Category Archives: IREAD-3

2019 Medley #8

Grade Level, Student Achievement,
Society’s Mirror, Teacher Shortages,
Charter Accountability,
Disenfranchising the Voters

CHILDREN DON’T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

This post isn’t about reading, but Mitchell Robinson brings up important information we should remember.

Last month, third graders in Indiana took the IREAD-3, a reading achievement test. Those who fail to achieve the arbitrarily designated cut score must take the test again during the summer. Those who fail it again must repeat third grade.

The concept of grade level should be flexible, not based on an arbitrary cut score. It should reflect the average reading level of a child in a particular grade instead of a goal for every child to achieve on a given test day. We should teach children at their zone of proximal development — the level just beyond the child’s independent level, not at the level the test insists upon.

Would we like all children to be above average? Of course, but we can’t ignore the math which renders that impossible. Additionally, we can’t ignore the detrimental impact of poverty on school achievement. Our job, as teachers, is to analyze a child’s achievement and make our plans based on what will help him progress as quickly as possible. That means starting where the child is…not at some vague “grade-level” determined by an outside source.

By setting a cut score on a test, and using the test to determine grade placement, the state is ignoring this basic concept of academic achievement and development, usurping the professional judgment of the classroom teacher, and ignoring the best interests of children in a misguided quest to get a number with which to label teachers, schools and school districts.

I agree with Robinson when he says that we can set “goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students.” We do that by understanding the reading process and observing our students. [emphasis in original]

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

But the only thing that measuring reading by “grade level” does is make a lot of kids–and teachers–feel dumb when they are not, and turn reading into drudgery instead of the life-long pursuit of joy, knowledge, and enjoyment it’s meant to be.

FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT

Food for thought: Students’ test scores rise a few weeks after families get food stamps

What’s this? Students learn better when they are well fed? Go figure!

…scores were highest around three weeks after families received benefits, and lowest at the beginning and end of that cycle. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.

It’s not fully clear why scores spike around that three-week mark, but the researchers suggest that the academic benefits of better access to food, like improved nutrition and reduced stress, take some time to accrue.

“Students with peak test performance (who received SNAP around two weeks prior to their test date) may have benefited from access to sufficient food resources and lowered stress not only on the day of the test but for the previous two weeks,” Gassman-Pines and Bellows write.

Source: Food Instability and Academic Achievement: A Quasi-Experiment Using SNAP Benefit Timing

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

‘As society goes, school goes:’ New report details toll on schools in President Trump’s America

Children learn what they live. Guess what happens when they live in a society filled with hatred and bigotry…in a society where truth has no meaning…in a society where disagreements are solved by shooting those who you disagree with…

John Rogers and his colleagues (Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera) at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 500 public high school principals from across the country and found this:

* 89 percent reported that “incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.”

* 83 percent of principals note these tensions are fueled by “untrustworthy or disputed information,” and over 90 percent report students sharing “hateful posts on social media.”

* Almost all principals rate the threat of gun violence as a major concern, and one in three principals report that their school received in the previous year threats of mass shooting or bombing or both.

There’s more: In schools with a sizable immigrant population, principals report the significant negative effects that federal immigration policy and its associated anti-immigrant rhetoric have on student performance and family stability.

And schools that are in the areas of the country hardest hit by the opioid crisis are directly affected by addiction, overdose, and family devastation.

Source: School and Society in the Age of Trump

TOMORROW’S TEACHERS

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought

The right-wing war on the teaching profession is succeeding. Fewer young people are going into education. The number of uncertified teachers is increasing. Class sizes will increase.

As might be expected, this has the greatest impact on high-poverty schools.

What can we do? Who will be tomorrow’s teachers? Will there still be a well staffed, local public school for our children and grandchildren?

Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools…

Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools…

The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools…

Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession…

THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

In the Public Interest‘s weekly privatization report for April 8, 2019, is all about charter schools. Fully ten of the fifteen education articles have to do with charters failing to do the job that taxpayers were giving them money to do. Charters should not be allowed to open in areas where an additional school isn’t needed. Charters must be fiscally and academically accountable, just like real public schools.

