowling wrote a widely-circulated piece entitled “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having” in which he comes down hard on the idea of setting aside questions of education policy until we can honestly grapple with the issues of race and poverty, charging that the powers that be and the folks in the ‘burbs are actually pretty happy with The Way Things Are.

…if the wealthy and super-wealthy had skin in the game, public schools would get the support they need.

###

Comments Off on 2016 Medley #22

Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Gates, Privatization, Public Ed, WhyTeachersQuit

Gates Gets Schooled

As reported in a Los Angeles Times editorial, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman, has admitted that…

“It is really tough to create more great public schools.”

Massive wealth doesn’t necessarily equal massive knowledge, and the Gates Foundation has shown over and over again that its knowledge about how to improve America’s education system is anything but massive.

Let’s begin with just three of the assumptions the Gates Foundation used when funding its education ideas.

ASSUMPTION #1 – Small schools are better.

Small schools can work, but it takes money. Lakeside School, Bill Gates’s Alma Mater, for example, has less than 800 students in grades 5 through 12. They also charge $30 thousand dollars a year tuition per child along and have an endowment of $118 million. Even if only half of the students paid the full tuition they would have a working budget of $10 million a year.

How successful would the public schools in Detroit or Chicago be if they had a budget of $10 million a year for each school?

When Bill Gates decided that he didn’t want to experiment with small schools any more he pulled his funding and left the schools in the lurch. Without Gates funding

‘We ran into cash flow problems that were directly related to growth and the speed of growth. It was very, very unfortunate.’

So, small schools might be nice, but billionaires’ contributions are not guaranteed. America needs fully funded, publicly run, public schools which are not dependent on the whims of billionaires or the fluctuations of the “market.”

ASSUMPTION #2 – Teachers aren’t really trying so they need an economic incentive to try harder.

When did it become fashionable to assume that all teachers were lazy and didn’t really want to do the hard work of helping students achieve?

“Reformers” choose to dump all the blame for low student achievement on teachers instead of considering other out-of-school factors. This is convenient for those public servants who are responsible for out-of-school factors influencing achievement. Most teachers are working as hard as they can to help students. Extra money, while it would be welcome, would probably not influence student achievement. Curiously enough, that’s exactly what researchers find when they study financial incentive plans for teachers.

Yet Another Study Shows That Financial Incentives Don’t Work

…it did not improve the achievement of students, to say the least. If anything, such incentive in fact worsened the performance of students….Not only that, but the incentive program had no effect on teachers’ absenteeism, retention in school or district, nor did it affect the teachers’ perception of the learning environment in a school…

Merit Pay Misfires

When asked to take on a merit-pay system, teachers typically point to the fact that they have no control over who is assigned to their classes. Every veteran teacher knows that groups of students will vary in their ability and motivation from year to year. Each class presents its own set of challenges. And this variation exists across schools and districts.

Tying Teacher Salaries to Test Scores Doesn’t Work

Research shows that the carrot of higher pay does not lead to better results. In an authoritative study conducted at Vanderbilt University, for example, teachers who were offered bonuses for improving student test results produced no more improvement than the control group.

Similar studies of teacher merit pay have shown null results in New York City and Chicago. Because of the lack of positive results, a number of pay for performance programs have been abandoned, including programs in New York City and California.

Methods that use test scores to evaluate teachers, including the currently popular “value added” calculations, have also proved highly unreliable. The National Academy of Sciences and experts assembled by the Economic Policy Institute have warned of the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems or merit pay based on test scores.

ASSUMPTION #3 – Standards will make schools better

Standards, along with well maintained facilities, a well developed curriculum, and best teaching practices, are all important for student achievement. But even the best standards won’t heal what ails our nation’s public schools if that’s all we have.

Desmond-Hellman admitted this when she wrote,

“Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards,”

And the Common Core State Standards are not “the best standards” despite the millions that the Gates Foundation dumped into them.

OBVIOUS ASSUMPTION #1 – Teachers Know More About Education than Billionaires

We don’t let billionaires tell firefighters how to fight fires. Billionaires don’t get to decide what books belong in the public library. Billionaires should not make public education policy just because they have a lot of money.

The LA Times said…

Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.

Desmond-Hellman finished her discussion of Gates Foundation education programs with the depressingly obvious comment that

“…the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.”

