Category Archives: Indiana

What’s in your water?

Many of America’s children continue to be poisoned by their local and state governments…because the Federal government won’t listen to its own agency.

Around the country, schools are fighting the effects of environmental toxins in their students’ drinking water. The most notorious example is in Flint Michigan, where the school system has seen a doubling of the number of students needing special services due to lead poisoning and the damage to the developing brain that it causes.

Other pollutants are damaging as well. Mercury, along with cancer-causing dioxins, are released from coal-fired power plants and municipal waste incinerators. The airborne toxins travel to the lungs of children or are absorbed into food and water supplies.

2019 was a bad year for lead…in Flint, Newark, Hammond IN, New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Thousands of our nation’s children have had their lives damaged by the toxicity of lead. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that even the smallest lead level in the blood of children is unsafe.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

Preventing childhood lead exposure is cost-effective.

According to a 2017 report from the Health Impact Project, a federal investment of $80 billion would prevent all U.S. children born in 2018 from having any detectable levels of lead in their blood. This investment has an estimated $83.9 billion in societal benefits, which represents a 5% return on investment. If it cost less than $80 billion to remove lead from the environment, then the cost-benefit ratio would be greater. Additionally, permanently removing lead hazards from the environment would benefit future birth cohorts, and savings would continue to grow over time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics echoes the CDC’s call to completely eliminate lead exposure in children.

With No Amount of Lead Exposure Safe for Children, American Academy of Pediatrics Calls For Stricter Regulations

The AAP calls for stricter regulations, expanded federal resources and joint action by government officials and pediatricians in the policy statement, “Prevention of Childhood Lead Toxicity,” published in July 2016 Pediatrics. Identifying and eliminating sources before exposure occurs is the only reliable way to protect kids from lead poisoning.

“We now know that there is no safe level of blood lead concentration for children, and the best ‘treatment’ for lead poisoning is to prevent any exposure before it happens,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, MD, FAACT, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and an author of the policy statement. “Most existing lead standards fail to protect children. They provide only an illusion of safety. Instead, we need to expand the funding and technical guidance for local and state governments to remove lead hazards from children’s homes, and we need federal standards that will truly protect children.”

Despite what the CDC says, the Federal government recklessly sets the safe level of lead exposure to 15 parts per billion. This gives state governments the excuse to ignore the damage done to America’s children.

How is your state doing?

INDIANA

GET THE LEAD OUT: Ensuring safe drinking water for our children at school

The United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has joined with the Environment America Research & Policy Center to release a state by state report on lead in drinking water. Each state is graded on its lead eradication policies.

Unfortunately, Indiana’s grade is a big fat F.

This stems from the fact that Indiana uses the Federal 15 ppb standard. In other words, while no amount of lead is safe for human consumption, Indiana won’t address any lead levels in drinking water until it passes fifteen parts per billion. In addition, participation in the lead sampling program does not automatically apply to all schools and child care centers. The state program is voluntary and only K-12 schools can opt-in. Our pre-schools, apparently, are not worth the money.

The report says…

…most states are failing to protect children from lead in schools’ drinking water. Our review of 32 states’ laws and regulations finds:

• Several states have no requirements for schools and pre-schools to address the threat of lead in drinking water; and

• Of the few states with applicable laws, most follow flaws in the federal rules — relying on testing instead of prevention and using standards that allow health-threatening levels of lead to persist in our children’s water at school.

Testing shows elevated lead levels in 7 Hammond schools

Hammond city schools discovered they were above the 15 ppb standard.

A new round of testing has found lead levels in the drinking water at seven northwestern Indiana schools that exceed the federal action level for the toxic metal.

The School City of Hammond’s board heard from a consulting firm Tuesday that drinking water in seven Hammond schools and two other district buildings tested above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead action level of 15 parts per billion.

Too many states, like Indiana, don’t have a mandatory program to check for lead in the water.

Report: If you think dangerous lead in schools is a limited problem, think again

The report, released recently by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, highlighted how many school districts — 72 percent — are not even inspecting their buildings for lead-based paint hazards. The Government Accountability Office restricted its analysis to school districts that had at least one school built before 1978, and those that obtained drinking water from a public water system.

Among the 12 percent that do inspect for lead hazards, more than half found them. That raises questions about what amount could be found in the remaining 88 percent of schools that aren’t looking.

