Posted in Anthony Cody, Article Medleys, DeVos, John Kuhn, Religion, vouchers

2017 Medley #8 – Vouchers Come Up Short

Vouchers Come Up Short

VOUCHERS IN THE NEWS

The latest research on the efficacy of school vouchers shows that receiving a voucher does not guarantee a better education. One wonders, then, why Republicans (and some Democrats) are fighting so hard to impose more vouchers on the public to the detriment of public schools?

The current administration, under Trump, Pence, and DeVos, is pushing vouchers nationwide despite the mediocre showing of private schools compared to their public counterparts (see The Public School Advantage as well as here, herehere, and here). This is not to say that private and parochial schools are all inferior to public schools. On the contrary, some elite private schools have excellent programs unburdened by teach-to-the-test policies. However, when you consider the economic status of the students the advantage disappears.

In Indiana, vouchers began as a way to help high poverty students “escape” from “failing” public schools. The truth is that the “failing” public schools were often struggling due to the state’s neglect of the economic conditions in the school communities. Children in East Chicago, for example, have been combatting the effects of lead poisoning for years. “Failing” schools in Indianapolis are due, at least in part, to a child poverty rate of 33% and an overall poverty rate of 20%, both well above the national average. Vouchers wouldn’t help all those students even if private and parochial schools were “better.” Public schools can and should try to improve, of course, but improvement requires support from the larger community, in this case, the state legislature and governor’s office. Until politicians accept their share of responsibility for the high rate of child poverty, schools – public, charter and private – will continue to “fail.”

The Indiana voucher plan began in 2011 with the promise of saved money and increased achievement. Under the Republican-led legislature and Governors (Daniels and Pence), the program has been expanded significantly. Once it became clear that private and parochial schools can’t overcome the effects of poverty any better or more cheaply than public schools can, the argument has changed from “improved achievement and money saved” to “parental choice.” Should parents have the “choice” to spend public tax dollars, earmarked for a public institution, at a religious or private location?

REASONS FOR VOUCHERS

Vouchers do not improve education

Vouchers in Indiana don’t save money…and don’t improve education. Doug Masson provides three “reasons” for vouchers that hits three nails right on the head.

In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.

STUNNING NEWS ABOUT VOUCHERS

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is getting some very bad news about her favorite thing, school vouchers

The LA Times reports that vouchers and school privatization doesn’t really work. The reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter named Michael Hiltzik, apparently needs more education when it comes to education reporting.

…DeVos’s patron, President Trump, proposed during his campaign to shovel $20 billion to the states to support magnet and charter schools in voucher programs.

The sentence should end, “…$20 billion to the states to support magnet, charter schools, and voucher programs.” Do vouchers pay for school system magnet programs and charter schools? I don’t think so, but perhaps I’m wrong. It’s my understanding that vouchers pay for tuition to private schools, while magnet schools are part of public school systems, and charter schools are privately run publicly funded schools. Feel free to correct me on this in the comments.

Hilzik continues, reporting the news that recent research has voucher students scoring lower on standardized tests than public school students. The claim that “education experts” are stunned by the results is, in itself, stunning. Simply changing the venue of a child’s education isn’t sufficient to improve achievement if the child continues to live with the out-of-school-factors related to poverty.

…the latest findings, which emerge from studies of statewide programs in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana, have left education experts stunned. In a nutshell, they find huge declines of academic achievement among students in voucher programs in those three states.

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

Kevin Carey in the New York Times, echoes the “surprise” over the results of the studies. The results, he says, are “startling.”

In this piece, “well-regulated charter schools” refers to charters which are “open to all and accountable to public authorities.”

The last sentence is the most important. [emphasis added]

The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.

‘REFORMERS’ FIND THAT VOUCHERS DON’T IMPROVE LEARNING

I voted for school vouchers. Now I know I was wrong.

The pro-“reform” Thomas Fordham Institute studied the effectiveness of Ohio’s voucher programs. Just like in Louisiana and Indiana, they don’t help children achieve better than public schools and they strip public education of funding.

In this article a former North Carolina legislator concludes that tax money for vouchers would be better spent on the state’s public schools.

