Posted in Article Medleys, CommonGood, Lead, reading, reform, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers, writing

2018 Medley #9

Lead, Trump’s Spelling Problem,
Vouchers, Testing, School Funding,
The Common Good, Bi-partisan Privatizers

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

Less than a month after tests show elevated lead levels in Flint, state stops distributing bottled water

The State of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over even though some elementary school water tests still show high lead limits.

Long term effects of childhood lead exposure include learning disabilities, speech disorders, lowered IQ, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity. The city of around 100,000 is more than 50% African-American. 41% of its residents live below the poverty line.

Nestlé, on the other hand, gets all the crystal clear Michigan water it wants.

“Recent water tests at elementary schools in Flint have found an increase in samples showing lead levels above the federal action limit.”

That’s the opening line in an article in The Detroit News less than one month ago. Despite this, the state of Michigan, just days after turning control over the city back to local elected officials, declared the Flint Water Crisis over and announced that it is discontinuing providing bottled water to the city’s residents.

…the decision was announced a mere three days after the Snyder administration announced that it was approving a permit for Nestlé Waters North America to increase its withdrawal of ground water to produce Ice Mountain bottle water from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — 576,000 gallons per day.

…as of April 11, 2018.

IMPROOV YUR SPELING

Trump would be better at spelling if he read

Stephen Krashen has some advice for our president. Less tweeting. More reading.

The March 26 letter “B-I-A-S” suggested that The Post has reached a “new low” in commenting on President Trump’s spelling errors. I don’t think The Post went deep enough. Mr. Trump’s poor spelling reflects problems far more serious than a failure to proofread. My research on language acquisition shows that poor spelling is often the result of not having a reading habit. Studies also show that those who read a lot know more about history and science. They also have greater empathy for others and understand that the world is complex. Mr. Trump is a perfect example of a nonreader, and his lack of a reading habit has hurt all of us.

VOUCHERS

Cumulative effect: Individual district budgets don’t fully reflect vouchers’ drain

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1780 letter to Richard Price, wrote

When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

The same is true of religious schools, which is why tax dollars should be reserved for public schools.

98% of schools receiving vouchers in Indiana are parochial schools. The other 2% are non-religious private schools.

The impact of the voucher program is not based on how many vouchers are used in your district. It is based on each year’s voucher program cost to the Tuition Support budget across the state, regardless of the number of vouchers used within the district. For example, Lebanon Schools lost more than $530,000, Plainfield Schools lost more than $770,000, and Carmel Schools lost more than $2,365,000 this year. Currently, there are 23 school districts where no vouchers are used. They are small districts and the voucher program costs them more than $4 million this year combined. Peru Schools is the largest of these districts and it lost more than $321,000.

Here are this year’s losses in Allen County: East Allen County Schools, $1.38 million; Fort Wayne Community Schools, $4.47 million; Northwest Allen County Schools, $1.13 million; and Southwest Allen County Schools, $1.08 million.

To make this complicated issue much simpler, and in honor of Fiona and Pi Day (March 14), think of a loganberry pie. Indiana has baked a smaller pie and expects it to feed a larger number of people. More kids, fewer dollars.

TESTING

The Testing Thermostat

A standardized test is like a home thermostat. A thermostat measures one thing – the temperature in one room. It doesn’t measure the quality of the roof construction, though that may have an impact on the temperature. It doesn’t measure the quality of the kitchen appliances, though that, too, might have an impact on the temperature.

Standardized tests should be used, like thermostats, to measure that for which they were designed. Using tests for measuring other things is a misuse of the test, and, if done for an entire school or state, educational malpractice.

Likewise, we will fail if we try to use the thermostat read-out to evaluate the efficiency of the power generating and delivery capabilities of our electric company, or evaluate the contractor who built the house (in my case, almost a hundred years ago), or evaluate the health and well-being of the people who live in the house– or to jump from there to judging the effectiveness of the doctor who treats the people who live in the house, or the medical school that trained that doctor.

At the end of the day, the thermostat really only measures one thing– the temperature right there, in the place where the thermostat is mounted. To use it to measure any other part of the house, or any other aspect of any other part of the house, or any aspect of the people who live in the other parts of the house– well, that just means we’re moving further and further out on a shaky limb of the Huge Inaccuracy Tree.

In this way, the thermostat is much like the Big Standardized Test– really only good at measuring one small thing, and not a reliable proxy for anything else.

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn argues against tests…any tests.

Even allowing for variation in the design of the tests and the motives of the testers, however, the bottom line is that these instruments are typically more about measuring the number of facts that have been crammed into students’ short-term memories than they are about assessing understanding. Tests, including those that involve essays, are part of a traditional model of instruction in which information is transmitted to students (by means of lectures and textbooks) so that it can be disgorged later on command. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to find teachers who are proud of their student-centered approach to instruction, who embrace active and interactive forms of learning, yet continue to rely on tests as the primary, or even sole, form of assessment in their classrooms. (Some conflate the two ideas to the point that when they refer to “an assessment,” they never mean anything more than a test.)

SCHOOL FUNDING

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

Some students cost more to educate than others. That’s why charter schools and private voucher receiving schools work the system to avoid enrolling them.

Even among public schools however, there are some students who need more resources, specialized teachers, or specialized equipment. Those students will cost more to educate.

Students who grow up in high-poverty schools are often among those who are more expensive to educate. They need wraparound services not usually found in wealthier suburban schools. Their schools will need more teaching assistants, transportation options, nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. States which fund schools equally are short-changing their students who grow up in poverty. Equality does not necessarily mean equity.