FLINT, MICHIGAN

Flint’s Children Suffer in Class After Years of Drinking the Lead-Poisoned Water

It’s been five years since the state of Michigan switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The damage done to nearly 30,000 children has now hit the city schools.

The result is enraging. The futures of Flint’s children have been sacrificed to greed. The school system, already overburdened by the effects of poverty in the city, now has to add the impact of increased numbers of children with special needs.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on testing, but apparently can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color.

The city of Flint is suffering from the effects of environmental racism.

Five years after Michigan switched Flint’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River from Lake Huron, the city’s lead crisis has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems — real or feared — among students are threatening to overwhelm the education system.

The contamination of this long-struggling city’s water exposed nearly 30,000 schoolchildren to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Requests for special education or behavioral interventions began rising four years ago, when the water contamination became public, bolstering a class-action lawsuit that demanded more resources for Flint’s children.

That lawsuit forced the state to establish the $3 million Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, which began screening students. The screenings then confirmed a range of disabilities, which have prompted still more requests for intervention.

The percentage of the city’s students who qualify for special education services has nearly doubled, to 28 percent, from 15 percent the year the lead crisis began, and the city’s screening center has received more than 1,300 referrals since December 2018. The results: About 70 percent of the students evaluated have required school accommodations for issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as A.D.H.D.; dyslexia; or mild intellectual impairment, said Katherine Burrell, the associate director of the center.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE COUNTRY

How many thousands of children have been poisoned? How many more will be before we clean things up?

Various Cities

A hidden scandal: America’s school students exposed to water tainted by toxic lead

More than half of public schools in Atlanta were found to have high levels of lead, in some cases 15 times above the federal limit for water systems. Schools in Baltimore, Portland and Chicago were all found to have significant amounts of lead in drinking water.

New York City

Still High Levels of Lead in Drinking Water in NYC Schools

The numbers continue to point to a significant health risk because there is no safe level of lead in drinking water for children. Simply stated, New York’s action level of 15 ppb is way too high—even test results below 15 ppb present a significant risk for our kids.

California

Lead Found in Drinking Fountains at 17% of California Public Schools

The state, however, only requires schools to take action – including notifying parents, shutting down dangerous fountains and conducting more testing – if lead levels exceed 15 ppb. Schools that do detect levels of lead above 15 ppb must take follow-up samples from the place at which the school’s plumbing connects to the community water supply to identify whether tainted water is reaching the school from the outside. As of mid June, 268 California schools reported lead levels above 15 ppb, according to the Water Resources Control Board.

Detroit

Detroit schools to use bottled water due to lead, copper concerns

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti sent a letter to staff to announce that he was ordering drinking fountains at all 106 district campuses turned off after tests found 16 schools with “higher than acceptable” levels of copper or lead in their tap water.

…The shut down of water fountains doesn’t apply to charter schools, but Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, intends to initiate “the same level of” water quality testing at those campuses, Vitta said.

Newark

Newark Officials Said There Was No Lead In Schools’ Water, Data Shows Otherwise

Seven of 22 Newark schools tested this year had levels of lead in some drinking water sources that surpassed federal standards according to data obtained by WNYC/Gothamist. That runs counter to repeated assurances given by school board officials and City Hall that there was no lead in any drinking water at any of the city’s public schools.

As recently as last week, Water Department Director Kareem Adeem reiterated this to a crowd of more than a hundred Newark residents attending a “State of Our Water” town hall event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

“The schools [do] independent testing and they post that testing on their website,” Adeem told the audience. “They don’t have lead in the schools.”

But that’s not the case.

Philadelphia

Philly school knew about toxic lead in drinking water but kept parents in the dark

In 2016 — while headlines blared about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan — [Frederick Douglass Elementary School teacher Alison] Marcus’ North Philadelphia charter school raised money to buy bottled water for residents of the distressed Midwestern city. But as she watched students at the charter, run by Mastery, toss change into a large plastic bucket, she felt a pang of guilt.

“I just remember thinking, ‘We should definitely be testing the water here,’” she said in an interview this month.

That’s because Marcus says she and other teachers feared the drinking water at the school wasn’t much better than Flint’s. That same year, for roughly a week, some hallway fountains and sinks spurted a brown liquid that looked more like apple cider than water, according to nine former and current staffers.