So what did this report say that the Fordham Institute undertook, ostensibly to promote the expansion of vouchers in America? It said that vouchers have failed miserably. That’s right, a pro-voucher group had to put out a report that concluded that vouchers are failing our children. And keep in mind, this isn’t an outlier of empirical studies of vouchers’ effectiveness in educating our children. Two other recent studies (one in Indiana and another in Louisiana) came to the same conclusion.

…North Carolina is scheduled to spend over $1 billion in the next 10 years for a voucher system that simply doesn’t work. It’s time for the General Assembly to recognize this and correct course so that we can reinvest that billion dollars in public schools.

RELIGIOUS ENTITLEMENT

Vouchers a new entitlement to religious education

At first it was for poor kids to escape from “failing” schools. Now it’s a way to provide public funds for religious schools and to increase the segregation of Indiana schools. [emphasis added]

When lawmakers created the program in 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels said it was a way to help children from poor families find a better alternative to failing public schools. But the program has evolved into a new entitlement: state-funded religious education for middle and low-income families.

Some 54 percent of students receiving vouchers this year have no record of having attended an Indiana public school, the report says. Voucher advocates initially insisted the program would save the state money, because it would cost less to subsidize private school tuition than to send a student to a public school. But increasingly vouchers are going to families that never had any intention of sending their kids to public schools; that’s an entirely new cost for the state to take on.

Also, vouchers are more and more going to students who are white, suburban and non-poor. When the program started, more than half of participating students were black or Hispanic. Now over 60 percent are white, and only 12.4 percent are African-American. It’s reasonable to ask if, in some cases, vouchers are a state-funded mechanism for “white flight” from schools that are becoming more diverse.

JOHN KUHN SPEAKS OUT

John Kuhn: Vouchers Serve Adults at Children’s Expense

Anthony Cody wrote this about John Kuhn.

John Kuhn is a Texas school superintendent and long-time advocate for public schooling. His essays have been read hundreds of thousands of times online, videos of his speeches have gone viral, and his book, Fear and Learning in America, has sold thousands of copies. He continues to advocate for teachers and fight for the constitutional promise of free public schools for all American children.

I’ve quoted Superintendent Kuhn quite a few times on this blog and included YouTube videos. He’s an important voice for public education in America…not just Texas.

Superintendent Kuhn presented this speech on March 5 to the Association of Texas Professional Educators, an independent association of educators (i.e. affiliated with neither NEA nor AFT).

The great American experiment of free public schools, open to all children and overseen by locally-elected citizens—this bold vision is being challenged by an army of wealthy and interested parties who are dead set on dismantling the public education system and trading it for a voucher system…

John Kuhn at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011

Be sure to read John Kuhn’s Alamo Letter.

✏️✏️✏️
Posted in Duncan, John Kuhn, Obama, Politics, Quotes, Stephen Krashen, TeacherShortage, TeachersSpeakingOut, Testing, Tyson

More Random Quotes – August 2015

THIS JUST IN: REPUBLICANS STILL HATE TEACHERS…

Republicans’ deep hatred for teachers can’t be denied and they’re not trying
from Steven Thrasher

If you’ve been listening to the Republican candidates you’ve probably heard some nasty things about teachers. Thrasher tells us why.

Teachers’ unions are made up of groups Republicans always love to bash: government workers with lady parts.

Just to be fair, the author also wrote about Democrats…

Republicans have always hated teachers’ unions for obvious reasons. They reliably support the Democratic party, even though Democrats routinely go to war against teachers as well, particularly alumni from the Obama administration.

…AND DEMOCRATS ARE NOT MUCH BETTER

Teacher evaluations at the schools that Obama, Duncan picked for their kids
from Valerie Strauss

Democrats are just quieter about it. All states have to comply with Arne Duncan’s proclamations about VAM…they could lose their federal funds or get stuck having to deal with No Child Left Behind. If using test scores to evaluate teachers was such a good idea you’d think that the Secretary of Education, and his boss, would send their precious children to a school run by “reformers.”

Think again…

These comments were delivered when Duncan sent his children to Arlington public schools. They are now going to attend the University of Chicago Lab School…which is full of unionized teachers and devoid of “reformer” education. When they lived in Chicago, the Obamas sent their daughters to the Lab School. They now attend Sidwell Friends.

“What did the president and the secretary seek and obtain for their own kids, where the important issue of teacher evaluation was concerned? The answers recently arrived in two e-mails:

“Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011: ‘We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.’

“Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011:

“ ‘We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.’ ”

IT’S THE “OTHER” SCHOOLS THAT ARE “FAILING”

Groundhog Day: Parents Again Rate Local Schools Higher than Schools of the Nation
from Stephen Krashen

Year after year parents rate their own children’s schools high…but it’s “those other public schools” that are bad.

Seventy percent of parents said they would give the public schools their oldest child attended a grade or A or B, but only 19% would give public schools in the nation an A or B.

An obvious explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been presenting a biased view. 

WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
from a teacher friend

Contrary to “reformer’s” beliefs, teachers don’t like to make excuses. The charge of “making excuses” gives “reformers an “out.” When teachers cry “poverty” “reformers” and their legislator friends can claim “excuses” instead of actually dealing with a very real problem. As the late Gerald Bracey said,

Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.

The school administration blames the central office…who blames the state DOE…who blames the legislature…who are only doing what their donors demand.

Teachers must speak out!

Part of the problem is that teachers are caught in the proverbial “Rock and a Hard Place’ scenario. We can’t really turn to the public because in many cases they really don’t want to hear about it, and the state and administration simply blame someone else for the current state of affairs.

One of the things I remind my coworkers who aren’t outspoken…that if we remain entirely submissive and say yes, yes, yes to everything without defending students and teachers, we are just signing up for more of the same treatment.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Blackmon: In Georgia, ‘reform’ aims to destroy public schools
from Myra Blackmon

Here is a pretty good summary of what “education reform” is all about…

This is how the self-selected “education reformers” operate. Their motive is profit and personal advancement. They love the idea of schools run by private organizations, staffed with uncertified teachers, cherry-picking the easy students and leaving the most vulnerable students behind. Unproven, invalid standardized tests drive every decision.

It is disgusting. It is immoral. It is repugnant to every American ideal of community, mutual support and benefit and democratic rule. It defies the values of local control in favor of centralized, easily managed power — all the while claiming “it’s for the children.”

It’s high time we kicked them all out and made them earn an honest living — as far from our schools as we can get them.

Education Roars Back
from Bob Grundfest

If you keep telling the nation that teachers are to blame for everything bad in our society…and you continue to cut salaries and benefits…and you close schools, cut staff, and, in general, trash public schools in favor of private charters and private parochial schools…and if you publicize all of this so high school and college students see how poorly teachers, and public schools are treated…

…why would a young adult, right out of high school, choose to make education his or her career…and why would anyone think that young adults would want to go into teaching?

Given the years of blame and economic hardship that teachers have had to endure, it’s no wonder that there’s a shortage. And given the attitude that many national and state leaders have about teachers, it’s no wonder that qualified students are looking at other fields of endeavor. The truth is that we pay a great deal of lip service to wanting a highly qualified, well-trained teaching staff at every school, but the best and brightest are not stupid; they see what’s going on in education and are increasingly turned off to it. And since we don’t have the best and brightest going into government, the solutions will be doubly difficult to come by.

MONEY FOR EDUCATION OUGHT TO GO TO EDUCATION

It’s common for legislators to complain that so much money is spent on education, but an important question is how it is spent. We use billions of tax dollars nationally to support testing and test prep and that’s money that should be going to instruction, materials, and student support.

…and what about all the money diverted from public schools to for-profit charters and voucher accepting parochial schools?

@TCBGP

TEACHERS ARE MORE THAN JUST TEST-JOCKEYS

‘Teachers want to change the world’
from John Kuhn

Relationships are greater than pedagogy. If you deliver flawless instruction but haven’t nurtured relationships with your students — even the challenging ones — then you might as well teach to an empty room.

DREAMS OF THE FUTURE

Neil DeGrasse Tyson quoted a young man in his book, Space Chronicles

There are lots of things I have to do to be an astronaut. But first I have to go to kindergarten — Cyrus Corey, age four.

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Charters, Curmudgucation, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Ravitch, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage, Testing

Random Quotes – August 2015

A PLAYGROUND BULLY

Hey, Governor Christie, Punch My Face!

It’s all over the web…New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to punch the “national teachers union” in the face. Christie apparently doesn’t understand — or perhaps he just doesn’t care — that the “national teachers union” is made up of millions of teachers, not to mention that there is more than one national teachers union.

