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 Accountability, Article Medleys, Evaluations, Florida, John Kuhn, Michigan, poverty, reform, special education, TeacherShortage

2017 Medley #32: The Teacher Shortage

The Teacher Shortage: Poverty,
Special Education, Evaluations,
Untrained teachers, and Accountability

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

The poverty problem

Why it’s a big problem that so many teachers quit — and what to do about it

As with most other results of the corporate “reform” movement in education, the most damage is done to students, teachers, and schools in areas that can least afford it: low-income areas and special education.

Linda Darling-Hammond and researchers from the Learning Policy Institute report on research detailing the effects of the current teacher shortage, and how it damages the education of low-income students in particular. The shortage is advanced by anti-teacher and anti-public education legislation and a bipartisan, public campaign against teachers that is ubiquitous. There no longer needs to be any discussion about which state is “the worst” for public education – Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan – it’s everywhere.

Our research on teacher shortages and the turnover that contributes to them emphasizes how much these conditions vary across teaching fields, types of schools, and locations. We document how they are much more problematic in some regions, states, and districts than others; more widespread in particular subjects; and most pronounced in schools that serve students of color and those from low-income families.

Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement for all the students in a school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom. These rates are highest in schools serving low-income students and students of color. [emphasis added]

Caring for ‘the least of these’

Funding cuts spell trouble for special education in Indiana

Indiana’s particular brand of “reform” has resulted in an education funding shortfall. Budget cuts would, of course, hurt the students most, who need the most help. The shortage of special education teachers, who are the strongest advocates for their students, makes this especially troubling.

Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: “Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding.”

Evaluations

There will never be enough bad teachers to satisfy some people (The Chicago Tribune).

Illinois “reformers” wonder how there can be so many highly-rated teachers when there are so many “failing” schools?

The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune is still unhappy with the way teachers in Illinois are evaluated because the current system still has too many teachers rated in the top two tiers of the ranking categories.

We had the same problem here in Indiana a few years ago.

Study finds 87 percent of Indiana teachers “effective”

Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 97 percent of those teachers who were rated have been classified in the top two categories of effectiveness? Today’s data simply does not correlate with the student results we’re seeing in the classroom.

The data does, indeed, correlate, because student test scores are not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. The “failing schools” narrative is more complicated than “reformers” will admit. Schools can’t be judged by test scores alone and the quality of teachers isn’t the only variable that has an impact on student achievement.

“Reformers,” however, are interested in damaging the teaching profession in order to lower salaries and increase profits. Blaming teachers is good for the privatization business.

Once the profession is damaged, and fewer young people seek a career in education, the lowering of standards (and consequent increase in profits) can continue. Florida, for example…

Damaging the profession

Florida’s Teacher Gap Is No Mystery

Florida is “solving” the problem by opening up alternative paths, because the way to get better teachers and fill teaching jobs is by making it possible to slap any warm body into a classroom. My favorite bar-lowering idea― Florida Atlantic University will give Palm Beach Schools a list of students who flunked out of medical and science programs so that those students can be recruited to teach. And meanwhile the remaining dedicated, qualified teachers of Florida wonder how much longer they can hold on.

…and Michigan…

We don’t need no education

The Michigan legislators and governor are a match for Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and the rest of the nation by showing how easy it is to cause a teacher shortage.

Snyder seems to show few actual emotions of any kind. But his fellow Republicans in the legislature are vindictive and nasty. They seem to hate teachers, even more than they hate most in the public sector, and especially hate teachers’ unions.

Five years ago, they passed a law preventing local districts from paying more than a certain percentage of health care coverage for their teachers.

Republican lawmakers also rammed through right-to-work in a lame duck session at the end of 2012, gloating as they did it that this was bound to weaken the MEA and other unions who traditionally give money to try and defeat them.

If that weren’t enough, they also promptly passed a law that would make it so public school districts are no longer required to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks, as had been common practice for decades.

Nor were they done humiliating educators:

New teachers traditionally started at a low salary, then advanced year by year on a negotiated schedule till they reached something like a middle-class life style. But the benevolent legislators also pulled the rug out from under teachers in that way too, passing another law in 2012 that allowed school districts to not move teachers up on the salary schedule.

“As a result, we have teachers across the state in many districts who haven’t seen a raise in five years,” the MEA’s Crim says. Couple that with inflation and the rising cost of benefits, and it’s no wonder that a lot of students have had second thoughts about going into the profession.

How do you think the state of Michigan will deal with the lack of teacher? Again, like Indiana and Wisconsin…

Others have suggested we just drop the requirement for a teaching certificate and let retired professionals take a crack at the classroom.

That might make some sense at the university level, though being able to do a job doesn’t automatically mean you can teach others the subject matter. But it doesn’t work at high school and especially for elementary school.

Who will accept responsibility?

Label the Lawmakers

Accountability measures for public school achievement are universally aimed at teachers, students, and school systems. Sometimes parents are part of the mix, but rarely are one of the most important stakeholders in public school achievement included in accountability legislation and provisions.

Those unaccountable stakeholders? They are the legislators and policy makers who control the funding for education and the out of school conditions in which children live.

John Kuhn, superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, wrote this letter several years ago. Nothing has changed. 100% of the blame for low achievement is still being heaped on teachers and schools. Legislators and policy makers are still doing their best to damage the teaching profession and avoid their own responsibility.

It’s time to revive this post…

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

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

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

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, Curmudgucation, Lead, Michigan, Public Ed, Recess, Tenure, Testing

2017 Medley #11

Lead, Defend Public Education, What Tests Measure, Tenure, Recess, Let’s Stop Pretending, Choice, 

POISONING CHILDREN

The EPA (at least until the department is destroyed under the current “we don’t need clean air or water” administration) says that

…there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.

Yet, we don’t know how much lead is getting into homes around the nation. Last year, USA Today noted that upwards of six million people are drinking from systems deemed unsafe, but there are likely more than that because of the way we test for lead.