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Filed under California, David Berliner, Detroit, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, New York, NewJersey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, special education

Thoughts on #Red for Ed

RED FOR ED RALLY IN INDIANAPOLIS – NOW WHAT?

Thousands of teachers, parents, and public education advocates rally in Indianapolis
November 19, 2019 

How many of the 15,000 – 20,000 Indiana teachers, ESPs, parents, and supporters of public education who rallied at the Capitol on Nov. 19, and the additional thousands who “wore Red for Ed” in their local communities, will fall back into the pattern of voting for the supermajority candidates who brought public school teachers, and public schools…

  • the loss of seniority and lessening the value of experience or advanced degrees on salary schedules
  • declining salaries (when adjusted for inflation)
  • the loss of the right to collective bargain things like class size, prep time, and supervision
  • the loss of due process
  • the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
  • the diversion of public education funds to charter and voucher schools
  • teacher evaluations and school grades based on test scores
  • and, beginning in 2020, Governor-appointed majority (8 out of 10) on the state school board as well as a Governor-appointed state superintendent of public instruction.

THIS STATE REALLY HATES PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

The current make-up of the state government is blatantly disrespectful of public education and public school teachers.

That is why the Governor’s teacher-pay task force has no active educator on its panel.

That is why public schools, which educate 90% of Indiana’s children, will get a 2% increase in both 2020 and 2021 while charter schools (10.3% and 10.47%), virtual schools (5.25% and 9.14%) and private/parochial school vouchers (9.28% and 5.6%) will get much higher increases. Those percentages certainly show where the state’s priorities lie.

That’s why Indiana teachers, of all the nation’s teachers, have seen the lowest amount of money in teacher raises since 2002.

That’s why you can become a teacher in a public high school in Indiana without a degree in education or pedagogical training.

That’s why you can become a teacher in a charter school in Indiana without a degree in education or pedagogical training.

That’s why Indiana’s testing programs, which seem to change yearly, continue to label students, schools, and school districts as failures because they have high populations of children in need. The assumption is that schools must cure the problems caused by poverty, not the legislature, even though out of school factors have a powerful impact on student achievement.

That’s why Indiana has singled out teachers as the only group of professionals in the state who need to donate some of their time to local businesses in order to learn how the “real world” works. Every Hoosier teacher is aware that neither the Governor nor members of the legislature are required to donate some of their time to public schools in order to learn how they work.

That’s why the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the person who is responsible for all the public schools in Indiana, will henceforth be a position appointed by the Governor instead of being an elected official. Some states with appointed State Superintendents have elected State Board of Education members. Some states with appointed State Board of Education members have elected State Superintendents. Indiana now has neither. They are all appointed.

HOW ARE YOU SUPPORTING OUR KIDS?

How many of the “Red for Ed” supporters will disregard Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson’s words,

The presidential campaign may receive the most attention, but on this issue, it is not the most important. Take a look at how your state representatives have voted when it comes to funding public education and supporting teachers. You might be surprised at how the people you voted for may say the right things in mailers or commercials or even to your face but vote the other way.

When educators band together for a cause, they can make a difference. Look at the 2012 election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction: A change was made because educators and friends of educators banded together. It can happen again, but only if you carry on what you start on Nov. 19.

Educators, parents, and supporters of public education in Indiana cannot continue to elect the enemies of public education to the state legislature.

If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten.

‘Great day’ for teachers

As the rally wrapped up, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick posted the following to her Twitter account:

“Great day today, Indiana. Now … it’s about the tomorrows.”

Alison Schwartz, a senior elementary education major from Ball State University, said of the Red for Ed Rally,

This is important because our teachers are important, and our kids are important. If you can’t fully fund your teachers and your schools and support them, then how are you supporting your kids?

We need to support our kids…at the ballot box in November of 2020.

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Filed under #RedforEd, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, REPA, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

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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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Teachers Unions, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

Thinking Strike

TEACHER STRIKES

They went on strike in West Virginia and Oklahoma. They went on strike in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland…in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Arizona.

All over the country teachers are standing up and walking out. Sure, it’s about salaries, but it’s also about class size, wrap-around services, and pensions. It’s also about teachers’ students and their own children.