On the other hand, Trump’s numbers soared after he badmouthed immigrants. Perhaps Christie’s numbers will increase when Republicans see how much he hates unions and teachers.

Was Chris Christie bullied as a child…and his teacher failed to protect him? Is that why he hates teachers so much?

In any case, the best response to the New Jersey Bully has been…

from Russ on Reading

“I regret that I have only one face to give for my profession.”

TEACHERS KNOW MORE THAN ARNE DUNCAN

CHARTERS

Indiana: Charter Advocate Says It is Time to Close Down Low-Performing Charters

People are starting to see that Charters are no better than real public schools. Thirty percent of Detroit’s charters have closed because they “failed.”

In Indiana, someone has noticed that charter schools are not doing any better than our real public schools — and, in many cases, a lot worse.

From Diane Ravitch

The hype, spin, and empty promises of the charter movement have run their course. Teach for America’s claims that its inexperienced kids could close the achievement gap are obviously hollow. Chris Barbic’s Achievement School District in Tennessee is a failure. The chickens are coming home to roost. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

TESTING

Test and Punish and Civil Rights

Has any teacher ever said, “I won’t have any idea if my students are learning without standardized test scores.”

From Peter Greene

Actually, test scores don’t tell us much of anything, because the Big Standardized Tests are narrowly focused, poorly designed, and extremely limited in their scope. Furthermore, we can predict test score results pretty well just using demographic information. So to claim that we would be fumbling in the dark without these tests, with no idea of how to find schools that were in trouble, is simply ridiculous.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

The Substitute Shortage

Schools around the nation are facing a teacher shortage and many will have to rely on substitutes. Just one problem…there’s a shortage of substitutes, too.

From Peter Greene

Substitute shortage is yet another problem to which we know the solution. It’s just that the solution costs money, and we don’t wanna. A good substitute teacher is worth her weight in gold, but we prefer to offer only peanuts.

Missouri school district billboard in Kansas

We Won’t Get Great Teachers By Treating Them Badly

How can you get more people to invest their time and energy in the quest to become a teacher?

From The Education Opportunity Network

…it just stands to reason that when you make a job more stressful and negative, you’re going to get fewer qualified people who want to do it.

DOES AMERICA REALLY HATE ITS CHILDREN?

How To Train Teachers

We live in a nation that hates education…and doesn’t really care much for our children. We’re a nation that lives only in the present. We aren’t willing to invest in our future — our children — because that would mean sacrificing a little money now.

From Peter Greene

And so we arrive at the same old problem that badgers education around every turn– we know how to do it right, but that would be expensive, and we don’t want to spend a bunch of money on education.

More children are in poverty today than before the Great Recession

How can we justify tax breaks for rich people when so many of our children live in poverty? Why isn’t this a national embarrassment?

From PBS

One out of five American children live in poverty…

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Curmudgucation, Duncan, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Ravitch, Stephen Krashen, Teaching Career, vouchers

2014 in Quotes

This is the 102nd and last post of 2014 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it’s pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.

JANUARY

From the Bottom of Duncan’s Barrel

“If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations [sic] educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America’s students.” — Peter Greene

FEBRUARY

2014 Medley #5

“Your editorial sends the message that our public schools are failing. They aren’t. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American schools rank near the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular because the child poverty rate in the U.S. is very high, 23%, second-highest among all economically advanced countries. Children of poverty suffer from hunger, malnutrition, inferior health care and lack of access to books. All of these have a powerful impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world won’t help when children are hungry, ill and have little or nothing to read.

“Our focus should be on protecting children from the impact of poverty.” — Stephen Krashen

MARCH

Public Education: For the Public Good

How do you respond to voucher supporters who claim that they should be allowed to take “their tax money” out of the public school system and use it to send their children to private schools? What good are public schools to people who don’t have any children or whose children have grown?

Consider:

  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for public libraries because they wanted to buy their own books instead?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for fire departments because they had purchased a fire suppressant system?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for roads because they didn’t drive a car?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for parks because they never used them?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for police departments because they hired their own, private security force?

The government — local, state and national — is responsible for various aspects of our lives, from safety to clean air to public parks. Public money is spent for these “public goods” because everyone benefits — even those who never use the services.

