Category Archives: Lead

2020 Medley #11: DeVos, Cuts, and Online education

DeVos privatizes with pandemic funds,
The cuts have already begun,
Selfish Americans, the Digital Divide,
Real schools are better than online

DEVOS USES PANDEMIC TO FURTHER DAMAGE PUBLIC EDUCATION

Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education said that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” The test scores of students in New Orleans did improve, though that was likely due to increased funding (by nearly $1400 per student) and the fact that the number of students living in poverty decreased significantly. In any case, the point is that Duncan ignored the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Americans as an excuse to privatize public education.

Not to be outdone by this, Betsy DeVos is all for using the suffering of millions and the deaths of tens of thousands to support privatizing public education throughout the entire country.

Taking Duncan one step further, DeVos has ignored Congressional intent for the millions of dollars set aside to support public schools that serve all children and manipulated its distribution with “guidelines” intended to dump more than originally intended into the coffers of private and religious schools.

Just how much damage can this administration do to public education, and the rest of the country, before they are finally replaced next January?

Betsy DeVos Is Using The Coronavirus Pandemic To Push School Vouchers

Vouchers are a bad policy idea during the best of times, and during this pandemic, they’re even worse. Voucher programs don’t improve student achievement, lack appropriate oversight and accountability and, of course, violate religious freedom by forcing taxpayers to fund religious education at private schools. Public schools need public funds desperately right now. They must pay teachers and staff, provide technology and distance learning, support struggling students, and survive budget cuts. The last thing public schools need during a pandemic is DeVos’ unaccountable, unfair, and ineffective voucher agenda.

Small Things: Secretary DeVos, Twitter, and Teachers Vs. Charters

…I think it’s worth highlighting once again that we have a Secretary of Education who is not a supporter of public education or the people who work there, who is, in fact, far more excited about a privately-run system for replacing the institution that she is charged with overseeing. I can’t say that it’s highly abnormal, because the office has never attracted many people who really support public education, but it’s still weird that when public school teachers look up at state and federal authorities, they find people who are lined up against them. It’s a weird way to run a national education system.

DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

Asked whether she is using crisis to support private school choice, DeVos says ‘yes, absolutely’

“Am I correct in understanding what your agenda is?” [Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York] asks.

“Yes, absolutely,” DeVos responded. “For more than three decades that has been something that I’ve been passionate about. This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted, and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools versus private schools.”

The comments are DeVos’ clearest statement to date about how she hopes to pull the levers of federal power to support students already in — or who want to attend — private schools. She has already made that intention clear with her actions: releasing guidance that would effectively direct more federal relief funds to private schools, and using some relief dollars to encourage states to support alternatives to traditional public school districts.

THE CUTS HAVE ALREADY BEGUN

Schools Will Need Help to Recover

States are going to have to make up the money lost during the coronavirus pandemic somewhere, and if past history is any guide the public schools are going to suffer (Indiana schools are still waiting for money promised after the 2008 cuts). DeVos’s redistribution of funds intended for public schools is just the first in a long line of cuts to public schools.

The cuts have already begun, and they’re sobering. In April alone, nearly 470,000 public school employees across America were furloughed or laid off. That’s 100,000 more teachers and school staff who lost their jobs than during the worst point of the Great Recession a decade ago. At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we are closely analyzing state budget gaps because we know the tremendous harm that can result from funding cuts.

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced plans to cut $300 million in K-12 funding and $100 million in college and university funding for the current year. Meanwhile, Georgia’s top budget officials told the state’s schools to plan for large cuts for next year that will almost certainly force districts to lay off teachers and other workers.

AMERICAN SELFISHNESS

Weekend Quotables

Mike Klonsky, in his Weekend Quotables series, posted this picture. The residents of Flint, Michigan, while the state claims that the water is now ok, and 85% of the city’s pipes have been replaced, are still scared to drink their water. Meanwhile, some Americans are more concerned with their appearance than human lives…insisting that wearing masks make them “look ridiculous” or demanding haircuts.

DIGITAL (CLASS) DIVIDE

The Class Divide: Remote Learning at 2 Schools, Private and Public (Dana Goldstein)

Dana Goldstein, the author of The Teacher Wars, compares two different schools facing the coronavirus pandemic requirement to close. This is a clear description of how money provides more opportunities for some children than others.

Private school students are more likely to live in homes with good internet access, computers and physical space for children to focus on academics. Parents are less likely to be working outside the home and are more available to guide young children through getting online and staying logged in — entering user names and passwords, navigating between windows and programs. And unlike their public-school counterparts, private school teachers are generally not unionized, giving their employers more leverage in laying out demands for remote work.