…almost 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people nationwide have failed to meet the EPA’s standards for lead in drinking water. But people in thousands more communities deemed in compliance with EPA’s lead rules have no assurance their drinking water is safe because of the limited and inconsistent ways water is being tested, the investigation found.

How many of America’s schools are labeled as “failing” because their children suffer from lead poisoning? How many children’s futures are being damaged by unknown amounts of lead in the water?

Is your water safe?

Michigan, Flint Reach Settlement to Replace Lead Pipes

The settlement still needs to be approved by the federal judge presiding in the case. This sounds like a good start, but we need to recognize that Flint was not the only city that has this problem, nor was it the worst. Testing has revealed similar and even higher levels of lead in cities all over the country. The results are devastating for children, dooming many of them in school because of the effect lead has on their brains as they develop. The fact that it tends to be focused in cities with high minority populations only makes it more difficult for those children and families to escape poverty and have stable, productive lives.

E. Chicago residents wait to leave lead-tainted homes

The complex was home to more than 1,000 people, including about 700 children. Tests by the Indiana Department of Health found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. Even at low levels, exposure can cause nervous system damage and lowered IQs, according to experts.

DEFEND INSTITUTIONS: DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defending Public Education from Trump’s Tyranny

Russ Walsh reviews Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Lesson number 2 is Defend Institutions. Snyder writes,

It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about— a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union— and take its side.

Walsh, like me, chooses the institution of public education. He writes,

One way we can be sure that Trump and his minions are coming after our institutions is to see who the Tweeter-in-chief has chosen to head up various government departments. Almost to a person (Pruitt, Perry, Price), people who are opposed to the very institutions they are leading have been put in charge. If public education is to survive, we are going to have to fight for it. We cannot sit back and wait for this current nightmare to pass because by the time we wake up, it may be too late. It should be clear to all of us that the institution of public education is under a very real threat from the authoritarian Trump administration and its anti-public schools Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE COMPASSION?

A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

These thirty things which can’t be measured by the BS Test (big standardized test – h/t Peter Greene) are only the tip of the iceberg. Standardized tests, which in Indiana, are used to measure teacher effectiveness, also can’t measure a teacher’s dedication, her understanding of child development, or his empathy for a child’s emotional crises…and more.

CURMUDGUCATION

Below are two posts from Peter Greene who consistently brings clarity to the issues facing America’s public schools.

Tenure

MN: Vergara III: The Attack on Tenure Continues

Another attack on tenure…this time in Minnesota. Let me repeat it once more: “Tenure,” for K-12 teachers does not mean a job for life. It simply means due process. How do you get rid of “bad teachers?” Hire good administrators.

The plaintiffs are four moms from Minnesota (you get a picture here of how PEJ “found” them), including lead plaintiff Tiffani Forslund, a charter school teacher currently running for a seat on city council. Since the days of Vergara, the people crafting these lawsuits have learned to angle more toward Saving Poor Children, because it’s much easier to attract teachers to underfunded schools with tough populations when you can promise those teachers that they will have no job security at all. The lawsuit wants to implement a solution of “protecting our best teachers and replacing low-performing teachers with effective teachers” which seems magical and simple and completely unrelated to whether or not teachers have tenure.

Recess

FL: Recess Is For Babies

“Florida government– what the hell is wrong with you?”

That’s the question Curmudgucation asks at the end of this post. Why is the state deciding how much time children should spend at recess? Shouldn’t that be left to professionals who understand child development…people like pediatricians, child psychologists, or teachers?

Apparently the Florida legislature believes that the length of time children spend at recess has an impact on their test scores. Test scores are the most important thing in Florida (see also Curmudgucation’s post, FL: Court Rules in Favor of Stupid) and elsewhere. If test scores are low it must be the fault of teachers, which means children must be punished.

Voting against twenty minutes a day for recess for five year olds…insanity.

But a Florida House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday decided that twenty minutes a day is just too generous…

The amended version of the bill cuts the requirement for recess back to only those days without phys ed, and limits it to grades K-3 only, because once you get to be nine years old, it’s time to get down to business, you little slackers! It’s also bad news for phys ed teachers, because it allows schools to count recess as part of their phys ed time– in other words, Florida thinks you phys ed teachers are just glorified recess monitors.

TRUTH

Can We Please Stop Pretending …?

Let’s stop pretending that politicians, legislators, and other policy makers have any clue about what makes a good school.

Let’s stop pretending that those same politicians, legislators and policy makers are not directly responsible for much that happens in America’s classrooms.

Let’s stop pretending that money doesn’t matter.

Rob Miller has more…

For no other reason than I’ve grown weary of thinking and writing about the Oklahoma budget crisis, I decided to dust off my original list and add about 65 more items that literally poured forth from my brain. Sorry, but I get a little snarky towards the end…

  1. That all 5-year-olds arrive at the schoolhouse ready to learn.
  2. That policy-makers who have never taught or earned an education degree know more than the practitioners who work with kids every day.
  3. That charter schools that accept the same students as public schools achieve better results.
  4. That class size doesn’t matter.
  5. That higher academic standards will automatically result in more kids being college and career ready.

CHOICE: SEARCHING FOR A GOOD SCHOOL

The masquerade of school choice: a parent’s story

Here is a story of a parent trying to choose the best school for her child. Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S., like Finland and other high achieving nations, provided high quality public schools in every town and neighborhood? Students and their neighborhoods benefit from the stability of public schools. Unfortunately, we’re so concerned with figuring out how we can privatize public schools in order to line the pockets of edupreneurs, that we have, in many areas, given up on the public schools.

I navigated the school choice maze as a university professor with good income, flexible hours, reliable transportation, and a strong parent network. Imagine the process of school choice for parents of students attending failing schools, with limited income, or relying on public transportation.

Don’t let school choice trick you. The best way to provide quality across social class, race and ethnicity is to invest in public schools.

