Category Archives: NCLB

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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Filed under Bennett, Coll Bargaining, Due Process, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings, Teachers Unions, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career

2019 Medley #3

Third-Grade Flunk Laws, NCLB, School Libraries, Second Amendment, First Amendment, Segregation in Indiana, Losers in the White House

THIRD GRADE FLUNK LAWS

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

States (and schools…and teachers) continue to retain children in third grade (and in other grades) simply because they can’t read at an arbitrarily determined “level.”

Retention in grade doesn’t help children “catch up.” It doesn’t give kids “another year to grow.” It doesn’t help and often hurts

This post by Nancy Flanagan discusses the unintended consequences of using an “intervention” strategy that doesn’t work.

[For more information on Retention in Grade, click HERE.]

Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason, from learning in a second language, an identified disability or merely being a late-bloomer? Teachers, of course.

 

NCLB: DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE

How NCLB is Still Destroying Reading for Children 

NCLB gave us Reading First and testing, testing, testing. This was followed by Race to the Top which continued to punish schools for societal failures. Bill Gates jumped in with Common Core, a reverse programmed curriculum forcing developmentally inappropriate instruction on students in the early grades.

This hypervigilant push for children to read before first grade is not working.

Bring back kindergarten! Quit repetitively testing children! Get those play kitchens and sand tables out of the closet!

Don’t only say that kindergarten shouldn’t be the new first grade! Bring back kindergarten! Get rid of NCLB once and for all!

SCHOOL LIBRARIES SUFFER FROM UNDERFUNDING

U.S. Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% Of Their Librarians Since 2000

Here’s one more way that we’re shortchanging our future.

The shortage in public school librarian employment — which saw the most dramatic drop following the Great Recession of 2008 and hasn’t recovered since — has hit districts serving minorities the hardest. Among all the districts that have retained all their librarians since 2005, 75% are white, Education Week reports. On the other end of the scale, student populations in the 20 districts that lost the most librarians in the same time comprised 78% students of color.

In other words, while U.S. employment rates are back up in the wake of the Great Recession, the public school librarian sector has not rebounded, and the nation’s collective failure to rebuild its public information infrastructure is hitting minorities the hardest.

 

WE CANNOT AFFORD PARALLEL SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Breaking Point

When striking Los Angeles teachers won their demand to call for a halt to charter school expansions in California, they set off a domino effect, and now teachers in other large urban districts are making the same demand.

Unchecked charter school growth is also bleeding into 2020 election campaigns. Recently, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait berated Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for having opposed a ballot initiative in her home state in 2016 that would have raised a cap on the number of charter schools. “There may be no state in America that can more clearly showcase the clear success of charter schools than [Massachusetts],” declared Chait.

But while Chait and other charter school fans claim Massachusetts as a charter school model, the deeper reality is that charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.

As the Boston Globe recently reported, the city is experiencing an economic boom, but its schools resemble “an economically depressed industrial center.” The state’s unfair funding formula is part of the problem, but an ever-expanding charter school industry also imposes a huge financial drain.

WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY KILLS ITS OWN CHILDREN…

Since Parkland

It’s time for commonsense gun laws. The Second Amendment is no more important than the First Amendment. We freely accept accommodations and exceptions to the First in the form of libel and slander laws. It’s time we tweak the Second Amendment so that our children can grow to adulthood.

12 months
1,200 American kids killed by guns
1,200 stories about the lives they led, reported by teen journalists across the country

 

NON-CHRISTIANS DON’T MATTER TO JUSTICES

With Alabama Execution Case, Supreme Court Declares That Only Christianity Matters

…and speaking of the First Amendment, we have some educating to do. We need to teach certain members of the Supreme Court that religious accommodations are not only for Christians. Perhaps they believe that America is a Christian Nation (hint: it’s not). In any case, the five “conservative” justices ruled that a Muslim was not allowed access to his preferred spiritual leader before he was executed. You would think that the First Amendment mattered as much to “conservatives” as the Second…

I’m not asking you to feel sympathy for a man who raped and murdered a child. I’m asking you to be outraged by a Supreme Court blatantly and publicly stating that only Christianity matters. This decision spells disaster for minority religious believers and non-believers alike. Our heartfelt beliefs, our core values, are without value to the majority of this Court. Where exemptions are granted, it will be to Christians. Their beliefs are important enough to the right wing majority that they warrant protection. The equally strongly held moral values of Muslims, or Hindus, or Jews, or atheists are to be dismissed if they cause even the slightest inconvenience to the state.

We knew we were facing a tough battle with this Supreme Court. We had no clue just how hard it would become so quickly.

SEGREGATION IN INDIANA

1920s decisions shaped racial landscape

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld provides an excellent history lesson on segregation in Indiana.

But Indiana schools are still segregated by race, ethnicity and family income, according to a 2017 study and data visualization by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. The legacy of the 1920s lives on.

 

LOSERS ARE AS LOSERS DO

Finally, the President’s eldest son has about as much verbal self-control as his father. Speaking at a Presidential rally against black and brown immigration, the “first son” called teachers “losers” who indoctrinate their students in socialism.

