Category Archives: GERM

2019 Medley #19

GERM in Canada, Third Grade Retention,
the Common Good, ILEARN, Vouchers,
the Teacher Exodus

ET TU CANADA?

Schools aren’t failing our kids, our government is.

Since 2012 Grant Frost has been writing about the GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) infection of Canada. Sadly, the story is similar to what’s been happening here in the US. Outside factors affect school achievement, yet solutions to societal problems seem to fall to the schools.

In 2011, Texas Superintendent John Kuhn asked,

Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet?

Schools can’t do it alone…and schools can’t solve the problems caused by, in the case of the US, decades of neglect, racism, and economic inequity. State (and Provincial) governments must accept their share of responsibility…not by punishing high need schools with school takeovers and inadequate funding, but with real programs aimed at healing the problems of poverty and systemic racism.

To paraphrase Frost, “The reality of our situation in Indiana is not that our schools are failing our kids; our government is.”

What struck me so soundly as I read through the report, beyond my obvious alarm, was the way in which so many of these issues, or more particularly, the finding of solutions for them, has so often been downloaded by governments onto the public school system. In an attempt to lower obesity rates, schools are encouraged to provide more activity time. In an attempt to lower suicide rates, students get lessons on warning signs and prevention measures. Discrimination (risk nine) is countered with “respect for all” campaigns. Bullying (risk ten) is tackled head on in classroom. Food insecurity (breakfast programs). Infant mortality (Parenting courses). Lack of immunization (Immunization programs.) For almost every indicator of risk to our children that was on the list, governments have turned to public schools and the people who staff them to provide solutions.

…Child poverty can not be addressed in our classrooms. That particular risk factor can only be addressed in Province House. The reality of our situation in Nova Scotia is not that our schools are failing our kids; our government is.

RETENTION

Third Grade Reading Retention Does Not Work (Example #6,288,347)

Retention in grade continues to damage thousands of Indiana children. The latest statistics I was able to find were those for the 2016-2017 school year. At that time about 7% (nearly 76,000) of Indiana’s 1.14 million students between the ages of 6 and 17 had been retained at least once since they entered kindergarten.

Indiana is one of the states with third-grade retention laws so many of those students are retained in third grade. Our students are required to pass a standardized reading test in third grade or repeat the grade.

Research spanning more than 100 years has consistently shown that retention in grade is not helpful and is, in many cases, harmful. Often children will improve their academic achievement during their repeated year grade, but after three to four years most gains have disappeared. Grade retention is an intervention teachers and schools will attempt because they don’t know what else to do and believe that “we have to do something.”

With more and more states requiring retention in third grade for students who cannot pass the state-mandated standardized reading test, there will continue to be a large number of students retained in grade.

At the end of this linked piece, Peter Greene wrote,

…third grade reading retention does not work, plus it’s expensive and damaging to students, so maybe we can just knock it off right now.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen any time soon.

What the more reliable research appears to show is that third grade is a good year for taking a student’s reading temperature, and their ability to read at the third grade level seems to be a good predictor of future scholastic success. That seems to be a valid correlation but– say it with me now, nice and loud for the folks in the back– correlation does not equal causation.

Nevertheless, many states have instituted a plan by which students are not allowed to exit third grade until they can show sufficient reading skills (or at least sufficient standardized read test taking skills). This is dumb.

This would be the equivalent of, say, noting that students who are more than four and a half feet tall in third grade are mostly over six feet tall when they graduate from high school. Therefor, in our desire to make graduates taller, we will not let anyone progress beyond third grade until they are at least four and a half feet tall.

The most likely reading of the third grade reading correlation is that some factors are contributing to a poor reading level, and those same factors, exacerbated by reading difficulties, will be obstacles to future success. Third grade reading level is a canary in the coalmine, and you don’t fix things by repeatedly sending canaries down there. But canaries are cheap, and fixing coal mines is hard and expensive. Addressing all the problems that hold a small child back– well, that’s complicated and expensive and difficult and it puts a lot of responsibility on the government. It’s simpler to just threaten the kid and the teacher and make it their problem.

WE SERVE ALL CHILDREN

Embracing Public Schools as the Very Definition of the Common Good

America’s public schools are a “common good.” Jan Resseger eloquently describes how we all benefit from public education. If you need to respond to those who don’t understand how public schools help individuals, communities, and the entire society, here is an excellent source.