JUNE

Billionaires Win in California

Professional educators provide students with high quality education — we know this because wealthy “reformers” make sure that schools for their children are filled with highly qualified, well-trained professionals. In high poverty schools, however, educators alone can’t overcome the effects of societal neglect. Nearly one-fourth of America’s children live in poverty which has the single, largest affect on student achievement, yet the billionaires’ battle is against teachers…not politicians.

When will politicians and their billionaire handlers accept responsibility for their part in the education of our children?

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

Jack Schneider, LA Times quoted in Making it easier to fire teachers won’t get you better ones.

Instead of imagining a world in which teachers are easier to fire, we should work to imagine one in which firing is rarely necessary. Because you don’t put an effective teacher in every classroom by holding a sword over their heads. You do it by putting tools in their hands.

JULY

The Case Against “reformers”

“Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It’s about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It’s about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It’s about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can’t imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring.” — Susan Zimmerman, in Comprehension Going Forward

OCTOBER

2014 Medley #22

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America’s public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle class families.

Politicians and policy makers can’t solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students, when the problems don’t go away.

American schools are not failing…American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.

DECEMBER

Random Quotes – December 2014

“Public education is a promise we make to the children of our society, and to their children, and to their children.” — John Kuhn

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, Bennett, Charters, Corp Interest, Duncan, John Kuhn, Teaching Career, Testing, Value-Added, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2014 Medley #26

Good Teaching, Duncan, “Reformers,” Charters, Politics, VAM, Bennett, Wal-Mart, Testing

NO TIME TO THINK

Our Saws Are Dull, All of Them

Here is a thoughtful piece by John Kuhn about how America’s public school teachers have no time to think.

There is no time to think in most of our schools. I mean, of course there’s time to think about today’s content and to think about tomorrow’s lesson plan. But beyond that, long-term thinking–thinking big, new thoughts, imagining different realities–is a luxury that busy people don’t have. Thought experiments can be joyous, and they can be terribly inefficient when they don’t pan out…

How can we hope to become truly professionalized when our industry’s philosophers haven’t time to dream? Teaching doesn’t have any Einsteins daydreaming in a patent clerk’s office; they’re all hustling to get their copies made before the bell rings…

Teachers have no voice in policy, as has been noted often. Non-practitioners may implement wrong-headed approaches, the same ones others implemented in bygone eras–and they may go all-in on them, and stick with them long after it becomes clear that they don’t really help–but yet, there’s this thing: the teachers, even if they wanted to improve their profession, are too busy to engage fully in the same way the leading minds of other professions engage. We can’t engage in policy-shaping; we can’t even sharpen our saws.

FEDS GO AFTER COLLEGES OF EDUCATION

Teachers Colleges: The Federal Power Grab

Not content with destroying K-12 public education Duncan sets his sights on higher education using the fake science of VAM and invalid use of K-12 student test scores.

Arne Duncan wants to set the standards for teachers’ colleges and use the power of the federal purse to evaluate them. It seems there is nothing that Arne Duncan is not competent to judge, other than the success or failure of his own initiatives. He has used Race to the Top funding to push test-based teacher evaluations (VAM), which have worked nowhere. He has used RTTT to impose Common Core standards, which are designed to align with tests that will fail most students. He has used RTTT to encourage states to privatize more public schools. Many districts now, spurred on by Duncan’ s rhetoric, are thinking of adopting the New Orleans model of an all-charter district, even though the Recovery School District rates 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana and most of the charter schools are graded as D or F schools by the state.

THE HOW AND WHY OF “REFORM”

Yes. It’s on purpose. The three articles which follow…the first by Peter Greene (Curmudgucation), the second by Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster), and the last, from Rethinking Schools, give both the history and rationale behind the global education reform movement (GERM). If you are new to the fight and want to know some of what’s happened and why, these are must-read articles.

The Big Picture

By creating a system in which teachers are no longer the experts on what they teach or how to teach it, reformsters turn teachers from educated professionals into content delivery workers. You don’t need a building full of education experts– just one or two to direct the rest of a staff of drones. Use a boxed program like engageNY– anybody who can read the script and the instructions can teach students.

