Category Archives: GradingSchools

A Big Red “F” For Indiana

Indiana legislators and “reformers” love letter grades…so communities (via their schools) are graded as A through F using already invalid ISTEP scores. Those grades are good for things like getting campaign donations from privatizers, bashing public school teachers, and directing real estate agents to where the money is, but not much else.

Now that the Network for Public Education has given Indiana a grade of F because of the failure to actually help improve student achievement and public education, legislators will likely complain that these grades aren’t valid…that they’re biased (irony alert)…or even more likely, they’ll ignore them completely.

An editorial in Sunday’s (Feb. 14, ’16) Journal Gazette summarizes the report about Indiana…

State gets poor marks in dedication to schools

Indiana earns Fs for supporting teacher professionalism, resisting privatization and investing school funding resources wisely. It earned Ds for rejecting high-stakes testing and giving children a chance for success. Indiana public schools continue to serve the vast majority of students. Public school enrollment this fall was 1,046,146 students, compared to 84,030 non-public students.

The poor mark for high-stakes testing won’t surprise anyone familiar with the state’s continuing struggles with ISTEP+, the standardized test administered to students in grades 3 through 8. Indiana also is among a handful of states requiring third-graders to pass a reading test to be promoted to fourth grade.

The state did get a B in school finance…and a D in High Stakes Testing and Chance for Success, though, as we’ll see I disagree with the High Stakes Testing grade.

The grade card then, is 3 Fs, 2 Ds, and a B – not the worst in the nation (thanks to Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi), but certainly not anything to be proud of.

The complete report from Network for Public Education (NPE) can be found here

My comments, and my grades, along with NPE’s, cover three of the categories. These three alone would be enough reason to change the political leadership in Indiana in November (if not sooner). Add to that the refusal of the Republican governor to work cooperatively and respectfully with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an actual teacher, and we have a serious situation for Indiana’s school children.

[On an interesting side note, the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), Glenda Ritz, used to be a Republican. She switched parties in order to help us get rid of former SPI and “reformer” extraordinaire, Tony Bennett. She recognized that his and then Governor Mitch Daniels’ policies were damaging the public schools in our state. Suellen Reed, the SPI before Tony Bennett, also a Republican, is currently on the advisory board of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a pro-public education group fighting “reform” and privatization. She served for 16 years as SPI under Democratic and Republican Governors in a congenial atmosphere which disappeared with the Daniels/Bennett administration.]

FAIL: HIGH STAKES TESTING

Indiana uses the ISTEP to grade schools and evaluate teachers, neither of which is a valid use of a tool meant for measuring student achievement. Last year’s ISTEP mess has at least encouraged the legislature to rethink the test and likely go with a different provider. However, grading schools and teachers using student achievement test scores will probably continue no matter what test is used.

Indiana also uses the ISTEP to label each school and school system on an A through F scale. Schools and neighborhoods are then either damned or lauded. That judgement is based, for the most part, on the economy of the families whose children attend the school since standardized tests have a direct correlation with family income. The D and F labels attached to low-income schools are detrimental to the community, to its families, and to its children. Students and their families are punished for having low incomes. Teachers are punished for working in high poverty schools.

Furthermore, Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don’t catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

NPE used various criteria in which to give Indiana a D. They also figured their grade before the monumental failure of last year’s ISTEP. My feeling is that the overuse, abuse, and misuse of tests in Indiana is reason enough to award the state a BIG RED F.

NPE Grade – D
My Grade – F

FAIL: PROFESSIONALIZATION OF TEACHING

NPE graded states on their ability to treat teachers with respect as professionals. Indiana fails.