Louisiana officials are recommending to close a charter school amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a failure to provide proper special education services to the roughly 40 percent of enrolled students with disabilities.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

What does it say about a political party which wins elections by preventing citizens from voting…by arranging districts so that politicians choose their voters, not the other way around…and by going against the will of the voters to divert money from public institutions to privatization?

Republicans in Indiana tried this during the 2019 legislative session and didn’t get away with it. I don’t doubt that they will try again.

Pinellas County voters reapproved a special property tax in 2016 to improve teacher salaries and arts programs, not to subsidize charter schools. Miami-Dade voters approved a property tax increase last year to raise teacher salaries and hire more school resource officers, not to subsidize charter schools. Yet now Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to change the rules and force local school districts to share money from local tax increases with privately operated charter schools. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries.

💰📖🚌

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Filed under Achievement, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Florida, IREAD-3, Legislatures, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, TeacherShortage, Testing

Listen to This #3

Here are a few of last week’s interesting quotes and comments…

SCHOOL FUNDING, TEACHER PAY

Teacher pay is a problem in Indiana, too

Teachers have marched in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky and North Carolina. They marched for more funding for education…only partly for higher pay. In Indiana, teachers pay has dropped 15% since 2000. Class sizes have grown due to loss of funding as well as from funding redirected to charter and voucher schools.

Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, warned Indiana lawmakers to “take steps” to avoid and “impending education crisis.” I don’t expect the Republicans, with an 80% majority in the State Senate and a 70% majority in the State House, to ease up on school “reform.” It will be up to teachers to make their voices heard.

Will Indiana teachers step up for their students like teachers in other red states have?

From Glenda Ritz in IBJ (Indianapolis Business Journal).

Support for our students is really the most important issue for educators in the field. The protests around the nation are about teachers—and parents—making their voices heard about the decline in public education spending used to provide students with the learning environments, resources and opportunities that they deserve.

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Indiana schools might struggle to hire teachers, but there’s no shortage of ways to become one

Indiana politicians are scrambling trying to find ways to lower the requirements for teachers in order to offset the teacher shortage. In truth, the shortage is a result of years of anti-public education legislation making the teaching profession less and less desirable to young people entering or graduating from college.

Each year the super-majority in the legislature passes laws against public education. They have nearly eliminated collective bargaining for teachers, diverted needed funds to charter and voucher schools, adopted a flawed grading system for schools, and insisted on using student test scores to evaluate teachers. The current and past Republican leadership in Indiana has made the teaching profession more difficult and less attractive. It’s disingenuous for them to complain about a teacher shortage they created. It’s an insult to all the public school teachers in the state who were actually trained in education.

From Shaina Cavazos in Chalkbeat

Controversial policies paring down licensure requirements have spawned debates about how to balance a teacher’s education and preparation with a school’s need to fill jobs. State legislators and policymakers have argued for years now that relaxed rules will encourage more people to become teachers — but the data shows that so far, relatively few are taking advantage of those opportunities.

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

Public schools in many states, like Indiana, punish students and their schools for their learning difficulties. Third grade retention laws require students to repeat third grade, a misguided plan which is contradicted by both current and past research.

We need to provide services to students, not label them as failures. Politicians may respond “…we don’t have enough money.” To that, I say, quit cutting taxes on corporations and people who can pay more.

From Nancy Flanagan

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.”

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How Unequal School Funding Punishes Poor Kids

  • We have a much higher rate of child poverty than other advanced nations.

Our short-sighted attitude towards our children and their education does not bode well for our future strength as a nation.

From Michelle Chen in The Nation

In 17 states, including relatively affluent Connecticut and Maine, the school systems “provide less funding to their higher poverty school districts, even though students in these districts require more resources to achieve.” In many states, including Michigan and Arizona, poor kids are priced out of educational equity: “only the lowest-poverty districts have sufficient funding to reach national average student achievement outcomes.”