The majority of states have unfair funding systems with “flat” or “regressive” funding
distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional funding in high-poverty
districts. In 2015, only eleven states had progressive funding systems, down from a high
of twenty-two in 2008.

THE COMMON GOOD

If Not Now, When?

The common good stems from “promote the general welfare.” Government has a responsibility to take care of all the people, not just the wealthy. Public water systems, government maintained roads, highways and bridges, public parks, public libraries, and public schools are benefits for all. Even if you don’t drive the roads provide a way for goods and services to reach your home. Even if you don’t have children the public schools support the growth of the next generation of citizens. The common good, by definition, is good for everyone.

Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

CORPORATE ED REFORM IS BIPARTISAN

Would Democrats Really Do Better Than Betsy DeVos on Education?

Are the Democrats in Indiana against the Republican privatization agenda because they believe in public schools, or just because they’re the opposition party? If the Democrats ever become the majority will they be able to resist the lure of corporate/privatization campaign dollars?

So THAT’S their game!

CAP is playing the long con here. They are putting forward a bunch of puppy dog and teddy bear proposals to contrast with Trump and DeVos.

These aren’t policies as much as they are advertisements for the Democratic party. It’s the equivalent of saying, “We promise we’ll do good things like THESE if you elect Democrats – despite the fact that we mainly focused on standardization and privatization when we were in power.”

Look. Maybe I’m being too cynical.

Maybe the Democrats really, really are going to do a better job this time, cross their hearts and hope to die, if we give them just one more chance.

But words aren’t nearly enough.

I like many of these policy suggestions. But I just don’t trust the Democrats.

The brand has been tainted for me by the Clinton and Obama administrations – by leadership from the same people who are making these suggestions.

In short – I’ll believe it when I see it.

Former Secretaries of Education Duncan (Obama) and Spellings (G.W.Bush)
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Posted in 1000 Words, Chicago, Lead, library, Michigan, Public Ed

Picture Walk – December 2017

Some images from around the internet related to children, education, and teaching.

CHILD POISONERS STILL IN POWER

Chris Savage, at Eclectablog, has been tracking the condition of water in Flint, Michigan. Would this environmental travesty still be a unresolved if the city wasn’t Flint, with an average income of $30,567? Would you expect this problem to drag on for more than two years in a place like Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, with an average income of $108,432? Most definitely not.

Yet, the people who have been responsible for this are still in power and still making decisions which impact people’s lives.

The same type of behavior towards communities made up of predominantly low income and/or people of color continues, as Governor Rick Snyder has recently shown. Snyder decided that Michigan’s 13th district (covering parts of Detroit and Dearborn Heights) must wait until next November to choose a replacement for John Conyers who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. This means that approximately 700,000 Michiganders, the majority of them people of color, will be unrepresented for the next eleven months – effectively punishing the voters for their representative’s indiscretions. They will be unrepresented when the House votes on the Donor Relief Act of 2017 – aka the Republican tax bill. They will be unrepresented when votes are taken to keep the government running. They will be unrepresented when they pay their taxes on April 15th.

Back in Flint, the children (and their families) are still exposed to poisoned water daily. When the public schools “fail” because the children were exposed to toxic levels of lead in their water, who will get the blame? The children…the teachers…the schools…or the municipal and state leaders who are actually responsible?

Since this graphic was posted on December 12. 2017, it’s now (as of this writing) 806 days.

NO-NOTHINGS KILLING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Betsy DeVos knows nothing about education, yet she lectures the public on the “failure” of the public schools.

Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, George W. Bush, and Margaret Spellings knew nothing about education, yet they had no trouble making policy for the 50+ million public school students in the U.S.

Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings, and Jeff Bezos know nothing about education, yet they spend their money and time working on the privatization of public schools.

Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels knew nothing about education, yet they damaged the teaching profession and made policy damaging to public schools.

The Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly (Bob Behning, et al) know nothing about public education and work tirelessly to allow the privatization and destruction of the state’s public education.

Educators have the expertise. Educators deserve a voice.

THE MAYOR’S IMPACT ON THE SCHOOLS

Rahm Emanuel appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show earlier this week. Colbert asked no questions about public education. He asked no questions about the closing of community schools in poor neighborhoods, and, I assume, their eventual replacement with charter schools with no record of higher performance…since the problem is poverty, not the schools. There were no questions about the lack of funding for public schools. There were no questions about the difference in the way schools are treated in different neighborhoods.

The Chicago Sun-Times, a slightly more progressive media outlet than the conservative Tribune, has called for the democratization of CPS, the Chicago Public Schools, by including elected members of the Board of Education. Because of its size, Chicago has local school councils which are elected, but the Board of Education, which makes most of the large decisions, is appointed by the Mayor. The local school councils can object if one of their school’s is marked for closing, but they have no real power. That’s why closing schools can be based on demographics – which it has been under Mayor Emmanuel.

The real problem is twofold. First, the schools marked for closing over the last few years have been in less affluent areas of the city. Once again we have schools targeted because they were/are “failing” – which in “reform” language, means filled with low income students who need more services (and which the city is unable, or unwilling to provide). The second problem in Chicago is the Emmanuel’s penchant for charter schools. Despite the scandals involving charter payoffs, and despite the fact that charters do not improve educational outcomes for students, the Mayor continues to push for charters.