The legislative chairs of the respective education committees (Robert Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, and Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee) seem to take pleasure in depriving public school educators of their rights. In 2011 they led the drive to

  1. eliminate due process for teachers. In the past administrations which wished to terminate a teacher had to allow the teacher a hearing with an impartial mediator. This allowed the teacher to present her case in front of someone who was not involved with the school system and could rule impartially. We call this Due Process. The law was changed in 2011. Now, teachers who are to be terminated can request a meeting with the superintendent or the school board. The chances of a fair and impartial hearing are reduced. This is what was meant by the term tenure in K-12 education in the state. Indiana teachers no longer have it.
  2. reduce collective bargaining to only salary and insurance. Teachers and school systems no longer have the right to negotiate things like class size, evaluations, prep time, or parent teacher conferences. Teachers now must do what they’re told, despite the damage it might do to student learning. The collective bargaining law changes (actually all the law changes in 2011) were meant to punish the teachers unions in Indiana, which they have done, but they also limit the flexibility that school systems have in negotiations as well. The supermajority in Indiana doesn’t seem to understand (or care) that negotiations and bargaining is a process that takes two parties: the teachers and the school system.
  3. use student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers. Why is it that there are fewer “bad” teachers (based on student test scores) in wealthy areas? Why is it that schools in high-poverty areas always seem to have many more “bad” teachers? Because student test scores reflect the level of parental income. Using student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers (and schools) is quite simply a misuse of tests and should be stopped.
  4. force schools to abandon the step-scale for teacher pay and eliminate seniority. Apparently the supermajority and its “reformer” donors don’t consider experience a benefit in public schools. I wonder if they would be happy with an inexperienced teacher for their own child…an inexperienced surgeon taking out their appendix or an inexperienced attorney defending them in court. The truth is, experience matters, in every job or profession.

The legislature and the governor also have a problem listening to the elected educational professional in the government, the State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz. Instead they’ve worked tirelessly, and successfully, to limit her influence on Indiana’s education policy. Apparently they believe that the auctioneer that leads the Senate education committee, the florist that leads the House education committee, and the radio talk show host who sits in the governor’s chair, all know more about public education than someone who

  • is a National Board Certified Teacher with two masters degrees
  • is a former Teacher of the Year
  • has 33 years of teaching experience in public education

Or perhaps it’s that she’s a Democrat and former union leader who got more votes than their “reformist” friend, Tony Bennett…

Here’s an irony for you…the legislature is “studying” the reason for the looming teacher shortage.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION

Public Education is a public trust. It should be funded and controlled by the public through democratically elected school boards. President John Adams wrote,

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Indiana has the most expansive voucher program in the nation, diverting millions of dollars from public schools to private, mostly parochial schools.

Indiana politicians also favor privately run charter schools over public schools by methods such as loan forgiveness (even when the school closes), additional special-favor loans to charter schools, and support for the proven failure of virtual charter schools.

In Indiana “failing” public schools end up as “failing” charter schools, which then become “failing” parochial schools getting taxpayer dollars. Instead of redistributing tax money reserved for public education to private corporations and religious organizations, the state ought to help students in struggling schools. In the past, Indiana was one of the few states where struggling schools got higher funding than schools in wealthy areas. That changed in 2015. Now, the better you do on standardized tests, the more money you get.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools

…changes in the funding system proposed Monday appear likely to funnel most of those extra dollars to wealthy and growing suburban school districts, while some of the poorest and shrinking districts could actually get less money.

So, instead of putting money where it’s needed, the state “rewards” schools for high performance, forcing students in poorer areas to do more with less. Those same students are then “blamed” for “failing” and their schools get closed or turned over to a charter company. The failure of the state to provide for the students is blamed on the school, the teachers, and the students, and privatization gets the PR boost, and the profits, it was after all along.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: INDIANA

The state of Indiana is lead by a “reformist” governor and a “reformist” supermajority in both houses of the legislature. Their goals appear to be the complete privatization of public schools, the deprofessionalization of public school teachers, and the elimination of Indiana’s teachers unions, all accomplished through testing.

Things are not likely to change soon. Politicians talk a good game, but they are driven by the need to be reelected, which means they respond to those who pay their campaign expenses, i.e. donors. And the biggest contributors are the corporate donors who use public education tax revenue as a source for profit.