…public schools are required by law to serve the needs and protect the rights of all children: “(T)here is one thing that our American public schools do better than any other schools in the country or even in the world: our public schools commit to addressing the needs of every single child. Our public schools are open to ALL children, without prejudice or pause. Our schools attempt to educate EVERYBODY. American students are students who are gifted, students with disabilities, students who need advanced placement, students who have experienced trauma, students who are learning English, students who are hungry, affluent students, students who live in poverty, students who are anxious, and students who are curious.”

TESTING IN INDIANA

ILEARN another blow to state’s education efforts

How much time is spent by adults and children in your local school on our state tests? What might be a better use of that time?

Indiana students, teachers and local communities have endured years of changing school accountability systems, each focused on exhaustive standardized test-taking negatively affecting student well-being, teacher compensation and school letter grades, causing parent confusion and anxiety in the local community.

From ISTEP to ISTEP+ to ILEARN, children in Indiana have suffered years of changing expectations through standardized testing schemes designed to determine the number of students who fail only after the test is given. No good teacher uses assessments in this manner.

Set the standards, work toward learning the standards, assess the standards through multiple means, determine those meeting or not yet meeting the standards, all without crushing teaching and learning through excessive standardized testing.

To the detriment of today’s school culture, students and teachers have been reduced to test takers and test preparers unable to take advantage of the ebb and flow of inquiry learning, creative and independent thinking, or problem-solving through logic.

Instead, too much precious time and money has been spent over the years on accountability systems focused solely on test results directly correlated with student socioeconomic status.

Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy writes about how Indiana’s tests…from ISTEP to ILEARN have been misused as a tool to damage public education.

The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

Are we concerned about the quality of our public schools? Easy. Let’s just give out vouchers allowing parents to send their children to mostly religious schools that may or may not teach science or civics or accurate history, and are turning out graduates with lower test scores in math and English.

For the 90% of children who still attend our public schools, let’s spend lots of tax dollars on standardized tests that we can then use as a blunt weapon to pigeonhole the kids and penalize their teachers.

Those approaches are so much easier than acting on the basis of in-depth analyses of both strengths and shortcomings, giving our public schools and public school teachers the resources–and the respect– they need, and properly evaluating the results.

VOUCHERS

Indiana’s School Voucher Program–The Back Story

A second article by Sheila Kennedy…this one on the history of Indiana’s voucher program.

As governor, Mike Pence did his best to use the voucher program to enrich parochial schools, but it was Mitch Daniels who was the brains behind diverting public funds to religious and private pockets.

Kennedy’s blog post is based on an article in the Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana. The Answer Sheet is behind the Washington Posts’ paywall, however, Kennedy includes a link to a pdf file of the article.

…Mitch Daniels is a highly intelligent man. He is also thoroughly political and ideological. My guess is that he drank deeply from the well of GOP dogma, and believes–with an almost religious fervor, evidence be damned– that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. (Why so many people who clearly believe this nevertheless spend their professional lives in the public sector is an enduring mystery.)

So here we are. Vouchers have increased religious and racial segregation without improving academic performance. Meanwhile, public schools are struggling to perform without adequate resources, and the state’s underpaid teachers are leaving in droves.

Did Indiana’s schools need improvement? Absolutely. Were vouchers an appropriate or effective remedy? Absolutely not.

That’s what happens when ideology trumps evidence.

TEACHER SHORTAGE EXODUS

How to stop the teacher exodus

It’s not a teacher shortage. It’s a teacher exodus from classrooms and from teacher training programs. Fewer young people are going into education…and those teachers who are leaving the field — whether through an early exit or retirement — are not being replaced in sufficient numbers. Who will teach the next generation of American children? Who will prepare tomorrow’s citizens for our nation’s future success?

…test-based accountability has destroyed the profession of teaching and caused a mass demoralization and exodus from public school classrooms. And let’s not forget about the thousands of hours of lost instruction time in the sciences, social studies, arts, music and anything else that doesn’t conform to basic literacy and numeracy skills.

It really is an insanity driven by the hatred of public schools and the greed of powerful individuals to use the false narrative of failing schools and bad teachers to drain schools of public tax dollars. Nothing done over the last 35 years in the name of accountability—Nothing! — has done anything positive for the children stuck at the bottom of the achievement gap. The problem was never failing schools and bad teachers. The problem has always been poverty born out of systemic racism. 

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Filed under Article Medleys, Canada, CommonGood, GERM, iLearn, Mitch Daniels, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #17

Flint Fights Lead,
Hope for Lead-poisoned Children,
Out of School Factors,
Preschool Teachers, Teachers Unions,
“Give me your tired, your poor…”

WHY ISN’T PREVENTING LEAD POISONING A NATIONAL GOAL?