Emmanuel went on The Late Show in order to join Colbert in bashing President Trump. He claims that Chicago has been declared a “Trump-Free Zone,” and is a sanctuary city (in Emmanuel’s words, a “welcoming” city), welcoming immigrants. This is all very well and good, IMHO. I applaud cities which are fighting the current administration’s anti-immigrant policies (as well as the policies which deny and exacerbate climate change which Emmanuel also mentioned).

Still, the damage that Mayoral Control is doing to the Chicago Public Schools should be acknowledged.

In 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union produced a report titled, The Schools Chicago Students Deserve. Mayor Emmanuel ought to read it…and follow its advice.

Here’s Fred Klonsky’s drawing describing the Mayor’s impact on the city schools.

LIBRARIES

A repost from years past…support your local library.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, Lead, Racism, SexualHarrassment, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage, US DOE

2017 Medley #31

Teachers Unions, U.S. ED,
Poisoning Our Children, Teacher Shortage, Early Childhood Education, Hate in America, Creeps

Sometimes there’s just too much going on in the U.S. to even try to keep up with everything. The constant Trumpian attack on things like schools and health care…the blatant attempts at diverting more money from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy and oligarchy…the depth of sexual sickness on our entertainment and politics…the nationalism (not patriotism) that has emerged as a force for evil and hatred…

I could have included another dozen articles in this medley…

GUILTY OF POISONING OUR CHILDREN

New testimony alleges Gov. Snyder lied under oath about lead in Flint water

Why are the politicians who poisoned the children (and families) of Flint, Michigan (and elsewhere) still in office and still getting paid? Why haven’t they been fired and prosecuted? Shouldn’t they at least be on House Arrest like Paul Manafort? Shouldn’t they lose all their power like Harvey Weinstein? Shouldn’t they be publicly humiliated like Roy Moore?

Harvey Hollins, the man Gov. Snyder appointed to handle the Flint Water Crisis, testified Wednesday that he told the governor about increasing lead in Flint water months before Snyder told Congress he learned about it.

TEACHERS UNIONS

Union talk. Protecting and defending the good teachers.

How about if we blame teachers and their unions for low student achievement due to the highest rate of childhood poverty in the advanced industrialized world?

(I’m going to have to stop including the U.S. when I talk about “advanced” nations.)

Over the course of my career teachers have been turned into scapegoats by political opportunists of all stripes and by both political parties. Urban schools in particular were declared failing and the teachers were the reason. Teaching was among the few careers open to professionals of color and women, easy targets for racism and gender bias. And teaching became viewed as a technocratic exercise. No longer was it understood as a complex combination of science, artistry, subject matter knowledge along with a concern for the well-being of children.

As private sector unions represented a smaller and smaller percentage of the population, public sector unions – like teacher unions – became the last ones standing.

TEACHERS UNIONS: WISCONSIN

Gutting Wisconsin teachers unions hurt students, study finds

Governor Walker, how is your anti-union plan working out…kids doing better?

The law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for veteran teachers and especially in health insurance and retirement benefits, according to one paper. There was also a spike in teacher retirement immediately following the law’s passage.

As compensation drops, it may become harder for district and teachers to recruit and keep teachers. An increase in retirement also reduces teacher experience, which has been linked to effectiveness.

PRIVATIZATION: U.S. ED

Trump’s Latest Department Of Education Nominees Are School Voucher Advocates

The amazing thing is that they don’t even try to hide it any more. George W’s first Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, touted his Houston Miracle (that turned out to be a hoax). Margaret Spellings tried, weakly, to claim competence because she was a mom. Arne Duncan learned everything he knew about public education from watching his mother teach.

But Betsy DeVos doesn’t even pretend to care about public schools…she doesn’t even pretend to know anything about public schools, and neither do new appointments to high ranking positions in the U.S. Education Department. They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

Zais was questioned about whether he was familiar with recent research into the impact of vouchers on student achievement. He responded: “To the best of my knowledge, whenever we give parents an opportunity to choose a school that’s a good fit for their child, the result is improved outcomes.”

This answer is surprising considering that voucher programs show the exact opposite. When faced with the truth – that recent studies in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., found not only do vouchers not improve student achievement, but in many cases they harm it – he admitted he was unaware of these studies and that he had based his answer on anecdotes, not on facts.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

FL: What?! A teacher shortage??!!

Please go to the link above and read this article by Peter Greene. I included all the links to every single bullet point below…follow them.

He lists 16 items for Florida. How many of these are happening in your state? I count at least 10 for Indiana.

Okay, not shocking. Utterly predictable, given Florida’s unending efforts to create the worst atmosphere for public education in the country. Here are some of the things they’ve done, in no particular order:

* They have tried to make it possible for parents to stamp out the teaching of science.
* They have given charters the unchecked ability to steal local tax dollars.
* They have made an absolute disastrous amateur-hour hash out of their Big Standardized Test.
* They have made successful students repeat third grade for failing to love the BST
* They have declared– in court– that teacher-prepared report cards are meaningless
* They have demonstrated how badly teacher merit pay can fail
* They made a dying child take the Big Standardized Test 
* They turned recess into a political football.
* They based a strategic plan based on bad retail management.
* They abolished tenure, and fired teachers for advocating for students.
* They’ve allowed racist underfunding of schools to flourish.
* They have provided ample proof that an A-F school rating system doesn’t work.
* They host experiments in computerized avatar classrooms.
* They have charter legislation hustled through the capital by lawmakers who profit from it.
* They allow more charter misbehavior than you can shake a stick at.
* They have created a charter money grab law so onerous and obnoxious they have actually moved public schools to sue the state government.

All of this over and above the continued drip, drip, drip of starving public schools of resources and finding new ways to treat public school teachers with disrespect. And the pay stinks.