If Indiana wants to improve its public schools…and we ought to pause to think about whether or not that’s actually true…which will benefit all our children and our communities, we’re going to have to change things. Poverty is the main cause of low achievement. As long as Indiana’s 22% child poverty rate, the same rate as the nation’s, continues, we’ll have struggling students. At this point it will take several generations to undo the damage done by the last 12 years of the supermajority legislature and the last two governors.

There are no “silver bullets” when it comes to improving schools. The myth that “three great teachers in a row” can close the achievement gap has always been a ploy. However, if states are willing to invest time and money guided by the right values, we will see steady progress for our public schools and our nation’s children. 

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Evaluations, GradingSchools, IREAD-3, ISTEP, Mitch Daniels, NPE, Pence, poverty, Privatization, retention, Ritz, Teaching Career, Testing

Don’t Defend Public Education With Tests

DON’T DEFEND YOUR SCHOOL WITH INDEFENSIBLE TESTS

No! No! No! No!

Look, I understand why Rod Gardin, the superintendent of East Porter County School Corporation in northwest Indiana, wrote the op-ed on NWI.com titled Public schools outperform charter schools. Studies across the nation have shown that charters don’t perform any better than regular public schools given the same students.

I understand why Superintendent Gardin is defensive about his local public schools. Charter schools are taking students away from public schools. Vouchers are taking students away from public schools. The legislature continues to provide more support for privatization and less support for public schools. The Governor’s new plan for education is simply more transference of public money from public schools to voucher accepting schools and charter schools. Public schools are consistently and wrongly bashed as “failures.”

I get it…professional educators are tired of being insulted and slandered by politicians and pundits and want to strike back with the truth. So Superintendent Gardin compared the letter grades assigned to schools by the Indiana Department of Education, based mostly on student test scores, and discovered that a higher percentage of public schools got A’s than charter schools and a higher percentage of charter schools got F’s than public schools…and so on for B’s, C’s and D’s.

Public schools outperform charter schools

According to the A-F grades assigned by the Indiana Department of Education, public schools outperform charter schools across all grade categories. Forty-eight percent of public schools received an A while only 25.4 percent of charter schools received the same grade. Twenty-two percent of public schools received a B. Only 1.7 percent of charter schools received that grade. 18.5 percent of public schools received a C. Charter schools once again underperformed, with 17 percent receiving the same grade.

What is most startling is the number of charter schools that received a D or an F. Twenty-seven percent of charter schools received a D as compared to 10 percent of public schools. Worse yet, 29 percent of charter schools received an F while only 4.8 percent of public schools did. Overall, 56 percent of the charter schools performed in the two lowest categories (D and F). That is almost four times greater than the percent of public schools that received a D or an F (14.8 percent). Public schools vastly outperformed charter schools in the two highest categories (A and B), with 66.6 percent of public schools earning those grades as compared to 27.1 percent of the charter schools.

BUT IT CUTS BOTH WAYS

Based on those tests charter schools score lower than public schools…and Superintendent Gardin, in his attempt to defend and support his public schools — for which I commend him — wants everyone to know it!

But what happens when someone from the state decides to close a public school based on those same test scores…or those same letter grades given by the state DOE? What happens when low-scoring public schools are bashed and labeled “failures” because they received an “F” from the state? What happens when teachers in those schools are labeled “ineffective” simply because their students scored low on the state tests?

Do we wait till then to stand up and claim that Indiana’s A-F School Accountability grading system is worthless because “there’s more to school than test scores”? Do wait till then to remind everyone that standardized test scores have more to do with a family’s income than a student’s teachers?

Poverty, not “bad teachers,” is the main cause of low achievement in America’s public schools and anyone involved in public schools knows it [even Arne Duncan and other “reformers.” They know it, too, but saying “We need to reduce poverty” doesn’t get the campaign donations that yelling “Teachers unions are destroying America!” does].

Giving a school an A based on student test scores doesn’t tell you anything about that school. It doesn’t tell you about the atmosphere in the school. It doesn’t tell you about the quality of the teachers, staff members, administrators and volunteers. It doesn’t tell you about the parents — other than perhaps their income. We’re still overusing, and finding new ways to misuse, standardized tests.