My response to that are the following socialist benefits Americans enjoy: the U.S. Military, oil subsidies, farm subsidies, social security, Medicare, public roadways and waterways, municipal water systems, public libraries, police and fire departments, the postal service, public trash pickup and landfills, congressional health care, veterans’ health care, public parks, the court system, state and city-run beaches, unemployment insurance, the national weather service, and NASA. [For more see HERE.]

Here are two excellent responses to Junior’s idiocy.

Commentary: Trump Jr., losers are as losers do

We have a trust-fund baby like the president’s son, one not even smart enough to stay away from meetings where people planned lawbreaking, calling other hard-working Americans losers.

That by itself is enough to trigger a gag reflex.

Then there’s the gratuitous nonsense about socialism. Coming from a guy whose family members are soaking up millions of tax dollars as they vacation every third day at one Trump property after another and leave the nation’s citizenry with the bill, that’s so rich it’s gooey.

Finally, there’s the muddle-headed and mean-spirited goofiness of whining about indoctrination at a Donald Trump rally.

Young Trump complained about indoctrination at an event where a Trump supporter assaulted a BBC cameraman and where anyone who doesn’t chant agreement with everything the leader says or shouts is threatened, beat up or kicked out.

But that’s the way it is with folks like Trump Junior.

Diary Of A Socialist Indoctrinator

Principal McBossface held me over a minute after the meeting to let me know that he’s aware I’m running behind on my Socialist Indoctrination and to remind me that it’s super-critical that I get up to speed. I’m really feeling the pressure.

📝📚🚌

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, GunControl, library, NCLB, Politics, Racism, reading first, Religion, retention, SchoolShootings, Segregation

Tiny, Decent Things

PART I: THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

I began my whine against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing when No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 and Indiana doubled down on student testing.

I complained to my principal, the school corporation, my local legislators. I became an officer in my local teachers association, and a delegate to the state teachers association representative assembly, but we couldn’t change things either.

I retired in June of 2010 and two years later joined a public education advocacy group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Since the Save Our Schools March in 2011 in Washington D.C., our members have been working to end and undo “education reform” in Indiana and the U.S.

2011 was a watershed year for privatization in Indiana. Mitch Daniels and his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, along with help from the Indiana General Assembly, hit hard at public schools and public school teachers.

2011 was the year that Indiana…

  • cut $300 million from public school funding while at the same time they…
  • passed a voucher law which drained even more public tax dollars from public schools
  • reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • introduced test-based evaluations for teachers
  • increased funding for charter schools

The privatizers haven’t backed off since then…they’ve continued to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and strip funds from public education to support the ravenous appetite of an ever-expanding privatization plan consisting of vouchers and charter schools.

Each year, when the Indiana legislature is in session, we do our best to minimize the damage done to public schools. And each year we lose a little more ground. We had a bright light of hope in 2012, when Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, beating Tony Bennett on a platform which supported public schools, but that was short-lived. Governor Pence, the legislature, and state school board, worked together to make sure she was unable to slow down the damage to public education by the privatizers.

It’s not just Indiana. A few days ago Nancy Flanagan wrote…

The War on Teachers and the End of Public Education

Three days ago, Diane Ravitch wrote this:

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly.

She’s right. The end of public education as we know it is in sight. And there’s a war on public school teaching toward that end, with Betsy DeVos as Field General.

It keeps happening even though privatization has increased segregation and hasn’t improved instruction or achievement.

PART II: ENCOURAGEMENT

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. It’s hard not to give up. We need frequent inspiration to help reenergize ourselves…to remind ourselves that public education is worth saving, and no matter how many times the politicians and privatizers damage public education in Indiana (and across the nation) we need to keep trying. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we need to get up again. No matter how many times we’re silenced, we need to speak out again.

Public schools are open to every child in the state, not just the wealthy or the able. Public schools are an investment in our future…and support for public education means an educated citizenry, a lower incarceration rate, an improved economy, and happier lives. Public education is not just for me…not just for you…but for us, because we are all responsible for, and dependent upon, each other. The students we serve are not just mine – or yours – or even their parents’. They are ours. Within each child is the future of our society.

In order to save America’s public schools it’s necessary for each of us to do what we can. All of us are important…from those who run for the legislature, to those who work quietly in the background registering voters, to those who convince a friend to support public schools. We must, as Danusha Veronica Goska wrote in ‘Political Paralysis’ From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, do “tiny, decent things” to support the public education system. With enough of those “tiny, decent things,” we can give public education the support it needs to survive.

…when we study the biographies of our heroes, we learn that they spent years in preparation doing tiny, decent things before one historical moment propelled them to center stage.

Moments, as if animate, use the prepared to tilt empires.

Be one of the prepared.

CHANGE THE WORLD

Write your legislator. Write for publication. Run for office. Support and/or contribute to pro-public education candidates. Learn about the issues facing public education and share what you have learned with others. Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends. Volunteer in a public school. Help a child learn. Donate a book to a school or a family. Organize or join with others to support public schools. Join the PTA. Send your children to public schools. Call into a talk show. Write a letter to the editor.

Get involved.

Do something.

Don’t give up.