Is Flint Michigan’s Water Quality Really Restored?

It’s hard to stay focused on education topics when the country is under the stress it now finds itself. When August and September roll around, however, no matter what’s happening with the nation’s immigration crisis, with the Supreme Court, or with the investigation into possible treasonous activity on the part of the President’s political campaign, the nation’s schools will fill once again and teachers will try to ease the stress on their students with the healing power of routine, curiosity, and study.

Yet some children, including those from Flint, Michigan, will go back to school with their blood contaminated by lead. Despite the claims of the politicians, lead is still an issue in Flint (and elsewhere). The repair of the water lines responsible for contaminating the bodies of school children is actually causing the condition to worsen.

In addition, the State of Michigan is allowing Nestlé to pump millions of gallons of water from the Great Lakes in order to bottle and sell it. Nestlé is “giving” a few thousand gallons back to the people of Flint. According to the interview below, Nestlé is donating less water than they drain from the lakes in an hour per week back to the people of Flint – the same lakes which should be providing the clean water to the city’s residents. Most residents are having to buy water and pay their water bills. The “donation” from Nestlé is barely a supplement.

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, the water is not safe to drink. And while they are replacing the lead service lines, because of just the, the vibrations from that, it’s reintroducing lead particles into the system. So the water will not be safe to drink until after the lead service lines are replaced. But I will say a larger picture is there are a lot of things like lead that’s in our water that the state is refusing to act on.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So since they stopped distributing the water bottles, what are the citizens doing there for safe water?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, people are going back and buying water. There are still some small donations from people. And I would say one of the, one of the more unfortunate consequences from this is it’s given a chance for Nestlé, who’s paying, like, $200 a year to pump 500 gallons a minute from our Great Lakes, they’re donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint. So that’s like one bottle per person.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So you’re saying it’s a PR boon for Nestlé, who’s stealing a large amount of water out of the lake, and giving you all a bottle apiece a day? Is that what you’re saying?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Yes. Nestlé is donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint residents. And while people are desperate and they’re using that water, this is just a PR move for Nestlé.

 

HOPE

Lead hurts kids, including their ability to learn. But new research shows cities can help.

A new study shows that the effects of lead poisoning in children can be ameliorated somewhat, but it will cost money.

Now, a new study says there’s a lot that can be done about it — even for kids who have already been exposed to the chemical, which was common in paint until the late 1970s. Straightforward efforts, like making sure kids get nutritional help and aren’t exposed to any more lead, can boost student learning and cause substantial decreases in suspensions, absences, and crime rates.

Politicians and pundits should take note. Environmental toxins such as lead are just one of the factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

The research underscores how factors outside schools’ control can profoundly influence academic outcomes.

 

From Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers
Based on Student Test Scores
by Edward Haertel

ON BEING SELFISH AND CHEAP

When preschool teachers can’t afford care for their own children

You might have heard politicians go on and on about how they agree that early childhood education is important, yet when it comes to paying for it they’re more interested in making sure that taxes are insufficient due to tax breaks for their donors. Meanwhile, the tax burden of Americans is one of the lowest in the developed world…

You get what you pay for.

Low wages and poor working conditions undermine the quality of early education experiences, which hinge on positive adult-child interactions. When teachers are worried about their ability to put food on the table, pay their bills or take care of a sick child, they are understandably less able to focus on the needs of the children in their care and to provide the intentional interactions so critical to child development.

The result is high turnover rates and difficulty retaining the most qualified educators. In turn, this creates instability for young children, who crave routine, and decreases the likelihood that children will reap the long-term benefits that come from attendance at a high-quality preschool staffed by experienced, highly skilled educators.

 

CORPORATE REFORM SCORES A WIN OVER UNIONS

Michigan-based Mackinac Center’s Campaign to Kill Unions in Other States

Corporate America received a win last week when the US Supreme Court overruled the case for unions collecting fees for services they are required by law to provide all employees in their bargaining unit. The ruling has two serious results. First, it has legitimized freeloaders who pay nothing to support those who work to improve their working conditions, and second, it has energized anti-union forces around the nation.

On June 27, 2018, in Janus V. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 – 4 that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay “fair share” fees when union advocacy results in a benefit to nonunion members.

The extreme-right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy is using the Janus decision to actively campaign for the fiscal crippling of unions by targeting emails to organizations such as school districts in order to try to get union members to “opt out” of union membership.