ONLINE ED CANNOT REPLACE REAL SCHOOLS

Why online education can’t replace brick-and-mortar K-12 schooling

In the Public Interest has gathered research on online education, revealing a track record of poor academic performance, lack of equity and access, and concerns about privacy. Take a look…

Coronavirus has put the future of K-12 public education in question. School districts, teachers, and staff are mobilizing to provide students with online learning, emotional care, meals, and other support. Meanwhile, online education companies—with the ideological backing of right-wing think tanks—are aiming to further privatize public education and profit off of students.

It goes without saying that online education can’t replace the in-person teaching, social interaction, and—for many students—calories that a brick-and-mortar public school provides. However, that isn’t stopping some from arguing that much if not all of K-12 education should stay online after the crisis.

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Filed under Article Medleys, DeVos, DigitalDivide, Duncan, Flint, Lead, NewOrleans, OnlineLearning, Pandemic, poverty, Privatization, SchoolFunding

What’s in your water?

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

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

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

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

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

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

Preventing childhood lead exposure is cost-effective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is your state doing?

INDIANA

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

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

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

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

The report says…

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

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

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

Testing shows elevated lead levels in 7 Hammond schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FLINT, MICHIGAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

Various Cities

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

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

New York City

Still High Levels of Lead in Drinking Water in NYC Schools

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

California

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

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

Detroit

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

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

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

Newark

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

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

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

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

But that’s not the case.

Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Medley #21

Retention-in-grade, Low Test Scores,
Reading wars, Charters and Choice,
Mississippi Strategy,
Vouchers and Discrimination, Poisoning Children

RETENTION HURTS CHILDREN

The Haunted Third Grade Classrooms Children Fear: Enter and… Stay Forever!

It’s time again for another article dealing with retention…complete with references.

In-grade retention doesn’t work. More often than not it harms students psychologically and emotionally, increases the chances of students dropping out, and doesn’t improve achievement. Yet we continue to do it in order to appease the gods of “test and punish.”

I’ve also collected dozens of articles, research articles, blog posts, and position papers on retention-in-grade, the vast majority of which document the damage done by this outdated and abusive practice.

Students who have academic struggles, but who move on, do better in the long run. Students who are retained might seem to do better at first, but they drop back to having difficulties later. Many students who are retained go on to drop out of school.

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING SCHOOLS – LOW TEST SCORES

While I Wasn’t Paying Attention……

In a long, rambling blog post, John Merrow touches on a variety of topics. I disagree with one area he discussed in which he talks about how American students score poorly on the PISA test. Our students don’t “underperform their peers in most other countries”. We have a higher rate of child poverty, which lowers our average.

As I wrote in March of 2017,

American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested…

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty…

Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.

Other topics covered by Merrow are…

  • How do you teach appropriate behaviors when the current President role models bullying and vulgarity?
  • the Secretary of Education’s assault on public education
  • What should we measure in our schools? We approach measurement the wrong way.
  • the value of play in education
  • the cost of testing
  • the poor quality of our standardized tests and our undemanding curriculum

A sampling…

A social studies teacher right now is a modern-day Hamlet. Should he or she embrace the chaos and encourage students to debate the morality of the flood of demonstrable lies coming from the Oval Office on a daily basis, knowing that doing so is guaranteed to incur the wrath of some parents, and perhaps some administrators as well? Or should the teacher studiously avoid controversy, knowing full well that doing that sends a powerful value-laden message? To teach, or not to teach, that is the question…..

Or suppose you were an elementary school teacher trying to model appropriate behavior for your impressionable students. How do you respond when one of your kids asks you why the President said Joe Biden was kissing Barack Obama’s ass? Or why Trump can say ‘bullshit’ but kids get punished for swearing?

…We have to learn to Measure What We Value, instead of simply Valuing What We Measure.

…Ironically, the PISA results revealed that American kids score high in ‘confidence in mathematical ability,’ despite underperforming their peers in most other countries…

NRP AND THE READING WARS

Problematic “Scientific Based” Phonics: The Flawed National Reading Panel

The “reading wars” have heated up again and the report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) is being hauled out as proof that we need to dump current methods of teaching reading (balanced literacy) and teach “systematic phonics.” However, the NRP didn’t actually find that “systematic phonics” worked better than other methods of teaching reading.

Metcalf mentions educational researchers who raised questions concerning the National Reading Panel.

Elaine Garan an education professor and author was one.

She believes there are wide discrepancies between what was reported to the public and what the panel actually found. Most blatantly, the summary proclaimed that “systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade,” while the report itself said, “There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above first grade.” [emphasis added]

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND CHOICE

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 1: The “I Didn’t Do It!” Excuse

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 2: The “EVERYONE’S DOING IT!” Excuse

An excellent summary of the problem with charter schools in two blog posts by Steven Singer.

It takes a certain kind of hypocrite to be a charter school champion.

You have to deny any wrongdoing one minute. And then admit you’re guilty but explain it away with the excuse “Everyone’s doing it!” the next.