Goska ended her essay…

I suspect that we all have our three-in-the-morning moments, when all of life seems one no-exit film noir, where any effort is pointless, where any hope seems to be born only to be dashed, like a fallen nestling on a summer sidewalk. When I have those moments, if I do nothing else, I remind myself: the ride in the snow; the volunteers at the food bank; the Nepali peasants who fed me. Activists like the Pole Wladyslaw Bartoszewski who, decades before he would earn any fame, got out of Auschwitz only to go on to even more resistance against the Nazis, and then the Soviets. Invisible, silent people who, day by day, choice by choice, unseen by me, unknown to me, force me to witness myself, invite me to keep making my own best choices, and keep me living my ideals.

If all of us do “tiny, decent things” to support public education, we can slow or even stop the takeover of public education by those who would destroy it.

Alone, each one of us might not be able to “tilt the empire” of the privatizers, but perhaps we can preserve public education long enough for our cumulative efforts to gather strength and eventually succeed.

🚌🚌🚌

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Filed under Bennett, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz

Why We Test

QUEST FOR A TEST

Indiana is currently wasting millions of dollars on bad tests used for the invalid purposes…for ranking students, retaining students in grade (IREAD-3), evaluating teachers, and grading schools.

The general consensus is that the tests are too long, taking too much time from instruction, so more money is being spent on the quest for a new test…one which will likely also be a bad test used for the same invalid purposes, but perhaps a bit shorter.

Today’s Chalkbeat featured an article about the search for a new test and why Indiana would probably not choose a test which teachers actually liked and found helpful…the NWEA MAP test.

[Note: The NWEA MAP test is the same test Seattle Teachers boycotted in 2013 because it was being misused…it wasn’t tied to the curriculum, and it was used to evaluate teachers. The creators of the test said that the test should not be used to judge students and teachers. See Why Garfield teachers boycotted the MAP test]

In Chalkbeat’s article, Here’s why a test loved by teachers isn’t likely to replace Indiana’s ISTEP, Shaina Cavasos wrote,

The test, created by the Northwest Evaluation Association, can be administered two to four times per year in English and Math. It takes far less time than typical state exams — about an hour per subject per session — and teachers can see the results immediately, enabling them to tailor their lessons to areas where kids are showing deficits.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? The test is shorter, taking less time away from instruction. It’s more helpful to teachers so they can actually use it to learn what their students academic needs are and improve instruction.

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

What’s the purpose of testing? Is it a tool to identify winners and losers in public education or is it a tool to help teachers improve their instruction and help students learn?

Indiana law also discourages the use of tests like MAP — so-called “formative” or “interim” assessments — as an annual state exam because the state’s A-F grading system is based on the percentage of students who pass or fail the test. MAP isn’t designed to determine which students have passed or failed according to state expectations for what kids should know at each grade level like ISTEP is — students can theoretically score anywhere on the MAP scale in any grade.

The problem is that the MAP test does what a test is supposed to do – it tells teachers where a child is in his or her learning and gives them information they can use to help their students achieve.

Indiana doesn’t want that, however. Indiana wants a test that separates kids into winners and losers. Indiana wants a test that will label schools, and their neighborhoods, on a scale of A to F.

“Measuring student growth independent of grade level … that is a different purpose then measuring student performance against grade level,” Mendenhall said.

Indiana’s test must tell us which students are at “grade level” – an arbitrarily determined number designed to brand as “failing” schools, teachers, and children.

The test is also inadequate for compliance with ESSA the new federal law which replaced NCLB.

“(Federal law) requires we have a grade level test on grade level standards,” Roach said. “While we do generally like (MAP), and it’s very useful to us, I think…that would need to be studied in-depth.”

The law still requires that we test kids every year…though one nice change is that punishment for failure is left up to the state.

But it’s hard to ignore that teachers say they appreciate the more specific feedback from MAP over any kind of results they get from ISTEP or A-F grades.

It’s hard to ignore a test that teachers actually think might be helpful…unless you’re an Indiana policy maker, or Governor, who needs a way to label teachers and schools as failures in order to bust the teachers unions and divert public funds to privately run and private schoools.

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Filed under A-F Grading, ESSA, Indiana, ISTEP, NCLB, Testing

Videos 2015

Teaching, Testing, and Acountability: Poverty and Charters

Every now and then I’ll embed a video in my blog. Here I have chosen six – informative and inspiring – from 2015, comprising about 2 hours of video. I’ve added emphasis with boldface and italics.

February 1

What would happen if state and federal legislators actually listened to educators? Notice how many of the legislators in this video talk about “accountability.” The assumption is that before “reformist” type accountability (aka standardized tests used to rank students, teachers, and schools) we never knew how our children were doing in school.

So long as public education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children we will resist these unjust testing laws.

Jia Lee…the only woman at the hearings, from a female dominated profession…tries to teach legislators about the damage done by runaway testing.

Watch her testimony in the video below and read more about the hearings in…Teachers Rally Against Standardized Testing At No Child Left Behind Hearing.

The sad thing is that, despite the fact that NCLB has been replaced, annual, high-stakes testing is still with us.

Jia Lee, a New York special education teacher, said the tests “can only measure right or wrong,” not complex questions. “I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave.”

Jia Lee – Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015 from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

February 22

In February several hundred pro-public education supporters went to Indianapolis to “Rally for Ritz”…a rally in support of Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Superintendent Ritz was continually at odds with the appointed members of the pro-charter, pro-voucher, “reformist,” school board.