The strikes are in response to years of neglect. Teachers are tired of being disrespected. They’re tired of seeing their students left behind by shrinking budgets. Teachers are tired of seeing funds meant for their schools and their students being used for private, religious, and privately run charter schools. Scores of teachers are leaving their profession in frustration. Those who have stayed are standing up and fighting back.

INDIANA

States aren’t able — or willing — to invest the money needed to fully fund their public education systems. Indiana, for example, has yet to see its school funding reach the level it was at before the 2008 recession. Indiana teachers earn almost 16 percent less than they did in the 1999-2000 school year when adjusted for inflation. The state’s Republican majority began the 2019 legislative year calling for teacher raises, but the Republican-dominated Indiana House sent a budget bill to the (also Republican-dominated) Senate which offers schools a scant 2.1% increase…only slightly more than 2018’s inflation rate of 1.9%. At that rate, it will take decades for teachers to reach salaries equivalent to those in 1999-2000. There seems to be, on the other hand, plenty of money for the privatization of education. Hoosier legislators have had no trouble increasing the amount of money for charter and voucher schools each year.

Why haven’t Indiana teachers walked out? Former state senator Tim Skinner thinks they ought to.

Former Senator: Teachers should think strike

[Skinner] believes that public education has been the target of the Republican Party for the past 15 years and refers to “senseless budget cuts, expansion of vouchers and crippling regulations.”

Furthermore, he doesn’t believe the Indiana State Teachers Association is taking a strong enough stand in response.

In an interview with the Tribune-Star on Feb. 22, ISTA president Teresa Meredith noted that many teachers across the state are calling for a walkout to raise awareness about the need to improve public school funding and teacher pay.

But she also stated, “I really want to avoid that.” She believes other options must be used first, including a rally at the Statehouse March 9.

Skinner believes Meredith “is exactly wrong about what teachers should be doing. Teachers have been turning the other cheek for the last 15 years, and the ISTA still doesn’t realize that they are getting the hell beat out of them,” he wrote in an email to the Tribune-Star.

PDK-GALLUP POLL

According to the 2018 PDK-Gallup poll the public supports teachers and their right to strike. Two-thirds of Americans agree that teachers deserve a raise. Nearly four of five Americans would support their local teachers in a strike for higher pay.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, American parents would prefer that their children not become teachers. Why not? Because of the pay, mostly. Also, I think, because of the lack of respect given to teachers, lack of job security, and the lack of support when on the job. Those are the reasons there is a serious teacher shortage in Indiana and around the country.

Indiana’s (and America’s) children need enthusiastic, well-trained teachers more than ever, but the number of college students going into education has continued to drop. Who will teach tomorrow’s students? Will the state further lower the qualifications for teaching so more people who aren’t actually qualified will teach? Lower qualifications will help fill classrooms with adult bodies, but how will that help student achievement?

Starting in 2011 Indiana teachers lost their seniority rights and most of their collective bargaining options. Most importantly, the legislature, filled with adults who only remember education from the point of view of a student, decided what and how teachers are supposed to teach but blamed teachers when student achievement didn’t soar.

TEACHING ATTRACTIVENESS

How does Indiana compare to other states?

Understanding Teacher Shortages: 2018 Update

The Learning Policy Institute has an interactive…

…map [which] highlights a number of key factors that reflect and influence teacher supply and attrition and signal whether states are likely to have an adequate supply of qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. Based on these data—which treat compensation, teacher turnover, working conditions, and qualifications—each state is assigned a “teaching attractiveness rating,” indicating how supportive it appears to be of teacher recruitment and retention and a “teacher equity rating,” indicating the extent to which students, in particular students of color, are assigned uncertified or inexperienced teachers.

Each state gets a “teaching attractiveness rating” — a number between 1 and 5 with 1 being the least attractive.

Indiana’s teaching attractiveness rating is 1.9. Arizona, at 1.3, is the only state with a “teaching attractiveness rating” that is lower than Indiana’s. Three states where teachers went on strike in 2018 are all higher…

  • Kentucky: 4.05
  • West Virginia: 2.73
  • Oklahoma: 3

Will Indiana’s teachers stand up for themselves and their students? Will they decide that turning the other cheek…and…getting the hell beat out of them is not helping them or the students in their classrooms.

Maybe Tim Skinner is right.

“They need to stop promoting vouchers and stop promoting every single form of education in Indiana except public education,” he said. “Stop for awhile and evaluate to see what good this 15-year reform movement has done for public schools … and recognize it’s damaged public schools.”