Take cherry picking – one of the most common admonishments leveled against the school privatization industry.

Detractors claim that charter schools keep enrollment low and then out of those who apply, they pick and choose which students to accept.

Charters are run by private enterprise but funded with public tax dollars. So they are supposed to accept all comers just like the authentic public schools in the same neighborhoods.

But charter schools don’t have to follow the same rules as authentic public schools. They pretty much just have to abide by whatever was agreed upon in their charter contracts. Even then states rarely check up on them to make sure they’re in compliance.

So critics say many of these institutions are circumventing enrollment procedures. They’re welcoming the easiest kids to teach and dissuading others from enrolling – even to the extent of kicking out hard to teach children or pretending that an “unbiased” selection process just so happened to pick only the most motivated students.

WORKERS OR EDUCATED CITIZENS?

Indiana’s “Mississippi Strategy” for Education Will Bear Bitter Fruit

Should we raise and educate our children to supply the economy with workers (the Mississippi strategy) or should we teach our children to be educated citizens? Our goal should be towards citizens who think, rather than workers for a corporate state. In The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark, Carl Sagan wrote,

If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

In this post, Doug Masson agrees…

I think there is a fundamental difference between policymakers with respect to whether they see people as liabilities or assets. When we see people as liabilities, then the goal of government is to spend as few resources on them as possible, getting them from cradle to grave with as little fuss as possible. When we see people as assets, then the goal of government is to maximize their potential as efficiently as possible, knowing that the return on that investment will exceed the expenditure as the children become productive, well-rounded citizens contributing to the community. The Mississippi Strategy takes the former approach.

FREE EXERCISE VS. ESTABLISHMENT

Vouchers And Federally-Supported Discrimination

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment gives religious groups the right to hire and fire at will even if they choose to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. However, when the religious group takes government money, then they ought to follow the secular laws of the nation as required by the establishment clause.

…in Indianapolis, as in many areas around the country, the Catholic school system is now funded in part by school vouchers, a system of using public tax dollars for tuition to private schools. Indiana has been aggressive in pursuing school choice policies, particularly under then-Governor Mike Pence, who in his 2013 inaugural address said, “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices.” Indiana’s voucher program directs taxpayer dollars primarily to religious schools, and the majority of those are Catholic schools. Cathedral High School participates in both Indiana’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs.

There was a time when private religious schools might have resisted taking government dollars, even indirectly, for fear of having the government push its rules on the institutions. But now we are seeing that the lever can be pushed in the other direction, and it’s the government that may have to bend to the will of private religious institutions.

POISONING OUR CHILDREN

NC got an ‘F’ for unsafe school drinking water. Activists want the lead out of schools.

North Carolina got an “F” when it comes to protecting its children against lead poisoning.

Environmental activists have launched a new campaign to protect children from drinking lead-contaminated water in schools following a national report that gave North Carolina a failing grade for safe school drinking water.

North Carolina was among 22 states that got an “F” grade for not getting rid of lead from school drinking water, according to Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. This week, Environment North Carolina released a back-to-school toolkit that gives the public information on how to get the lead out of schools.

“There is no safe level of lead for our citizens but especially for our children,” Krista Early, clean water advocate for Environment NC, said at a news conference at Moore Square. “North Carolina does not currently require testing of drinking water in our children’s schools.

Indiana also got an “F”.

There is no safe level of lead for children. Lead in the environment damages children…permanently. It lowers their school achievement, causes behavior and growth problems, and can increase criminal behavior.

We’re still discussing the damage that lead poisoning does to our children…and we’re still blaming the low achievement of lead-damaged children on schools, teachers, and parents through our reliance on test scores and our underfunding of those schools serving children who need the most help.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on testing, but apparently can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, reading, retention, Testing, vouchers

Random Numbers

October 16, 2019

POLITICAL

  • Day 1000 of the current U.S. presidential administration. Time to register to vote!

GENERAL WORLDWIDE

EDUCATION IN THE U.S. AND INDIANA

Testing

Privatization

Population

  • 56.6 million – The number of students attending elementary, middle, and high schools across the US.

Poverty

15% (168,028) of white children live in poor families.
42% (69,537) of black children live in poor families.
35% (56,560) of Hispanic children live in poor families.
17% (5,237) of Asian children live in poor families.

Homelessness

Graduation

Overall Poverty rate 20.56%

Overall Poverty rate 11.98%

Overall Poverty rate 14.56%

Lead

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Filed under Homeless Children, Lead, Politics, poverty, Privatization, Testing

2019 Medley #16: Back to school 2019, Part 1

Special Ed. and Lead, Testing,
Teacher Evaluations,
Commission on Teacher Pay,
Reading and Phonics, Teachers’ Spending, Supporting Your Local School, DPE

SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS AND LEAD POISONING

In Flint, Schools Overwhelmed by Special Ed. Needs in Aftermath of Lead Crisis

In nearly all my previous posts having to do with the lead poisoning of America’s poor children, I have commented that we would likely see increased numbers of students needing special services in areas where lead is an identified problem.