WHAT OUR CHILDREN NEED INSTEAD OF TEST AND PUNISH

A 19-Year Study Reveals Kindergarten Students With These 2 Skills Are Twice as Likely to Obtain a College Degree (And They Have Nothing to Do With Reading)

Indiana and other states are currently increasing early childhood education opportunities (for some). What kind of preschools and kindergartens are we going to have, though? Will they be developmentally appropriate, or are we just going to push test and punish down to younger and younger children?

Here’s an idea…

For every one-point increase in children’s social competency scores in kindergarten, they were twice as likely to obtain college degrees. They were also more likely to have full-time jobs by age 25.

But the kids who had trouble cooperating, listening, and resolving conflict were less likely to finish high school–let alone college. They were more likely to have legal problems and substance abuse issues.

For every one-point decrease in social competency at age 5, a child had a 67 percent higher chance of being arrested in early adulthood. A one-point decrease also meant a child had a 52 percent higher rate of binge drinking and an 82 percent higher chance of living in public housing (or at least being on the waitlist).

HATE IN AMERICA

Communities hit by rising hate crimes say Trump’s rhetoric is having a devastating impact

The hatred of “the other” has been a part of America since its founding. It started in Europe and came here under the guise of “bringing Christ to the natives.” Instead, the Christians who came here from Europe used their power to steal the treasures of the Central and South American natives, overrun the land of the North American natives, set up theocracies in New England, and import slaves from Africa as chattel labor.

That is the basis of the European Culture that the nationalists, nazis, and white supremacists claim to be protecting from black and brown people who live here or have come here from other lands. Has Euro-America ever done anything good? Of course. We’ve been an innovative and (mostly) welcome place for the world’s refuse. Underneath the innovation and open arms, however, has lurked hatred for anyone different…and the election of Donald Trump has empowered that hatred to ooze out from under its rock and pronounce itself ready to do battle against “the other.”

It doesn’t matter that nearly every white nationalist, nazi, and racist lives here with an immigrant past.

Other nations will now have to take over the mantle of moral leadership. We have lost it.

“We think that there is a clear connection between the rise in visible [anti-Semitism], virulent Islamophobia and xenophobia, and racism and the policies and rhetoric of the political right,” wrote Leo Ferguson, who works with the organization Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, in an email to ThinkProgress. “State violence against Black people, Muslims, undocumented people and others sets the stage and gives permission for hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination.”

Advocates emphasized that the violence facing minority communities is nothing new. As rising hate crimes indicate, however, it is becoming more prevalent — something many say is clearly linked to the president.

CREEPS COMING OUT

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part VI

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station gives us some instruction in morality.

Sexual assault isn’t relative.

Franken’s shitty behavior isn’t made less by Donald Trump’s shitty behavior.

There may be degrees of heinousness, but sexual assault isn’t a game of comparison.

But that is exactly what happens when politics are involved.

It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to diminish the failings of our own by pointing out the egregious actions of those we don’t like. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing.

…Democrats should be held to high standards.

In fact, they should be held to higher standards than they are right now.

AND. SO. SHOULD. REPUBLICANS.

So should the president. So should the Judges. So should every Congressman and Senator. So should every office holder. So should every cop and Priest and dog catcher.

So should we all.

You want a better nation? A better world? Then you have to be better citizens.

It starts right here.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, DeVos, Lead, Pence, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, Religion, vouchers

2017 Medley #28

Public Education, Poverty,
Privatization: Vouchers and Charters, 
Free Speech

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A PUBLIC GOOD

The Public Good

Do privatizers believe in “the public good” or is their philosophy, “I’ve got mine. Get your own?”

It’s selfishness. We see it in the Republican plans to lower corporate and wealth taxes, restrict health insurance and destroy Medicaid. They seem to want, as it has been since the Reagan Administration, the rich to get more while the poor, near-poor, and ever-diminishing middle class, make up the difference in taxes and labor.

It’s the same in education. Jersey Jazzman recently taught us that School “Reform” is a Right-Wing Movement. Vouchers, charters, and ESAs are selfish answers that don’t do anything to help the vast majority of American children who attend out nation’s public schools. On the other hand, they do provide a way to move public tax dollars into corporate pockets and religious institution bank accounts.

Our public schools are a “public good” which must be supported, improved, and strengthened, because the impact of public education is felt everywhere in the nation.

In this post, Sheila Kennedy argues for medicine-as-public-good, supported by public tax money and public investment. She uses education as an example of a public good at the same time that the “public” in public education is under threat from privatizers.

Stop treating medicine as private property—and start treating it as a public good, like education or infrastructure.

THE WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

Here are two excellent articles which discuss the purpose of public education…

Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake.

Why do we have public schools? What role does public education play in the “making of citizens?”

Our public-education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance not just themselves but society. Unfortunately, the current debate’s focus on individual rights and choices has distracted many politicians and policy makers from a key stakeholder: our nation as a whole.

Civics knowledge is in an alarming state: Three-quarters of Americans can’t identify the three branches of government. Public-opinion polls, meanwhile, show a new tolerance for authoritarianism, and rising levels of antidemocratic and illiberal thinking. …

We ignore public schools’ civic and integrative functions at our peril…

…In this era of growing fragmentation, we urgently need a renewed commitment to the idea that public education is a worthy investment, one that pays dividends not only to individual families but to our society as a whole.

DISPARAGING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Is the Purpose of Public Education No Longer Self-Evident?

The Trump Administration prefers private education.

