Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, Finland, kindergarten, poverty, Racism, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn…

Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes…


In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland’s education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, “If you don’t have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?” She responded…

The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.


In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,

…the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.


Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done…and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.

But, whine the contrarians, “Finland is not the U.S. We can’t just import their whole education system. They’re a smaller country…not so diverse!”


In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and…

  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation’s slave past. We can’t build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize…to close the schools and replace them with charter schools…instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren’t the cure to low achievement.

See also…

  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be “haves” and “have nots.” There will be inequity.


A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. “Reformers” love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn’t result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.


In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that “we have to get more ‘good people’ into the classroom,” so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach…

New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.


ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, “certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession.” That’s true, and that’s as it should be.

They say, “comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals.” What is their definition of “improved teacher quality?” What is their definition of “qualified?”

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you’re ALEC, the answer is “they don’t.”

Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC…

I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.


An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on…better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.

Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I’m afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there’s a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.

…there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten…

…Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose…[emphasis added]


…of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty.

…of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

Posted in Article Medleys, kindergarten, reading, reform, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2015 Medley #34

Why Teachers Quit, Kindergarten,
Caregiving, Bill Gates


Two Indiana legislators, State Senator Dennis Kruse and Representative Bob Behning, chairs of their respective legislative body’s education committee, have led the “reform” of public education in Indiana. Behning is a florist turned charter school consultant. Kruse graduated college in 1970 with a degree in education and then went into his family’s auction business. They jointly called for an investigation into the state’s (and by extension, the nation’s) teacher shortage.

The most logical response to their questioning the reasons for the teacher shortage would be for them to look in a mirror. However, now that the investigation is in full swing, it seems that their plan is to deny that there is a teacher shortage. In a marathon committee session earlier this month, “experts” debated whether the data actually showed a teacher shortage at all, while parents and teachers waited almost nine hours to have a chance to speak.

A nearly nine-hour study committee hearing on the teacher shortage issue was stacked to allow so-called expert testimony at the start, leaving parents, school board members and teachers to wait hours to address the handful of committee members left in the nearly empty House Chamber.

Behning and Kruse should listen to teachers. Fewer young people are entering teacher preparation programs and more and more teachers are leaving the field. Here are some voices clearly stating why. The letters are not from Indiana, but the reasons are the same: misguided, inappropriate, and damaging “reform.”

Special ed teacher quits: ‘I just cannot justify making students cry anymore’

Teachers in our local school system are told not to tell parents that there’s too much testing or that the state and federal governments are requiring inappropriate and often academically damaging practices. Teachers no longer have the freedom to share their expertise with parents. Instead school systems protect themselves from the damage coming from the state and federal governments by pretending it doesn’t exist and not talking about it.

I consider it baffling that telling parents the truth about the harm being done to their children in the public education system is considered an ethical violation of my teaching license, but making their children cry and hate school is not. This affects students and teachers even more so in my field of specialization, Exceptional Student Education (ESE), with our most vulnerable students. Today, I resigned from my school district.

“Today I resigned from the school board.” From Teacher Wendy Bradshaw PhD

Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.

‘I don’t want to work in a business, I want to work in a school’: Teacher quits classroom to fight for change

Only someone with no understanding of public education would insist that schools follow a “business” model. Competition, creating winners and losers, doesn’t work in education. There should be no losers in public education. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, an Indiana parent and Chairperson of Indiana Coalition for Public Eeducation-Monroe County. spoke at a rally for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz in Indianapolis in February of 2015. She understood that having winners and losers in public education is wrong.

That’s what public education is for: to nurture the citizens of our democracy. These are not businesses, these are schools. Our children should not be in a competition for a quality education because no six year-old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity. [emphasis in original]

Business which fail are closed. Their owners move on to other businesses or declare bankruptcy and try something different. Public schools, however, are a public trust and ought to be cared for and improved instead of closed. Race to the Top encourages states to close struggling schools and open more and more charters. Charter operators, meanwhile, are all in favor of closing schools so they can try their hand “in the business.” However, when their schools fail, and close, children’s lives and education is disrupted. “Churn” may be good for business, but it’s not good for children and education.