 

Betsy DeVos Conquers the World: The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)

Here’s a companion piece to the story above about union busting by the US Supreme Court. Busting unions is just one part of the Global Education Reform Movement, or GERM, and it’s an international affliction.

The National Education Union in the UK sums it up well. Here is what GERM does to schools in countries around the world:

  • Threatens the teaching profession by prioritizing and imposing a business model on education.
  • Emphasizes competition between schools and teachers, using high-stakes testing.
  • Gives performance rewards.
  • Aims to produce a narrowly educated workforce, which can read instructions and advertisements but is discouraged from thinking critically about the world.
  • Attacks teachers’ unions.
  • Views education as an opportunity to maximise human capital.
  • Abandons education’s role to create cultural good and social cohesion.
  • Takes education out of the hands of those who own it, teachers, students, parents, and the public, to develop a commodity which can be traded globally.
  • Creates a service sector which is open to trade and investors.
  • Education becomes about profit not people.
  • There’s an emphasis on education technology for capital.
  • Breaks good school systems into academies, free schools, or in America, charter and voucher schools.
  • Creates a national pay framework.
  • Relies on performance related pay—think social impact bonds.
  • Privatizes educational services.

GERM affects all schools—everywhere.

 

IMMIGRATION LAW HISTORY

A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Law

We all owe it to ourselves to understand where the United States has been with our immigration laws in order to understand where we are now.

…our immigration laws have increasingly become more strict, with a growing focus on controlling undocumented immigration. How these laws are interpreted and implemented is determined for the most part by court rulings when the government and its agencies are sued on behalf of immigrants (class action suits). When a ruling is made on a class action case, that ruling then becomes national policy.

 

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2016 Medley #33

Privatization, “Good” Teachers, Learning, Happiness–Love–Kindness, Politics

PRIVATIZATION

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

The NC legislature is worse than most when it comes to lack of support for public education. Even so, blogger Stu Egan’s comments in this article can be universally appreciated just by inserting “Indiana” (or “Ohio,” or “Pennsylvania,” or “Florida,” etc) instead of “North Carolina.” GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, is everywhere.

The first sentence below is what separates us from the “reformers.”

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

…“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities”

…It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

Privatization or Public Investment in Education?

For the nerdier among us…here’s the study to which Egan (see above) refers to.

Finnish educators attribute a modest dip in 2012 (although their scores remained) as potentially resulting from distractions caused by their popular international status. As a result, the country has refocused on the principles of equity, creativity, and the “joy of learning” that produced their high-quality system in the first place. Furthermore, Finland maintained its position as the top European performer in 2012 (well above the OECD mean), demonstrating the value of the public investment approach in developing and supporting high-quality teachers.

TEACHER QUALITY

Do Poor Students Get the Worst Teachers?

How does one define a “good” teacher? For too long the “reformist” definition has been based on test scores, a misuse of assessment since it’s been long established that test scores are a function of family income more than teacher quality. Students who live in poverty come to school with problems not seen in low poverty environments. David C. Berliner, in Poverty and Potential, notes six areas that

…significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

It takes more than test scores to define “good” teaching. I know this to be absolutely true. I’ve experienced it in my own classrooms. There have been children who have thrived in my classrooms…for whom I have had a major life impact. There are others for whom I was the wrong teacher at the wrong time. Some students had an outstanding teacher when they were in my classroom. Others not so much. What was the difference? I was the same person. I used the same teaching styles in most of my rooms. I read the same books, worked with the same intensity, and spoke with the same voice.

The difference was that, like all teachers, I’m a human being with inconsistencies, good days and bad days, emotional ups and downs. A teacher makes thousands of decisions over the course of a school year. Sometimes those decisions don’t yield the best result. No matter how “good” a teacher is, there will be days when the interactions between the teacher and students don’t go as planned.

In the current article, Peter Greene reminds us of this…

…teacher quality is not a solid state. Over time, we all have better days and not so better days. And how “good” we are is also a matter of which students you put us together with. One student’s terrible teacher is another students life-altering agent of positive change.

LEARNING

Got to remember them all, Pokémon: New study of human memory for Pokémon finds that it is possible to boost memory capacity

One of the most important concepts for a teacher to keep in mind when teaching reading is to “activate prior knowledge.”

Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience, when students make connections to the text they are reading, their comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. When we help students make those connections before, during, and after they read, we are teaching them a critical comprehension strategy that the best readers use almost unconsciously.