Trump and DeVos freely disparage the institution of public education—with DeVos persistently extolling privatized charter schools and various private school tuition voucher schemes. The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss describes the damage being inflicted by Trump and DeVos on the very government institution for which they are responsible. After Trump once again disdained, at a recent Phoenix, Arizona event, “the failures of our public schools,” Strauss wrote: “But the larger effect of Trump’s remark is not that it is wrong but rather that it is part of a pattern of his — and of DeVos’s — to disparage public education as they promote programs that take resources away from public school systems…Such sentiments by Trump and DeVos, consistently expressed publicly, reinforce the myth that traditional public education is broadly failing students and that the answer is using public money for privately run and/or owned schools.”

The goal of the current administration seems to be to continue to bash public education in order to privatize it as much as they can before they’re (hopefully) thrown out of office.

If our purpose is a democratic and equitable society, test scores take us off-purpose. They distract our attention. Rather, our success is measured by how well we enhance health in our society, manifest civic virtues, behave as a society, and dedicate ourselves to the common good…

Is our purpose a democratic and equitable society? Do privatizers want a democratic and equitable society or are they satisfied with inequity and oligarchy? Is this who we are now?

We need to decide.

➥ For further reading on public education:

AMERICA’S CHILDREN IN POVERTY

America’s Dirty Secret

For too long we’ve been told not to “use poverty as an excuse” for low achievement, as if academic achievement was independent of, and unrelated to, children’s lives outside of school.

Punishing a school for its high poverty rate by closing it or charterizing it doesn’t change the fact that nearly one-quarter of American children grow up in poverty. Punishing a school for failing to cure children of PTSD, food insecurity, or homelessness, doesn’t improve achievement.

Why don’t we punish legislators for allowing so many American children to grow up in poverty?

The struggles of poor children have been omitted from our two-decades’ discussion about school reform as well. No Child Left Behind said we would hold schools accountable, instituted a plan to punish schools and teachers unable quickly to raise scores on standardized tests, and failed to invest significantly in the schools in poor communities. The failure to address the needs of poor children and their schools has been bipartisan. President George W. Bush and a bipartisan coalition in Congress brought us No Child Left Behind. President Obama pushed education policy that purported to “turnaround” the lowest scoring and poorest schools by closing or charterizing them. And Obama’s administration brought us the demand that states’ evaluation plans for teachers incorporate their students’ standardized test scores—without any consideration of the neighborhood and family struggles that affect poor children’s test scores or of the immense contribution of family wealth to the scores of privileged children. Neither Bush nor Obama significantly increased the federal investment to help our nation’s poorest urban and rural schools. The topics of rampant child poverty and growing inequality—along with growing residential segregation by income—have been absent from of our political dialogue.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

Two years ago today Gov. Snyder admitted to the #FlintWaterCrisis and people STILL cannot drink the water

Politicians are eager to blame teachers for “failing schools,” yet they often don’t accept responsibility for their own failures.

Why are children in Flint (median family income $31,424) still living with lead-poisoned water? Would children still be waiting if there was a problem with the water system of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan (median family income $104,000)?

Why will it take over five years to replace the lead and galvanized water lines in Flint? It’s because Flint is not a wealthy city. It’s an aging, former manufacturing boom town that has been forsaken by the industries that once made it great and by a state government that seems to have no idea at all what to do to revitalize these carved out husks with large geographical areas to serve on an ever-dwindling tax base. Most importantly, it’s full of poor people of color with little to no political capital.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

State’s plan could go national

Betsy DeVos, along with Vice-President Pence, love the Indiana voucher program, which drains tax money from public schools and gives it to religious schools with virtually no public oversight.

They like the fact that

  • tax-exempt religious schools are given tax dollars.
  • “failing” private schools can get a waiver to continue receiving tax dollars.
  • the vast majority of private schools (at least in Indiana) teach their favored religious tradition.
  • private schools can discriminate against expensive to educate students with disabilities, behavior issues, or academic difficulties.
  • religious schools can change tax dollars into converts.
  • religious schools can teach that the Earth is 6,000 years old, humans lived with dinosaurs, creationism explains all the living species on the planet, and God will protect us from climate change.
  • Indiana vouchers are now available to families earning more than $90,000 a year.
  • vouchers increase segregation

They don’t care that public schools are underfunded, or that private schools don’t perform any better than public schools.

This article is part of a series sponsored by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and Huff Post.

“The way it was rolled out was perceived to be more of a focus on our most at-risk students – to get them out of situations where public schools weren’t performing,” said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick. She is also a Republican, but this is one area on which she and her colleagues disagree.

“Now when you look at the data it has become clear that the largest growing area is suburban white students who have never been to public school.”

The latest report on Indiana’s Choice program shows less than 1 percent of those with vouchers were from a failing public school. And most of those using vouchers have never attended an Indiana public school.

There is no clear picture for what metrics should be used to gauge whether Indiana’s experiment has been a success. Yet, the program has exploded – from 3,900 the first year to more than 34,000 students.

➥ See also:

Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

“Reformers” insist that public schools are failing. They claim that privatizing schools will improve everything. So when charter schools “fail,” which they often do, they find another way to divert money intended for public schools.

…Originally a private Catholic school, Padua had become a “purely secular” charter in 2010, under an unusual arrangement between the local archdiocese and the mayor’s office. The school initially performed well, but soon sank from a solid A-rating to two consecutive F-ratings.