Bloomington mom, and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County and South Central Indiana, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech to the assembled crowd was memorable, calling for, and defining legislative accountability, not just school accountability. Click here for the complete text of the speech.

My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD

…Accountability is representing your constituents, not your donors

…Accountability is research driven education policy. Standards don’t educate kids, teachers do.

Accountability is seeing to it that every child has a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym, art, and music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, and band. Every. Single. Indiana. Child.

…no six year old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity

Legislators and “reformers” are all for accountability…for others.

May 4

John Oliver shows us just how inane and stupid our obsessive focus on standardized testing really is – test-pep rallies, school cheers – trying to convince children that high-stakes tests are “fun.”

Yet, we all know that high-stakes tests are inappropriate for our most vulnerable students…and they make the pain of the also inappropriate test-prep-standards-based education even more painful.

Official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student vomits on his or her test booklet…and something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit. Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills…

[NOTE: NSFW Some images and language might be offensive…just like Pearson’s tests.]

October 24

JOHN MERROW vs. EVA MOSKOWITZ

Success Academy procedures hurt children. They are used by charter school chains to get rid of “undesirables” (aka, students who are difficult and/or expensive to educate or whose test scores don’t measure up) despite what Moskowitz says in this report.

The fact that the two schools highlighted at the beginning of this report – one public, one charter – share the same building, is part of the problem. “Dual occupancy” – two or more schools sharing one building – is a problem. Public schools and their buildings belong to the community which built them. Taking part of a building away from a public school and turning over part of a building to a privately run charter school is like stealing the community’s property for profit. We don’t turn over control of certain parts of public parks for privately run athletic teams. We don’t close of parts of public libraries and let for-profit book sellers “share the space.” Neither should we do that with public schools.

Merrow said it all when he said…

In the end, how charter schools conduct their business is basically their own business.

November 22

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

Policy makers regularly talk about how important it is to have good schools, but there’s no follow through on their part. They blame schools for low achievement, but don’t accept their responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation, the main cause of low achievement.

Schools…the education of our citizens…is not a high priority for this nation, despite the rhetoric. Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” If that’s true, then the nation is in jeopardy.

The late Carl Sagan had this to say more than 25 years ago…

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

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.

December 19

This is the latest and longest of the videos I posted this year. It’s an important one because, despite ESSA, many teachers and schools around the nation are still judged by the test scores of their students, a practice which Dr. Berliner says is invalid. He also discusses the fact that outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to carry the process one step further and evaluate schools of education by the test scores of their students’ students.

We’re using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year’s ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

Student achievement tests measure only student achievement.

David C Berliner’s presentation is titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.

Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America’s education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

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Filed under Accountability, Charters, David Berliner, ESSA, Evaluations, ICPE-MCSCI, JohnOliver, NCLB, Ritz, Sagan, Testing

Finally, I Rant about NEA’s Endorsement of Hillary

Ok…so it took a while and everyone else has probably already said everything there is to say about the NEA supporting Hillary for President in the primaries, but I was looking around at blogs and I read one that triggered a rant.

The stimulus that finally got me going was a guest blogger on Lily’s blog who was Proud to Be an Educator for Hillary.

I have nothing against the teacher who wrote the blog and I did follow her link to Hillary’s Education platform on NEA’s server which said all the right things…well not all of the right things, but some of the right things. Missing, however, was detail about how those things would be accomplished and what they would be replaced with…for example,

Hillary Clinton supports reducing the role of standardized tests in public education, and she supports NEA’s push to create an opportunity dashboard, understanding the multiple measures that we must address and monitor to truly close the opportunity achievement gaps between students. She has committed to fighting to provide equal opportunity to have access to arts education, school nurses, librarians, and counselors, and funding so all students can succeed, regardless of their ZIP code.

Sounds great, right? Reducing the role of testing is something I would like to see, but what about teachers being evaluated by test scores, loss of due process, and loss of collective bargaining rights? What about the connection between poverty and low achievement?

Furthermore, how does her policy differ from that of Bernie Sanders? Martin O’Malley? Lawrence Lessig (did you even know he was running? Read Republic, Lost)? or other candidates?

Mrs. Clinton may indeed be the candidate we ought to support, however, I think we need to have more information before we endorse someone.

Here’s what I wrote as a response to An Educator for Hillary (I’ve fixed a couple of typos, added a link, and made one sentence bold).

The NEA board has decided for the rest of us that there is no need to get any assurances that our endorsement for a candidate will bring support for public education other than some vague references to “every child and teacher will get support.”

What is Hillary’s stand on Charter schools and the massive amounts of corruption which privatization has brought to so many states and school districts? More accountability? What does accountability mean for charter schools? More tests? Publicly elected school boards? Open enrollment or will Charters still be allowed to skim the cream? Will charters still be allowed to hire “teachers” with no credentials?

What is Hillary’s stand on the Common Core? We know Lily loves it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not developmentally inappropriate. What about the cut scores manipulated by state houses and governors in order to “prove that public education is failing?” What about the overuse and misuse of standardized testing — both Common Core related and otherwise?

What is Hillary’s stand on vouchers? Will there be any attempt to do away with public tax money going to religious schools?