A new study has shown that when people are familiar with content they can remember information related to it. Activating prior knowledge does this.

When I was working in my classroom I introduced students to study techniques to help them activate prior knowledge…helping to improve comprehension.

It works with Pokémon, too.

People can learn and remember more of a subject when they are already familiar with it, new research concludes. And the more familiar they are with the subject, the better they remember new information related to it, add the researchers.

HAPPINESS, LOVE, AND KINDNESS

In school relationships, just like in close personal relationships, positive connections are beneficial. A happy classroom is more conducive to learning. Students feel safe and are willing to take learning risks.

Below are three articles exploring personal relationships…

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement

A positive climate, most education stakeholders agree, is on most schools’ wish-list. Schools do not aspire, after all, to create environments that are detrimental to students and educators. But the No Child Left Behind era – a decade plus of “test and punish,” a stripped down curriculum, and narrow accountability measures – decoupled school climate from student achievement, in effect imposing a “nice schools finish last” credo. Sure, a “happy” school would be nice, but … about those test scores.

Love and Kindness

The older I get, the more certain I am that kindness is hugely important (though I don’t think kindness always looks like a warm, fuzzy Care Bear). There is science on my side; mean people really do suck, and they really do have a hard time building good relationships. We seem to have entered a pronounced mean streak as a country; the challenge will be to remember that unkind, ungenerous meanness is not beaten by more of the same.

Masters of Love

They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

DUELING ECHO CHAMBERS

Paul Simon sang,

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…

The political climate in the US is a perfect example of that. For the most part we stay in our own echo chambers hearing the “news” that supports our point of view. “Tell me what I want to hear, don’t confuse me with facts” is the attitude, and anyone else’s sources are “lies” and “fake news.”

One might have hoped that a new administration in Washington would have come in with the ability to ease the polarization of the nation. If so, one would have been disappointed.

Working in the Irony Mines

In the last eight years the Republicans have done everything they could to stop President Obama from governing…from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner saying they would obstruct everything Obama favored, to Ted Cruz forcing a shut down of the government rather than allow Obama’s policies to work. It’s ironic then – and by ironic, I mean amazingly, monumentally, ironic – that President-elect Trump’s campaign chair is blasting Democrats for establishing a “permanent opposition” to his administration. Was she not in the US in the last eight years? Was she hiding in a cave? Or perhaps she’s complimenting the opposition for adopting the policies of her party.

“The professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election,” [Kellyanne Conway] said. Liberals cannot, she added, “wave magic pixie dust and make this go away.”

Trump Opponents and Supporters Have Divergent Racial Attitudes

File this under, “so what else is new.” We all knew that there is an underlying racism in America and that the Trump campaign tapped it and benefited from it.

When economic times are tough there is a tendency to revert to scapegoating. It’s happened before. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

These findings aren’t particularly surprising. Others have also found that priming respondents to think of black people tends to make them tougher on crime and advocate for less generous social programs, like in this study on attitudes toward CA’s three-strikes law. What’s new here is the difference between Trump supporters and opponents. For opponents of Trump, priming made them more sympathetic toward mortgage holders; for supporters, priming made them less. This speaks to a real divide among Americans. Some of us feel real hostility toward African Americans. Others definitely do not.

Donald Trump’s Conflict-Of-Interest Network (COIN) – Otherwise Known As His Cabinet

President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos is just the tip of the unqualified iceberg in a collection of unqualifieds. Virtually every nominee and appointee has a history of working against the department for which they have been chosen. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but instead turned over a rock.

2. A Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) who opposes public education and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting private charter schools.

For more information about Betsy DeVos and her anti-public education policies see here.

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Filed under Article Medleys, DeVos, GERM, NorthCarolina, Politics, poverty, Privatization, reading, Teaching Career, Trump

Picture Walk – March 2015

[I had a series of posts called A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, till I realized that most of the pictures I included were filled with words. I’ve renamed the series Picture Walk.]

Here are some graphic images from around the net — plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

PRIVATIZATION

Here in Indiana the governor and legislature are doing what they can to give more benefits to private schools and charters and less and less to public schools.

A group of privatizers calling themselves “Stand for Children” are asking for an investigation into a classroom of Indiana students who wrote pro-public education letters to Governor Pence. They denounce using children as pawns in state politics. I agree with them — if the classroom teacher manipulated students into writing the letters.

I disagree with the governor, however.

Governor Pence believe [sic] there’s no place for politics in the classroom.