“I was rushing my beautiful, beautiful kindergarten students through their assessment tasks at the end of the year,” Mrs Stroud said.

“I was not giving them the attention that they deserved. I was trying to jump through hoops that the system has put forward.”

The 38-year-old teacher describes it as a lightning-bolt moment with cold sweat and racing heart.

“I realised I wasn’t serving the needs of my students. I was serving the needs of politicians and bureaucrats, and I then found myself in bed for two weeks,” Mrs Stroud said.

“Education today is run on a business model. Schools aren’t business. I don’t want to work in a business. I want to work in a school.”

The One Reason I Quit Teaching

Children are more than just data points…

The solitary reason that I chose to leave teaching has to do with the politicized environment of education. People may wonder what politics have to do with teaching, and the answer is everything. When policies are made, the impacts come into our lives and change them drastically. Over the past few years, there has been widespread “educational reform.” These reforms have increased the importance of spreadsheets, columns of data, evaluations by inexperienced observers, and the accounting of data in every teacher’s life. The focus has gone away from people; students, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers, and onto data. The most important elements of teaching cannot be quantified onto a spreadsheet and put into a power point. When data is given importance above all else, time and resources are directed as such.

…Helping a child, all children, should be the overriding goal of education. Sadly, that is not what is happening right now. Teachers like me and many others are leaving the profession. I’m not a unique teacher or a special teacher. Every school I have taught in has been filled with teachers taking extra efforts to advocate and support their students. We cannot endorse something we don’t agree with by participating in it. Teachers shouldn’t be leaving the profession because they care too much about children. [emphasis added]

Why Alabama Teacher of the Year is quitting

While some states lower qualifications for teachers (Indiana, for example) other states tell experienced teachers that they’re no longer qualified. The Alabama Teacher of the Year has a K-3 license and is National Board Certified as a “Middle Childhood Generalist, certified nationally to teach ages 7 through 12.” The latter is, according to the Alabama Department of Education, not good enough for her to teach 5th grade.

Ann Marie Corgill, Alabama’s 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year — and a finalist for 2015 Teacher of the Year — is quitting. Why?

According to, the state Department of Education told her she didn’t have the qualifications to teach the fifth grade. The department said it didn’t ask her to resign. Her resignation letter (see below) said in part:

“After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6, I have no answers as to why this is a problem now, so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning.”


Controversy on critique of the “specialists.”

I often agree with SPJ, the writer of the @the chalkface blog, when he writes against the privatization of public education. When he posted his article titled Teachers, Beware of the “Specialists,” however, I strongly disagreed. I told him so in several comments…and blogged about it in my last Medley (See the section, Disrespecting Teachers, Part 2).

After receiving quite a few comments letting him know that he had unfairly criticized an entire classification of teachers (while he was, apparently, talking about some specific teachers in his school/system), he doubled down.

There needs to be accountability for educators who refuse to work with children and instead hunker down in offices, spending hours and hours and hours tacking sticky notes to a data wall.

Again he received comments from me and others telling him that he was not necessarily wrong about the specific teachers in his school about whom he was complaining, but he was painting with a broad stroke and insulting thousands of hard working professionals across the country. One response, by a reader named Gwynne, was especially good.

You of course may give criticism, but you yourself noted that it is critique that leads to dialogue. Criticism, especially global criticism with no support other than “Because I say it is so” is likely to lead to some people suggesting that you might be incomplete, if not outright incorrect, in your observations (as occurred, enough so, that you felt a need to address it again in this blog post).

The discussion has ended…yet a lot of resentment could have been saved had he responded to the first few comments with, “Yes, I was generalizing and should have been more specific about who I was talking about. I apologize to ‘specialists’ who don’t fit the description I gave.”


Should Reading Be Taught in Kindergarten?

Kindergarten has become the new first grade. Is that appropriate? Should we begin formal reading teaching at age 5? With formal teaching comes standardized tests for young children – most of which are less than worthless (Yes, I’m looking at you, DIBELS) – and scripted lessons. Talk about your developmentally inappropriate standards and content.