What about due process for K-12 teachers (aka tenure)? Collective bargaining? Where are the details to Hillary’s education platform? What about test based evaluations? What about Teacher for America?

Why didn’t we get (or get to see) the details BEFORE we endorsed someone?

In 2008 we endorsed President Obama who “sincerely” told us that we didn’t devote our lives to testing…we devoted our lives to teaching and teaching is what we ought to be allowed to do. That, and a “seat at the table” was enough for us…endorsement done. Look what we got…Arne Duncan — who never set foot in a public school as either a student or a teacher — and Race to the Top which doubled down on No Child Left Behind’s labeling of low test takers as losers. Arne Duncan, who cheered when an entire school full of teachers in Rhode Island were fired because the school was “low achieving” (aka filled with high poverty students). Arne Duncan, who manipulated federal dollars meant for low income students so that it became a contest to see which states could raise the caps on Charters fast enough and evaluate teachers based on test scores.

A seat at the table? Haven’t we learned anything?

~~~

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!
~~~
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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Filed under Duncan, Election, EskelsenGarcia, HClinton, NCLB, NEA, Obama, Race to the Top

2015 Medley #3

NCLB, Poverty, Teacher Diversity, 
Policy Makers-not Teachers,
Reading Aloud and Time to Read

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND REAUTHORIZATION

Hill fight on No Child Left Behind looms

As I write this there is a debate going on about Senator Alexander’s proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the newest version of which is No Child Left Behind.

A main focus is testing. The conversation is mostly about frequency of testing with little discussion of the need for testing and its uses…

The Obama administration is for keeping the testing policy as it is…

Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlined his priorities in a speech, saying he wants to keep many of NCLB’s testing requirements, as well as the requirement that the government intervene in low-performing schools…

There’s little recent polling, 2012 survey by Education Next found that only 14 percent of parents oppose the annual testing requirement, and a majority of parents supported it…

The KDP/GALLUP Poll of 2014 indicated that a majority of public school parents were not that crazy about standardized testing (see column 2 in the image below)…I suppose it depends on how the question was formatted.

Here’s one of my pet peeves! We always hear how “low performing schools” need to improve…how “failing schools” or “poorly performing schools” need to get better. The use of language is telling. The fault is assumed to be with the schools.

The truth is that schools with low achieving students are most often schools with high poverty. The problem is poverty, not failing schools. Who’s at fault? Everyone! Schools need to improve, of course, as do government services and responses to the growing poverty in America (see The Future is Not a Priority). When are policy makers going to accept their share of the responsibility?

Pushing low-performing schools to get better was a core part of No Child Left Behind…

Duncan has been clear that he thinks keeping the interventions in poorly performing schools should be included in any NCLB rewrite…

Since the assumption is that “failing schools” are the fault of teachers we mustn’t forget to offer more money to those teachers who teach to the test. Merit pay is based on the incorrect assumption that teachers aren’t trying hard enough…that somehow we’re keeping the really good teaching strategies hidden and more money will help us get higher test scores. “Teacher quality,” below, is defined simply as higher test scores.

It’s important to keep in mind that many Republicans in Congress strongly support merit pay and other strategies to improve teacher quality…

POVERTY MATTERS

More students living in poverty strains education system

Two days ago I wrote about the Southern Education Foundation’s report on student poverty (see The Future is Not a Priority).

This four minute video news report reminds the watcher that teaching is not only academics and test scores.

Minute 1:25

I talked with one kindergarten teacher, a veteran teacher from New Mexico. She teaches in downtown Albuquerque. And she told me that the first hour of her morning, she does an inventory to check her kids, have they eaten, are they clean?

She keeps a drawer full of socks, shoes, clean underwear, toothbrushes for them just to take care of their immediate needs.

She can’t even focus on the academics.

Is it a classroom teacher’s responsibility to provide those support services for children in poverty? If that’s part of the job description then teachers need more money, lower class sizes, and credit for dealing with the high levels of American childhood poverty that politicians and policy makers ignore.

TEACHER DIVERSITY

Our Teacher Diversity Problem Is Not Just About Recruitment. It’s About Retention.

It’s hard enough to keep half of America’s beginning teachers long enough to become career teachers. It’s even harder to keep minority teachers in a career that burns them out quickly…

Nationwide, we have a teacher diversity problem. This year, for the first time in our country’s history, a majority of public school students are children of color. But most teachers—82 percent in the 2011-2012 school year—are white. That figure hasn’t budged in almost a decade.

The knee-jerk response is to blame the minority teacher shortage on inadequate recruitment efforts. But key data suggests that we also have a largely unacknowledged and unaddressed problem with retention. In other words, our schools are churning and burning teachers of color at unconscionably high rates.

GREAT TEACHERS

TEACHER POWER!

We live in a world where test scores mean everything…from school quality, to student effort, to teacher competence. We must stop misusing standardized test scores.

The illusion has been created that having a great teacher is an outlier and not the norm. There is a quote from Metro Nashville School Board member Mary Pierce in a recent Salon article that says,“If the school is doing the job it’s supposed to be doing, then the test scores will follow.” This is indicative of the culture we’ve created. The test scores aren’t generated to assess the needs of the child and give guidance on a direction for instruction; they are seen as a method for a teacher to demonstrate their competence. In essence, we’ve morphed into a culture of guilty until proven innocent.