CHOICE: SCHOOLS MAKE THE CHOICE

Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice

From USA Today.

In this article, Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute said that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet.”

That’s wrong.

School choice allows families to use their “feet” to look for schools which will accept their children. Schools make the choice, not the students.

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute agreed, adding that a federal voucher or tax credit “can essentially push out of the way programs that have been created by states … and that kills what Justice (Louis) Brandeis called ‘laboratories of democracy.’ We want to have states trying different ways of trying to deliver education and school choice, so we can see what works well, what works well for specific populations.”

Noting that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet” by choosing another school, he added, “The way you vote with your feet against the federal government is you’ve got to move to another country, which can be somewhat onerous.”

Petrilli said accepting federal funding could be most painful to private — and especially religious — schools, which will face “really difficult choices.” Would the funding force them to accept LGBTQ students — or teachers, for that matter — against their religious beliefs?

“They just won’t participate,” he said. “And then what’s the point? You don’t have a program.”

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, IN Gen.Assembly, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, vouchers

2017 Medley #6

Poverty, Privatization: Vouchers and Choice, Public Education 101 for Betsy DeVos

POVERTY

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Public education in America is not failing. What is failing is our inability or unwillingness to relieve poverty. Children who live in poverty have lower achievement. This isn’t new information. Jonathan Kozol has been sounding the alarm since 1967. We should be ashamed that so many American children live in poverty.

It’s time for politicians to focus on reducing poverty and let the teachers who work with actual students help decide what is best for their students.

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

Politics, not education, got us into this mess, and it is politics that must get us out of it.

We must not go further down this rabbit hole. The future of our educational system, and the future of our children, is at stake. No one who has not worked in the sector of public education should be making decisions about our school system without careful consideration of the insights of those who will be directly impacted by those decisions.

When we adjust for poverty, American students score high on international tests. Here we see how American students who are educated in schools with less than 10% students in poverty, compare to countries with less than 10% of their students who live in poverty.

Report: School Funding Increases Lag For Low-Income Students

Somehow we have forgotten that children who come to school from high poverty homes need more resources to help them learn, not fewer. They need counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. They need well trained teachers, and support staff trained in remediation techniques. They need health care and an environment free from toxins like lead. They need pre-schools and summer programs.

It’s time we stop providing more for wealthy students than poor students. All our children need a fully funded, well staffed, and well resourced school.

Recent changes to Indiana’s school funding formula increased per-pupil funding across the state. At the same time it slashed special funding formerly given to students deemed at-risk, including students living in poverty, English-language learners and those who qualified for textbook assistance.

So, in certain districts with low populations of at-risk students, Sugimoto found, that although enrollment declined, the districts received an overall bump in funding per student. He says, in some cases, districts with fewer students saw their overall still increase.

“Those would have been districts that had very modest enrollment declines,” says Suigimoto, in an interview. “The increase in funding would have certainly made up for that.

Yet, overall funding across the state still lags behind pre-2009 rates, when adjusted for inflation.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Voucher programs currently in force in the U.S. have not helped children’s achievement, but they have reduced funds for an already cash strapped (not “flush with cash”) public schools. The “status quo” in 2117 America is the reduction of funds for public schools, increased test and punish policies, and a growing trend towards charter schools and vouchers for religious and private schools.

Instead of letting “the money follow the child” we ought to be “following the money” to see who is benefiting from the expansion of privatization schemes.

Study confirms voucher programs discriminate

Research led by an Indiana University professor confirms what school voucher critics have long argued: Voucher programs receive public funding yet discriminate on the basis of religion, disability status, sexual orientation and possibly other factors.

The finding is especially timely as President Donald Trump and his designee to serve as secretary of education, Michigan school-choice activist Betsy DeVos, have indicated they will use federal clout and money to push states to expand voucher programs.

Voucher programs go beyond what court approved

[Voucher programs] arguably run afoul of the establishment clause – what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the wall of separation between church and state. If not that, the widespread religious discrimination should raise concerns about the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. And some voucher schools appear to discriminate against special-needs students, which could raise issues with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS–INDIANA

The Indiana General Assembly, not satisfied with one of the largest voucher programs in the nation, continues to come up with new ways to divert funds from public education to private pockets.

Note that Indiana’s voucher plan has not helped Indiana’s school achievement. Competition hasn’t resulted in better education for everyone…just inadequately funded public schools which still seem to out-perform privatized education options.

Turn off the tap: Privatization effort too big a drain on schools

Broad and costly expansions of the so-called Choice Scholarship program are found in multiple bills, including Senate Bill 534, which will be heard by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee this afternoon.

SB 534 carries a price tag of as much as $206 million a year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. Repackaged from last year’s unsuccessful “Educational Savings Accounts” to “Special Education Scholarship Accounts,” the intent is the same: Give parents an allotment of tax dollars to spend however they might choose. A companion bill in the House, HB 1591, carries an even more audacious price tag of as much as $366 million a year.

Latest voucher gimmick: Education Savings Accounts

Give Indiana Republican legislators points for resourcefulness. They keep finding new ways to undermine public schools by expanding the state’s school voucher program. The latest, and arguably the most egregious, is the creation of Education Savings Accounts, state-funded accounts to pay for private schooling and other expenses.

Senate Bill 534, scheduled to be considered today by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, would create ESAs for the families of special-needs students who choose not to attend public school and don’t receive a private-school voucher.

The state would fund the ESAs with money that would otherwise go to the public schools where the students would be eligible to enroll — typically about $6,000 per student but potentially quite a bit more for some special-needs students. Then the students’ families could decide where to spend the money: private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, and other services from providers approved by the State Board of Education.