An age-appropriate, balanced view of politics, the political process, and how propaganda works, have a definite place in Indiana’s classrooms.

The image below is of a “choice rally” in Indianapolis where the governor and state school board members met with private and charter school students. This rally took place the day after a rally supporting public schools which neither the governor nor members of the state board of education attended.

One wonders whether “Stand for Children” will also investigate “choice” supporters taking their students out of school to attend a “rally for choice” at the state house.

TESTING

The Indiana ISTEP debacle is just one example of how the U.S. has become so obsessed with tests that even when the tests don’t do what they’re intended to do, they still must be administered.

The U.S. Congress is now debating the policies contained in No Child Left Behind, including yearly testing at every grade from 3 through 8. In New York legislators are considering the governor’s desire to increase the power of student test scores in teacher evaluations – to 50%. The federal Department of Education requires states to use student test scores in evaluations in order to receive federal dollars. Is this appropriate?

Some incorrect assumptions are common.

  • standardized testing is an accurate and valid measure of what students learn in school
  • standardized testing is necessary for parents to know how students are doing
  • standardized testing is necessary for teachers to know how students are doing
  • standardized testing is useful to grade schools and evaluate teachers

This blog is filled with links and posts which show those assumptions to be untrue. Until we can educate the public, however, the obsessive reliance on standardized tests for “accountability” will continue.

Unfortunately, for many students, classroom instruction takes the form of test prep.

Students are — or should be — more important than tests. We must stop the overuse, misuse, and obsession with standardized testing in the U.S.

TEACHING

The conservative trend in the U.S. is away from valuing experience and education. Those who are charged with making education policy have no experience in education other than having been former students. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, has never taught in, and never attended, a public school.

His ignorance, and the ignorance of others who make education policy, is what’s damaging public education in the U.S. today. There are those who are in it for the money…tapping into the billions of tax dollars spent each year to support public education. There are those who are in it for ideological reasons and believe that public education is, by definition, wrong.

And then there are teachers, who actually do the work of education, and who know what education is from the inside out.

State and federal education policies are not based on good pedagogy, but rather, focus on tests, and so-called “accountability.” Teachers are then forced to participate in poor quality education, focus on tests, and deny that poverty makes a difference in their classroom.

When that doesn’t work…and students still don’t score well on poorly designed and poorly graded standardized tests, then the teachers get the blame.

  • Not the policy makers who designed and required the poor educational practices and inadequate and/or inappropriate tests
  • Not the policy makers who ignore the effects of poverty in classrooms.
  • Not the test companies who profit from the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.

Teachers are the ones who get blamed.

GERM

“Reformers” no longer talk about how Finland has improved their school achievement. The Finnish plan for making public education work is completely the opposite of what we do in the U.S. Arne Duncan still denounces U.S. test scores on international tests as proof that America’s public schools are failing, but he won’t ever talk about how the Finns have improved because we would have to give up the cash incentive of privatization, the overuse and misuse of testing, and the denial of poverty as a factor in achievement.

POLITICS AND MONEY

In his book, Republic, Lost, Lawrence Lessig explains how money is more important than votes in U.S. politics. A chart of the path of money in relation to public education in Indiana makes it clear why even 1.3 million votes for Glenda Ritz (the most of any candidate for statewide office in 2012) wasn’t enough to ensure that her campaign platform would be allowed to proceed. Nor were the votes enough to prevent the governor and the legislature from stripping Ritz of some of her duties. ALEC, the Koch brothers, and “reformers” control the money flowing to politicians. Votes don’t matter.

READ ALOUD

March is National Read Aloud Month.

Jim Trelease quoted the National Commission on Reading in his book, the Read Aloud Handbook.

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

It’s up to all parents, teachers, and caregivers to boost children’s reading through read aloud.

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

If you’ve followed this blog you have undoubtedly noticed that the title, Live Long and Prosper, is a quote from the Star Trek series of television shows. There are also links to Star Trek blogs in the right column of this blog.

I’m not the sort of trekkie who gets dressed up and goes to conventions. I enjoy the TV shows and movies, and that’s it.

This past week (Feb 27th), Leonard Nimoy, who played the character of Spock in the original TV series, movies, and elsewhere, died at age 83. He invented the “Vulcan Salute,” adapting it from a sign made by rabbis during a blessing.

The phrase, “Live Long and Prosper,” became his catchphrase.

Nimoy was an actor, director, producer, recording artist, photographer, and poet. Below is his last tweet before he died

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under GERM, Politics, Privatization, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Television, Testing