Category Archives: Holcomb

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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2019 Medley #4

Disrespecting Teachers,
Benefits of a Book-oriented Home,
Math is for Boys and Girls,
Poverty Affects Achievement,
Bill of Rights for School Children.

THE DISRESPECT OF TEACHERS

Our Public Schools Aren’t Failing; We’re Failing Our Public Schools

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

Ed reformers blame teachers for “failing schools” but that’s because the truth is closer to home. Here we read about Michigan’s “failing schools” caused by legislative neglect or, more likely, legislative abuse.

The state’s public schools were once admired across the nation. They were well-funded and supported, and provided an excellent education for children. These schools became “the center of community life” in many places in the state, and still do in many communities.

But our state’s “new landlord”, aided and abetted by the “multi-level marketing robber barons” of West Michigan, stopped funding our schools, allowing too many of them, especially in our largest cities, to fall into neglect and disrepair. Michigan’s last governor took $1 billion from the state’s education fund, while declaring himself the “education governor”, and we wonder why Detroit’s schools don’t have the resources needed to maintain their facilities, or pay their teachers a competitive salary. Our current Secretary of Education suggested the best solution to the problems with Detroit’s schools would be to simply shut down the entire district, and let families find other places to send their children–and this is the person in charge of the nation’s public schools.

Teachers not appointed to governor’s teacher compensation commission

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

The State Board of Accounts includes CPAs…the Native American Indiana Affairs Commission includes members of local Native Americans…

But a commission directly affecting teachers in Indiana has no teacher as a voting member.

Gov. Eric Holcomb followed through Tuesday on his pledge to charge a state commission with finding ways to make Indiana teacher pay more competitive with neighboring states.

However, none of the seven voting members of the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is a teacher.

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

State legislatures and policy makers choose how and what teachers must teach. When their choices don’t improve achievement, however, the teachers are the ones who are blamed…

As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade.

THE BENEFIT OF HOME LIBRARIES

Home Libraries Confer Long-Term Benefits

Reading aloud to children is the single most important activity that parents and caregivers can do to help children become readers and achieve success in school. The study linked here reinforces the benefits of living in a book-oriented environment and explains that it has life-long benefits. Unfortunately, not all parents are able to afford the books for a home library or even provide transportation to public libraries.

Fortunately, there are a few sources of free books for children.

We’ve known for a while that home libraries are strongly linked to children’s academic achievement. What’s less certain is whether the benefits they bestow have a long-term impact.

A new large-scale study, featuring data from 31 countries, reports they do indeed. It finds the advantages of growing up in a book-filled home can be measured well into adulthood.

MATH IS FOR GIRLS, TOO

No intrinsic gender differences in children’s earliest numerical abilities

It turns out that men don’t have any more “natural” inclination for math then do women.

Across all stages of numerical development, analyses consistently revealed that boys and girls do not differ in early quantitative and mathematical ability. These findings indicate that boys and girls are equally equipped to reason about mathematics during early childhood.

LOOKING BACK

Here are two posts from the past which are still relevant to today’s educational environment.

Poverty Limits Student Achievement

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

David C. Berliner’s 2009 report explains the ways that poverty impacts student achievement. We must address poverty at the same time as we address school achievement or we’re doomed to fail. Legislators who blame teachers or students for “failing schools” must take responsibility for their own failure to create an equitable society. They must provide high-poverty schools with the resources needed to counteract the out-of-school factors impacting student achievement.

Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools, therefore, face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.

The Schools All Children Deserve

A Bill of Rights for School Children

Russ Walsh’s 2016 book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, contains this gem, a Bill of Rights for School Children, first published on his blog.

Fulfilling the items on this list would go a long way to providing equitable educational opportunities for all children.

As we look to future, it may be useful to consider some principles about public education that, for me at least, seem immutable. A Bill of Rights for the school child if you will.

1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public education.

2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe local neighborhood school.

3. Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person.

4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.

5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.

6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well-planned, engaging, and collaborative.

7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.

8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.

9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.

10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses.

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2019 Medley #2

N.J. Charters, “Bible Literacy” Courses,
Teacher Shortage, Kg Readiness,
IN General Assembly, L.A. Strike, Vouchers, Science Facts, Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson!

FALSE PROMISES

Broken Promises: Camden’s “Renaissance” Charter Schools

We keep looking for ways to fix public schools, but it’s just as important for us look for ways to fix inequity and poverty. Our schools are just a mirror, reflecting the societal conditions our policy-makers, and we the voters, are unable or unwilling to correct. Until we focus on the source of the problem — that some people are given rights and privileges denied to others — we’ll continue to fail.

[emphasis in original]

Students who enter charter school lotteries are not equivalent to students who don’t. Plenty of research backs this up (see the lit review in this paper for a good summary of this research). Combine this with the high attrition rates in many “successful” charters, and the high suspension rates at many more, and you have a system designed to separate students by critical family characteristics that do not show up in student enrollment data.