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A Guide to the Corporations that are De-Funding Public Education and Opposing Striking Teachers

Our representative democracy has sold itself to the small number of citizens with the most money. We have become an oligarchy where the ultra-wealthy buy candidates for political office or buy the office for themselves.

From Molly Gott and Derek Seidman in Little Sis

The austerity and privatization agenda for education goes something like this: impose big tax cuts for corporations and the .01% and then use declining tax revenue as a rationale to cut funding for state-funded services like public schools. Because they are underfunded, public schools cannot provide the quality education kids deserve. Then, the right wing criticizes public schools and teachers, saying there is a crisis in education. Finally, the right wing uses this as an opportunity to make changes to the education system that benefit them – including offering privatization as a solution that solves the crisis of underfunding.

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ON THE 64th ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN

In today’s America, schools are more segregated than before the 1954 landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education.

From Nikole Hannah-Jones

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ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING

This Is School in America Now

A government which does nothing when the nation’s school children are being shot in their classrooms, does not deserve your vote. #RememberinNovember.

From James Poniewozik

You send your kids to school, and one of the things they learn is how not to die. 

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WHAT ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION?

With Trump Impeachment at Stake, Will Evangelical Voters Show up for the Midterm Elections?

In the following quote, Evangelical leader David Lane indicated his preference for establishing a theocracy in the U.S.  There are millions of non-evangelicals living in the U.S. who wouldn’t vote to be ruled by the Religious Right. In addition the Constitution stands in the way.

First, theocracies generally expect the leaders of the government to be part of the ruling religion. Article VI creates a problem with that, since…

…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Second, the First Amendment clearly states that

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

By definition, establishing a biblically-based culture, establishing a religion.

It’s strange how the Religious Right (which now owns the Executive Branch) ignores the founders’ desire to create a secular society.

From Evangelical leader, David Lane

We are really clear about what we are doing,” Lane tells CBN News. “There is no hidden agenda about it. We’re trying to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a biblically-based culture in America.

🎧🎧🎧

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Filed under IREAD-3, reform, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Segregation, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

It’s (almost) Spring. Time for baseball, longer days, and, of course…

Right now most grade 3 through grade 8 students here in Indiana are taking ISTEP+…or more correctly, ISTEP+ Part 1. ISTEP+ Part 2 is given in April, less than a month after Part 1. At least, that’s how it is for most students. Third graders aren’t quite as lucky.

Indiana is a member of the “Learn or be Punished” club, so third graders also get to take the high-stakes IREAD-3. IREAD-3 is an additional reading test (yes, reading is also tested on the ISTEP+ Part 1 and Part 2). IREAD-3 immediately follows ISTEP+ Part 1 and their scores on IREAD-3 determine if they get promoted to fourth grade for the next school year. [See Research on Retention in Grade for why this is a terrible idea.]

Tenth graders take ISTEP+, too. Secondary students also take ECAs (End of Course Assessments).

There are other tests from the state as well…the alternate assessment, ISTAR…the Kindergarten readiness test, ISTAR-KR…the English proficiency, WIDA….ACCUPLACER. Next year ISTEP+ will be replaced with ILEARN, which promises to be somewhat different, but also somewhat the same.

HOW MUCH ARE WE SPENDING…

…on tests in Indiana? We’ve spent $300 million since 2002 and $38 million for the last two years of ISTEP+ alone. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction hopes to spend $26.3 million for the next two years. Such a bargain!

But the cost of testing is much greater than just the cost of the test booklets. Personnel costs…the loss of instructional time…the cost of paying teachers, administrators and others to fiddle around with testing chores instead of actually working with students…and the cost in emotional and physical stress related to the tests.

The money (and time) we have wasted could surely have been put to better use in classrooms…lowering class sizes perhaps with an additional 200 teachers statewide…updated technology…textbooks…classroom sets of books…building repairs…science equipment. Perhaps that money could have helped the people of Muncie and Gary retain their democratic right to elected school boards.

If you include the millions of dollars dumped into private pockets through charters and vouchers we would have enough to build a pretty solid system of common schools in Indiana.