How Can Schools Be Voucherized? Let Us Count the Ways… and the Consequences

Here is Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, in a recent column commenting on what vouchers do to public school funding. This time the example is Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana: “Vouchers drain state tax dollars, creating deficits, or the need for tax increases. When Indiana started its voucher program, it claimed it would save taxpayers money. Not only did that not happen, the state’s education budget is now in deficit, and the millions shelled out for vouchers grows each year. Last year, vouchers cost the taxpayers of Indiana $131.5 million as caps and income levels were raised. Indiana now gives vouchers to families with incomes as high as $90,000 and to students who never attended a public school.” Burris adds that while the program was passed, “promising that it would help poor and lower-middle class families find schools they like for their children… as it turned out, five years after it began, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools and many vouchers are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.”

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: A Visit to the For-Profit Edu-Mall

PUBLIC EDUCATION 101 FOR BETSY DEVOS

Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education for the United States, has assumed control over the office charged with overseeing America’s system of public education. She has no experience in public schools: not as a teacher or educator, parent, or even a student. She is arguably the least qualified person to ever hold the office, with the possible exception of Bill Bennett (who also had minimal encounters with public education, but he at least earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from a public university).

As a public service, here are a couple of things which could serve to educate Secretary DeVos about public schools…including an excerpt from the Michigan Constitution about public education.

Educating Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos does not understand what it is like to teach in any school let alone poor public schools. She does not understand what the lives of real teachers and students are like…

Here’s what’s hard. I have added a few new points:

  • Watching your school district throw money at unproven technology when basic needs are your students not met.
  • Being dismissed as a teacher, when you are the only professional in the room who understands children and how they learn.
  • Being dismissed as a parent, when you understand your child best.
  • Being an over tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
  • Coming to school hungry and/or sick, or having an untreated toothache.
  • Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
  • Working on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty, who face all the terrible problems that come with that.
  • Not having a home.
  • Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
  • Having such a large class with so many diverse students you know it will be difficult to teach.
  • Not having enough resources and materials to teach effectively.

Why We Still Need Public Schools

We still need public schools…

The mission of public education is sixfold.

1. To provide universal access to free education
2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children
3. To unify a diverse population
4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society
5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient
6. To improve social conditions

That mission has been accepted by the states and most have provisions for public schools in their constitutions. The constitution of Michigan, for example, provides for free, universal, public education.

§ 2 Free public elementary and secondary schools; discrimination.
Sec. 2. The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

The constitution also provides for universities, public libraries, and a popularly elected state board of education. In 1970 the state decided to prohibit private schools and private school students from using public tax money.

No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, Michigan, Pence, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, retention, scripted teaching, Teaching Career, Testing

2016 Medley #20

Preschool and Irony, Privatization,
Let Teachers Teach, Experience Matters,
Test and Punish, Governor Pence

PRESCHOOL, EXCUSES, AND IRONY

Excuses won’t help children get head start

Indiana Representative David Ober has knocked the irony meter off its shelf. It seems he’s against state supported preschool, claiming that we don’t have anything “long term to show it’s working.” His objection is that we don’t have enough data to show that universal preschool has a good “return on investment.”

On the other hand, what does he say about the data on voucher plans? What does he say about the data on charters? The research into vouchers and charters suggest that neither provides a better education, and sometimes worse, than real public schools.

Ober’s response?

Silence, followed by votes to increase the privatization of Indiana’s schools.

When it comes to early learning opportunities, Indiana children hear little more than excuses. The latest – “where’s the data to show it works?” – is the weakest yet.

After years of fighting efforts to establish preschool programs other states have long embraced, the General Assembly approved a small pilot program in 2014, serving just 2,300 children statewide. Now it’s become the latest stalling tactic for legislators looking to block its expansion.

“Right now we just don’t have the data. We have at most one year – we have nothing long term to show it’s working,” Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, told The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly. “My reticence from the beginning is ‘Does it work?’ and ‘Is there a return on investment?’ Some argue yes and some no.”

Ober voted against the preschool pilot program, which carries strict income limits. A family of four can earn no more than $30,290 to qualify for a pre-K grant. By contrast, a four-member household with income of as much as $83,000 a year can qualify for a K-12 school voucher.

The Noble County Republican supported a vast expansion in the voucher program in 2013, even though no data exist to suggest it offers any return on investment. Lawmakers have never authorized a study of the five-year-old private-school choice program.

Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications

Here is an interesting research report for Ober to read. It explains the lasting effect of well designed, well staffed preschool programs.

  • Policy makers should not depart from preschool education models that have proven highly effective. These models typically have reasonably small class sizes and well-educated teachers with adequate pay.
  • Teachers in preschool programs should receive intensive supervision and coaching, and they should be involved in a continuous improvement process for teaching and learning.
  • Preschool programs should regularly assess children’s learning and development to monitor how well they are accomplishing their goals.
  • Preschool programs, in order to produce positive effects on children’s behavior and later reductions in crime and delinquency, should be designed to develop the whole child, including social and emotional development and self-regulation.
  • Because an earlier start and longer duration does appear to produce better results, policies expanding access to children under 4 should prioritize disadvantaged children who are likely to benefit most. More broadly, preschool education policy should be developed in the context of comprehensive public policies and programs to effectively support child development from birth to age 5 and beyond.

And in case that’s not enough, Rep. Ober, please see the following…

PRIVATIZATION

Shouts of ‘Shame!’ as Michigan panel implements controversial DPS plan

The people who were shouting “local control” (along with Republican Presidential candidate Trump) are the same people who are taking control of public education away from local municipalities and school boards.

The problem with Detroit’s public schools goes from bad to worse…

LANSING — Michigan’s Emergency Loan Board on Monday approved measures to implement a $617-million financial rescue and restructuring plan for Detroit’s public schools, over the vocal objections of elected school board members and others who attended the meeting in Lansing.

The board approved borrowing to retire or refinance debt, plus the transfer of assets from the old Detroit Public Schools to a new Detroit Public Schools Community District.

There were shouts of “Shame!,” “Jim Crow” and “Black lives matter” as the three board members left an auditorium at the Michigan Library and Historical Center through a back exit.