It would have been nice if Bill Gates had understood that when he began his foray into influencing public education a decade and a half ago.

Does he understand it now?

~~~

For Further Reading:

The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

###

Comments Off on Gates Gets Schooled

Filed under Gates, Merit Pay, Public Ed

2016 Medley #11 – Money

Money, Privatization, and Profit

RACE, POVERTY, AND WEALTH

Dear White Educators

An open letter to white educators.

Few bloggers write with the passion, intensity, and insight of James Boutin. In this piece he explores his journey as a white man coming to terms with his own privilege.

At some point in time, all of us have to sit down and take inventory. We have to clear the smoke from the mirror and really look at ourselves. In this difficult process, we come to realize that as we come to accept ourselves, we also must learn to accept that much of who we are is rooted, like it or not, in the roles society has created for us. To deny this is fantasy.

For you see,

“All the world’s a stage,
And all men and all women are merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts,…”

Nobody else can play your role. I do not get to run from or deny my whiteness. It is one of the many parts of my role for which I am responsible to play in this life. No, I did not have a choice, but that does not alleviate me from facing a socially constructed identity for my public life that history demands I own.

THE RICH

Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State, and the Nuisance of Democracy

Speaking of privilege…here’s an interesting take on philanthropy.

Many of the “gifts” that the super wealthy give through their foundations are tax-exempt. In that way, the money is partially subsidized by American taxpayers, who make up the difference in the amount of taxes the wealthy don’t have to pay because of such loopholes.

Regardless of political stands or projects, all philanthro-barons with their own foundations are generously subsidized by taxpayers. When a baron says, “It’s my money to use as I please,” he or she is wrong. A substantial portion of every tax-exempt foundation’s wealth—39.6 percent at the top tax bracket for filing in 2016—is diverted each year from the public treasury, where voters would have determined its use.43 Taxpayers subsidize not only the philanthropy of the Koch brothers, Soros, and the others but also their political work. Part of the megaphilanthropist’s wealth goes into a personal cache; part goes into a tax-exempt cache. The money saved by not paying taxes goes wherever the philanthropist wants, including to political work.

American democracy is growing ever more plutocratic—a fact that should worry all admirers of government by the people. Big money rules, but multibillionaires acting as philanthropists aggravate the problem by channeling vast sums into the nation’s immense nonprofit sector. Their top-down modus operandi makes this a powerful tool for shaping public policy according to individual beliefs and whims. And they receive less critical scrutiny than other actors in public life. Most people admire expressions of generosity and selflessness and are loath to find fault. In addition, anyone hoping for a grant—which increasingly includes for-profit as well as nonprofit media—treats donors like unassailable royalty. The emperor is always fully clothed.

FUNDING

Drastic Public School Cuts in Memphis—The New America

In the past, schools closed or opened because of population changes. With the privatization of public education we’ve seen schools closed because of the economic condition of their neighborhood, and then replaced with publicly funded, privately run, charter schools [See Chicago and Boston].

Instead of supporting, improving, and encouraging neighborhood schools, privatizers in board rooms, executive offices and state legislators are closing schools and dumping the students into privatized new schools. The “community school” is disappearing. Those schools were often a central part of a community where teachers spent their careers and taught children and grandchildren of former students. With the loss of community schools a symbol of stability and cohesion has disappeared.

This new wave of cuts in major cities like Memphis is especially troubling. It signals the end of public schooling as we know it.

Is it even legal?

In the meantime, we get to watch little kids who should be home playing or spending time with their families, parading around with signs begging adults to keep their school programs open.

This isn’t just Memphis. It is America. This is what we’ve become.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

ALEC Relentlessly Cashes in on Kids and their Public Schools

Public schools are closing, charter schools are opening, and public funds are being diverted to private and parochial schools through vouchers. Why? Mainly because there is a whole s**t-load of money to be made from public tax revenues directed at education.

There are some, of course, for whom the public schools are a danger to their faith. For example, Jerry Falwell famously said, “I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!” Falwell, his followers, and their political descendants, are against public schools specifically because they don’t teach religion.

There are others who are against public schools because of the teachers unions. They ignore the fact that schools are run by administrations and school boards, and claim, instead, that the unions are the ones making the rules.

