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?

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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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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