Flint, Michigan is facing that situation. There aren’t enough special education teachers to handle the increased case load in Flint’s schools. The author of the article (and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit) don’t blame the lead in the water for the increased need for speical ed services in Flint. It seems likely, however, that the near doubling of the number of children identified for special education over the last 8 years has something to do with the damage done to Flint’s children by the lead in the water.

Who should pay for the permanent damage done to an entire community of lead poisoned children? Who should be held accountable? Will teachers’ evaluations reflect the lower test scores of their students damaged by policy makers’ neglect?

By the way, the title of this article refers to the “Aftermath of [Flint’s] Lead Crisis.” Is Flint’s water safe yet? What about Newark? What about the lead in the ground in East Chicago, IN?

In a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Education Law Center, and the New York-based firm of White & Case, lawyers representing Flint families have sued the school system, the Michigan education department, and the Genesee County Intermediate school district, alleging systematic failure to meet the needs of special education students. The Genesee district helps oversee special education services in Flint and other county districts.

While the lawsuit does not pin the increased need for special education services solely on the prolonged lead exposure, research has linked lead toxicity to learning disabilities, poor classroom performance, and increased aggression.

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT TESTS AREN’T VALID FOR TEACHER EVALUATIONS

As low ILEARN scores loom, McCormick wants to change how Indiana evaluates schools, teachers

What McCormick should have included in her comments…

We shouldn’t use student achievement tests to evaluate teachers. Student achievement tests are developed to assess student achievement, not teacher effectiveness…not school effectiveness…and not school system effectiveness. This misuse of standardized tests invalidates the results.

McCormick also said it is “past time” for the state to take students’ standardized test scores out of teachers’ evaluations. The argument is that scores should be used to inform educators on what concepts students have mastered and where they need help, rather than a way of evaluating how well teachers are doing their jobs.

“ILEARN was a snapshot in time, it was a one-day assessment,” McCormick said. “It gave us information on where students are performing, but there are a lot of pieces to student performance beyond one assessment.”

As for why the first year of scores were low, McCormick said the new test was “much more rigorous” and weighed skills differently, prioritizing “college and career readiness” skills.

McCormick: It’s time to change school grading system

“It’s past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations.”

• Hold schools harmless for test results for accountability purposes. In other words, schools would receive the higher of the grade they earned in 2018 or 2019.
• Pause the intervention timeline that allows the state to close or take over schools that are rated F for multiple consecutive years.
• Give emergency rule-making authority to the State Board of Education to enable it to reconfigure the accountability system to align with the new assessment.

McCormick also said it’s past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations, which can determine whether teachers get raises. Current law says teacher evaluations must be “significantly informed” by objective measures, like students’ test scores.

TEACHERS REPEAT WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS: LISTEN TO US!

Local educators tell commission to ‘support Hoosier teachers’ during input session focused on competitive wages

Once more teachers tell policy makers (this time “business and education leaders”) how the state of Indiana (and the nation) has damaged public education and the teaching profession. Apparently, the only people who don’t know why there’s a teacher shortage are those who have caused it…

One by one, teachers and community members took to the mic to give their input of what they believe needs to be done to increase teacher pay as well as revenues available to school corporations.

Recommendations included — but were not limited to — looking into low-enrollment schools, increasing state taxes, dropping standardized testing and examining charter schools’ “harmful impact” on public education.

THERE IS NO MAGIC ELIXIR

Is NCLB’s Reading First Making a Comeback?

There’s more to reading instruction than phonics.

[emphasis in original]

Teachers need a broad understanding about reading instruction and how to assess the reading needs of each student, especially when students are young and learning to read.

This includes decoding for children who have reading disabilities. But a variety of teaching tools and methods help children learn to read. The conditions in their schools and classrooms should be conducive for this to happen.

It would be helpful to read more about lowering class sizes, a way to better teach children in earlier grades.

Problems relating to the loss of librarians and libraries is also currently of grave concern. And with so many alternative education programs like Teach for America it’s important to determine who is teaching children reading in their classrooms.

The Reading First scandal was noxious, and I have not done justice describing it in this post. Today, most understand that NCLB was not about improving public education but about demeaning educators and closing public schools. Reading First fit into this privatization plan. It was about making a profit on reading programs. It turned out not to be a magic elixir to help students learn how to read better.

TEACHERS OPEN THEIR WALLETS

It’s the beginning of the school year and teachers are once again opening up their wallets to buy school supplies

While the governor and his commission on teacher pay argue about the best way to increase teacher salaries across the state, Indiana’s teachers are opening their classrooms and their wallets. The average amount of money a teacher spends on his/her students in Indiana is $462, which is more than the national average.