TEACHERS OVERLOOKED-AGAIN!

Texas: Lt-Gov Asks Business and Industry to Shape Policy, But Not Educators

Diane Ravitch noted that the new Lt. Governor of Texas formed a “special council” to deal with state issues, including education. No educators were invited.

She reminded us that this also happened in Nevada. The Governor formed a “Business Roundtable on Education Policy” which included “leaders,” but no educators (see the image below).

Is education the only field where practitioners are the only ones excluded from participation in policy making? Arne Duncan is a basketball player/Sociology major. Bill Gates is a technology expert/college dropout. Rahm Emanuel, Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Eli Broad…the list goes on and on. When it comes to education policy, educators need not apply.

…55 leaders of business and industry to advise him on state policies, including education. There do not appear to be any educators on the panel…

Here are the articles linked to in Diane Ravitch’s entry…

Lt. Gov.-Elect Taps Business Leaders for New Advisory Board

…Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick said Thursday he had appointed a 55-member special council made up of Texas business and industry leaders…

Issues like immigration, health care and education would be considered by the committees, he said, and those topics might also be added as separate panels in the future.

Gov. Sandoval calls for a legacy of ‘leadership, vision and courage’ in starting second term

Sandoval, who easily won a second term in the Nov. 4 general election, made the event about Nevada’s schoolchildren, saying he will dedicate his next four-year term to helping the state’s children succeed.

Sandoval asked that all Nevadans work together to ensure future families inherit a legacy of “leadership, vision and courage.”

This image is from the Nevada governor. It defines who will be on the “Business Roundtable on Education Policy.” Perhaps the last category — “Any other members who the Governor deems necessary” — will be the lone educator’s spot.

READING ALOUD

Study Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own

In the “why does this surprise anyone” department — those children whose parents make reading important will read more. Those students who are given time to read at school will read more.

Fewer children are reading books frequently for fun, according to a new report released Thursday by Scholastic, the children’s book publisher.

In a 2014 survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, only 31 percent said they read a book for fun almost daily, down from 37 percent four years ago.

There were some consistent patterns among the heavier readers: For the younger children — ages 6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were correlated with frequent reading; for the older children — ages 12 to 17 — one of the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day.

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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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Article Medleys, NCLB, Politics, poverty, read-alouds, Teaching Career,

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Filed under Article Medleys, NCLB, Politics, poverty, read-alouds, Teaching Career

Random quotes – October, 2014

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL (AND NATIONAL) PUBLIC SCHOOL

Eliminate poverty to improve education by Stephen Krashen

Grit and determination, and the best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill because of lack of health care, and have low levels of literacy because of lack of access to books.

How to Destroy a Public-School System by Daniel Denvir for The Nation

Pennsylvania is a perfect example of where privatization is taking us…high quality, well funded schools for the wealthy and underfunded schools for those with greater needs.

It’s what scholars have bluntly called an apartheid system: wealthy districts spend more on wealthy students, and poor districts struggle to spend less on the poor students who need the most. According to state data from 2012–13, Philadelphia spent $13,077 per pupil, while Abington spent $15,148—on students in much less need of intensive services and support. Wealthy Lower Merion spent $22,962 per pupil.

Blaming The Teachers

Kaarin Leuck, who wrote a letter titled Kids need in-school advocates for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, blames schools for kids’ failures.

Over the last few years, school districts have established “alternative schools,” which in the law is called a “school flex program” (I.C. 20-30-2-2.2). These school flex programs often offer only three hours of class instruction per day (as allowed by I.C. 20-30-2-2(b))…

Many districts have also encouraged the most challenging kids to enroll in online courses as home schoolers so they can stop coming to school…

At the end of her letter she blames teachers for not teaching all children.

If you are going to choose to be a public school teacher, you should teach all of the children assigned to your classroom. Step up to the plate, learn creative solutions, and help us get these kids through.

She doesn’t think to blame the legislature for

  • not providing adequate funding which would provide small enough class sizes in which teachers could help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for additional and supplemental staff trained to help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for programs designed to meet the needs of hard to educate students.

Instead she, like so many others, blames the people who spend their days with children trying to deal with the serious problems they bring into the classroom while simultaneously being required by the state to do the impossible, with inadequate resources, for too many children.

Can schools improve? Certainly, but they need the tools to operate. Those tools and the trained professionals who use them, cost money. The Indiana General Assembly with direction and support from the governor have chosen to fund more and more charter schools and the nation’s most expansive voucher program to the detriment of traditional public school funding.

Do you want good schools in Indiana and across the nation? Then we’ll have to decide that education is a priority and redirect the money from corporate pockets back into the classroom.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia on the Stephanie Miller Show

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA’s new president, bluntly reminds us that politicians and policy makers are the ones who have neglected the nation’s poverty issue, not educators.

If you see all the needs of public schools — high class sizes, books, technology — all of the things we need, and you have no intention of funding those, wouldn’t it be nice to distract people by going, “Look over here, bad teacher, bad teacher, bad teacher, look over here!” Because if you can say “if we just had better teachers the roof wouldn’t leak, if we just had better teachers those kids wouldn’t come to school hungry,” it gives you an excuse to not do anything for that community, or for what that school needs.