THE WRONG KINDS OF WAYS

What are we doing with all those different test scores? Test scores are used to (among other things)…

  • evaluate teachers
  • determine grade placement for children (IREAD-3)
  • rank and grade schools
  • rank school systems

In Rise Above the Mark, Linda Darling Hammond said,

The problem we have with testing in this country today is that, number 1, we’re using the wrong kinds of tests, and number 2, we’re using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

Standardized tests are developed to determine how much students know about the tested material. They are not made to evaluate teachers, schools, and school systems. Using them inappropriately is invalid and a misuse of the test.

The entire country misuses and overuses tests…and we do it with the blessing of the U.S. Education Department and all 50 state Departments of Education at a cost of nearly $2 billion (The last study I could find was done in 2012, and the cost, at that time, was $1.7 billion. I think I’m safe in assuming that it’s more than that now).

[UPDATE: As I was getting ready to post this, I saw this video from NPE. It’s worth your time. Watch it…

TESTING IS NOT TEACHING: WHAT SHOULD TEACHERS DO?

Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test…You didn’t devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do.Candidate Barack Obama, 2007

Testing is not teaching and a child (or a school/state/nation) is more than a test score.

So what can one teacher do?

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re administering tests this month — or at any time during the school year.

1. You have already prepared them as much as you can. No matter what you do you can’t (legally) add more to their knowledge once a testing session begins.

2. Standardized tests measure knowledge, but you have provided your students with growth opportunities, experiences and skills which aren’t (and can’t be) tested such as (but not limited to):

creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, a sense of beauty, a sense of wonder, honesty, integrity

3. Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests — the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation — is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that were important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn’t be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that’s not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.

4. People who make rules and laws about teaching, from legislators to billionaires to presidents, don’t understand the teaching and learning process. For most of them, their understanding of teaching comes from the point of view of a learner.

They don’t understand what it means to be a teacher in a classroom.

They don’t know the planning that takes place before the first day of school. They don’t understand the thought behind creating an entire year’s worth of lesson plans. They don’t know the emotional responses a teacher feels when a class leaves her care at the end of a school year. They don’t know all the time and effort spent preparing at night, on weekends, and during “vacations.”

They have never helped a child decide to remain in school only to lose him to a drive-by shooting. They have never gotten a letter from a former student thanking them for supporting her during a family crisis. They have never tried to explain to a class of Kindergartners why their classmate who had cancer is not coming back. They have never felt the joy of watching a student who they helped all year long walk across the stage to accept a diploma.

State legislators who come from jobs as attorneys, florists, or auctioneers don’t know what preparing for a class — or half a dozen classes — of students, day after day, for 180 days, is like. They have an image of what a classroom teacher does based on their childhood and youthful memories, but they don’t know how it really works.

Understand that. Remember that you are much more valuable to your students than what is reflected on “the test.”

5. Do what you have to do to survive in today’s classroom. Make sure your students are, to the extent that you are able, ready to take “the test.” Then, let it go and return to being the best teacher you can be. Keep in mind that the most important thing you will do for your students is to be a person they can respect, learn from, look up to, emulate, and care about.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. — Carl Jung

✏️📝✏️

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Filed under Darling-Hammond, IREAD-3, ISTEP, Testing

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Test – 2017

ISTEP is still doing damage to Indiana students, teachers, and schools. The promise to end the mess that is the State of Indiana’s testing program was just political deception in order to assuage voters during the last election cycle. The election is over and we have elected the same folks who have been dumping education “reform” policies on the children of Indiana for the last dozen years. They have grown the importance of ISTEP into a bludgeon to punish low income children, their teachers, and their schools. The pretense of the test being a tool to analyze children’s progress has all but disappeared.

Public outcry against the test inspired former Governor Pence to form a team to find an alternative, but it was led by political appointees and some educators on the panel had their voices overruled by the sound of cash clinking into test-makers’ (aka political donors) wallets. Others gave up, apparently thinking, “This is the best we’ll get.”

Nevertheless, the recommendations of the panel were for a shorter test with quicker turnaround. The recommendations also called for a two year window to plan for the changes…in the meantime, the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad test continues.