Instead, we need to say, right now, that Indiana’s A-F School Accountability grading system is flawed. It doesn’t give a real-life picture of what goes on in a school. We need to say, right now, that grading school systems, schools, and teachers with students’ scores on standardized tests is a misuse of data. We shouldn’t join in the misuse of standardized tests just when it suits us.

DEFEND YOUR SCHOOL WITH TRUTH

Instead of defending our schools by using test scores to compare them to private and charter schools we need to defend our public schools by informing people of the advantages of public education.

Peter Greene, in his blog Curmudgucation, had a great post about public education. In it he listed some of the positives about public education…

What Is Public Education, Really?

  • The public education system takes all students.
  • The public education system is publicly funded.
  • The public education system is run by local taxpayers.
  • The public school system is run transparently.
  • The public school system is not run for profit.
  • The public school is stably staffed with the best professionals the available money can buy.
  • The public school is a long term commitment.

Instead of defending our schools by comparing them to private and charter schools we need to defend our public schools by repeating the truth that public education in the U. S. is successful, not failing. Public school teachers are not failing. Students are not failing.

Public education is a public good…like public libraries, public parks, municipal water systems and roads. Our states and communities should support public education, not because public schools are better than private or charter schools (though they might be), but because they belong to all of us and are good for our communities.

Defend public education with truth not test scores!

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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 Charters, GradingSchools

2014 Medley #23

Charters, High Achieving Nations,
Early Childhood Education, A-F Grading, Pensions, Poverty, Recess, Teaching

ON TEACHING

Steep Drops Seen in Teacher-Prep Enrollment Numbers

I’ve written about why teachers quit, and about the looming teacher shortage — how schools in Indianapolis and elsewhere in Indiana started school this year without enough teachers.

The teacher shortage is a nationwide problem, and it’s only going to get worse. Colleges and universities have seen a serious drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs. Hardest hit are the nation’s largest states — California, Texas and New York.

Is this what the “reformers” want? Fewer professionals in the classroom…more room for “education temps” like TFA…fewer career teachers? It’s hard not to feel paranoid when more and more state legislatures and governors’ offices are doing whatever they can to make teaching less and less attractive. Will your children and grandchildren be taught by professional educators, or by young, inexperienced, poorly trained college grads who use public classrooms as a stepping stone to a different, “real” career?

Massive changes to the profession, coupled with budget woes, appear to be shaking the image of teaching as a stable, engaging career. Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education’s postsecondary data collection.

Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit. The Golden State lost some 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, according to a report its credentialing body issued earlier this month.

There’s more at these links…

Five Year Trend in Teacher Preparation Programs

Interest in teaching continues to drop in California

Bay Area schools scramble for qualified teachers amid shortage

GRADING SCHOOLS A-F FAILS

Editorial: Why A-to-F for schools fails

Imagine this scenario…

You’re a teacher and your favorite student does poorly on an exam and, if you average that grade into his yearly total he would only get a C or a D. Do you revise your “curve” to raise his grade? Do you change the grading scale so that he’ll get an A? What would your supervisor do? How would the parents of other students in your class react?

A majority of members of the Indiana State Board of Education apparently think that changing grades like that is fine as they follow in the footsteps of scandalized former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and manipulate the state’s A-F grading system so that their “favorite” charter school gets a higher grade. Heaven forbid that voucher and charter schools, including the Republican favorite Christel House, get low grades.

In 2012 and 2014, the A-F supporters were wringing their hands over the low grades calculated for Christel House and similar schools they champion. Why? They are unequivocally convinced that the academy is exemplary, a model. Obviously, they reached that conclusion for reasons other than a state-issued letter grade. In their minds, it is an A school, regardless, and when too low a grade is assessed, they cite the ways it is “different” and round up valid reasons to dispute the C, D or F.