The nation’s K–12 public school teachers shell out, on average, $459 on school supplies for which they are not reimbursed (adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars), according to the NCES 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). This figure does not include the dollars teachers spend but are reimbursed for by their school districts. The $459-per-teacher average is for all teachers, including the small (4.9%) share who do not spend any of their own money on school supplies.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL – END VOUCHERS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

What can you do to help support your local school?

As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.

Second, arm yourself with facts about the threat vouchers pose to public education and oppose these schemes. To learn more, visit the website of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), a coalition co-chaired by Americans United that includes more than 50 education, civic, civil rights and religious organizations devoted to the support of public schools. NCPE has pulled together a lot of research showing that voucher plans don’t work and that they harm public education by siphoning off needed funds.

GUIDE TO THE DPE MOVEMENT

A Layperson’s Guide to the ‘Destroy Public Education’ Movement

This excellent summary post by Thomas Ultican was originally published on Sept. 21, 2018.

The destroy public education (DPE) movement is the fruit of a relatively small group of billionaires. The movement is financed by several large non-profit organizations. Nearly all of the money spent is free of taxation. Without this spending, there would be no wide-spread public school privatization.

It is generally recognized that the big three foundations driving DPE activities are The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $41 billion), The Walton Family Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $3.8 billion), and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $1.8 billion).

Last week, the Network for Public Education published “Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools.” This interactive report lists the top ten billionaires spending to drive their DPE agenda with links to case studies for their spending.

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Filed under A-F Grading, Article Medleys, Charters, Evaluations, Lead, McCormick, reading, reading first, reform, TeacherSalary, Testing, vouchers

Medley #15: A Poisoned Environment – A Side-Effect of Poverty

Poisoning our children

Let’s review.

Lead in the environment damages children…permanently. It lowers their school achievement, causes behavior and growth problems, and can increase criminal behavior.

Educational Researcher David C. Berliner discussed the impact of environmental toxins such as lead in his 2009 paper, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. He wrote,

It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ. Small doses from paint on toys or in cosmetics have the power to subtly harm children. The present-day cut off for concern about toxic effects is usually a measured lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood (10 μg/dl). Anything higher than this is considered unsafe by the U.S. government. However, a five-year study of 172 children indicates that lead causes intellectual impairment even at much lower levels…

Now, in 2019, ten years later, we’re still discussing the damage that lead poisoning does to our children…and we’re still blaming the low achievement of lead-damaged children on schools, teachers, and parents through our reliance on test scores and our underfunding of those schools serving children who need the most help.

[The following is from the Environmental Protection Agency. I reccomend that you read it soon, as there’s no telling when the current administration will remove it from the web site.]

Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water

It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children are exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. If the level of lead in a child’s blood is at or above the CDC action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

Children

Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Lower IQ and hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Anemia

The most notorious example of state-sponsored child-poisoning in the last few years has been in Flint Michigan, where the residents still do not have safe drinking water, and those responsible for the mess — and covering up the mess — have yet to be held accountable.

Flint’s Water Crisis Started 5 Years Ago. It’s Not Over.

This was published in April 25, 2019, five years after a group of Flint officials declared the water safe. How many children from Flint now need special educational services?

…in Flint, the water crisis is by no means in the past.

“It’s a community that’s still dealing with the trauma and the aftermath of having been poisoned at the hands of the government,” Karen Weaver, who replaced Mr. Walling as mayor largely because of anger over the water crisis, said in an interview this week. Ms. Weaver continues to tell residents to drink only bottled or filtered water.

On Thursday, pastors and activists gathered outside the city’s water treatment plant to call for more help. Some wore shirts that said “Flint Is Still Broken.” 

It’s not just Flint, however. Right here in Indiana…

INDIANA

East Chicago

The Bitter Legacy of the East Chicago Lead Crisis

…which then-Governor Pence ignored as long as he could…

In 1985, the Indiana State Department of Health discovered lead contamination near the USS Lead facility, the same year the facility closed down. While USS Lead would later clean up lead waste at the facility, contamination would linger in the surrounding areas. It wasn’t until 2009 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added parts of the USS Lead facility and the surrounding neighborhood to the Superfund National Priorities List…

In the summer of 2016, the EPA sent letters to residents of the housing complex informing them of the lead contamination. Frustrated by the slow pace of the EPA cleanup effort, which continues to this day, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland called on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demolish the West Calumet Housing Complex, which it did, forcing more than a thousand residents to move out.

South Bend

Towns Face Obstacles Dealing With, Then Fixing Lead Contamination

“One of the challenges is that, as we’re digging into this, we’re discovering that funding has diminished, testing has diminished, the attention to this problem has diminished,” says Stoner.