One of the first things I learned when I was working on my early childhood certification was “Play is children’s work.” We have, I think, forgotten that…

On the other hand, it is part of the work of children in kindergarten and, therefore, part of the responsibility of kindergarten teachers to make sure that every child is ready to become a successful reader. Most of this work can be accomplished through structured play. Here is the literacy knowledge that rising first graders should take with them from kindergarten.

  • A rich oral language both spoken and receptive
  • A love of books
  • An awareness that books can entertain and inform
  • A working knowledge of the alphabet
  • Concepts about print like how to hold a book, how to turn pages and that print carries the meaning
  • The ability to hear and generate rhymes
  • The ability to hear and segment sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
  • The ability to match sounds to letters (phonics)
  • A store of about 25 sight words (the, it, and, I, me)
  • The ability to retell a story that has been read aloud

These literacy abilities can be acquired through the following instructional designs:

  • Structured play activities where students interact orally and in writing
  • Daily read alouds
  • Shared reading
  • Interactive or shared writing
  • Direct teacher instruction (kept brief and focused)
  • Word and language games and activities
  • Targeted small group instruction
  • One-on-one instruction as needed
  • Independent reading
  • Independent writing


Nurses, fathers, teachers, mothers. Why do we devalue someone the minute they care for others?

Caregiving is not valued in terms of pay and it’s not valued in terms of respect. As examples think of jobs like child care workers and nursery school teachers, nurses, and primary school teachers: lower pay…lower social status.

Author Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks it is time to change that…

I now try very hard when I meet somebody to not say immediately, “What do you do?” That’s such a classic American thing. I try to ask a question that will let me see the whole person. “Have you read a good book lately?” or “What did you do last weekend?” I ask something that says we are more than our work.

How many women were journalists, prosecutors, doctors, then took time out for care and dropped off the screen because all anybody wants to know is what they do? And when they say something like, “I’m caring for my parents,” that doesn’t seem to count.

So it’s really changed how I approach other people. When I meet somebody who is caring for someone else, I think to myself, “That’s fabulous. Let me find out more about this person.” And also, when I meet a teacher or a nurse or a therapist or a coach, I immediately think, “This person is doing the most important work in our society.”


15 Years of Bill Gates’s Meddling

The Network for Public Education has asked everyone to share their newsletter report on Bill Gates.

Do your part to fight back. Share this newsletter and ​feature report far and wide. Make sure the public understands that the existence of democratically-controlled public schools are at risk. [emphasis original]

It’s worth your time to read. Bill and Melinda Gates ought to get out of the business of promoting the privatization and digitalization of education in the U.S.

…more interesting than [Gates’s] speech, however, was the couples’ conversation with Gwen Ifill, which you can watch here.

From that interview, three things are clear.

  • Bill and Melinda do not understand teaching and learning, yet they comfortably assume an air of expertise.
  • They view victory as the implementation of their reforms, and while they claim to be all about the metrics, they only select examples that suit their purpose.
  • The first couple of reform neither appreciate nor respect the role democracy plays in the governance of public schools.

    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.

    Stop the Testing Insanity!
    A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
    Click here to sign the petition.

    For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.


    Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Common Core, kindergarten, NEA, poverty, Privatization, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

    2015 Medley #19

    Privatization, NEA, Kindergarten,
    Poverty, CCSS, Teachers


    The Public’s Choice

    The current trend in right-wing America (which each day seems to be more and more of the country) is to denigrate any and all government involvement in our lives. Our Founding Fathers, however, were not all anarchists and many of them believed that government has a legitimate purpose in building a better nation. One of those purposes is promoting the general welfare which, for most of our history, has included supporting an education system to benefit everyone (with notable exceptions…another topic altogether).

    Providing schools supported by the general population — as a public good —

    Put another way in “Choice or Commonality” by Martha Minow, a law professor and inspiration to a young Barack Obama,

    “if educational responsibility remains solely on the immediate family, ‘choice’ may take place in a world of insufficient numbers of quality schools, inadequate information about the stakes and alternatives, and large numbers of people unable to use the choice system effectively. This state of affairs means choice for some and not for others, and whether a child’s educational needs are met will depend on her parents’ ability to choose.”

    So with federal education law originally meant to support the public education system in order to break the “poverty-ignorance-ignorance-poverty cycle” by providing ALL children with quality education, we know “choice” cannot logically get us to equal educational opportunity.