Teachers frequently scratch their head and ask, “Are they TRYING to drive people out of the profession? ” Well, probably, yes. Teach for America “teachers” are not a stop-gap measure– they’re the ideal. They don’t stay long enough to get raises, and they don’t saddle the district with any expensive pension costs. And they’re young and healthy, so even insurance costs are low. Teachers who spend a lifetime in the profession are an expensive nuisance; what we need are a regular supply of compliant short-timers.

The Bleak Friday Interview

…when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve.

Why the Right Hates Public Education

a) Education is a multibillion dollar market, and the private sector is eager to get its hands on those dollars.
b) Conservatives are devoted to the free market and believe that private is inherently superior to public.
c) Shrinking public education furthers the Republican Party goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
d) Privatization undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party.
e) Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.
f) All of the above.

CHARTERS

The Number of Charter Schools Suspending Kids Is Totally out of Control

Charters claim to be public schools, but in truth are private schools which are run with public money. They should be required to take all students…and provide for their education. Instead, when they run up against students who are more expensive or more difficult to teach, they too often “counsel them out”…or in this case, just kick them out.

…the disproportionate suspension rates are a symptom of a much deeper problem. Charter schools, he says, are using harsh, zero-tolerance discipline to weed out problem students and boost standardized test scores.

“I think there’s strong evidence from [studies] and anecdotally” that support that theory, said Bryant, director of Education Opportunity Network, a public-school policy center. “Charter schools discriminate and select their students in many different ways,” he added, including out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, to winnow out underachievers.

That’s because of the bargain that charter schools have made with the taxpayers that fund them. In exchange for taxpayer money and the freedom to innovate, charter schools are held to a higher academic standard, particularly on student achievement and assessment tests. But because they’re still public schools, Bryant said, they have to accept any kid who wants to attend.

IT’S TIME FOR TEACHERS TO SPEAK UP

So, Teacher, You Don’t Want to be “Political?” That’s No Longer and Option

How many teachers didn’t vote in the last election?

  1. If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not…
  2. Even if you don’t like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway…
  3. Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day…
  4. If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring. Don’t believe me? Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations…
  5. If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right? The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency…

The only way left for you to not be “political” is to stop being committed to public education. So, welcome to “the collective”, like it or not. Your critics have made sure that you are locked in. [emphasis added]

VAM IS JUNK SCIENCE

Principals’ Group Latest to Criticize ‘Value Added’ for Teacher Evaluations

The American Statistical Association has already “advised caution” on the use of VAM for teacher evaluations…now a group of professionals does the same. When will “reformers” decide to listen to professionals?

The National Association of Secondary School Principals has entered the loud fray over teacher evaluation, giving preliminary approval to a statement that says test-score-based algorithms for measuring teacher quality aren’t appropriate.

HYPOSCRISY AND HUBRIS

Probe links Bennett to wire fraud

Disgraced former Indiana and Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett had to pay a measly $5000 fine for his dishonesty in dealings with charter schools in Indiana. Now, it turns out that he was using state employees for campaigning…on state time. Those of us who voted for Glenda Ritz also paid, through our taxes, for Bennett to campaign against her. What a hypocrite.

INDIANAPOLIS – A monthslong investigation into former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett’s use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by The Associated Press.

Despite the recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution for such charges – which could have carried up to 20 years in prison.

The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law.

That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.

STOP SHOPPING AT WALMART

A Walton’s Plan to “Fix Public Education.” Uh huh.

I cringe when I hear a teacher talk about shopping at Wal-Mart. Aside from the fact that they get taxpayers to foot the bill for billions of dollars in welfare costs, they pay more billions to support charter schools and voucher programs. These people are the epitome of anti-public school privatizers.

When Carrie Walton Penner enrolls her children at a predominately-TFA-staffed charter school as their principal means of formal education, and when she publicizes their test scores as evidence that the charter model she promoted for other people’s children has served her children well, then I will consider the charters that she pays for with money that should go to paying Walmart workers a living wage as being “successful.”

Not a minute sooner.

RELATIONSHIPS MATTER IN SCHOOL

“This Will Revolutionize Education” –A Story That Needs To Be Told Again and Again

Larry Cuban brought this great video to our attention…

As a historian of school reform, I have written more than I want to remember about those rose-colored, feverish, high-tech dreams that appear time and again promising to transform classroom practice and how students learn. This video is seven minutes long and it vividly captures the hollowness of each generation’s claim that “This Will Revolutionize Education.” But far more important the video zeroes in on the centrality of the teacher to student learning beyond conveying information which new technologies are superb in doing.