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2018 Medley #13: Investing in Children

Retention-in-grade, Early Childhood Education,
Poverty in America,
Poisoning our Children

The anti-tax atmosphere in the U.S. is taking its toll. Every one of the articles listed below deals with a problem that the U.S. refuses, or is unable to pay for…fully funding schools based on the needs of children, lack of investment in early childhood education, the high rate of child poverty, and most disturbing, the lack of funding, ability, or will, to keep our children safe from lead poisoning.

The recent tax plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy, will make it even more difficult for states, especially poor states, to fund their public schools.

PUNISHING CHILDREN WHO NEED HELP

Don’t punish schools because Johnny can’t read. Invest in them instead.

Instead of throwing money at vouchers and charter schools we need to fully fund public schools and give kids the support services that they need. When children struggle with learning to read the tendency is to blame the child and make him or her repeat a grade. This. does. not. work.

Some children need additional help beyond their classroom. Instead of closing their schools because of low achievement test scores, their schools should receive the funds to hire specialists and support staff so students can get the extra help they need. Retention doesn’t help, and the research shows it.

Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We’re not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:
“It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental.”

See also
Thoughts on Michigan’s New Mandatory Retention Law

Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back

INVEST IN OUR FUTURE. INVEST IN OUR CHILDREN

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

We know that investment in early childhood education pays off, but we’re still lagging behind the rest of the world.

The US is a global laggard in investing in early childhood programs. Even though more parents are working, enrollment in early schooling (before kindergarten) at the age of 3 in the US is 30 percentage points below the OECD average. The gap is just as stark for 4-year-olds: 87% are enrolled in pre-primary and primary education, on average, across OECD countries. In the US that figure is 66%.

THE U.N. IS TAKING NOTE OF AMERICA’S POVERTY PROBLEM

America’s poor becoming more destitute under Trump: U.N. expert

If you’ve had the feeling that America’s poor aren’t getting the help they need, you’re not alone. A report from a U.N. investigator brings to light the fact that the U.S., with the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world, is working hard to increase economic inequity.

Poverty in the United States is extensive and deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor people, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

…the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship…

A COUNTRY THAT POISONS ITS CHILDREN

Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Michigan…every one of those states, as per the articles below, have problems with their children being exposed to lead. Every one of those states ought to make sure that public schools are fully staffed to handle children with the special needs caused by lead exposure.

Unfortunately, this is just a small sampling of lead exposure in the United States. A large number of our children are being poisoned and are going untreated. Public schools are tasked with having to deal with children who are living with the effects of lead poisoning…and need to be funded accordingly.

Indiana

EPA Finds More Lead Contamination in Northwestern Indiana

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered more lead contamination in northwestern Indiana.

Soil samples collected since October have revealed more than two dozen contaminated yards in Hammond and Whiting, The Chicago Tribune reported .

Tests found 25 yards with soil lead levels exceeding the federal cleanup standard of 400 parts per million. One home’s soil tested as high as 2,760 parts per million of lead.

Illinois, Chicago

Chicago Residents Use Kits to Test for Lead Contamination

…lead was detected in nearly 70 percent of the almost 2,800 homes tested over the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

New Jersey

Lead in NJ’s children: Fixing it is a billion-dollar problem

No safe level of lead in a child’s blood has been identified, but county health departments generally take action when testing shows 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. About 4,800 children in New Jersey surpass that threshold, according to the latest figures.

Michigan, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids parent fighting lead poisoning wins environmental award

Tests for lead levels in young children living in the 49507 ZIP code, which includes much of southeast Grand Rapids, revealed the area had the most children in the state with elevated lead levels, according to a 2016 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible damage to many organs and is also linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike Flint, where the water supply was to blame for increased lead exposure, Grand Rapids’ problem is primarily tied to the lead paint found in many older homes. Four out of five homes in Grand Rapids – and nearly three out of five countywide – were built prior to 1978, the year lead was banned in paint.

Michigan, Flint

Sh-h-h. Snyder state update left out 75% drop in reading proficiency in Flint

Snyder and his administration didn’t cut it either, apparently ignoring the reading mission the same way they ignored the Flint water crisis: Third-grade reading proficiency in Flint, where Snyder allowed the water — and children — to be poisoned by lead, dropped from 41.8% in 2014 to 10.7% last year.

