We’re coming to the end of another calendar year so it’s time for resolutions and “best of” lists. Here’s the list of this blog’s Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.
#10, MARCH 29
The Children’s Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America’s eighth-graders were reading “below grade level” which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America’s eighth graders are reading at or above “grade level.”
This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th-grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!
In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”
#9, MARCH 4
Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.
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 was 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.
#8, SEPTEMBER 14
After nearly 13 years of ranting against the corporate-led destruction of public education, I lament that not much has really changed.
The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.
#7, JUNE 16
My annual Fathers Day post with the same message each year: 1) read aloud is important and 2) dads should do it!
Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
#6, OCTOBER 10
Corporate reform is slowly changing public education into a consumer good. It’s not and shouldn’t be. It’s a public good. An investment in public education is an investment in our future.
Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.
Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.
When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.
It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.
#5, JUNE 9
Privatizing public schools doesn’t help children. Learning doesn’t improve. The impact of poverty isn’t eliminated.
We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.
What about “failing” public schools?
What “privatizers” call a “failing” public school is, in fact, a “failing” municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.
Public funds should be reserved for public schools.
#4, NOVEMBER 30
Who would have thought that demoralizing teachers, cutting their salaries, eliminating benefits, and reducing job security would have a detrimental impact on the profession of teaching?
“I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”
#3, AUGUST 3
If we cared about the future, we would provide the same services to all schools that LeBron James is providing. These are the schools all children deserve.
LeBron James is a millionaire…but unlike others among the super-rich who stick their wallets into America’s education infrastructure, The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with community partners, is helping to fund a public school run by a public school system, and staffed with unionized public school teachers. The taxpayers are paying for the school, teachers, and the usual expenses just like they do for all public schools, while the Foundation and its partners are providing funds for building renovations, wraparound services, and other extras.
This kind of investment is what all our children need and deserve…
#2, AUGUST 15
Underpaid. Overworked. Is it any wonder that there’s a serious teacher shortage in Indiana (and the rest of the U.S.)?
A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.
And each year the legislature adds something new…
THE #1 POST OF 2018, SEPTEMBER 27
The turnout for the last election was higher than in previous midterm elections. Too many teachers, however, still voted for the Republican legislators for the Indiana legislature who have done their best to damage public education.
Many teachers from Indiana are one-issue voters. Unfortunately, the one-issue is not education. It’s time teachers stood up for their own profession and voted for the interests of their students.
Teachers must become the political voice for their students.
Teachers who don’t vote allow others to make decisions about what goes on in their classrooms. As the former first lady, Michelle Obama said this week, “Democracy continues, with or without you.” If you don’t vote, it goes on without you.