THE ABUSE AND MISUSE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS

High-Stakes Handout

Here’s what to do when you want to fight against high stakes tests! Send the following to your legislators…often!

1. These tests are untested…
2. These tests don’t tell us where we can improve…
3. The tests distort what and how teachers teach…
4. The tests have shown no positive results…
5. The tests are incredibly costly in both time and money…

5 Things you can do to stop the use of these tests on your child.

1. Share this message with your friends and form a group to fight for change.

2. Send this message to your state legislator demanding an end to this testing.

3. Send this message to your local school board with a letter asking them for support in ending high-stakes testing.

4. Use this information to write a letter to the editor demanding change.

5. Most importantly, refuse* to allow your child to be tested on these high-stakes standardized tests.

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Curmudgucation, Election, John Kuhn, Jonathan Kozol, Public Ed, Teaching Career

Random Quotes – December 2014

PUBLIC SCHOOLS

John Kuhn is a strong voice in the fight for public schools. He understands that public education is not just for parents and children who participate in the public school system…public education exists to enrich and preserve our nation, just like public parks, museums, roads, street lights, and water systems.

Bush: Nuanced and Wrong by Peter Greene

We all benefit from America’s public schools. We should all contribute

School tax money is not a stipend paid to each individual child. It is an investment by the community in the community. I agree– the feds should play a secondary, or even quaduciary role, in education. Particularly when federal ed policy is being dictated by the kind of anti-public-ed amateurs we’ve been subjected to for at least two administrations (and probably the next one, too). But local communities and, to a lesser extent, states should be hugely involved.

Choice and charters are, of course, all about cutting local control and community investment out of the picture. That is simply wrong, and bad for education as well. [emphasis added]

Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America by Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert has written the most important book of 2014.

Quoting a parent after the 2013 mass school closings in Chicago…

“…they’re being scattered and displaced to other schools like they were pieces on a chessboard or in a Monopoly game. They’re not Monopoly pieces. When all you see are numbers, when all you care about is data, then you won’t understand that every child has different needs, speeds, and challenges. And you won’t understand the importance of a school to a neighborhood and to the families in that neighborhood. It’s just a building to you. You won’t understand how we’re anchored to these schools.

“It’s cruel, you know. They like to tell people that they’re offering us choice, but they’re actually giving us ultimatums.” [emphasis added]

Quoting Jessie Ramey (public education activist from Pennsylvania)…

It’s not simply a case of greedy people. For an awful lot of them it’s ideological. They’re playing this game of education reform not because they’re educators, not because they know anything about education, necessarily, but because they have an agenda. It might be political, or corporate, or anti-union, or they have an excessive belief in the wonders of technology, or they don’t believe government can or should be running the schools. They have something to prove, and at the moment they’re trying to prove it through education. They will all tell you that they genuinely care about the students. But when you look at what they’re pushing, it’s not good for kids. None of this corporate reform stuff has actually worked in practice and a lot of it is damaging, particularly for poor children and children of color.  [emphasis added]

and in summary…

Those who are genuinely interested in improving the quality of education for all American youngsters are faced with two fundamental questions: First, how long can school systems continue to pursue market-based reforms that have failed year after demoralizing year to improve the education of the nation’s most disadvantaged children? And second, why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming — and often such toxic — influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?

There is no reason why plutocratic school systems should be any more acceptable to a majority of Americans than plutocratic government in general.

No, America’s education system isn’t broken by John Staver (professor of Science Education and Chemistry in Purdue University’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction).

Today’s corporate education reformers use international test results to argue that American K-12 public schools are broken. Yet, research-based evidence calls into question such attacks on American public education. Analyses of students’ scores on two international assessments are not sufficient to provide thorough, sound, evidence-based insights about the status of American K-12 education. However, research has long identified a major problem for American K-12 education that remains at large. Its name is poverty. When will policy makers seriously engage and act to solve the problem of poverty? [emphasis added]

ELECTIONS

Record number of evil candidates elected. Teacher hating, school bashing, CCSS loving… by Ken Previti

Stop falling for the hold-your-nose, lesser-of-two-evils scam that is based in propaganda and corruption. Democrapublicans posing as whatever each brand used to be. Get active now!