TESTING

Testing Kindergartners and a Rise in Disabilities: Is There A Connection? by Nancy Bailey

In Indiana, not only do we call children failures if they aren’t reading fluently by the end of third grade, but we refuse to let them move to the next grade. We punish 8 and 9 year olds because they…grew up in a literacy poor environment, are learning disabled, are living with the influences of poverty interfering with their learning, are uninterested in reading, have experienced trauma, or are the survivor of some other problem which prevents them from learning to read according to the state’s timetable.

In Finland, the land school reformers love to praise but never emulate, they introduce children to formal reading when they are in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade our country calls children failures if they are not reading fluently.

Try out new 2015 ISTEP practice questions

The conversation is about prepping students to take a test instead of student learning…

Children across Indiana will take a new, and very different, ISTEP in less than six months but teachers have only recently gotten to look at sample questions to guide them in preparing their students.

NCLB

Washington State: An Example of NCLB Absurdity by Diane Ravitch

NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school.

ON BEING A TEACHER

Local school officials oppose non-degree teachers by Rocky Killion

The Indiana State Board of Education, over the objections of Glenda Ritz and two other members, passed REPA III, the rules which define who can and cannot teach in the state. The new rules have a provision allowing anyone with a degree to teach in high school without any pedagogical training.

“This whole idea that someone can just walk in and start teaching is ridiculous,” said Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corp. “It’s as ridiculous as me passing an exam and becoming a brain surgeon.”

Why Good Teachers Quit by Kay Bisaillon

In Indiana we lower standards for entrance into the teaching profession and we make it hard for good teachers to do what they have been trained to do by stripping them of due process, underfunding traditional public schools, inundating the classroom with testing, and incentivizing teaching to the test. The verbiage about wanting a great teacher in every classroom is just so much disingenuous bunk!

She leans on co-workers for support. I know this burnout is a common issue among very good teachers. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.

PRIVATIZATION

F For Effort: ‘School Choice’ Group Grades States Based On How Easy It Is To Get A Voucher by Simon Brown for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The Center For Education Reform, funded by the pro-voucher Walton Family, gives Indiana’s voucher program an -A- because it transfers a huge amount of public funding from public schools to private and parochial schools. There is one things wrong with it, though…the state requires that the private schools be accountable for their money…just like public schools.

The As went to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country, so that is no surprise. CER heaped praise on the Hoosier State, giddily stating that it “leads the country, with a universal voucher program open to all students across the state and no limit on the number of vouchers that can be awarded.”

However, CER’s remarks were not all positive for Indiana: “The state is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy, mandating such things as course content and insisting on allowing government observation of classes,” the report says.

As far as CER is concerned, lawmakers apparently should hand over money to private schools without ever checking in to make sure they get a return on their investment and to ensure that students get a quality education. [emphasis added]

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

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Filed under NCLB, Privatization, Quotes, Teaching Career, Testing

A Place to Vent

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

THE DAMAGING RULES – NCLB, RttT, CCSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLACING PUBLIC BLAME

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

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

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

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

REAL ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

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

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

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

John Kuhn said it very well

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

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

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

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Common Core, John Kuhn, NCLB, Race to the Top, Teaching Career

2014 Medley #19

Good Teachers, Bad Teachers, Blackmail, Democracy, Charters, Literacy

DEFINE ‘GOOD TEACHER’

A Dozen Essential Guidelines for Educators

For the last several years Alfie Kohn has been blogging for Psychology Today under the title of The Homework Myth: How to Fix Schools so Kids Really Learn. Last October he wrote a list of “core principles” which he said would help give our children the schools they deserve. Read these two before you read the next article…

11. All learning can be assessed, but the most important kinds of learning are very difficult to measure—and the quality of that learning may diminish if we try to reduce it to numbers.

12. Standardized tests assess the proficiencies that matter least. Such tests serve mostly to make unimpressive forms of instruction appear successful.

Other Data: 20 Signs You’re Actually Making A Difference As A Teacher

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” — Attributed to Albert Einstein (See here)

What do students remember about their teachers?

When I meet students I have had in class over the last 4 decades they invariably bring up one thing — the books I read to them. No one has ever mentioned spelling words, or math problems, or even recess. No one brings up standardized tests, reading vocabulary or subjects and predicates.

Several of my students who have become teachers have written to tell me that they are reading one of the same books I read to their class.

Of course teachers must teach content, how to read and how to add and subtract. But students learn because of who the teacher is…not just because the teacher presents material. How do you know that you’re doing something right as a teacher? Here are a few ways…

1. Your students are asking questions, not just giving answers…
3. You have listened as often as you have lectured. Another lesson in authority…
4. Your shy students start participating more often without being prompted…
5. A student you’ve encouraged creates something new with her talents…
6. You’ve been told by a student that, because of something you showed them, they enjoy learning outside of class…
12. You’ve let your passions show through in your lessons…
16. One of your students becomes an educator…

DEFINE ‘BAD TEACHER’

Ten Reform Claims That Teachers Should Know How to Challenge

What constitutes a “bad teacher?” Arne Duncan, and his host of “reformers” claim that it’s student test scores.