    See also
    Arthur Camins on Choice: a Letter to the Editor

    John Oliver, Bail Bonds, Charter School Owners, ALEC and Privatization

    Instead of investing in and fixing America’s public schools we’re moving slowly but surely to a system of privately run charters and schools which operate with little or no public oversight. The overreaction to “government interference” is driving this in part, as is the religious right’s fear of anything not based on conservative Christianity. Jeb Bush regularly uses the term “government schools” instead of “public schools” because he wants to get the vote of those who hate everything “government” — an ironic position from someone who comes from a family of government workers and who wants to run the government.

    The debate today is over “big-government” vs. small or no government. That’s the wrong focus. The debate should be over “good government” vs. “poor government.” Big-government is not necessarily bad by definition if it serves the people well. Neither is privatization, by definition, good or bad, as long as the people are protected. Governments were developed so people wouldn’t have to live in an “every man for himself,” chaotic society. Working together we can accomplish more than fighting each other.

    Charter schools are not, by definition, bad, however, public money does need public oversight…and that’s missing in the charter industry right now. See also: Nonpartisan Report on Charter Schools: No Difference in Test Scores.

    When I write about charter schools, which is often, BASIS is a regular part of the conversation. I think it helps us understand the underpinnings of the BASIS system to know something about its founders’ ideology and affiliations. Michael Block’s early associations with ALEC and his endorsement of privatization in the area of bail bonds give us a taste of what his views are concerning district-run, “government” schools and his vision for the future of education in the country. The ALEC/bail bond association makes his statement on the subject of schools and privatization in 2012 all the more telling. In a column by Robert Robb in the Republic, Block commented, “I would privatize the entire government school system.” Here’s the entire quote:

    “I would privatize the entire government school system. I don’t think you can actually run schools today with the amount of disagreement we have over the fundamental mission of schools. Is it social welfare? Is it academic excellence? Is it social justice? You can’t possibly have an educational system if you have this amount of disagreement, so privatize it.”

    Along with privatizing, Block, like the bail bond industry, also believes in profitizing. Though the individual BASIS schools are nonprofit, BASIS.ed, which sucks up most of the taxpayer money that goes to the schools and runs their basic operations, is a for-profit enterprise. Much of what happens at BASIS is hidden behind BASIS.ed’s for-profit fire wall. How much do Michael and Olga Block make each year? We have no idea. How much taxpayer money drawn up to the for-profit makes it back to the schools? Again, no idea. Did any taxpayer funds help subsidize the building and operation of the BASIS private schools in Silicon Valley, CA, and Brooklyn, NY (tuition: $24,000 per year)? No idea there either because the private, for-profit BASIS.ed operates without public scrutiny. And that’s just how Michael Block likes it, both personally and philosophically.


    At this year’s Network for Public Education Conference in Chicago, Diane Ravitch asked both Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten if their unions, the NEA and AFT respectively, would stop taking money from Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation. Both said yes. Mercedes Schneider writes about how Lily Eskelsen Garcia is backpedaling from that promise.

    I understand Lily’s point…the NEA Foundation (which Lily said will continue to take money from “foundations”) is not the NEA…they are two different, though related organizations. I think Lily would have done better to say something like, “I can’t answer that question because, while I speak for the NEA, I don’t make all the decisions on my own. I would have to check with the Executive Board (or the Representative Assembly, or some other group within the union).” That would have made more sense and been something I could accept.

    But she didn’t. She said yes.

    Keep in mind that NEA under Lily and her predecessor, Dennis Van Roekel, 1) supported and still support the Common Core and 2) came out in support of Barack Obama in 2012 early, even after they had called for the resignation of Arne Duncan, and after four years of the disastrous Race to the Top. Endorsing President Obama was a mistake. Selling out for a “seat at the table” was a mistake.

    NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia Remains Faithful to Gates Funding

    [Quoting Diane Ravitch from the video, included] The Walton, Gates and Broad Foundations are at the forefront of the privatization movement. Will you commit not to accept funding from them and not to collaborate with them? [56:56]

    She then asked for their “yes or no” answers:


    Garcia: Yes.

    A clearcut answer. Both presidents of the two largest national teachers unions said “Yes,” their organizations would stop taking money from the billionaires.