…It’s important to note that the Camden City Public Schools do not have the luxury of setting caps on enrollments, deciding which grades to serve, or not enrolling students who move in after the kindergarten year. Everyone in Camden must get a seat at a CCPS school. But only a lucky subset of students get to attend a renaissance school.

 

“BIBLE LITERACY” COURSES

The Threat Behind Public School ‘Bible Literacy’ Courses

Not all of America’s public school students are Christian. Not all Christians in the United States use the same translation of The Bible. When we try to include religious texts in school we run up against the problem of whose version of the text to use, which religious texts should be included, and which religions or sects to include. Teachers who teach such courses need to be well-versed in the law making sure they don’t express a preference for one religion, sect, religious text, or version of a religious text over another.

This is one of the reasons that the First Amendment separates church from state. Madison, the author of the first amendment, grew to recognize the need for the separation of church and state through…

…his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation…Madison wrote. “This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think anything relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

The current crop of Bible-in-public-school bills does nothing more than attempt to inject religion into public schools. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, in his bill, SB 373, makes it especially plain that this is his goal since his bill adds “creation science” into the mix.

Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.

…Let’s not be misled: Barton, the backers of Project Blitz and other far-right groups behind this new push aren’t interested in truly objective classes about the Bible in public schools. They want classes that indoctrinate children in a specific religious perspective – theirs.

NO TEACHER SHORTAGE

There Is No Teacher Shortage

This post by Peter Greene (the first of two in here) explains that the teacher shortage is the result of stagnant working conditions and lack of respect for teachers.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers can’t do their job, that teachers won’t do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, “What’s wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it’s supposed to be done.” And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we’ve been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.

 

KINDERGARTEN READINESS MAY NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

When I began teaching my first class of third graders (after a half year of teaching kindergarten) I discovered that the achievement range of my 38 students was much larger than I had imagined. Some students were reading several years above grade level, and some were reading one or two years below grade level. One student in particular, John*, was reading at a pre-primer level. In retrospect it was plain that this child was a candidate for special education, but, as a first-year teacher in a system with minimal provisions for special needs children (at least at that time), I was responsible for figuring out what to do to help him learn to read.

What should a teacher do with a child reading at a pre-primer level in third grade? I decided that I would do the same for him as I did for the students who were reading several grade levels above average. I would provide material at his level. That meant that John wouldn’t be exposed to grade-level reading material. In other words, I changed the curriculum to fit his needs, rather than make a futile attempt to force him into a curriculum in which he would fail, become frustrated, and learn to hate reading. The latter is what many schools have forced teachers to do since No Child Left Behind.

* not his real name

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem…if you still think that children raised in poor families have “too many” needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.

NO VOTER INPUT FOR EDUCATION POLICY IN INDIANA

Bill gives governor unusual power over schools

I wrote about a related issue in this bill last week. This bill, should it become law, would mean that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be an appointed position beginning in 2021, rather than a position voted on by the citizens. Since members of the State Board of Education are also appointed, the voters will have no direct input in the state’s education policy except through the governor.

Governor Holcomb will be the one to appoint the Secretary of Education which means that of the eleven members of the SBOE, nine will be appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With HB 1005, Indiana would become one of 15 states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer. The most common procedure – used in 21 states — is for the state board of education to appoint the chief state school officer.

Indiana’s governor appoints members of the state board of education; so, with approval of the bill, the governor will control both the setting and administering of education policy.

In states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer, the governor has total power to appoint state board members in only Iowa, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, board members are elected; or they are chosen by the governor but confirmed by the legislature.

The House approved the measure Thursday by a vote of 70-29, with most of the yes votes coming from Republicans and most of the no votes from Democrats. It rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment to require the secretary of education to have experience in education.

L.A. TEACHERS STRIKE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for our schools – and the country

Americans still prioritize now over future. We have cut funding for public schools through actual reductions and through the transference of tax funds from public schools to charter and voucher schools. Indiana, for example, paid $154 million to school voucher schools. The actual cost of charter schools is much more difficult to find, but a Duke University study of charters’ impact on North Carolina schools determined that

…charter school growth results in a “large and negative fiscal impact” on the districts evaluated.

and

…the findings are consistent with previous studies and show that charter growth generally results in a lower quality of education for students who remain in a district’s traditional public schools.

The Los Angeles teachers who went on strike earlier this month didn’t strike only for more pay and benefits. They were offered a 6% increase before the strike. They accepted a 6% increase to end the strike. What they gained were improvements to the learning conditions of the students in the form of lowered class sizes and much-needed wraparound services.

It was clear, however, that part of the problem with funding in Los Angeles and California, as well as in other parts of the country, is that money is being diverted from public schools to privately run charter schools. States can’t afford to support multiple school systems.