ISTEP will involve too many hours of student instructional time – twice during the school year (thrice for third graders who are also subject to being punished by IREAD-3 for not learning quickly enough). ISTEP will still be responsible for teacher evaluations and A-F school grades even though it was designed only to evaluate student knowledge. So much for any rules of testing which say that tests should only be used to evaluate what they were designed to evaluate – in this case student achievement.

Maybe we ought to try education policies which have actually been shown to be effective. Let’s do this instead…

  • End the A-F Grading system for schools. A letter grade does not reflect the climate or quality of a school.
  • Stop using tests to evaluate teachers. There are other, better professional evaluation tools out there (see this report, by Linda Darling-Hammond, et al.)
  • End IREAD-3 and any student evaluation process by which students are retained in grade. Retention doesn’t work. Intensive early intervention does. See here, here, and here.
  • If standardized tests must be used, use those tests which can return student achievement information in a timely manner so teachers can use the information in their instruction.
  • Better yet, don’t use standardized tests at all. With the millions of dollars saved by not purchasing standardized tests, provide early intervention funds to schools with significant numbers of at-risk students.
  • Your suggestion here: __________
✏️✏️✏️

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Filed under A-F Grading, Evaluations, IREAD-3, ISTEP, retention, Testing, vouchers

2016 Medley #21

Labels, Charters, Reform, Testing, Grades, Teacher Quality, Chalkbeat

LABELING STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND SCHOOLS

This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.

I should begin the introduction to this article by saying that I have never seen the data walls described. I retired in 2010 and the school I worked at, and the schools I have volunteered in since then, do not list student names and test scores in public. I would agree with the author of this piece that listing students’ names and test scores publicly violates the privacy of the students.

Apparently, however, this disgusting practice of humiliation and shaming is “a thing” and does happen. Those who use this practice should not be allowed in a classroom or public school.

Similarly, politicians and policy makers frequently shame public schools with letter grades and labels. “Failure” is slapped on public schools filled with students who live in poverty while there is no label “for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods.” Teachers who work with the neediest students are labeled “bad teachers” while those who divert funds from public schools to corporate tax breaks, vouchers, and charter operators, receive no such condemnation.

Those who use this practice should not be allowed to make laws governing public education. We can fire them in November.

By Launa Hall, a third grade teacher in northern Virginia.

When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. They see populations and sweeping strategies. From up there, it seems reasonable enough to write a list of 32 discrete standards and mandate that every 8-year-old in the state meet them. How else will we know for sure that teaching and learning are happening down there?

But if we zoom in, we see that education actually happens every weekday, amid pencils and notebooks, between an adult and a small group of youngsters she personally knows and is deeply motivated to teach. Public education has always been — and needs to be still — a patchwork of ordinary human relationships. Data walls, and the high-stakes tests that engender them, aren’t merely ineffective, they break the system at its most fundamental level. They break the connection between a teacher who cares and a kid who really needs her to care.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS


Op Ed: There’s No Such Thing as a “Public Charter School”

Public education advocate Ann Berlak explains why charters are really just private schools taking public tax dollars. They are not public schools.

If public schools have not always lived up to their promise then it is necessary to redouble our efforts to have them do so, not to abandon them.

An extra in this article is found in the comments.

The comments are filled with the usual ignorance claiming that American schools are failing, teachers unions are the problem, and a variety of comments reflecting sour grapes. Among the trolls, however, there are some good, thoughtful comments (on both sides), including one by Robert D. Skeels, who blogs at Schools Matter. He wrote an informative comment presenting “the legal arguments on how privately managed charter schools are not at all ‘public.'”

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM”

“Eat Your Dinner…Or Else”

The data are staring them in the face: low attendance rates among students and teachers; higher percentages of students “opting out” of state-mandated standardized tests; more teachers leaving the profession; and more parents saying they’d like the option of sending their children to charter schools.

Instead, educators from Secretary John King on down seem to be doubling down, searching for ways to penalize students who choose not to take standardized tests, their schools, and their school districts.