The 2,100 other Indiana schools could do the same thing. Year after year. Each is “different.” Parents who pick schools based on the Indiana A-to-F system are fooling themselves; those folks are better off talking with families in the district. Despite strident efforts by “The Board” to make it somehow work, its A-to-F program needs to be canceled.

INDIANA FAILS ITS CITIZENS

Mark Russell: The Indiana Way hurts the poor

The Indiana Way, according to Mark Russell, is to cut more and more money from public schools — especially those with high numbers of students living in poverty. You get what you pay for in Indiana, and those who can’t pay get less…

The Indiana Way is to suggest that a major focus of the budget-writing 2015 General Assembly will be to “fix” the state school-funding formula so that suburban and rural districts receive more funding. This “fix” comes even while school districts, particularly urban districts, and local governments reel under constitutionally imposed property tax caps that have contributed to millions of dollars in revenue loss.

The Indiana Way allows for the potential of Gary Community Schools losing its transportation funding for its overwhelmingly poor students even while under state budget control.

The Indiana Way is being one of two states that charge textbook rental fees, disproportionately impacting poor and low-wage households, many of which are headed by income-limited single parents and custodial grandparents.

CHARTERS

Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits

Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

PENSIONS

The Plot Against Pensions

Are public sector pensions the cause of the nation’s economic woes?

Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.

Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.

Finding: The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are working together in states across the country to focus the debate over pensions primarily on slashing retiree benefits rather than on raising public revenues.

Finding: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is run by conservative political operatives and funded by an Enron billionaire.

Finding: The techniques used by conservative activists to gain public support to privatize the public pensions that public workers have instead of Social Security are, if successful, likely to be used in efforts to privatize Social Security in the future.

POVERTY

The biggest scam of all time

Stephen Krashen shouts this from every podium he can find. The problem with education in the U.S.A is not poor schools or “bad teachers,” it’s high poverty. Can we improve our schools and work to recruit better teachers? Of course, but we need to do what we can to reduce the impact of poverty at the same time or our efforts will be wasted.

The major problem in American education is not teaching quality, not a lack of standards or tests, but poverty: The US now ranks 34th in the world out of 35 economically developed countries in child poverty: when researchers control for the effect of poverty, US international test scores are at the top of the world, a clear demonstration that there is nothing seriously wrong with our teachers or our standards. Children of poverty do poorly in school because of the impact of poverty: Poor nutrition, poor health care, and lack of access to books, among other things.

The obvious first step is to improve nutrition through school food programs, improve health care through investing more in school nurses, and improving access to books through investing in school libraries.

LEARNING FROM SUCCESS

Linda Darling-Hammond: Time for the U.S. to Learn the Right Lessons from High-Performing Nations

Linda Darling-Hammond knows that Stephen Krashen is correct. She knows that other advanced nations of the world have solved their problems of poverty (while ours is getting worse) and as such, have put themselves on the road to higher achievement.

Take time to listen to her presentation beginning at 59:30 in the video at the above link.

“The theory of reform behind NCLB – to test and apply sanctions to the failure to meet expected targets – has not made a major difference in student achievement in every one of the areas measured by PISA,”‘ she explained.

Darling-Hammond also pointed out that if you factor in only those schools where less than 10 percent of the students live in poverty, the U.S, actually ranks number one in the world on PISA. In schools where 25 percent live in poverty, the U.S ranks third. Even when you raise that number to 50 percent, our students rank way above the international average. The takeaway is clear, Darling-Hammond said.

“Those countries spend their money in highly equitable ways. If you spend more in schools on the education of children who have fewer socioeconomic advantages, you do better as a country. Other countries invested more money and that is what shot them up in the rankings.”

RESEARCH: EARLY CHILDHOOD

Early intervention could boost education levels

The children of Indiana are worse off since Governor Pence refused to apply for $80 million in federal funds for early childhood education.

Taking steps from an early age to improve childhood education skills could raise overall population levels of academic achievement by as much as 5%, and reduce socioeconomic inequality in education by 15%, according to international research led by the University of Adelaide.