As far as funding goes, the St. Joseph County Health Department doesn’t have the money to help all the children with elevated blood levels—help like seeing if there are lead hazards in the kids’ homes or educating parents on how to manage lead poisoning…

Whiting/Hammond

Lead contamination limbo plaguing Whiting, Hammond neighborhoods

…a lack of funding means the majority of the yards in EPA’s study area have been left untouched.

Soil sample results provided to the Times show Dana and Sean’s backyard levels at 435 ppm, or slightly above the federal agency’s residential cleanup removal standard.

By EPA’s own safety standards, their soil level should warrant action, they said, but so far, EPA has only had enough money to clean yards deemed critically necessary…

Lead Levels In Hammond, Indiana Schools Raise Concerns

A new round of test results show potentially hazardous lead-levels in water at seven Hammond schools, and now some in the community are worried about schools that have not been tested yet.

What do all these areas have in common besides lead in the water?

A high percentage of children of color, and high levels of childhood poverty.

60% of Flint’s children live in poverty. East Chicago schools have a free and reduced lunch rate of 85%. Childhood poverty rates for children in South Bend, while dropping in recent years, is still over 30%, well above the state average.

NEW JERSEY

Lead Crisis in Newark Grows, as Bottled Water Distribution Is Bungled

Newark New Jersey, with a childhood poverty rate of over 40% is now facing the same situation as Flint, East Chicago, and dozens of other high poverty cities around the country.

A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey’s largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation.

Urgent new warnings from federal environmental officials about contamination in drinking water from aging lead pipes spread anxiety and fear across much of Newark, but the municipal government’s makeshift efforts to set up distribution centers to hand out bottled water were hampered by confusion and frustration.

Why do children in poverty achieve at lower rates than wealthier children? In part it’s because they are exposed to environmental toxins like lead at higher rates than their wealthier peers.

This wouldn’t…and doesn’t…happen to children of the wealthy.

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2019 Medley #10

Lead Poisoning, Segregation,
Charters are a Waste of Money,
Fearing Small Children, Testing,
Telling ADHD Kids to Try Harder,
Is it Achievement or Ability?

IT COSTS A LOT TO POISON OUR CHILDREN

American children are regularly exposed to lead at higher than safe levels, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control is ZERO [emphasis added]!

…There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

In some places, the exposure is long term due to governmental neglect.

7 years later, new study shows East Chicago kids exposed to more lead because of flawed government report

Kids living in two of the contaminated neighborhoods actually were nearly three times more likely to suffer lead poisoning during the past decade than if they lived in other parts of the heavily industrialized northwest Indiana city, according to a report unveiled last week by an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Written in dry, bureaucratic language, the mea culpa is the latest acknowledgement that federal and state officials repeatedly failed to protect residents in the low-income, predominantly Hispanic and African-American city, despite more than three decades of warnings about toxic pollution left by the USS Lead smelter and other abandoned factories.

New evidence that lead exposure increases crime

The point of all this? By not spending the time and money to clean up lead contamination in our cities and neighborhoods we’re losing money. We’re losing money in increased crime and decreased academic productivity. What are we waiting for?

Three recent papers consider the effects of lead exposure on juvenile delinquency and crime rates, using three very different empirical approaches and social contexts. All have plausible (but very different) control groups, and all point to the same conclusion: lead exposure leads to big increases in criminal behavior.

STILL SEGREGATED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Trump judicial nominees decline to endorse Brown v. Board under Senate questioning

Candidates nominated by the current administration for Federal Judicial posts — and this administration is nominating judges at a fast pace — don’t seem to endorse the 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Schools are more segregated today then they have been at any time since the 1960s. We have yet to fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. Segregated schools mean segregated opportunities. There is a $23 billion racial funding gap between schools serving students of color and school districts serving predominantly white students.

But the Federal judges now being appointed by the current administration decline to endorse Brown v. Board of Education. In fact, most of the entire country apparently disagrees with Brown…given the segregation present in our public schools.

The matter was especially pronounced in the nomination of Wendy Vitter, who was confirmed Thursday as a federal district judge in Louisiana without the vote of a single Democratic senator. “I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” Vitter said during her confirmation hearing. “If I start commenting on, ‘I agree with this case,’ or ‘don’t agree with this case,’ I think we get into a slippery slope.” “I was stunned by her answer,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who posed the question, said this week on the Senate floor. “Brown is woven into the fabric of our nation. How could anyone suggest disagreeing with Brown, as she did?”

Rucker C. Johnson is a professor of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley. His new book, Children of the Dream, explains how the school integration efforts of the 1970s and 1980s were not a “social experiment doomed from the start”. Instead, the integration of public schools in the 70s and 80s was overwhelmingly successful…until the advent of Reagan Conservatism which reversed the process.