Critics say the plan treats Detroit public school students as second-class citizens because they would be the only Michigan public school students who could be taught by uncertified teachers. They also say much of the debt addressed by the plan was rung up while Detroit schools were under state control.

Attacking the Public in Public Education

The reasons our state constitution includes funding for “common schools” is because public education benefits everyone. The founders knew that. “Reformers” apparently don’t.

Local public schools should be supported, not closed. Public funds should go to improving public schools for everyone, not sent to privately run charters or transferred to vouchers for parochial schools. Parents should not have to go shopping for schools like they shop for shoes.

The whole argument that choice-voucher systems should put all decision-making in the hands of parents makes a foundational assumption that education is not a public good, maintained by the public in the public space in order to deliver benefits to the public. Instead, it re-imagines education as a consumer good, created by a vendor and then handed off to the student while money changes hands. Where education might once have been viewed like air or water or other shared public resources, we’re now encouraged to see it like a pizza or a toaster.

We can now start to see some of the side-effects of this view. When a public school is closed these days, it’s not necessarily seen as a blow to the community, like the loss of a park or the pollution of a water supply. Instead, it’s treated like a store closing, as if we just lost the Taco Bell on the corner, or the local K-Mart was closed up. It’s a business decision made by someone who doesn’t answer to the community, really pretty much out of our hands, right?

READING

Bringing Back Some Teacher Control to Reading Instruction

Children are all different. One size doesn’t fit all.

Let teachers exercise their professional judgement.

Let teachers teach.

As teachers, we know our students better than anyone else. Yet in some schools, teachers are given curriculum and told to follow it with fidelity—meaning, do exactly what the teacher guide says and never veer. To compound this issue, principals and district personnel visit these teachers, observe their teaching, and criticize or punish them when the lesson hasn’t been followed verbatim.

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

Yes, Long Experience Makes Better Teachers

Michelle Rhee made her mark by claiming that unions allowed old teachers to keep teaching even if they were “bad.” It turns out, however, that experience matters. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why schools in states with strong unions have higher achievement than schools in states with weak or no unions…and by the way…unions don’t want bad teachers in classrooms any more than anyone else.

Nearly fifteen years of federal policy that essentially demands that teachers raise test scores or else face serious consequences, has, however, undermined the morale and reputation of teachers. Our society has been encouraged to blame teachers alone for failing to “produce” test score gains in the poorest communities, despite that we know that test scores are affected by families’ economic circumstances and that state governments with inequitable finance systems fail to support the teachers and students in the school districts whose needs are greatest.

…Here are the report’s four central findings:

  1. “Teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher’s career. The gains from experience are highest in teachers’ initial years, but continue for teachers in the second and often third decades of their careers.”
  2. “As teachers gain experience, their students are also more likely to do better on other measures of success beyond test scores, such as school attendance.”
  3. “Teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they teach in a supportive and collegial working environment, or accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.”
  4. “More experienced teachers confer benefits to their colleagues and to the school as a whole, as well as to their own students.”

TEST AND PUNISH

Arizona Fails its Children!

Arizona…just one of many states (including Indiana) which punishes children for not learning.

Once again, parents are left to wonder why their children didn’t pass the test.

  • Did they have unaddressed reading difficulties–and/or dyslexia?
  • Did they have undiagnosed learning disabilities?
  • Were they pushed to read too early?
  • Were they taught incorrectly?
  • Was the test poorly devised?
  • Were the standards inappropriate?

Whatever kind of learning problems exist, there are a variety of strategies and arrangements to assist students without making them feel like failures.

There is a large body of anti-retention research. But some states don’t seem to understand such research exists. Nor do they care for the feelings of their students, and when those students drop out years later, they will wonder why. Children who fail kindergarten through 3rd grade have a 75% chance of dropping out of school by tenth grade (Roderick, 1994).

POLITICS

How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters

Pence is an opportunist. First he was for preschool. Then he was against it. Now he’s for it again. It’s all in his politics and whether or not he believes it will help him get votes.

What a hypocrite.

He also angered Ritz over his changing views on early-childhood-education funding. In 2013, he supported a move by Ritz to apply for federal funds for early-childhood education through President Obama’s Race to the Top competition. Indiana didn’t win but moved to apply again in 2014, with a better chance of success because the criteria had changed. Some $80 million was at stake. Pence suddenly changed his mind and refused to enter the competition, supposedly because of federal requirements that came with the money. Ritz said there weren’t any of significance.

In 2014, however, he did push for — and won — millions in state funding for a pilot prekindergarten program in the state. Then, last month, he decided federal money might not be so bad after all. He wrote a letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, saying that he was interested in federal early-education grants under the new K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. He said the pilot had worked well and that the state was now ready to use federal funds to expand it.

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Posted in ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Curmudgucation, DIBELS, Diversity, Evaluations, gifted, Lead, Michigan, Value-Added, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2016 Medley #3

No Evidence, Failure in Michigan, 
Diversity and Gifted Students, 
VAM, ADHD and DIBELS, Waltons

THERE’S NO EVIDENCE

We’re onto the phony education reformers: Charter school charlatans and faux reformers take it on the chin: After years of attacks on teachers and public education, Americans are catching up to the real story in our schools

If I were an optimist I would say that this article is a good sign…showing that the general public is finally catching on to the damage done by “reform” to America’s public education. Perhaps it’s because I live in the super-“reformist” state of Indiana – near the super-“reformist” states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and the super-“reformist” city of Chicago – but I see continued, if not stronger inroads made by privatizers against a fully funded public education system. The attack is slowly killing public education…

…comments made by establishment presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will reverberate through the election in 2016. Specifically, at a town hall held in South Carolina, broadcast by C-SPAN, Clinton responded to a question about charter schools by saying, “Most charter schools, I don’t want to say every one, but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids. Or if they do, they don’t keep them.” A week or so later, Clinton transgressed the status quo again by remarking, in a conversation with members of the American Federation of Teachers, “I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence.”