The ‘meal’ that School Reformers have been serving up for the past nearly 12 years of the Bush and Obama Administrations is neither delicious nor nutritious.

TEST AND PUNISH

I call it “Learn or be punished.” It’s the mistaken plan by state after state to make eight and nine year olds who have difficulty meeting arbitrary reading standards repeat the third grade…as if repeating a grade helps students learn. HINT: It doesn’t.

Indiana makes third graders take IREAD-3. If they don’t pass they don’t go to fourth grade. Florida also punishes third graders who have difficulty learning to read. So does Ohio. So does Michigan. And Iowa…and Arizona…

And in Oklahoma it’s called the Reading Sufficiency Act.

Claudia Swisher is a retired teacher who lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Her article, Unfinished Business, from which this excerpt is taken, appeared in the August 2016 print edition of the The Oklahoma Observer. Claudia blogs at Fourth Generation Teacher.

Unfinished Business

This is my pet project. I’m a reading specialist. I know how students learn as youngsters, and how they learn as adolescents. Reading Sufficiency Act, or “Test and Flunk Third Graders” is a monumentally bad idea.

It seems to have been born in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Education Excellence. His state school superintendents, Chiefs for Change, unquestioningly accepted his theories and hunches. Our former superintendent was a Chief for Change, and enthusiastically promoted test-and-flunk.

I have been active with this issue for years. I have two granddaughters who are living through this policy. I exchanged emails with the original author, Rep. Sally Kern; and I advocated for Rep. Katie Henke’s bill that allowed teachers and parents some say-so in the promotion or retention decision. The test being used was awed, not a reading test at all, and scores do not give a reading level.

There is no research to support retaining nine-year- olds because they don’t reach an arbitrary score one day in April. Fans of RSA say all kids must read by third grade.

IF they ever walked into a third grade class, they would see every child DOES read … at his or her level. They’ve only been reading for, perhaps, four years. There are vast differences in their abilities. But they all read.

RSA must be changed: no high stakes, tests that measure reading levels, funding for remediation, support for students and families and classrooms. I am all in.

FL: Test Fetish on Trial

Parents in Florida have joined together to fight the law requiring the third grade test. Peter Greene reports.

Because that’s where we are now, folks– parent groups have to take up a collection to go to court so that third graders who passed all their classes can be promoted to fourth grade.

GRADES

Do Away with Grades for Reading

Russ Walsh has a great idea. Instead of punishing children for not learning to read why don’t we remove reading from the report card altogether. Instead, he suggests a better way of reporting on a student’s progress in reading.

That better way would report to the parent on what the child knows and is able to do in reading. Simple brief answers to a few questions on a report card would do it.

  • Is the student below, at, or above expected reading level for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate fluency for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate comprehension for grade/age?
  • Does the student choose to read independently?
  • What are the student’s reading goals for the next marking period?

Notice the item on “choosing to read.” I think that it is important to communicate to parents that successful readers have both the skill and the will to read.

TEACHER QUALITY

Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers

So, it turns out that strong teachers unions actually encourage better teachers!

I find that higher teacher pay gives school districts a strong incentive to be more selective in granting tenure to teachers. Districts paying high teacher salaries utilize the tenure system more efficiently as they dismiss more low-quality teachers, raising average teacher quality by setting higher standards.

Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year

Teacher evaluations in Indiana are required by law to reflect student test scores, yet we know that out of school factors have a much larger impact on student achievement than teachers. Nevertheless, legislators can’t understand why the percentage of teachers who get poor evaluations doesn’t equal the number of students who get low test scores.

One reason there are so many “good” teachers is because many beginning teachers don’t stay long in the classroom. A large number of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (and many don’t even start their careers). The ones who leave are usually the ones who discover that they don’t like to teach, the ones who are fired early in their career, and the ones who are asked to resign because they can’t make it in the classroom.

This means that the teachers who are left are either skilled in the classroom, or are strong enough to improve when they struggle.