We believe every student, however challenged, ought to have access to success. And we know that in our classes with more than 40 students, there are often five or 10 with special needs and another 10 or 15 still learning English as a second language while as many as half or two-thirds are homeless or in foster care or in a continual state of crisis. Students collapse in class from hunger and stress and fatigue and depression.

Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. No one except the dedicated teachers who every day give a damn about them. And we’re going to keep giving a damn and hope that one day those in power give a damn.

 

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Side effects in education: Winners and losers in school voucher programs

One size does not fit all. Some teaching methods work for some children, other methods work for other students. Some schools are better for some students, other schools are better for others.

Think about this in terms of the evaluation of teachers, for example. Teacher A might be able to help student A, who is homeless, adjust to school, while Teacher B may not. But Teacher B’s classes usually have higher test scores. If you were the parent of student A which teacher would you want for your child?

As much as we might want to seek a perfect solution for all students, one student’s medicine may very well be another one’s poison. As students’ characteristics and education treatments interact, negative side effects may occur. Funding private schools with public dollars probably does not affect all students positively in a uniform fashion. To date, studies of school voucher programs have found their effects to vary among different populations of students.

Moreover, besides the side effects resulting from the interactions between students’ characteristics and education treatments, side effects also occur because of the broad range of desirable and potentially competing education outcomes. So far, evidence of the effects of voucher programs has been limited to a narrow set of outcomes such as academic achievement. Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other equally important outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society (Abowitz & Stitzlein, 2018; Labaree, 2018). Thus, we do not know their effects, negative or positive, on other important outcomes. It is, however, reasonable to believe that voucher programs and other forms of privatization of education can have negative side effects on individual students, the public school system, and the society (Labaree, 2018).

A WARNING

The most disturbing news yet

I recently saw a discussion on social media where someone stated…

“Science is facts. Theory is not yet science.”

After a quick facepalm, I responded with the article, “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words. This didn’t work, of course, because the person in question had been “educated” at a “Bible Institute.” He was obviously mistaught basic science concepts.

This is what we are up against. When the effects of climate change are no longer deniable, these same people will, at that point, point to “god” and claim we are being punished for allowing gay marriage, transgender soldiers, unisex bathrooms, or some such nonsense. Until that time, they will go along with the right-wing talking point denying climate change claiming it’s just a conspiracy to get more money for scientists.

In the meantime, there are places where insects are disappearing and the entire food chain is at risk. Those places shouldn’t be taken as exceptions, but rather as warnings.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

…We are part of a complex web of interdependencies, and it’s also a non-linear dynamical system. There’s a word for when parts of such a system show a pattern of failure: it’s called catastrophe. By the time you notice it, it’s too late to stop it.

JACKIE ROBINSON – JANUARY 31, 1919

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

📚📝📖

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2017 Medley #5: Lead – Just a Few IQ Points

Poisoned Futures

FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 1

Flint Weighs Scope of Harm to Children Caused by Lead in Water

Emails released by the office of Gov. Rick Snyder last week referred to a resident who said she was told by a state nurse in January 2015, regarding her son’s elevated blood lead level, “It is just a few IQ points. … It is not the end of the world.” Dr. Hanna-Attisha and others who have studied lead poisoning have a sharply different view of lead exposure, for which there is no cure. “If you were going to put something in a population to keep them down for generations to come, it would be lead,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said. [emphasis added]

OVERCOMING THE EFFECTS OF LEAD POISONING

My last post, The Common Knowledge is Wrong, was my attempt to defend public education in America. I maintain that public education is not failing. What is failing is our inability and/or unwillingness to take on the problems facing our children and their schools: a high rate of child poverty, inequitable resources in schools serving high-poverty students, and policy makers who choose to deflect their responsibility thereby dumping the problem on public schools. I wrote,

We don’t exclude economically disadvantaged students from our schools. We don’t exclude students with special needs from our schools. We don’t exclude students with behavioral challenges. America’s public schools, unlike private and privately run schools, must accept everyone.

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

It’s well known that poverty has an impact on student achievement. My contention in the above referenced post is that teachers and schools can’t overcome the affects of poverty in their students without additional help. What is the impact of poverty on students? In We Have a Poverty Crisis in Education on the Science of Learning Blog, Kristina Birdsong explains…

Students living in poverty struggle in ways most others do not. They face a plethora of issues, including but not limited to the following:

  • Increased risk for behavioral, socioemotional, and physical health problems
  • Decreased concentration and memory
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Higher rates of suspension, expulsion, absenteeism, and drop out
  • Poor hygiene and malnutrition
  • Lack of preparedness for school

Out-of-school factors like those listed by David C Berliner in his research study, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, have a definite and powerful impact on student achievement. One of the out-of-school factors Berliner discusses is that of environmental pollutants. Of the six issues listed above in Birdsong’s article, the first two can be directly caused by lead poisoning. The other four can be indirect results of lead poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.