“These performance issues sounded alarm bells at the mayor’s office,” said Brandon Brown, who led the mayor’s charter office at the time. Leadership issues with the school’s board and at the archdiocese, he added, caused the school to falter. After receiving $702,000 from a federal program that provided seed money for new charter schools, the school’s board relinquished its charter.

In the meantime, Indiana had established a voucher program. So, instead of shutting down, the school rebranded itself as St. Anthony Catholic School, nailing its crucifixes back onto the walls and bringing the Bible back into the curriculum. Last year, more than 80 percent of its students were on vouchers, from which the school garnered at least $1.2 million.

➥ For further reading on segregation and charters

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

A chilling study shows how hostile college students are toward free speech

Do today’s Americans understand the First Amendment guarantee of free speech?

A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

That’s one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor.

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, Jim Trelease, Lead, Politics, Racism, read-alouds, Walsh

2017 Medley #26

Lead Poisoning for Profit, Bigotry in America, Reading Aloud, 
Government by Those Who Hate Government

POISONING CHILDREN FOR PROFIT

Flint Is Slowly Getting Better, Say Scientists Who Exposed Water Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

There are still millions of children in the U.S. who are exposed to lead every day. Flint, Michigan is the best known example of lead poisoning on a massive scale. After 3 years the water situation is starting to get better for Flint…but lead poisoning is non-reversible. How many lives have been damaged permanently?

The situation in Flint is still difficult. Today, residents still use lead filters and bottled water for safety, and they still pay bills for water that they can’t use and for health problems that were the result of the crisis. But the $87 million settlement reached between residents and the city of Flint mandating pipe replacement has already begun to bring new water infrastructure into some parts of the city. All of Flint’s 18,000 damaged pipes are set to be replaced by 2020, and that replacement has already started.

“2020 sounds like a long time, but there’s only two other cities in America that have entirely replaced their lead pipes: Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin. “They both did it over a decade,” Hanna-Attisha says. “So mandating it over three years is actually unprecedented.”

Boxed Water for Flint (click the image for link).

Betsy DeVos and Denying Flint’s Children Special Education

Now that the lead poisoned children of Flint need it the most, the state is balking at providing extra funds for special education services. Meanwhile, DeVos sells boxed water

How can a state that poisoned its children with leaded water, now put roadblocks in their way to get the special education services they need to improve their lives?

BIGOTRY IN AMERICA

‘We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation’

Why didn’t the current occupant of the Oval Office come out against bigotry as strong as Joe Biden?

Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.

We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.

This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America. Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants—all who are seen as “the other”—won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation.

READ ALOUD

Read-Aloud to Your Kids! Great Advice to Parents from Author Russ Walsh on Reading to Your Children Throughout the School Year

Read aloud to your children from birth.

The beginning of a school year is a good time to take an inventory of at-home practices that parents can institute to support their children’s learning. One of the most important things that all parents should do is read aloud to their children regularly. Some teachers ask parents to make read aloud a regular part of the homework routine, but whether required by the teacher or not, the research has made it clear that read aloud is a critical home-based activity.

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

Jim Trelease agrees with Russ Walsh.

We start by looking at the recommendation of the 1983 Commission on Reading, funded by the U. S. Department of Education, which was alarmed by school scores. Since nearly everything in the curriculum rested upon reading, the consensus was that reading was at the heart of either the problem or the solution.

The commission spent two years poring through thousands of research projects conducted in the previous quarter century, and in 1985 issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
  • “[reading aloud] is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

GOVERNMENT BY THOSE WHO HATE THE GOVERNMENT

There is a reason we have a government. There is a reason we pay taxes to support government services.

…you can’t support the things the government does – like caring for the elderly, establishing justice, providing public education, fighting terrorism, and protecting the environment – and still maintain that the taxes that support those things are bad.

The first responders who invariably become the heroes of any natural or human-caused disaster, are paid by taxes. Relief efforts to provide shelter, food, and medical care to displaced citizens are paid for by taxes. Support for rebuilding destroyed cities is paid for by taxes.

Schools, roads, bridges, dams and reservoirs, water systems, and waste disposal facilities, and their upkeep, are paid for by taxes.

Military defense is paid for by taxes.

For the last four decades, Republicans have tried to defund the government claiming that taxes are evil. As tax revenues decrease, government services decrease. As government services decrease, individuals have to take up the slack. Those who can afford to pay for services get them. Those who don’t are out of luck.

As a portion of the nation’s GDP, taxes in the U.S. are among the lowest in the developed world.

Trump Praises Agencies He Wants to Cut

As has become typical of the current kakistocracy, Donald Trump toured areas near the worst-hit region of Texas by Hurricane Harvey and praised the very agencies his proposed budget has tried to cut funds for, including FEMA, HUD and the National Weather Service.

DEFINITION

Kakistocracy

In case you need the definition of “kakistocracy” from the previous article.

A kakistocracy (English pronunciation: /kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi/) is a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the 17th century. It was also used by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but gained significant usage in the 21st century.

Etymology
The word comes from the Greek words kakistos (κάκιστος; worst) and kratos (κράτος; rule), with a literal meaning of government by the worst people.[4] Despite its Greek roots, the word was first used in English, but has been adapted into other languages. Its Greek equivalent is kakistokratia (κακιστοκρατία), Spanish kakistocracia, French kakistocracie, and Russian kakistokratiya (какистократия).

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Posted in Article Medleys, Lead, poverty, Satire

2017 Medley #15

Poverty, Lead, The Onion

Chapter 10: The Family Begins to Starve

“Slowly but surely, everybody in the house began to starve.