Our children need you. Communities, teachers, and American public schools need you.

On Making Voting Harder by Lewis Black

Gerrymandered districts, voting restrictions, ID laws…

Elected officials shouldn’t get to choose who gets to choose elected officials.

THE JOB OF TEACHING

Let’s Talk About Teacher Retention, Not Tenure by Peter Greene

“Reformers” complain about “bad teachers” and then make the job of teaching less attractive by removing job benefits. Why complain about “bad teachers” and then lower the requirements needed to get a teachers’ license? Why complain about “bad teachers” and then make it easier to hire 5 week trainees to replace veteran teachers? Why complain about “bad teachers” and then denigrate advanced degrees and experience?

It’s not really about “bad teaching” at all, but rather about “busting the union” and running payrolls on the cheap.

…making teaching jobs crappier and less secure is not likely to get people to stick around.

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Achievement Gap, Common Core, John Kuhn, NCLB, Race to the Top, Teaching Career

A Place to Vent

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of my beginning a blog. This morning, as I was thinking about all I’ve learned over the last 8 years, I reread some old posts and thought about the reasons I wanted a web presence in the first place. My purpose in starting and continuing this blog was and is to provide myself an outlet for the frustrations of teaching and learning under an increasingly damaging set of rules. I had (and still have) no plan for this blog in terms of longevity. I just want to have a place to vent about things such as…

THE DAMAGING RULES – NCLB, RttT, CCSS

The rules began with No Child Left Behind…and have since spread to Race to the Top, and the Common Core. Locally the rules have been amended by the Daniels/Bennett/Pence plan for education in Indiana which mirrors the national rules. Indiana’s plan includes

  • transferring public money from public schools to privately run charter schools and to parochial schools through vouchers
  • complaining about all the “bad” teachers in our schools, while at the same time lowering the standards for entrance into the teaching profession

Local school boards get less and less of their district’s tax money back from the state — a big chunk of the money now comes in the form of increased costs for tests and test prep materials. They are under more restrictions dealing with the working relationships with teachers, the establishment of school curricula, and the adoption of assessment tools. Local school boards are also now obligated to use those tests to assign grades to schools and evaluate teachers.

“School Choice” apparently doesn’t include public education.

Nationally the attack on public education has been bipartisan. In Indiana it has been led by Republicans like Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Mike Pence, Bob Behning, and Daniel Elsener. They have been supported by their colleagues in the state legislature and the state board of education (and now in Governor Pence’s expensive duplicate Department of Education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation).

It’s ironic that the removal of local control of education should be led by Republicans, who so frequently decry the intrusion of “government” into our local lives. It’s disheartening that both Democrats and Republicans throughout the nation are buying into the corporate line. “Educational leaders” are no longer educators, but instead are billionaires and their mouthpieces like Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Rupert Murdoch and the biggest cheerleader for the school corporatization/privatization movement in the country, Arne Duncan. None of today’s loudest voices touting the “School Reform Party” line have ever taught in any of America’s public schools. They do, however, control a huge chunk of America’s money.

PLACING PUBLIC BLAME

For the last several decades, the movement to end public education has called all the shots nationally and locally, giving less and less input to those people who actually work with students every day. When those misguided state and national plans for public education fail, the local schools and teachers are blamed.

Publicly, the “reformers” expect teachers, as Bill Moyers put it,

…to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do. [emphasis added]

Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there’s a “crisis” in education – especially in the public schools. That’s only true insofar as schools reflect the world around them. The crisis is in our society and since no one takes responsibility for our nation’s enormous inequities, it is blamed on public schools and public school teachers.

REAL ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

We are obsessed with testing and insist that schools are “accountable” to the greater society. Where, however, is society’s accountability? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind in order to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t (or won’t) accept their responsibility for the “hard bigotry of urban failure?”

There are achievement gaps in our society, but they are not in schools. The real achievement gaps are:

  • the gap between what our leaders say they will do and what they do
  • the gap between what we as a society value, and what we are willing to spend to get it
  • the gap between what we’re willing to spend to “promote democracy” around the world and what we’re willing to spend to equalize our democracy at home

John Kuhn said it very well

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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