    A few days/weeks later Lily backpedals…

    But Lily Eskelsen Garcia is willing to defend NEA’s continued receiving of Gates funding on a technicality:

    NEA doesn’t directly receive the Gates funding. The NEA Foundation does.

    And she completely glosses over her verbal agreement at the NPE conference to no longer even collaborate with Gates.

    Nothing doing.

    Her version of Ravitch’s question is botched on her blog, but the point of her unswerving Gates allegiance is clear:

    I was asked at the NPE conference to give a simple answer to a question that is not so simple: Would my union, the NEA, accept Gates grants? The fact is that, no, NEA does not directly take funds from the Gates Foundation. … Our union organized an independent foundation for the very purpose of connecting philanthropists with the creative work of our member practitioners in classrooms across the country. … And in service to those members and those students, we will continue to work with powerful partners, foundations and institutions dedicated to educational innovation, educator empowerment, student health, and parent engagement. Over the years, we’ve helped educators connect with many donors, including the Gates Foundation….


    Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom

    Play is children’s work and it should be pervasive in kindergarten…not work sheets, reading tests, and math facts.

    Using play to develop academic knowledge — as well as social skills — in young children is the backbone of alternative educational philosophies like those of Maria Montessori or Reggio Emilia. And many veteran kindergarten teachers, as well as most academic researchers, say they have long known that children learn best when they are allowed ample time to go shopping at a pretend grocery store or figure out how to build bridges with wooden blocks. Even the Common Core standards state that play is a “valuable activity.”


    National Survey of American Teachers by Communities In Schools

    [Read a summary of findings at Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet, Student poverty, lack of parental involvement cited as teacher concerns.]

    Teachers are united in their understanding of what is getting in the way of student learning in America…the fact that nearly one-fourth of our children live in poverty.

    The key findings demonstrate that poverty and the manifestations of poverty are a critical impediment to education. In addition to the student impact, we have learned that teachers spend considerable amounts of time and personal resources to address these impediments. Teachers are also nearly unanimous in their preferred solution to addressing these challenges: a dedicated person to work with these students and their families.

    What Poverty Does to the Young Brain

    It’s true. Poverty matters.

    In a longer-term study published two years ago, neuroscientists at four universities scanned the brains of a group of twenty-four-year-olds and found that, in those who had lived in poverty at age nine, the brain’s centers of negative emotion were more frequently buzzing with activity, whereas the areas that could rein in such emotions were quieter. Elsewhere, stress in childhood has been shown to make people prone to depression, heart disease, and addiction in adulthood.

    Is the Common Core killing kindergarten?

    Questions: How many early childhood experts were on the team that developed the Common Core State Standards? How many people on the team had experience working with young children? How many people on the team understood child development from birth to age 5? In how many locations were the Common Core State Standards field tested for accuracy and appropriateness?

    Answer to all questions: Zero.

    Another Boston-area parent, Jennifer Debin, saw similar academic pressures put on her son’s kindergarten class in the Sherborn public schools. “It came as a surprise to me, during my observations of the classroom. There were a lot of work sheets, a lot of seat time, and it was all very teacher directed,” says Debin who volunteered as a class parent. “There wasn’t as much joy in learning, laughter, excitement, and just the noise and playfulness you’d expect in a place trying to get kids excited for that first voyage into school.”


    Why so many teachers leave — and how to get them to stay

    Teachers have a difficult job and most parents understand that, but many folks look at it from the outside and don’t get it. The misunderstanding is epitomized by the contrast between this article and one of the commenters. First, the article — click the link above, read the whole thing and then come back…

    On paper, teaching seems like the perfect job. Summers off, a workday that ends at 3 p.m., time off when the students are off — and the daily opportunity to work with children all day long. What more could one possibly want? As with life, things are not always what they seem. Teaching is hard. Parenting is generally deemed the hardest job in the world — but teaching runs a close second. Teachers continue to leave the profession in droves because all of those “on paper” benefits aren’t the reality.