That’s a nearly three-quarters drop.

Read it again: That’s nearly a three-quarters drop in third-grade reading proficiency among children whose lives were affected by lead poisoned water during the Flint water crisis.

A Slow Death for Our Children.
🚌💧📚

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Filed under Article Medleys, Chicago, Early Childhood, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, retention

2017 Medley #34

 

Reading Crisis in California, Ed-Reform in Indiana,
Civics Education, Charters, Politics, 

READING CRISIS: IT’S POVERTY, STUPID

California’s Reading Crisis: Why Aren’t U.S. Kids Reading Well?

Why are so many kids struggling with reading? The vast majority of students’ reading difficulties are due to lack of opportunities…before they even get to school. Students who grow up in poverty deal with out-of-school factors which contribute to lowered achievement. David C. Berliner lists seven such factors which get in the way of achievement.

(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;
(6) neighborhood characteristics;
(7) extended learning opportunities, such as preschool, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.

Until we can successfully eliminate or reduce the shameful rate of childhood poverty in the United States we’ll continue to have an economic/racial achievement gap. No amount of charter schools, testing, school closings, vouchers, or other ed “reform” will change that.

But in order to learn how to read it’s important to look at other areas in a child’s life.

If a child doesn’t have access to good health care and they are sick and hungry, they probably aren’t going to learn to read well.

THE DANIELS-PENCE ED-REFORM IN INDIANA

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

Carol Burris, the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education has researched the ed-reform debacle in Indiana. This is the first of a three part series.

Daniels, who was governor from 2005 to 2013, would earn national recognition for his methodical and persistent undermining of public schools and their teachers in the name of reform.

Pence would follow Daniels as governor, pushing privatization even further. Pence would award even more tax dollars to charter schools and make Indiana’s voucher program one the largest in the country.

Klipsch would start and run a political action committee, Hoosiers for Economic Growth (a.k.a. Hoosiers for Quality Education), that would play a major role in creating a Republican majority in the Indiana House to redistrict the state to assure future Republican control.

A NATION OF IGNORANCE

We Urgently Need Civics Education

Yes, we do!

The decreased focus on civics coincides with No Child Left Behind. No surprise there…

A functioning democracy depends on an informed citizenry, including baseline knowledge of societal laws and institutions. Bafflingly, many schools no longer teach children how our government works, and what basic rights Americans are guaranteed.

Between 2001 and 2007, 36 percent of American school districts decreased focus on social studies and civics, according to a study by George Washington University’s Center on Education Policy. By 2006, just 27 percent of 12th graders were proficient in civics and government, said the National Center for Education Statistics.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Schools Choosing Students: How Arizona Charter Schools Engage in Illegal and Exclusionary Student Enrollment Practices and How It Should Be Fixed

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report about the charter industry in Arizona. They discovered that [surprise!] charter schools have found ways to avoid the accountability forced upon public schools. This is worth examining carefully.

The analysis focused on whether charter schools:

• Discourage the enrollment of students who don’t have strong grades or test scores
• Set an enrollment limit on students with special education needs or have questions in their enrollment documents that may suppress the enrollment of these students
• Discourage or preclude the enrollment of students with disciplinary records
• Have questions in their enrollment documents that may have a chilling effect on non-English speaking parents and students
• Discourage or preclude immigrant students from enrolling by requiring them to provide Social Security numbers or other citizenship information
• Require students and parents to complete pre-enrollment requirements, such as essays, interviews or school tours
• Refuse to enroll students until their parents commit to volunteer at the school or donate money to the school
• Require parents to pay impermissible fees that create barriers to enrollment
• Present other barriers for enrollment or continued enrollment

Some of these exclusionary policies violate state and/or federal laws. The fact that so many Arizona charter schools’ enrollment policies and procedures contain plain legal violations demonstrates a clear failure of accountability. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools authorizes and governs the vast majority of charter schools. The agency is responsible for ensuring that charter schools follow all laws and abide by the terms of their charter contracts. It is concerning that they have missed these violations of the law, most of which are publicly posted on schools’ websites or written into other widely available documents like student handbooks.

Though similar issues may be occurring within district schools, the ACLU of Arizona chose to focus its research on charter schools after hearing from several parents whose children were denied enrollment or faced barriers to enrollment at charter schools across Arizona.