Unfortunately, legislators don’t understand, or don’t care, that evaluating teachers, just like evaluating student achievement, cannot be limited to a number on a standardized exam. Numbers make judgments about people so much easier – even when their inadequate or inappropriate.

For the third year in a row, barely any Indiana teachers, principals and superintendents were rated “ineffective” under the state’s fledgling evaluation system.

“REFORMIST” SUPPORTERS

Chalkbeat: Our Supporters

I was struck by the disrespectful tone of the title of the article above…”Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year.” I did some exploring on the Chalkbeat website and found that, among their supporters (funders) are the “reformers” listed below. Most of the time the articles are fairly unbiased, but I’ve noticed a “reformist” bent now and then, such as in the above title.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Inc….
Gates Family Foundation…
The Anschutz Foundation…
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice…
The Joyce Foundation…
The Walton Family Foundation…

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, IREAD-3, reading, reform, retention, Teaching Career, Testing

LEARN or be Punished

THE NCLB ERA

We’re still living in the NCLB Era…and will be until the test-and-punish methods of state and federal legislators are left behind.

Until then, punishment is the norm.

Public schools and public school systems can be punished by funding cuts, school closings, and turnarounds. Teachers can be punished by salary freezes, reduced job protections, and evaluations based on test scores. Students are punished by all of the above…plus retention in grade.

Few topics in education have been as well researched as retention in grade. The research is consistent, yet retention has been the go-to intervention when public education fails a child. It’s so entrenched in our public education psyche that when state legislators want to “guarantee success by third grade,” they do it by retaining children as punishment for not learning.

IREAD-3

A few weeks ago, Indiana’s third graders took the IREAD-3 test. The purpose of the test is defined on the State DOE’s web site,

The purpose of the Indiana Reading Evaluation And Determination (IREAD-3) assessment is to measure foundational reading standards through grade three. Based on the Indiana Academic Standards, IREAD-3 is a summative assessment that was developed in accordance with HEA 1367 (also known as PL 109 from 2010) which “requires the evaluation of reading skills for students who are in grade three beginning in the Spring of 2012 to ensure that all students can read proficiently before moving on to grade four.”

In 2015 more than 13,400 third graders failed to pass IREAD-3. I don’t know how many of those 13,400 were retained-in-grade. Those who did not pass the IREAD-3 had the opportunity to retake the test last summer. If they failed a second time, they either had to qualify for a “good cause exemption” (usually ELL and special needs students) or take the test again this March as a third grader. The law says that those who fail don’t have to be retained, but they must

…continue to receive Grade 3 reading and literacy instruction…

It’s up to the local school and district to decide how to handle that.

Perhaps politicians adopted the third grade test and retain policy in order to ensure that all third graders were reading at a proficient level, as they claim. The result, however, is that IREAD-3 is a tool put in place by legislators in order to punish 8 and 9 year old children for not learning to read fast enough or well enough. The reasons they didn’t/couldn’t learn at the speed required by the state might be varied. Perhaps…

  • their school didn’t or wasn’t able to provide early intervention because of budget cuts
  • they lived with family and community problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, violence, or absentee parents, and the mental health and emotional problems that result from such conditions
  • they didn’t have enough food
  • they didn’t receive adequate medical, mental health, or dental care,
  • they didn’t have a stable shelter or were homeless
  • they lived in an area with environmental toxins, like lead

Note: The legislature does not assume any responsibility for the economic condition of the families of children subjected to this test. They do not acknowledge that the effects of living in poverty has any correlation with low student achievement. The legislature ignores the negative research behind retention and the possible damage done to students’ academic and emotional lives.

The burden is on third grade children.

Learn or be punished!

[For more information on retention in grade see Research on Retention in Grade]

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Filed under IREAD-3, reading, Testing

A Big Red “F” For Indiana

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

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

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

State gets poor marks in dedication to schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAIL: HIGH STAKES TESTING

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

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

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

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

NPE Grade – D
My Grade – F

FAIL: PROFESSIONALIZATION OF TEACHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION

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

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

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

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

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

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools

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

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

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F

FAIL: INDIANA

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

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

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

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

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