…there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.

NO SAFE LEVEL

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Lead

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.

Educational Interventions for Children Affected by Lead (CDC)

Lead is a developmental neurotoxicant, and high blood lead levels (HBLLs) in young children can impair intellectual functioning and cause behavioral problems that last a lifetime. Primary prevention of HBLLs remains a national priority and is the only effective way to prevent the neurodevelopmental and behavioral abnormalities associated with lead exposure. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children already have experienced blood lead levels known to impair academic performance.

Lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, hearing and speech problems, and thus, lowered school achievement. Dealing with children who have lowered ability, behavioral difficulties, or attention problems caused by lead is something schools have some experience with, but interventions can be expensive. The costs must be shared by the communities, states, and the federal government.

EAST CHICAGO, INDIANA

I’m not going to reproduce the entire history of the rise and fall of East Chicago’s industry and the subsequent discovery that the land in some areas of the city were contaminated. You can see an excellent timeline with details at Timeline: Timeline: History of the USS Lead Superfund site in E.C.

The election of Mike Pence as Vice-President of the United States has had an unintended benefit for the residents of East Chicago. When lead and arsenic contamination was found in the soil in areas around East Chicago, Pence did as little as he could to help the residents. Perhaps he thought because the contamination was in a high poverty area no one would notice. Perhaps he didn’t care because East Chicago and the surrounding urban area (the second largest metro area in the state) usually votes Democratic. In any case, once Pence left office, the new governor, Eric Holcomb, lost little time in getting help for the people.

Thank you, Governor Holcomb

Holcomb grants East Chicago disaster request Pence denied

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday he will grant a disaster declaration for East Chicago to help address issues at the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site – a request Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor, denied.

Mayor Anthony Copeland had previously requested a disaster declaration from Pence, but it was denied in December. Holcomb agreed to increase state assistance to the city, according to the governor’s office, and help residents of the Calumet neighborhood affected by lead and arsenic contamination.

Whether the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency will be of any assistance isn’t yet known. The point is, however, that the children of East Chicago, like those in Flint, Michigan, have already been damaged.

FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 2

State of Michigan to stop subsidizing Flint water bills for water they cannot drink

The state attorney says that the water in Flint is safe now, but people shouldn’t drink it. What gall!

Governor Snyder and his cronies who have punished the citizens of Flint for the last two years ought to be punished themselves. Here’s an idea. Move the Governor’s Mansion, and the State Offices to Flint so they will have to live under the same conditions as the residents.

The state has decided that it will no longer help its people by subsidizing water bills…

“Unfiltered Flint water is safe, just don’t drink it, says state attorney”. That was the headline for a recent MLive.com article. In the article, the state attorney says Flint’s drinking water is “safe” but, “We are still recommending residents don’t drink unfiltered water.”

Despite this fact, the state of Michigan announced this week that it will no longer be subsidizing the water bills for Flint residents who cannot drink the water they are paying for…

…in the city with the highest water rates, and arguably the worst water quality, in the country.

Flint water rates highest in country, study claims

A study released Tuesday, Feb. 16, by Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch showed Flint residents were being charged more for water than any other customers in the nation’s 500 largest community water systems.

HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE

New York Changes How It Tests for Lead in Schools’ Water, and Finds More Metal

And it continues…

When experts said last year that New York City’s method of testing water in public schools for lead could hide dangerously high levels of the metal, officials at first dismissed the concerns. They insisted that the city’s practice of running the water for two hours the night before taking samples would not distort results.

Still, the city changed its protocol, and the results from a new round of tests indicate that the experts were right.

So far, the latest tests have found nine times as many water outlets — kitchen sinks, water fountains, classroom faucets or other sources — with lead levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion as last year’s tests found, according to a report released by the state health department last week.

Fort Worth ISD still finding high levels of lead in school drinking water

Three months after Fort Worth ISD announced it would be replacing hundreds of old drinking fountains due to high levels of lead found in school drinking water, a FOX 4 Investigation has uncovered that the problem is more widespread and will cost more money to fix than first believed.

There is no federal, state or local mandate requiring schools to test their drinking water. Fort Worth ISD voluntarily began testing a few schools in June after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan made national headlines.

Schools around the country find lead in water, with no easy answers

In Portland, Ore., furious parents are demanding the superintendent’s resignation after the state’s largest public school district failed to notify them promptly about elevated lead levels detected at taps and fountains.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) has ordered lead testing at every public school in the state after dozens of schools in Newark and elsewhere were found to have lead-contaminated water supplies.

TEACHER EVALUATION

Will policy makers continue to blame teachers, teachers unions, or lazy students for low student achievement?

Ask your legislator…

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