“…And every day, Charlie Bucket grew thinner and thinner. His face became frighteningly white and pinched. The skin was drawn so tightly over the cheeks that you could see the shapes of the bones underneath. It seemed doubtful whether he could go on much longer like this without becoming dangerously ill.

“And now, very calmly, with that curious wisdom that seems to come so often to small children in times of hardship, he began to make little changes here and there in some of the things that he did, so as to save his strength. In the mornings, he left the house ten minutes earlier so that he could walk slowly to school, without ever having to run. He sat quietly in the classroom during break, resting himself, while the others rushed outdoors and threw snowballs and wrestled in the snow. Everything he did now, he did slowly and carefully, to prevent exhaustion…”

In fiction, children who are suffering find ways to compensate. In Roald Dahl’s popular novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket slows down and somehow manages to survive on a daily diet of a piece of potato and a slice of bread. In real life, the results of poverty have lifelong implications and there is no Magical Chocolate Maker to shower riches on needy children. In real life, the only magic that will help is the magic of economic equity, infrastructure investment, and hard work.

In his 2009 paper, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, David C. Berliner describes out-of-school-factors affecting school achievement which are often permanent and life-altering.

(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics.

Each of these factors has an impact on the ability of children to achieve in school. Education can’t heal the effects of poverty alone.

POVERTY

Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

Instead of blaming teachers, students, families, schools, and school systems for low achievement and “failing” schools, policy makers need to take responsibility for the central cause of low achievement – poverty and its accompanying damage. Until that happens all the policies dealing with charter schools, vouchers, test and punish, and higher standards will be a waste of time and money. They will do nothing to improve the education of our children.

One of the consequences of making education so central to social policy has been that we’ve ended up taking the pressure off of the state for the kinds of policies that would be more effective at addressing poverty and economic inequality. Instead we’re asking education to do things it can’t possibly do. The result has been increasing support for the kinds of market-oriented policies that make inequality worse.

If we really want to address issues of inequality and economic insecurity, there are a lot of other policies that we have to pursue besides or at least in addition to education policies, and that part of the debate has been totally lost. Raising the minimum wage, or providing a guaranteed income, which the last time we talked seriously about that was in the late 1960’s, increasing workers’ bargaining power, making tax policies more progressive—things like that are going to be much more effective at addressing inequality and economic security than education policies.

School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance

School lunches (and breakfasts) can have an impact on children’s school performance. Children who are hungry will have trouble learning no matter who the teacher is, how great the curriculum, or how much money is spent on technology. The sooner we learn that, the better off our children will be.

Students at schools that contract with a healthy school lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger test score increases for students who are eligible for reduced price or free school lunches.

LEAD

Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

Berliner’s out-of-school-factor number four, environmental pollutants, can destroy a child’s potential before he or she even begins school, and lead is a leading environmental problem for families living in poverty.

Eliminating lead in the environment will go a long way to increasing achievement, decreasing violence, and keeping children in school so they can learn. Punishing children because adults have subjected them to a poisonous environment is cruel and abusive. The only cure for lead poisoning is prevention. The only way to prevent lead poisoning is to invest more money in lead eradication.

Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, we estimate the impact of lead on behavior: school suspensions and juvenile detention. We develop two instrumental variables approaches to deal with potential confounding from omitted variables and measurement error in lead. The first leverages the fact that we have multiple noisy measures for each child. The second exploits very local, within neighborhood, variation in lead exposure that derives from road proximity and the de-leading of gasoline. Both methods indicate that OLS considerably understates the negative effects of lead, suggesting that measurement error is more important than bias from omitted variables. A one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.

See also Freddie Gray’s life a study on the effects of lead paint on poor blacks

THE ONION – SATIRE

The Onion is a satire site, but this article from 2011 has enough truth to make it a valuable study on the challenges schools face. Money, properly invested, is the answer. The only people who deny that are those who can afford to send their well nourished, healthy, and well cared for children to elite private schools.

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), expressing remorse for the error. “I want to apologize to the American people. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Americans.”

“That’s the type of irresponsible misspending that I’ve been focused on eliminating for my entire political career,” Ryan added.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, Science, Tenure, Testing, VirtualSchools

2017 Medley #13

Choice, Alternate Facts, Tenure, Testing,
Virtual Charters, Accountability,
Lead Poisoned Children

CHOICE

School Choice: The Faustian Bargain

“…corporate education reformers,” says Russ Walsh in this blog post, “are anti-democracy.” That statement rings true, especially now, at the end of this year’s Indiana General Assembly Session. Legislation making the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position first failed, and then passed the General Assembly after significant political manipulations from legislators who were anxious to take the right to vote for education away from the people. The state Board of Education is already filled with political appointees, and now, beginning in 2025, the office of the Superintendent will be as well making Indiana one of only six states where both the executive head of the Department of Education and the members of state’s board of education are appointed.

These are the same anti-democratic legislators who have spent the last half dozen years transferring tax money from public schools to the pockets of corporate charters and church-run private schools. The budget for this year, for example, gives public schools a 1.6% increase while increasing funding for “Choice Scholarships” (vouchers) by 7% and giving SGO tax credits a whopping 31%…all paid for with public tax dollars.

I suggest that those of us who oppose vouchers and charter schools call school choice what it is in the eyes of that Ohio voter, tax theft. The government collects our taxes in order to provide essential services to all of us. There is no choice involved, we all must pay taxes (unless, apparently, we are hugely wealthy). Those essential services include providing for a military, promoting research on health and welfare, providing for police and fire protection, and funding public schools. When money is diverted from the support of the public schools, it amounts to, as the Ohio voter said, theft. Or maybe another way to say it is “taxation without representation”, since voters have no voice and no oversight of how tax money is spent in schools that receive money through vouchers or charters.

Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

The goal of “reformers” is, apparently, the complete and total destruction of public education.

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

This op-ed by David R. Currie, Ph.D., of Pastors for Texas Children, could easily have been written about the state of Indiana.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.

ALTERNATE FACTS

THIS Is What’s Wrong With America

Congressman: “Don’t confuse me with facts…”

A Facebook friend who lives in Todd Rokita’s Congressional district attended his recent Town Hall. In a post following the event, she reported on an exchange she had with the Congressman:

My question was “What evidence do you require in order to revise your opinion on climate change?”

His response was “No evidence could ever exist that would change my mind. It’s all Liberal science.”

…I really never expected to live in a country where science and empirical research required defense, but evidently Luddites aren’t simply historical oddities. So later this morning, I will join other Hoosiers at the Statehouse to participate in a “March for Science.”

TENURE

Checker Still Doesn’t Understand Tenure

“Reformist” politicians in Indiana have frequently commented on how there are too many well-rated teachers. The complaint is that if there are so many “A” or “B” rated teachers, why aren’t there more “A” or “B” rated schools?

This reflects a basic misunderstanding of the process of education and why it’s essential that educators participate in the policy-making process. Yet we continue to see “education” conferences, panels, and gatherings where the teachers’ voices are absent. We continue to see the federal government education department staffed with non-educators – and those who are hostile to public education. We continue to see the movement for laws and policies which restrict teachers’ ability to do their job.

…instead of saying, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the profession must be in good shape,” reformsters say, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the evaluation system must be broken, because we just know that a huge number of teachers suck.” So, data is good, unless it conflicts with your pre-conceived biases, in which case, just throw the data out.

“Tenure” is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in K-12 education. It’s also a concept which “reformers” disingenuously claim, allows teachers a “job for life.” “Tenure” in K-12 education doesn’t mean “a job for life” as Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes. Instead, the K-12 version of “tenure” simply provides teachers with due process.

In Indiana, when K-12 teachers had tenure, teachers who administrations wanted to fire were allowed a hearing before an impartial observer. When administrators did their jobs, teachers who were guilty of immorality, incompetence, or illegal behavior, were fired. Since 2011, however, teachers in Indiana longer have “tenure.” A teacher who is going to be fired may request a meeting with the superintendent, or with the school board, but no impartial observer is required.

…while there are some large districts where the process is long, convoluted and prohibitively difficult, mostly “We can’t fire her because if tenure” is administrator-speak for “I could fire her, but it would take a lot of time and I’d have to, you know, work really hard, and then I would have to find a replacement and you know how hard that would be and I’m already backed up on meetings this week and now some kid just threw up in the hall, so how about I just blame her on the union and tenure and get back to my own work.” Where burdensome dismissal procedures exist, they have been negotiated into contracts. Fixing those contracts by outlawing tenure is like fixing the electoral college by installing a dictatorship– little bit of overkill.

TESTING

The Wrong Medicine

When school “reform” was in its infancy the “reformers” insisted that their policies would improve student achievement and reduce the economic/racial achievement gap. After several decades of “reformist” policies such as excessive testing and test prep, vouchers, and charter schools, the results are in. Students do no better now than they did before the “reforms” were initiated.

One of the worst problems features of “reform” is the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Teachers no longer use test results to guide their instruction because, in most cases, the results of the tests are not timely or specific enough to help. When results are finally returned, they are used to evaluate teachers, grade schools and school systems, and as justification for closing neighborhood schools, none of which are appropriate or valid uses of the test scores.

At what point do parents, teachers, and administrators stand up and say “Enough is enough?” When do we begin to refuse to allow the removal of even one more dollar from our classrooms to continue to support this enormous exercise in futility.

How about now? Today.

The right number of standardized tests that we should be forcing down the throats of our children is precisely zero. The tests do not help our children, our teachers, or our parents. They have not improved education in America one bit.

VIRTUAL CHARTERS

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017

Note the recommendations in this report – virtual charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as public schools.

During her confirmation hearing, when Senator Tim Kaine asked her about equal accountability for private and privately run schools accepting public tax dollars, Secretary DeVos repeated the phrase, “I support accountability” over and over again, refusing to answer whether all schools should be held to the same accountability. This report would seem to indicate that the answer to the question should have been “Yes, all schools receiving tax dollars should be held to the same accountability standards.”

Given the rapid growth of virtual schools and blended schools, the populations they serve, and the relatively poor performance of virtual schools on widely used accountability measures, it is recommended that:

  • Policymakers slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual schools and the size of their enrollments…
  • Policymakers should carefully and continuously monitor the performance of fulltime blended schools…
  • Authorities charged with oversight should specify and enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that fail to perform adequately.
  • Policymakers should specify a maximum student-teacher ratio for virtual and blended schools…
  • Policymakers should regulate school and class sizes…
  • State agencies ensure that virtual schools and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ…
  • State agencies should continue the work they’ve started in revising accountability systems…
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures appropriate to the unique characteristics of full-time virtual schools
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should support more research to identify which policy options—especially those impacting funding and accountability mechanisms—are most likely to promote successful virtual schools and blended schools…
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should also support more research on exactly how special education is being provided in virtual and blended schools….

FLINT, LEAD

Marc Edwards – How to Address the U.S. Water Crisis in Flint and Beyond

Is your water safe?

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