    Next, the comment…Here is someone who believes, like Chris Christie (without the obvious bullying) that teachers are well-paid (#1) and underworked (#2) with huge pensions and six-figure salaries. She believes that experience and training doesn’t count (#3) and that teachers use their advanced degrees only to “extort” more money. The big problem is evaluation, however. The current trend is towards evaluating teachers using test scores. The commenter extols inspiring teachers, but how do we measure inspiration (#4)? Is it like good art where “I’ll know it when I see it?” How do you measure the influence a teacher has on his or her students? (See the section titled EVALUATE THAT, here.

    Finally, the commenter tells teachers to be happy because parents praise them and buy them lunch “for goodness sakes.” That, apparently, makes it all worth it. I wonder if private sector workers — you know, the ones without the huge pensions — would be happy with praise and a sandwich…

    Virginia SGP

    The idea of pairing junior teachers with senior ones and providing more collaborative lesson plans are very good. But the rest of this article is nonsense.

    1. Teachers are paid well despite what they want you to believe. Teachers receive ~20% of their pay via a pension that virtually no private sector worker receives. They conveniently like to leave that out. In Loudoun County just outside DC, a masters degree teacher makes the equivalent of $64K-$130K/yr to teach. That is not “drastically underpaid”.

    2. Teachers work 200 days per year when other workers spend 235 days in their jobs. Just ask the school administrators who have to work 235 days if they would rather work a teacher schedule. If teachers don’t think that matters, let’s have teachers report for an additional 7 weeks (35 days) in the summer to have some real professional development.

    3. The reason nobody respects the masters education degrees is because they have absolutely zero effect on student outcomes. Virtually no study has ever shown a masters degree helps a teacher. The dirty little secret is these are 1) easy to obtain and 2) a mere credential to receive more pay. Yet teachers brag about all of their degrees. Folks in other fields often don’t get masters or doctorates because they are unnecessary and they can’t extort extra pay from their employers with them.

    4. Yes, we want teachers to inspire kids and not just be good in a theoretical classroom. Maybe that’s harsh. But since we know some teachers are effective at communicating and inspiring kids to be interested, that is the benchmark for the best. Some quarterbacks have a lot of talent but for some reason can’t perform well. They don’t get a pass. Teaching is critical so we will continue to search for the most effective ones.

    Teachers receive more praise than any profession. Parents bring you lunch for goodness sakes. We want great teachers and are determined to find the best ones for our kids.

    America, Meet @GovChristie: Teacher Bashing Hypocrite

    The king of teacher bashers is New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. Here, Jersey Jazzman provides an article and video showing the good governor at his best. I would just add a couple of things from the video which aren’t fully covered…

    At 1:50 in the video Christie says,

    “It’s the same as it was in the 1800’s for God’s sake…It’s a row of desks facing forward to a black board or a white board…a person standing in the front of the room…talking to the people at the desks…

    “And they do so from roughly 8:30 to roughly 2:30 or 3 o’clock, and they’re off four months a year.”

    It’s clear that Christie is either lying or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The average teacher works longer than six hours a day…even if that’s all he or she is paid for. There’s preparation and grading for example. As a teacher I normally had several hours of work each day evaluating the work of students…I stayed late after school or took it home. I’m pretty sure I was not the only teacher who did that. Granted, I can’t speak for every teacher in America, however, studies have shown that teachers generally work more hours than they’re paid for each day…which more than makes up for…

    …the time off in the summer. Maybe it’s different in New Jersey, but here in Indiana (and in Illinois where I grew up) the “summer vacation” is between 8 and 10 weeks long, not four months. Next year (school year 2015-16), for example, my local school’s year ends on May 27. The 2016-17 school year beings on August 8. A quick glance at a 2016 calendar puts that at 10 weeks and it doesn’t include classes teachers must take to keep their licenses current, independent study and reading, summer jobs to supplement their income, and other school-related work. Even so, it’s not 4 months as Governor Christie states. Maybe New Jersey needs to check its calendar. Liar? Bully? or just misinformed?

    At 2:52 in the video he ups the ante…

    “Why don’t we have it? we don’t have it because the teachers union likes to be off 4 – 5 months a year…they like to get a full time salary for a part time job…and the fact is they don’t want to work longer hours either unless they get paid more even though they’re getting paid essentially a full time salary for a part time job…so our k-12 education system is built for the comfort of adults rather than to exploit the potential of children.”