FAILURE IN MICHIGAN: DETROIT

Here are two versions of the same story…and both give the same information about a city which has abandoned its children. This is not just a problem for Detroit…it’s a problem with our nation and is happening in other places as well. When will the nation as a whole understand that our future depends on the way we treat our children. Carl Sagan said,

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.

We are one of only three wealthy nations in the world who spend more money to educate the children of the wealthy than we do to educate the children of the poor.

How bad are conditions in Detroit public schools? This appalling.

The odorous smell of mold and mildew hits you like a brick wall when you step through the front doors at Spain Elementary-Middle School in Detroit.

I have been at Spain for 19 years, first as a first-grade teacher, then, after earning a master’s degree in counseling, as a school counselor. When I first started, it was a school any city would be proud to have in its district. Today, it’s the poster child for neglect and indifference to a quality teaching and learning environment for our 500 students. The gym is closed because half of the floor is buckled and the other half suffered so much rainwater damage from the dripping ceiling that it became covered with toxic black mold. Instead of professionally addressing the problem, a black tarp simply was placed over the entire area like a Band-Aid. That area of the school has been condemned.

The once beautiful pool sits empty because no one has come to \fix it. The playground is off-limits because a geyser of searing hot steam explodes out of the ground. What do our kids do for exercise with no gym, playground or pool? They walk or run in the halls. Seriously. Our pre-K through eighth graders move like mall walkers.

Exposed wires hang from missing ceiling tiles. Watermarks from leaks abound. Kids either sit in freezing classrooms with their coats on or strip off layers because of stifling heat.

How can you teach or learn in conditions like these?

Detroit Public Schools: Beyond a State of Emergency

Since 1999, the state has been “taking over” Detroit Public Schools. Since 2009, Detroit’s schools have been subject to a stream of emergency managers who move in for just under 18 months, do not answer to voters, and can basically do what they want without consequence.

FAILURE IN MICHIGAN: FLINT

This Is What Happens To Humans When They Are Exposed To Too Much Lead

Flint, Michigan has become ground zero for the battle against America’s poor. Democracy was canceled, a state sponsored dictator was imposed upon the people, and, through neglect and shortsightedness the families of Flint were poisoned. The dictator, after doing his damage, has now moved to Detroit, to manage the public schools.

This isn’t specifically about Flint…just about what happens when an entire city has been poisoned.

Infants and children exposed to lead may suffer in various ways, including delayed puberty, speech impairment, high blood pressure, hearing loss, decreased muscle and bone growth, kidney damage, and a weakened immune system. Breastfed infants are also at risk if there is lead in their mother’s bloodstreams.

Equally important, lead also affects children’s brains and nervous systems. Those exposed to lead at a young age may suffer from a coma, convulsions, or even death. Children who survive serious lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and changes in behavior, like a shortened attention span or increased antisocial behavior.

Lead Exposure in Children

DIVERSITY IN TEACHER MAKEUP HELPS KIDS

Bright black students taught by black teachers are more likely to get into gifted-and-talented classrooms

Diversity in our teaching force is essential.

A better, quicker solution to reducing the racial gap in gifted classrooms, according to Grissom, is to test every child in the school system for giftedness, so that you’re not relying on subjective humans to decide whom to test. Education geeks call it “universal screening.”

Indeed, after Broward Country, Florida, adopted universal screening in 2005, the number of Hispanic students in gifted programs increased by 130 percent and the number of black students by 80 percent. Low-income students increased by 180 percent. But it proved expensive to test everyone, and the district stopped testing all children in 2011. The number of disadvantaged students in gifted classrooms fell back to pre-2005 levels…

People often say the solution to our education problems isn’t more money. But in this case, it might be.

VAM

Fact Sheet: Value-Added Measurement (VAM)

Thanks to Parents Across America for this well thought out and comprehensive information sheet about the evaluation of teachers using student test scores. VAM is built on junk-science and tries to put a number on something that can’t be measured by numbers – the impact that a caring adult has on a child. It also doesn’t even attempt to include other valuable aspects of teaching such as the ability to motivate and inspire students.

Now is the time to write to your state legislators and urge them to end this practice. If you’re an Indiana resident you can find your legislators at iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/legislators/

The proliferation of high-stakes standardized tests has had many negative side effects. Overtesting has led to increased stress, a narrowed curriculum and widespread teaching to the test. It has caused students to lose interest in school and learning, driven excellent teachers from the profession and discouraged young people from pursuing teaching careers. It has fueled the school-to-prison pipeline, sparked cheating scandals, and diverted time, energy and resources from other educational goals. These negative effects have been especially evident in schools that serve low-income children of color. Even if VAM ratings could be calculated accurately, the limited information they provide is simply not worth the effort or the consequences.

MEMO FROM THE REAL WORLD

School Testing Makes My Daughter Feel Stupid

Here’s a story from the mom of an ADHD and Learning Disabled child…and the damaging effect of testing. Specifically, the piece is about DIBELS, and how difficult it is for her child to focus and succeed. The child says “I’m stupid,” a common response from students with learning challenges when they are faced with impossible tasks and tests.

At the end of the article the mom says, “DIBELS has affected my home life and my daughter’s self-confidence. I know that there are many benefits to conducting this test in schools.” That’s wrong. DIBELS is not a good test. Its benefit is that it’s short and it provides numbers. Whether those numbers mean anything is questionable and it’s still in wide usage.

DIBELS sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. It is one of North Carolina’s ways of testing our kids to make sure they meet the requirements for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). DIBELS is a computerized test, administered by a teacher to acquire a child’s knowledge in oral reading fluency, retell fluency, and word use fluency. Teachers hold a handheld device that records a student’s response to the content being assessed. Why would this test cause my daughter to feel like she is not smart, can’t read, doesn’t know how to write, and to hate school? It is a timed test that some adults would find stressful. DIBELS allots one minute to each section of the test. One minute? Give me a break. I can’t even pack a lunch in one minute, much less think about being tested on my knowledge.