A scholar revives the argument for racial integration in schools

The main argument of Johnson’s book is much bigger than racial integration. He says three things are essential for schools to give poor kids a chance to break out of poverty: money, preschool and desegregation. Johnson finds that black children make much larger academic gains when integration is accompanied by more funding for low-income schools. Similarly, the benefits of early child education endure when they’re followed by well-resourced schools. All three — money, preschool and desegregation — are a powerful combination in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. “Synergy has the power to take two policies that in isolation seem flat and transform them into one package of policies with profound promise,” Johnson wrote in his book.

Children Of The Dream: Why School Integration Works

An acclaimed economist reveals that school integration efforts in the 1970s and 1980s were overwhelmingly successful — and argues that we must renew our commitment to integration for the sake of all Americans

We are frequently told that school integration was a social experiment doomed from the start. But as Rucker C. Johnson demonstrates in Children of the Dream, it was, in fact, a spectacular achievement. Drawing on longitudinal studies going back to the 1960s, he shows that students who attended integrated and well-funded schools were more successful in life than those who did not — and this held true for children of all races.

Yet as a society we have given up on integration. Since the high point of integration in 1988, we have regressed and segregation again prevails. Contending that integrated, well-funded schools are the primary engine of social mobility, Children of the Dream offers a radical new take on social policy. It is essential reading in our divided times.

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY

Charter Schools Will Always Waste Money Because They Duplicate Services

We live in a throw-away civilization. When something doesn’t work, we throw it away and get a new one. That throw-away attitude has found its way to the issue of the public schools. When public schools aren’t working, we abandon them and get new schools in the form of charters and vouchers. Instead of spending money to improve the schools we have, our money goes to privatized schools which don’t do any better than public schools.

Steven Singer also reminds us that most charter schools aren’t really needed…they’re not opened because public schools can’t handle the number of students in a district. They’re not opened because schools are overcrowded. They’re opened because someone decided to use public education as a money-making venture.

When a district’s public schools aren’t performing well, instead of abandoning them and opening charter schools, we need to spend the time and effort it would take to improve.

You can’t save money buying more of what you already have.

Constructing two fire departments serving the same community will never be as cheap as having one.

Empowering two police departments to patrol the same neighborhoods will never be as economical as one.

Building two roads parallel to each other that go to exactly the same places will never be as cost effective as one.

This isn’t exactly rocket science. In fact, it’s an axiom of efficiency and sound financial planning. It’s more practical and productive to create one robust service instead of two redundant ones.

However, when it comes to education, a lot of so-called fiscal conservatives will try to convince us that we should erect two separate school systems – a public one and a privatized one.

The duplicate may be a voucher system where we use public tax dollars to fund private and parochial schools. It may be charter schools where public money is used to finance systems run by private organizations. Or it may be some combination of the two.

But no matter what they’re suggesting, it’s a duplication of services.

And it’s a huge waste of money.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR…ARE SMALL CHILDREN?

Feds: No more education, legal services for immigrant kids

We have become a nation of cowardly, selfish, small-minded, ignorant, fools.

“By eliminating English classes and legal aid that are critical to ensuring children successfully navigate the asylum process, the Trump Administration is essentially condemning children to prison and throwing away the key until their imminent deportation,” Grijalva, who represents a district on the border, said in a statement.

TESTING: DOING IT WRONG SINCE 2001

Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers

I began teaching long enough ago to remember when the Big Standardized Test wasn’t so big. In the school system I worked in, we tested students in grades 3, 6, 8, and 10 instead of all of them. Back in 1976, I taught third grade. Our students’ scores were compared with other students around the country. Not only that, as the classroom teacher, I received a complete analysis of how each student did…and I got it a week or two after the test was taken. Yet, like tests today, the ones I gave didn’t really tell me anything that I didn’t already know. John couldn’t read but could add and subtract. Annie had to count on her fingers but was reading at a 9th-grade level. Michelle was an excellent all-around student. Paul and Stan probably needed special education services. The important information was not how each individual student scored. It was my understanding that the tests were used to help us determine if our curriculum was adequate. Were we teaching our kids things they needed to know? How did we compare to other schools around the country?

One big difference…we were told, specifically, not to teach to the test. In fact, as I recall, “teaching to the test” was a serious breach of testing etiquette. Our school district had developed a well-rounded curriculum and we wanted to see if teaching our curriculum yielded good scores. My classrooms of middle-class white kids generally did average to above average…just like today’s middle-class white kids.

It was interesting to see my students’ scores each year. But it was interesting because it reinforced what I already knew. Rarely did I see anything that surprised me. You could have ranked the report cards I made out for my class…and their standardized tests…and the rankings would have had a nearly perfect correlation.