In a study now published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Population Health and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the UK have modelled the likely outcomes of interventions to improve academic skills in children up to school age. They considered what effect these interventions would have on education by age 16.

See also Actually, we do know if high-quality preschool benefits kids. What the research really says.

RESEARCH: IN THE CLASSROOM

Mental rest and reflection boost learning, study suggests

The Finns give their children a 15 minute break every hour. We should learn from their example…recess matters.

Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Darling-Hammond, Early Childhood, GradingSchools, Pensions, poverty, Recess, Teaching Career

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – September, 2013

Here are some pictures, graphic images and cartoons from around the net — plus my own 2 cents (sometimes more than 2 cents) worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

Why We Teach

All of the below…

The Cost of Education

Stapler Not Included

The 2013-2014 school year is only a few days/weeks old. How much have you already spent?

…I explained that there was not a supply room and that she could use a requisition form to order $50 worth of supplies, her eyes grew wide. When she realized that she was further limited by being required to place this order from an overpriced catalog, her shock increased. I quickly explained to her that when her $50 was exhausted that she should look for deals at “Back to School” sales…I welcomed her to the world of an underfunded, public education.

Schools Without Libraries — Not for the Rich.

Would any “reformer” send their child to a school without a school library?

Testing…ad nauseum…

“F” Schools or “F” Society?

What is an “A” school? What is an “F” school? Are letter grades for schools really reflective of the ability of the school to educate children, or are they an indication of the average socio-economic level of the students or the school neighborhood?

Phyllis Bush, co-founder of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education wrote in The A-F Grading System,

Since buildings are not people, I wonder how a building can receive a grade, unless of course, it comes from a building inspector. I also wonder how it must feel to students and teachers who go to a C school in a nearby neighborhood? I also wonder how it must feel to be a valedictorian at a school which receives a C, D, or F rating? Does that mean that all of the work that that student has done to excel academically is for naught? I also wonder if my neighborhood school receives a lower grade, what does that rating mean to my property value? What does it mean to my community?

Is there really such a thing as a failing school, or are there simply schools and neighborhoods which we, as a nation, have failed? This isn’t to say that there aren’t schools or teachers which need improvement, just that, in general, lower test scores (that from which school grades are figured) mean lower incomes. When will policy makers be held accountable for their part in the lower achievement of poor children? When will policy makers be held accountable for nearly 25% of America’s children living in poverty?

Unfortunately, private and privately run schools are using the public’s lack of understanding to denounce neighborhood schools for the purpose of increasing their bottom line.

What does it mean when public schools are forced to spend money which should be used to educate our children, on advertising?

Back to School

For Sale: Legislators.

Do you know who owns your state or federal legislator? The Gates Foundation? Broad Foundation? Walton Family Foundation? ALEC?

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under 1000 Words, GradingSchools, Teaching Career, Testing

2013 Medley #18

Public Education, Bill Gates,
Grading Schools, Segregation, Reading

STOP WASTING MONEY

Deck Chairs on the Titanic Failure of American Education

We’re doing the opposite of what our children need and deserve.

Stress inhibits learning, so we design stressful expectations; dopamine (from pleasurable activities) enhances learning, so we remove joy from schools; homework has very limited usefulness with negative returns after an hour or so (for elementary age kids), so we demand more hours of work; the importance of exercise in brain development is inarguable, so we eliminate recess and gym; the arts are central to human understanding, but we don’t have time.

I have been accused of complaining but not offering solutions, so here’s a solution: Properly fund schools and allow good teachers to select the materials and pedagogy that serve the actual students in their care. The rest will take care of itself.

And we can take the billions we’re wasting on NCLB, RTTT, Common Core and other nonsense and spend it to improve the lives of the shameful number of children who live in poverty in the “richest nation on Earth.”

GRADING SCHOOLS

Will Indiana schools reject grades?

Fort Wayne school board and South Bend school board have both rejected the state’s A-F grading system after the former state school chief Tony Bennett was caught manipulating school grades to benefit one of his supporter’s charter school.