UNQUALIFIED!

Republican Senator exposes Trump’s clueless and wildly unqualified judicial nominee

The Trump administration has nominated candidates to federal judicial positions who are blatantly unqualified. This, for example…

The administration has also appointed cabinet members who want to destroy the department they are in charge of, or have absolutely no idea (“oops”) what their department does.

When we talk about unqualified cabinet members we can’t forget Betsy DeVos…

Trump education pick painted by Dems as unqualified

This is a good time to remind everyone that the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is just as unqualified as the nominee for judge in the previous clip.

  • She has no education background.
  • She has no experience in public education, either as a student, parent, or teacher.
  • She knows absolutely nothing about what goes on in a public school.

DeVos is just the latest, and most egregiously unqualified Secretary of Education in a long line of unqualified Secretaries of Education.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, forced DeVos to admit that she has never led an organization akin to the Education Department, and has never used any of the financial aid products she will offer to students as head of it.

“So you have no experience with college financial aid or management of higher education,” Warren said.

DeVos was also pressed on civil rights laws dealing with students with disabilities, saying early in the hearing implementation should be left up to the states.

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire circled back to DeVos near the end of the hearing, informing her the law was a federal statute.

“Federal law must be followed when federal dollars are in play,” DeVos said.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

Require Ed. Secretary Betsy DeVos to Teach in a Public School

Betsy DeVos and any corporate reformer who impacts school policy should be required to spend at least a month each year teaching in a public school classroom.

DeVos just attended Gov. Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd meeting in Nashville. Let Jeb Bush and his corporate friends and politicians who drive corporate reform also teach for a month.

None of these individuals understand the problems they have created in the classroom. If they taught a class for a month they would see firsthand what they have done.

🐔🦊🐔

 

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, Pence, Politics, Privatization, reading, Uncategorized

Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

THE INDIANA PLAN

Indiana provides a lesson on how to destroy the teaching profession.

Beginning in 2011 the state legislature, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, and then Governor Mitch Daniels, initiated a number of school “reforms” guaranteed to damage public education and public school educators. Their reasoning was two-fold.

  1. Public education received large amounts of tax money which could be used for profit by friends, investors, and colleagues. Privatization of the public sector was and is a goal of Republican politicians.
  2. The Indiana State Teachers Association generally supports Democratic candidates for state offices because Democrats (usually) support public education.

In order to damage public education and speed up privatization, denigrate public school educators, and bust the teachers union, the following effort has been made by the Republican dominated state government since 2011.

  • (I’m sure there are more that I’ve forgotten. Let me know…and I’ll add them here – – – –)

As expected, this attack on public education had the desired (by the Republican privatizers) effect. Schools are losing money. Teachers are fleeing the classroom (see here and here), retiring early, and fewer young people are entering the teaching profession.

Indiana faces shortage of first-time teachers

Aug. 2, 2015

First-time teachers have decreased more than 18 percent in the past five years, leaving districts in a scramble.

Study: Indiana ranks among lowest for teacher recruitment, retention

Sept. 15, 2016

Indiana ranks among the lowest states for teacher recruitment and retention, according to a new nationwide study that anticipates a growing shortage of educators as fewer people enter the profession and demand grows.

In Indiana, more than a quarter of teachers say standardized testing makes them worried about job security — the highest proportion in the nation. Hoosier educators also earn starting salaries lower than the national average but face among the largest class sizes.

Those factors led to the state’s low rating for attracting professionals to the classroom in a report released this week by the Learning Policy Institute. Indiana scored a 2.17 out of a possible 5 points in a review of educator data, including teacher compensation and working conditions. Just three states, Arizona, Texas and Colorado, and the District of Columbia received lower scores.

The shortage continues…

Indiana facing teacher shortage

October 24, 2017

School districts across Indiana are dealing with teacher shortages. According to a new survey, even more districts are feeling the impact now than in 2016. So, what’s going on?

More than 130 District Superintendents in the survey said they have a teacher shortage right now.

Some Republicans claim the teacher shortage isn’t actually happening. Note that the article linked here includes licensed teachers who are not in the classroom as part of the “excess.” Why are they not teaching? Did they leave the classroom because of the deterioration of working conditions and salary?