There is a substantial amount of overlap among these groups, but the driving force behind the privatization movement is money…and the intensity in which ALEC churns out anti-public-education model legislation is proof. The “non-profit” group is intent on the privatization and profitizing of public education.

“Despite widespread public opposition to the corporate-driven education privatization agenda, at least 172 measures reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills were introduced in 42 states in 2015… ALEC’s education task force has pushed legislation for decades to privatize public schools, weaken teacher’s unions and lower teaching standards. ALEC’s agenda would transform public education from a public and accountable institution that serves the public into one that serves private, for-profit interests. ALEC model bills divert taxpayer money from public to private schools through a variety of ‘voucher’ and ‘tuition tax credit’ programs. They promote unaccountable charter schools and shift power away from democratically elected local school boards.”

DEBT

College Debt, Regret, and Readiness

How does the cost of higher education limit and damage the future of today’s young adults? How do young men and women from poor families pay for college? How long do they end up paying for their education after (if) they graduate? How many graduates end up paying for an education in a field in which they can’t find work?

…we have an entire generation of Americans for whom college costs are the biggest problem in their lives. They can’t afford to put money into the economy. They postpone buying homes and having children. They struggle with the stress and strain of living under the shadow of huge debt. How can the fact that some are required to take remedial college courses be a huge issue that must be screamed regularly from the rooftops, but the house of debt that has been dropped on them (amidst promises that college would be their passport to the middle class) merit barely a mention?

How can we pretend to talk about making students college and career ready and not talk about the crushing cost of college?

###

Comments Off on 2016 Medley #11 – Money

Filed under Article Medleys, Gates, poverty

2016 Medley #9

Book Review, Vouchers, Reading Recovery, Reading Instruction, Read-Aloud, Gates, Finland

NOT JUST FOR PARENTS

Russ Walsh’s new book, A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child, is now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Walsh is a literacy expert, Coordinator of College Reading at Rider University, and blogger at Russ on Reading.

A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century isn’t just for parents. It’s for anyone who wants to understand the “reform” agenda and what it has done to American public education. Call it “reform” 101. Walsh clearly outlines the ways that the “reform” movement has damaged the nation’s public education system and harmed the education of children.

It’s not misnamed, however. He includes chapters for parents (of benefit to teachers as well) on identifying a good school, good instruction, and helping children succeed.

The book begins with his Bill of Rights for School Children…which ought to be posted in every public school in the nation…and includes informative chapters on standardized tests, the privatization of public education, and the Common Core. A must read…

For example, from Chapter 3: Readiness For School

It is not your child’s job to be ready for school; it is the school’s job to be ready for your child, and to meet your child’s needs through rich curriculum, highly trained teachers and a system of learning supports.

…and from Chapter 11: School Choice: Charter Schools and Vouchers

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. It would be wise to spend our public tax monies on providing good local public schools. In public education, as with smoking and seatbelts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Less-than-full disclosure

The distribution of public tax money ought to be under the watchful eye of the public. Elected school boards, no matter what their limitations, are held accountable to the public through elections. Every penny in every public school in Indiana is accounted for. Why, then, is money awarded to private schools through vouchers or to SGOs to award “scholarships” to private schools, with no public oversight whatsoever?

What happened to the $116 million that Indiana spent on privatization in 2014-2015 (and even more for the current year)? Was it used for instruction? If so, how did the students perform? Was the money used for building additions, church steeples, or CEO salaries?

For taxpayers, however, there’s a gaping hole in accountability. Reports are available for public schools, including charters; not for voucher schools. The state awarded almost $116 million to private and parochial schools in 2014-15, but the General Assembly does not require posting and publication of voucher school performance reports.

After 10-year fight, Md. lawmakers vote to fund private-school scholarships

The Democrats in Maryland have abandoned public education in favor of vouchers. Which of the two main political parties do public educators turn to now?

After years of resisting, and over the objections of the state teachers union, Maryland lawmakers have agreed to state-funded private-school scholarships.

The decision to create a $5 million grant program was part of the negotiations on the state’s $42 billion operating budget, which received final approval in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly on Tuesday.