    With this the governor expands the summer break to four or five months and, of course, blames it on the teachers union. If teachers unions are so bad why do students in states with strong teachers unions (like New Jersey) consistently score higher on national tests than students in states with weak or no unions?

    Finally, at 6:20 he says…

    Imagine that we have all these old books that we’re using in schools…lot of them…old…four years old, five years old…when we have available to us now the technology at a relatively same cost…why doesn’t every kid have an ipad? Why doesn’t every kid have an ipad and then you can download the most recent type of materials and use the technology…

    Interesting question Governor. Where is the financial support for your schools going? You claim that the state is spending so much money on education, yet it can’t seem to provide current and appropriate materials. Why not?

    Jersey Jazzman takes over…

    We Jersey folks have become used to this: after all, Christie has compared teachers to drug dealers, told students their teachers don’t care about their learning, and excoriated teachers for using pronouns to describe their students.

    …he has a personal beef with the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union. The NJEA has not backed down to his bullying, and that pisses him off to no end…

    Second, Christie needs a scapegoat for his many, many failures as governor. He has a terrible job creation record, a terrible tax record, a terrible record of management, a terrible environmental record, a terrible public health record, and a terrible disaster recovery record. Plus Bridgegate. And the ARC tunnel. And our tanking credit rating. And housing. And his personal greed….[see original for several embedded links]


    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.

    Stop the Testing Insanity!

    Posted in Corp Interest, kindergarten, NAEYC, Testing

    Developmentally Inappropriate? Follow the Money.

    We’ve come a long way from Fredrich Froebel’s “Children’s Garden” in the early 19th century. Froebel’s kindergarten was based on the belief that play is the real force in children’s learning. Froebel focused his kindergarten on play and activities…and in the century and a half since then researchers have found that he was correct — activity and play are essential parts of learning.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a report titled, The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, wrote

    Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them…As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.

    The first kindergarten in the United States was founded in the mid-nineteenth century in Watertown, Wisconsin, and for the next approximately 150 years kindergartens in America combined play, activities and the arts to foster children’s growth in a developmentally appropriate atmosphere.

    Fast forward to the 21st century and the picture in kindergartens across the country is very different. Many 4, 5 and 6 year old children in kindergartens around the nation are now asked to participate in long periods of large group instruction where they might be required to sit for long blocks of time working at desks completing worksheets. Experienced kindergarten teachers are scrambling to adjust the new curriculums in ways that are developmentally appropriate.

    The most difficult barrier faced by the teachers was related to some mandate, expectation, or policy issued by the school system that teachers believed to be developmentally inappropriate for children. Mandates included the implementation of literacy programs, math programs, or writing programs. Inappropriate expectations for all children to master the kindergarten-level math skills…that all children would be reading by the end of the kindergarten year and would reach specific reading levels…Excessive assessments were required in several school systems.


    The National Asssociation for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has written a 30 page Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. It includes a dozen “principles of child development and learning,” and guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice in five different areas. The five areas are,

    1. Creating a caring community of learners
    2. Teaching to enhance development and learning
    3. Planning curriculum to achieve important goals
    4. Assessing children’s development and learning
    5. Establishing reciprocal relationships with families

    There’s too much written about developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood education for me to cover in a short blog post (or even a long one!). The 8 pages of notes and references in the NAEYC position paper ought to satisfy your curiosity if you choose to explore the issue further.

    I do however want to focus on one area that NAEYC highlighted.


    Here’s a quick look at what NAEYC says about assessment…

    Teachers cannot be intentional about helping children to progress unless they know where each child is with respect to learning goals.

    Sound assessment of young children is challenging because they develop and learn in ways that are characteristically uneven and embedded within the specific cultural and linguistic contexts in which they live…sound assessment takes into consideration such factors as a child’s facility in English and stage of linguistic development in the home language. Assessment that is not reliable or valid, or that is used to label, track, or otherwise harm young children, is not developmentally appropriate practice.