One important difference compared to today’s tests; The tests didn’t determine student grade placement, school “grades,” teacher cash bonuses, or teacher evaluations. Standardized achievement tests — then and now — weren’t made to do those things. The tests were designed to test certain aspects of student achievement and nothing more. Misusing tests by using them to measure things they weren’t designed to measure invalidates the test. You wouldn’t use a teaspoon to measure the temperature. You shouldn’t use a student achievement test to measure teacher competence.

Imagine that you are a basketball coach, tasked with training your team for great things. Imagine that when game day comes, you are not allowed to be in the gym with your team to see them play, and that they are forbidden to tell you anything about how the game went. You aren’t even allowed to know about the opposing team. All you are allowed to know is how many points your team scored. And yet, somehow, you are to make efficient use of practice time to strengthen their weaknesses. You can practice the kinds of skills that you imagine probably factor in a game, but you have no way of knowing how they use those skills in a game situation, or what specifically you should try to fix.

That’s the situation with the standardized test. (Well, actually, it’s worse. To really get the analogy right, we’d also have to imagine that as soon as the ball left the players’ hands, a blindfold slammed down over their eyes, so they don’t really know how they’re doing, either.)

TRY DIFFERENT

10 Things People Need to Stop Saying About Children with ADHD

I grew up hearing this. No matter how hard I tried my efforts were rarely recognized. I was always “lazy” and “unmotivated.”

After struggling through four years of high school my senior English teacher told me “You have so much potential if only you’d put forth some effort.” She obviously cared about my success, but couldn’t see the effort that I was already putting forth.

One of my professors in college suggested that I stick to retail, at which I was very successful, by the way. After I graduated (before I went back for my teaching credentials), I made a mark in the retail business I worked at. Each month, it seemed I was given more and more responsibility. The difference was that the work was hands-on, and didn’t take the same kind of mental concentration that school work (K-12 or college) took. By the time I left my first job after two years, I had been given the responsibility of an entire sales department.

If you have a child or student who you suspect of having ADHD, saying, “just try harder” doesn’t help. Instead, help them “try different.”

3) “He just needs to try harder.” If you’ve ever worked one-on-one with a child who suffers from ADHD and who is trying to complete a homework task that they find challenging or tedious, you will see just how hard these kids try. It is a heartbreaking thing to witness.

ACHIEVEMENT OR ABILITY?

Why Streaming Kids According to Ability Is a Terrible Idea (Oscar Hedstrom) 

Streaming is what we used to call tracking…grouping kids by their class achievement. Years and years of research has shown that, while it’s more convenient for teachers, it doesn’t really help students achieve higher…and the author acknowledges that in the second paragraph below.

In the first paragraph, the author quoted British PM David Cameron who said, “Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.” I’m not sure about parents, but teachers know it’s easier. What teacher wouldn’t like a fourth-grade class, for example, where the range of reading levels is grade 4 through 6, instead of a class with reading levels from first-grade through ninth-grade. Planning would be easier, teaching would be easier. But, as already mentioned, the evidence doesn’t support doing that.

My main focus for this article is the tendency of education writers and teachers to conflate ability with achievement. Once in a while, the difference is understood, such as this explanation from the NWEA Map Test,

MAP Growth tests measure a student’s academic achievement, not his or her ability.

But in the article below, and in so many more discussions among educators, the difference is either not understood or just plain ignored and the words are used interchangeably. In the first paragraph below the author refers to mixed-ability classes, while in the third paragraph he refers to the meta-analysis of student achievement.

Here is what we need to remember. Ability refers to one’s potential, whereas achievement reflects what one actually does.

Mixed-ability classes bore students, frustrate parents, and burn out teachers. The brightest will never summit Everest, and the laggers won’t enjoy the lovely stroll in the park they are perhaps more suited to. Individuals suffer at the demands of the collective, mediocrity prevails. In 2014, the UK Education Secretary called for streaming to be made compulsory. And as the former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2006: ‘I want to see it in every single school. Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.’ According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 98 percent of Australian schools use some form of streaming.

Despite all this, there is limited empirical evidence to suggest that streaming results in better outcomes for students. Professor John Hattie, director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, notes that ‘tracking has minimal effects on learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects’. Streaming significantly – and negatively – affects those students placed in the bottom sets. These students tend to have much higher representation of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Less significant is the small benefit for those lucky clever students in the higher sets. The overall result is relative inequality. The smart stay smart, and the dumb get dumber, further entrenching social disadvantage.

In the latest update of Hattie’s influential meta-analysis of factors influencing student achievement, one of the most significant factors – far more than reducing class size (effect: 0.21) or even providing feedback on student work (0.7) – is the teachers’ estimate of achievement (1.57). Streaming students by diagnosed achievement automatically restricts teacher expectations. Meanwhile, in a mixed environment, teacher expectations have to be more diverse and flexible.

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Filed under Achievement, ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Gadflyonthewall, Immigrants, Lead, Segregation, Testing