TEACHING READING

Robert Slavin on the Success and Promise of Reading Recovery

I was trained in Reading Recovery in 1999 and taught in the program for seven years. I used the techniques and knowledge I gained even after the program was canceled. I still use the skills I learned as a Reading Recovery teacher in my volunteer work with first graders.

Reading Recovery is a one-on-one tutoring program for at-risk first graders. It works, but because it’s a program for individual students, it’s expensive. A Reading Recovery teacher can only work with a few students during the school year. Most school systems in my part of the state have stopped using it because of funding shortages.

Yet, how important is teaching reading to a first grader? How much is it worth? Is it worth the cost of a $2 billion mobile cannon which was never used? Is it worth the tax we ought to be, but aren’t, collecting from GE, CBS, or Mattel? Is it worth the money spent to (over)compensate Wall St. Execs who caused the Great Recession?

Would it be worth it if we could pay the salaries (at @ $90,000 salary and benefits) of more than 2,000 Reading Recovery teachers for the next 10 years with the money we spent on the cannon that was never used? My guess is that the city of Flint, Michigan might need some extra help for the next few years.

Instead we’re spending billions of dollars on standardized tests, vouchers, and charters…as well as cannons, tax write offs, and exorbitant salaries.

Priorities, America. Priorities.

“…in schools throughout the United States and in other countries, there is a well-defined group of struggling readers that can readily be taught to read. The evidence establishes, beyond any doubt, that nothing about these children means they are doomed to fail in reading.”

…“In a country as wealthy as the United States,” he says, “why should every struggling reader not have access to Reading Recovery or a tutoring program with equal evidence of effectiveness? The reading success of first graders is far too important to leave to chance, yet in this as in many other areas of education reform, vulnerable children are left to chance every day. Why can’t educators use what they know to solve the problems they can solve, while working at the same time to expand their knowledge?”

10 Reading Instruction Non-Negotiables

Here’s a second shout-out to Russ Walsh. Along with his Bill of Rights for School Children, this list of non-negotiables for a good reading program ought to be required reading for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Here he lists components of a true reading program instead of the prepackaged test prep and constant assessment that is strangling the joy of reading in our schools. His list includes things like shared reading, self-selected reading, rereading, and word work, complete with research to back everything up.

Here’s what he says about my favorite part of the teaching day, Reading Aloud…

One of the more disturbing aspects of current trends in literacy education is the reports I keep getting from classroom teachers who tell me that reading aloud is being discouraged because it is not “rigorous” enough or because more time needs to be devoted to test prep. So, let me state this as clearly as I possibly can, read aloud is a central part of effective literacy instruction and should be happening daily in every classroom. This is not open for debate. Don’t take my word for it, here is a list of 13 scientifically based reasons for reading aloud to children. Among these well researched benefits are exposing students to a greater variety of literature, encouraging students to view reading as a part of their daily life, building background knowledge, providing a model of fluent reading, encouraging student talk about text, increasing vocabulary and helping students view reading as a pleasurable activity. Here is another resource on the importance of reading aloud.

When choosing a read aloud, I would encourage teachers to choose the very best that literature and informational text has to offer, whether that be picture books, novels, histories or scientific texts. When reading aloud, we can aim high because kids listening comprehension outpaces their reading comprehension by about two years and because we can easily scaffold their understanding by “thinking aloud” about the text as we read. Read aloud also provides a great opportunity for teachers to model important comprehension strategies. Just do it.

Need more resources for reading aloud?

BILLIONAIRES ARE NOT EDUCATION EXPERTS

Hillsborough schools to dismantle Gates-funded system that cost millions to develop

When are we going to stop taking education advice from Bill Gates? When are we going to quit letting him experiment with America’s students?

Just because Bill Gates is rich doesn’t mean he knows anything about the education of children.

[Superintendent] Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”

PROTECT CHILDREN

Why Finnish school students lead the world on Life Matters

Here’s an Australian radio interview with Fulbright Scholar William Doyle about Finnish education. He talks about the strong teaching profession, and the focus on how to help children learn, rather than how to be #1 in educational assessment.

A Finnish teacher quoted by William Doyle

Our job is to protect children from politicians.

###

Comments Off on 2016 Medley #9

Filed under Article Medleys, Finland, Gates, Literacy, read-alouds, reading, reading recovery, Review, vouchers, Walsh