    Let’s look at how they describe appropriate assessment…

    • Assessment of young children’s progress and achievements is ongoing, strategic, and purposeful.
    • Assessment focuses on children’s progress toward goals that are developmentally and educationally significant.
    • There is a system in place to collect, make sense of, and use the assessment information to guide what goes on in the classroom…
    • The methods of assessment are appropriate to the developmental status and experiences of young children…Methods appropriate to the classroom assessment of young children, therefore, include results of teachers’ observations of children, clinical interviews, collections of children’s work samples, and their performance on authentic activities.
    • Assessment looks not only at what children can do independently but also at what they can do with assistance from other children or adults…
    • …input from families as well as children’s own evaluations of their work are part of the program’s overall assessment strategy.
    • Assessments are tailored to a specific purpose and used only for the purpose for which they have been demonstrated to produce reliable, valid information.
    • Decisions that have a major impact on children, such as enrollment or placement, are never made on the basis of results from a single developmental assessment or screening instrument/device…
    • When a screening or other assessment identifies children who may have special learning or developmental needs, there is appropriate follow-up, evaluation, and, if indicated, referral…

    Keeping in mind the 4th, 5th and 7th bullets above (highlighted in red) look at this…


    Kindergarten gets tough as kids are forced to bubble in multiple choice tests

    Because of a tough new curriculum and teacher evaluations, 4- and 5-year-olds are learning how to fill in bubbles on standardized math tests to show how much they know about numbers, shapes and order.

    In one sentence, the Daily News has encapsulated the complete inappropriateness of the assessment used.

    • The assessment is not appropriate to the developmental status of young children.
    • The assessment is not only used to evaluate children’s progress, but to evaluate teachers as well
    • The assessment supports a curriculum which hasn’t been researched or validated, therefore the validity of the assessment is questionable.

    Reading further we learn that the assessment doesn’t allow children to collaborate or get help from adults.

    School officials said that the test was a good way for teachers to get information about their students. Teachers, on the other hand, didn’t find the assessment useful…

    Administering the exams is a complete headache, teachers said. “They don’t know how to hold pencils,” said a Bronx kindergarten teacher…“They don’t know letters, and you have answers that say A, B, C or D and you’re asking them to bubble in…They break down; they cry.”

    The test isn’t appropriate for children. It doesn’t help teachers. Of what benefit is it, then?

    One of three tests obtained by the Daily News is created by Pearson — which made the New York State third- through eighth-grade exams, including a ridiculously worded question about a talking pineapple last year. Pearson also makes the Common Core materials that most city schools have recently adopted. [emphasis added]

    Just out of curiosity I checked out the math curriculum at one of the nation’s most elite private schools. There’s nothing about the Common Core. There’s nothing about bubble tests. Unless they’re hiding something those things aren’t being used. The description, on the other hand, does sound developmentally appropriate. Do the educators at Sidwell Friends School know something that the State of New York doesn’t?

    Math: Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten

    Through a variety of teacher-planned activities and self-directed learning stations, the pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten math program offers a stimulating environment for fostering emergent mathematical thinking. Teachers encourage the free exploration and manipulation of classroom materials, including pattern blocks, Cuisenaire rods, buttons, coins, shells, and seeds. Children are exposed to practical “daily life” math. Many activities involve counting, such as “counting around the circle” to determine daily class attendance. Classroom calendars are dated and tracked by students. Classrooms provide opportunities to sort, classify, and compare objects. Students work on assessing attributes, duplicating and creating patterns, building recognition of numbers and geometric shapes, estimating, and graphing. Group work and free choice activities offer times to practice number concepts, number writing, and oral number tasks. Skills such as exhibiting one-to-one correspondence, sequencing, and linking numeric symbols with quantity are regularly practiced in classroom programs.

    A rich curriculum, appropriate instruction and developmentally appropriate assessment is good for the nation’s wealthy who can send their children to schools like Sidwell. Money meant for students in public schools, on the other hand, is misspent on inappropriate materials and assessments which don’t benefit the students…or teachers.

    Follow the money from the taxpayers…

    …to testing companies like Pearson and McGraw Hill

    …and back to the politicians making the rules for public education.

    Remember this when someone complains that “we already spend too much money on education” in the US.

    Further Reading:
    Education priorities have become disjointed
    Dr. Joseph Ricciotti: How CCSS Ruins Kindergarten


    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.

    Stop the Testing Insanity!