WAL-MART ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

The Walton Billion Dollar Plan

My Medley wouldn’t be complete without something from Curmudgucation’s Peter Greene.

The last paragraph below shows Greene’s insight into the “reform” movement. Treating school like a business, like Wal-Mart, for example, provides billions for those at the top, but “cheap mediocrity” for the rest of us.

If they were truly concerned about the well being of students, and improving schools, the Waltons would notice this cognitive dissonance. The fact that they don’t implies either the conscious misuse of their economic power for more economic gain, or a lack of ability to comprehend what they are actually doing.

The thought was that more choices would generate more competition. Competition would catalyze systematic improvement.

Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s really think about whose theory this was. This was the Walton theory, the theory of people whose entire fortune is built on being hugely competitive, leading to several results, over and over– the systemic destruction of most retailers in a community who aren’t Wal-Mart. Nor have they achieved this by pursuing excellence– raise your hand if you associate the Wal-Mart brand with excellence. No, the Wal-Mart brand is built on “broad mediocirty that’s cheap and good enough for unwealthy people” and the very goal of their competitiveness has been to win the retail competition by eradicating other choices. Wal-Mart’s business plan is not, “We will go into a community, compete by providing excellent products to the community, and when we’re done, there will be a broad range of excellent choices among many retailers.”

I continue to be gobsmacked that the Waltons, of all people, would imagine that school choice would spark competition that would lead to excellence, because these are people who seem to have a pretty good idea of how the free market works– and the free market does not work in ways that go well with public education.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Chicago, Michigan, Politics, poverty, Public Ed, reform, retention, Teaching Career

2015 Medley #33

Punishing Children, Poverty, 
Disrespecting Teachers, Diversity in Teaching,
A Courageous Principal, Charters, “Reforms,” Politics, Resources

Today’s medley is especially long, but, in my opinion, is worth working through. First, and most important to me, is the article about the Michigan House passing a “punish third graders” bill which would retain students in third grade if they can’t read well enough. I also include several articles which speak to the continued disrespect of American teachers, including one from a usual supporter of public education. I include the usual articles about poverty and “reform,” and a shout out to a courageous principal. Finally, I’ve included an outstanding resource for supporters of public education.

MICHIGAN JOINS PUNISH THIRD GRADERS CLUB

Yet another state has made it their business to punish third graders, 8 and 9 year olds, because the adults in the state have failed. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan House have joined together to pass a bill requiring children to be retained in third grade if they can’t read.

One legislator, showing his complete lack of understanding of the problem, railed against “social promotion” which he apparently believes is the only alternative to retention in grade. Decades of research has shown retention in grade to be ineffective as a means to improve achievement and to increase the likelihood of students dropping out.

The legislation also has a provision to punish teachers for working with high-risk or low achieving students by evaluating them based on student test scores.

The damage done by legislators making education policy continues.

(See also For You Michigan!—You Are WRONG about Retention!)

House OKs bill to hold back struggling third graders

The Michigan House today approved a controversial bill that would require students to repeat the third-grade if they’re not proficient readers.

…Meanwhile, the educator evaluation bill passed with no debate. The bill limits the number of consecutive years a student is assigned to an ineffective teacher, requires that 40% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student test score data and gives schools the ability to choose how they’re going to evaluate staff.

…The current law says 50% of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student growth data — data showing how much improvement a student made while with the teacher. State test scores are a key part of that data.

But that changes under the bill approved today. Beginning this school year, 25% of the evaluation must be based on test data. That rises to 40% beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

POVERTY

Peter Greene provides a link to information about students living in poverty. He discusses and provides a link to a map showing the increase in child poverty rates yearly beginning in 2006.

Student Poverty on the Map

…consider that the increase [in poverty] is not because more children are being born into poor families, but more families are learning what it means to be poor. Think about how much of that struggle our students are bringing into our classrooms.

DISRESPECTING TEACHERS, PART 1

Is there some research that shows that removing office furniture from classrooms increases student achievement? Donna Connelly, a Bronx principal apparently believes there is. She has ordered teachers to remove their desks and filing cabinets from their classrooms. No need to keep supplies in your desk, no need to keep files on students or teaching helps. Teachers shouldn’t sit.

Would any other professionals ever get treated like this? What an ass!

Principal forbid teachers to sit — so she threw out their desks

A Bronx principal ordered her teachers to give up their desks last week, and had the furniture dumped at the curb — telling staff she doesn’t want them sitting in class.

Donna Connelly, principal of PS 24, the Spuyten Duyvil School in Riverdale, also told teachers to empty their filing cabinets, which she then discarded.With class in session, teachers were told to push their desks and cabinets into the hallway. Custodians then hauled them outside and piled them like trash on the blacktop of a school across the street…

…“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.

DISRESPECTING TEACHERS, PART 2

Herein I am told that the decades I spent as a reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher were years I spent harming my colleagues. The implication is that my job – which included diagnostically testing students, helping them to improve their reading skills through instruction, working as my building’s co-test coordinator, assisting the principal with professional development, spending an hour a day at bus duty, lunch duty, and recess duty, and working with teachers to improve instruction – had only a vague, poorly defined, purpose. There is also the suggestion that my evaluations were faked…since I didn’t have “as much accountability” as other teachers…and if true, that was somehow my fault. The mountains of paperwork I had with Reading Recovery, the scoring and analysis of diagnostic tests, and the daily preparation needed to work with dozens of students a day seems to this author to have been just what I did to “look busy.” My real goal, according to him, was to “look busy” and increase my influence over the principal.

The generalizations in this piece are offensive – as generalizations often are. It seems that “specialists” are highly trained teachers educational parasites who suck up to the principal…and the principal is someone who is there only to make life more difficult for teachers.

Yes…I knew there were teachers who felt this way when I was working. I’m extremely disappointed, however, because this article is by someone who supports public education and who I hitherto respected. I would have expected less generalization about “specialists” and more specifics about how we can improve the teaching profession and get rid of bad teachers no matter what their role.