Nevertheless, in order to offset the loss of teaching staff in the state, rules for becoming a teacher have been relaxed…

…because nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

Controversial alternative teaching permit approved by Indiana State Board of Education

Sept. 3, 2014

The Indiana State Board of Education on Wednesday approved a controversial proposal to provide another way for people without a teaching degree to teach high school students, despite outrage from teachers who said it would devalue their profession and subject kids to unprepared educators.

REPA III – Deprofessionalizing Education

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014

The final step in making our public schools as much unlike successful nations’ schools as possible, is to demoralize teachers and deprofessionalize the field of education. Instead of increasing requirements for becoming a teacher, we decrease them. Instead of doing what we need to do to attract the “best and the brightest” to our public school classrooms we make a career in the field of education so difficult and so filled with mind-numbing test-obsessed insanity that fewer and fewer students are going into teaching and older, experienced career teachers are leaving the field in greater and greater numbers.

REPA III requires training in some “related field.” Would any of the seven REPA III supporters on the Indiana State Board of Education want to be treated for an illness by say, an anatomy professor who never attended medical or nursing school, but who promised to learn how to practice medicine within a month? Would any of them go to a former police officer for legal help, for example, if the officer decided that s/he wanted to practice law and would start on her/his law degree during the first month of handling their case?

Do any of them send their own children to schools with untrained teachers?

ON WISCONSIN

Marquette University dropout and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker hates teachers (and most other public sector workers, as well) and ran his campaign on a platform of union busting. How has that worked out?

Apparently not so well for the students of Wisconsin. The “unintended” [sic] consequences of Walker’s attack on public schools, public school teachers, and public sector unions, has, believe it or not, reduced the number of people who want to become teachers in Wisconsin. Go figure…

This Is Just How Badly Scott Walker Has Decimated Public Schools in Wisconsin

“Rather than encouraging the best and the brightest to become teachers and remain in the field throughout their career,” Wisconsin state Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said during a press call on Wednesday, “Act 10 has demonized and devalued the teaching profession and driven away many good teachers. These serious implications have left schools across Wisconsin struggling to fill teaching positions.”

That shortage is only starting. As time goes on and fewer people enter the field, the state’s school districts will struggle to find teachers to fill open slots. Already for the 2016-2017 school year, the state’s Department of Public Instruction had to relax the rules for teacher licenses so that more people could get one-year emergency approval to fill shortages.

In response, Wisconsin, like Indiana, has decided that Walker’s successful attempt to drive teachers away from Wisconsin means that they need to lower standards for teacher candidates.

Below you can read about a lobbyist for Wisconsin school boards. He doesn’t come out and say that Walker is the reason for the teacher shortage. Instead he claims that there haven’t been teacher salary raises since the Great Recession. Also, for some unexplained reason, the status of teachers isn’t as high as it once was.

DPI expanding teacher license options to address staffing shortages

Dan Rossmiller, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said the teacher shortages being felt in Wisconsin reflect a national trend of fewer high school students studying in college to become classroom teachers.

“The pipeline is definitely narrower and weaker than it used to be,” said Rossmiller.

Rossmiller said factors contributing to fewer people wanting to become teachers include a decline in the reliability of teacher pay raises since the Great Recession.

“For whatever reason, the status of teachers is not being seen as high as it once was,” said Rossmiller. He said when teachers stopped receiving pay raises to keep up with cost of living increases, the attractiveness of the profession declined.

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Indiana and Wisconsin – along with other states across the nation (looking at you, Florida and North Carolina among others) – have found successful ways to weaken and destroy teachers unions, lower the quality of teachers in the classroom, and damage public education. It consists of a few simple steps.

  • First, claim that public schools are failing and that teachers are at fault.
  • Second, use the false narrative of failing public schools to pass laws which damage public education further and make the teaching profession less attractive.
  • Third, lower the qualifications for teachers in order to find enough bodies to fill classroom positions.
  • Fourth, blame the decimated and demoralized teaching force for not increasing student achievement.
  • Repeat.

Student achievement isn’t even considered except as a tool to bludgeon public schools.

I doubt that Walker (or Bennett, Daniels, and Pence in Indiana) are at all worried about the teacher shortage.

That was part of the plan all along.

👨‍🎓🎓👩‍🎓

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Filed under Indiana, Koch Brothers, Mitch Daniels, REPA, TeacherShortage, Wisconsin