Let’s hope that other Indiana school systems follow suit. A full scale A-F rejection by the state’s school boards would send a strong message to the legislature.

But celebrating “A schools” suggests the grades were earned. If those schools deserved their As, does it mean other schools in the district deserved the D and F grades they received? Is that really the message that school officials want to send to students, teachers and the public?

Retired Indiana educator speaks out against A-F grading system

NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush has written a letter describing the weakness of the A-F grading system for schools.

While our legislators assume that the reason a family would choose a school is because of a dubious letter grade, I would counter that people choose schools for a variety of reasons, the least of which is an arbitrary grade. Perhaps, many people choose their schools because they want their children to attend neighborhood schools within walking distance from home. Some choose schools because of programs like Montessori or New Tech or IB. Some choose schools because of music or arts programs. Some choose schools because they have talked to friends and neighbors and church members and found that a particular school seems like a good fit for their child. I have never heard anyone say that their kids are going to this or that school because of the State letter grade any more than I remember any kid ever coming back years later to walk down memory lane to remember some awesome test I gave.

SEGREGATION

Breaking News: School Segregation Study Strikes A Nerve

This article is about Texas, but it applies to the entire nation. Schools are more segregated today than ever…segregated by economic status, race and language.

Read Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2006)

Every educator knows that a child’s performance in school has more to do with what happens in their home than with their teachers. A child who doesn’t speak English at home or whose parents are not educated will not do as well on tests. A child who has to work to support their family has less time to study.

…In the past, schools and districts received ratings based on solely on how well the children scored on standardized tests. If a school or district failed to meet state expectations after three years, parents could pull their kids out and the state could shut the schools down.

That led to high turnover in struggling schools, where principals and teachers complained that they could only accomplish so much in a such a short period of time. Educators felt punished for agreeing to teach the state’s most difficult pupils.

[NOTE: For those interested in The Shame of the Nation here’s an interesting blog in which four students read, discuss and analyze the book. Start with the oldest entry and work up.]

READING

How the ‘reading wars’ are being reignited

The NCTQ so-called “ratings” of teacher education programs was a farce. They never visited any schools choosing instead to simply look at syllabi and course titles.

They claimed to use scientific based criteria for evaluation, however, when it came to the “requirements” that NCTQ demanded for Reading instruction…

…NCTQ claims the panel was sorting based on the presence of a “scientific basis,” to each textbook, their ratings prove them wrong. For example, Marie Clay, the founder of Reading Recovery and godmother of emergent literacy, is listed eight times, and each time deemed either unacceptable or irrelevant to the study of early literacy. Reading Recovery is the only reading program that has received the highest rating for evidence of positive effects from the Institute for Education Science’s What Works Clearinghouse.

BILL GATES

‘Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates’ Website Reveals 7 Major Things Educators Want The Mogul To Know

Bill Gates needs to listen to teachers…they obviously know more about education than he does. If he wants to spend his money to improve education he ought to donate it for jobs and health care.

7. Schools should teach children things that can’t be tested, too.
6. One size does not fit all in education.
5. Teacher evaluations should not be heavily tied to test scores.
4. Not all reformers have it right.
3. Give education professionals a seat at the table.
2. No Child Left Behind was bad.
1. Implementing Common Core standards will not fix things.

EDUCATIONAL LEADERS WITHOUT EXPERIENCE

Christie mocks educators and the people of Camden. Who cares?

Governor Christie in New Jersey is like Mayor Emanuel in Chicago. Neither would accept for their own children the kind of education they demand for the poor…untrained teachers and administrators, large class sizes, lack of support personnel, lack of fine arts, inadequate resources…

Christie has appointed someone with minimal experience to lead the Camden NJ schools. He doesn’t believe that experience in the field of education matters, at least not in schools where ‘other’ children attend.

On Monday morning, an obedient state school board will kick dirt in the faces of public school employees who cherished educational leadership as a profession. The tools of the rich will once again be used against the poor.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Article Medleys, Gates, GradingSchools, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Public Ed, reading, Segregation

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