Claim 4: It should be easier to fire bad teachers. Tenure is a problem.

Response: Lots of teachers agree with you. But can you describe your plan for firing bad teachers and not good ones? How will you separate the two groups? How will you make sure that only the bad teachers are impacted by this?

…Claim 10: Teachers only work nine months a year.

Response: Can you tell me how many hours you work in a year? Can you guess how many hours I work in a year? Can you guess three things that I might be doing in the summer to get ready for September?

Harper’s Index

Average number of hours per week U.S. public-school teachers are required to work to receive base pay : 38

Average number they actually work : 52

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (Washington)

DUNCAN BLACKMAILS STATES

Superintendents forced to tell parents their schools are failing, even though they aren’t

Arne Duncan has blackmailed states into accepting his idea of school “reform” — more charter schools and teachers evaluations based on test scores. If states don’t do what he demands they they are thrown back into the pit of No Child Left Behind where everyone fails.

Twenty-eight superintendents from the State of Washington added a cover letter to the required NCLB letter. The NCLB letter tells the parents that their child’s school is a “failure.” The superintendents’ cover letter let’s them know that it’s NCLB and the U.S. DOE which has failed, not their child’s school.

The label of “failing” schools is regressive and punitive, as nearly every Washington school will not meet the NCLB Requirements. Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled “failing” by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working.

Even Duncan’s own Department of Education understands that NCLB is a punitive, damaging law. That’s why they allowed the waivers in the first place. But, your state can only be excused from the stupidity of NCLB by adopting equally damaging “reforms.” Since the state of Washington hasn’t followed his rules he is forcing them back to the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Duncan’s petulance will punish schools, teachers, and students. Education doesn’t matter. Learning doesn’t matter.

… instead of giving strings-free waivers, the department designed a list of school-reform hoops that states had to promise to jump through in order to receive one. Those included the establishment of assessment systems that link teacher evaluations to student standardized-test scores, a highly controversial practice…

There is a consequence to having an NCLB waiver pulled. It means that the state has to revert back to meeting all of the requirements of the law —even those requirements that Education Secretary Arne Duncan himself had said repeatedly were unattainable.

“We’ve got 60 languages, we’ve got high mobility, we’ve got high poverty,” Frank Hewins, superintendent of the Franklin Pierce School District, said Wednesday. “When you have students with those challenges, the metrics established by this law are nonsensical.”

28 superintendents to parents: Schools are not failing

The additional letter tells parents that nearly every school in Washington won’t meet the No Child Left Behind requirements this year, and that the 28 superintendents are “proud of the significant academic progress our students are making.”

“Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials – as well as the U.S. Department of Education – acknowledges isn’t working,” the superintendents’ letter says.

EDUCATION IN A DEMOCRACY

The founding fathers understood the importance of an educated populace.

Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” and “[T]he tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

Madison wrote, “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

And John Adams plainly agreed that public education was so important that the people ought to pay for it. “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

The government, then, has a vested interest in making sure that everyone has the opportunity to be educated to the extent that they are able (and not, as Mitt Romney said, just to the extent they can afford). It’s the government’s responsibility to see that…

  • all children are afforded an equitable education
  • students are prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship
  • students can grow to be economically self-sufficient
  • tax money used for public education is used responsibly

Home School Upheaval: Texas Court Rules Against Religious Freedom Right To Unregulated Home Education

There’s also a well-established legal right to home school. But that right, like all rights, is subject to certain restrictions. Parents do have the right to home school, but they don’t have the right to provide their children with a substandard education or, like the McIntyres, deny their children an education altogether. The law is clear: You can believe Jesus is coming back at midnight if you want. You can even tell your children that it’s a fact.

But you still have to teach them how to read.

CHARTERS

Charter schools claim to be public schools when they want public money, but then they claim they are private entities when they are expected to be responsible with the money.

Lawsuit: Virtual charter school owes $600K for services

Indiana Cyber Charter School, a virtual charter with locations in Fort Wayne and Avon, is accused of not paying Pennsylvania-based National Network of Digital Schools for contracted services and not following through with an additional repayment plan agreement. National Network filed the lawsuit July 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.. . . The school listed 200 students enrolled for 2013-14 academic year, according to state data. Passage rate for this spring’s ISTEP exam was 54.4 percent — 20 percentage points lower than the state average.

NJEA decries ‘massive corporate takeover’ of Camden schools

The NJEA supported the original law, passed in 2012, but said the amended bill would allow charter-school expansion that ran counter to the original intent of the legislation.

California state auditor probing LA’s Magnolia charter schools

After sampling transactions from Magnolia campuses in 2012, L.A. Unified found over $43,000 in duplicate payments to vendors, flagging those as potential misuse of funds.

The Los Angeles Unified school board ordered a second audit in 2014, voting to close two of the schools if any fiscal problems arose.

IMPROVE LITERACY

COLUMN: Boosting children’s literacy skills in four easy ways

This is a good list of things everyone should do to increase literacy. I would also add (among other things)…

Parental education is essential…

Challenge yourself to devote 20 to 30 minutes a day to boosting a child’s literacy skills. It could not only change the way that child starts the school year, but it could also change his or her life. 

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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