Typical “reformist” divide and conquer attitude…

Teachers, beware of the “specialists.”

Enter your “specialists.” Unlike classroom teachers, their job duties are more vague, ill-defined. Their time is not micro-managed. In that role, I’ve seen them become experts at looking busy, but accomplishing very little. What is crucial to their work, however, is the proximity in which they are able to work with the principal, thereby participating in decision-making that should be better left to classroom teachers. Contrary to classroom teachers, their jobs don’t require as much accountability, yet the decisions they make with the principal’s ear can impact the accountability to which classroom teachers are held.

Inasmuch as teaching is different than, say, office work, a school is still a workplace. And just like any other office, there are certain individuals who jockey for positions and favors, trying at all times to make their jobs seem more important, relevant, more interesting, and busier than they actually are, while at the same time increasing the demands on classroom teachers.

Beware the specialists.

DISRESPECTING TEACHERS, PART 3

Read this to see the lack of logic behind treating teachers differently than other professionals.

Imagine…

Imagine that these parallel organizations were given prime locations in existing facilities (built and paid for with public monies), displacing the professionals that had served your community for many years.

ONION SATIRE SOUNDS REAL

Sometimes satire comes too close to reality.

Department Of Education Hires Art Teacher To Spread Evenly Across All U.S. Public Schools

…officials from the Department of Education announced Tuesday they had hired 26-year-old art teacher Kelsey Alexander to be spread evenly across all U.S. public schools. “Ms. Alexander is a well-qualified teacher, and we have the utmost confidence that she will provide quality art instruction to our nation’s students as she rotates through each of the 98,000 public schools in this country,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan…

…As of press time, Alexander had spent an estimated $3.2 million out of pocket on the art supplies needed for her lessons.

TEACHERS OF COLOR

It’s not a fact that only teachers of color can be effective with students of color, however, this article makes some very important points about how black and Latino teachers leave teaching at an even greater rate than white teachers…

Why Teachers of Color Quit: Low pay and high stress drive black and Latino teachers to leave the profession at higher rates than their white peers.

Though 40 percent of students in the American public education system are black and Latino, only 13 percent of teachers nationwide are. In Teach for America specifically, 90 percent of the students corps members teach are black and Latino, while 39 percent of corps members are teachers of color. While this lack of proportional diversity exists in several professions, when your job focuses on leading a mostly black and Latino student population to succeed academically and socially in a predominantly white society, race matters so much more.

CPS PRINCIPAL SPEAKS OUT

Some principals have the courage to stand up to “reformers.”

Troy Laraviere: My Statement on CPS’ “Warning Resolution”

Parents submitted forms directing us not to give the test to their students. CPS responded by telling principals that we must defy parents and sit the student down in front of a test—that only when the student refused it, could we allow him or her not to take it.

I know of no other field in which the professionals are ordered to disregard parents’ choices and force children to refuse to participate in what their parents have already refused to allow them to participate in. If a parent tells a doctor that she does not want her child to take a particular prescription, the doctor is not ordered to disregard the parent and put the medicine in the child’s hand and make the child refuse it himself.

CHARTERS

Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters, and a member of the Network for Public Education Executive Board, tries to teach “reformers” about charter schools.

Six Charter School Myths; my testimony before the City Council today

Testimony before the NYC Council Education Committee
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

4. Charter schools get higher test scores because of the superior quality of education they provide.

Whether or not they achieve superior results, and there is much dispute about this, it may be due to charters’ increased funding, the socio-economic and demographic background of their students, and/or their much higher suspension and attrition rates. Probably all these factors contribute. Of course, the more a school pushes out struggling students, the higher their test scores will likely be. 

“REFORMS” FAIL

John Thompson expresses hope that the era of “education reform” might be coming to an end. If it ceases to be profitable maybe they will leave education to the professionals…

John Thompson: A Sad, Sad Year for Corporate Reformers

John Thompson, historian and teacher, explains why corporate reformers are in a bad mood. Nothing seems to be working out as planned. The word is getting out that Néw Orleans was not a miracle. Worse, black communities are angry at the white elites who took control of their schools.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT A DEBATE ISSUE

We know where Republicans stand on public education: destroy it, privatize it, bust the unions, and bring an end to professional educators.

Democrats in general, however, have been friends of public education, at least until President Obama appointed Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and doubled down on the George W Bush administration’s test and punish philosophy. And, just like in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, very little of substance with regards to K-12 education policy is being discussed by any Democratic presidential hopeful.

They offer vague assurances that they support universal pre-school, affordable college, and some even claim to want to get rid of “too much testing,” but Barack Obama wanted us to stop “teaching to the test,” too and look where that got us.

Near Silence on Education at First Democratic Debate

I wonder if CNN would have felt more pressure to ask even a single token education question if the largest national teachers unions hadn’t already endorsed Clinton. Both the American Federation of Teachers representing 1.5 million members and the National Education Association representing 3 million members have backed Clinton.

Well, leadership has. Member outreach, polling, even voting by the organizations largest representative boards has been almost entirely absent.

But now that teachers have been pigeonholed in Clinton’s camp, what’s the point of asking education questions? In the public eye educators have already chosen their candidate. Why would they need to hear Clinton’s thoughts on education policy? Why hear her opponents thoughts? Their minds are made up.

RESOURCES

Nancy Bailey’s Education Website

Nancy Bailey is a retired special education teacher, an author, and a voice for public education. Her website contains her blog, which is well worth following. I’ve linked to her latest blog post in my comments above about retention in grade 3.

She also maintains a valuable resource – a listing of blogs and groups which support public education. It’s definitely worth checking out.

[Full disclosure: My blog (the WordPress mirror version) is included under the Activism tab – Anti-Corporatization of Public Schools, and my group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), is included under the Activism tab – State Action Groups – Indiana]

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

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

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

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