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

2017 Medley #28

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

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A PUBLIC GOOD

The Public Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISPARAGING PUBLIC EDUCATION

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

The Trump Administration prefers private education.

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

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

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

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

We need to decide.

➥ For further reading on public education:

AMERICA’S CHILDREN IN POVERTY

America’s Dirty Secret

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

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

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

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

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

State’s plan could go national

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

They like the fact that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

➥ See also:

Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

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

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

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

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

➥ For further reading on segregation and charters

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Bennett, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz

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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Posted in climate change, Curmudgucation, David Berliner, Dewey, Pence, Preschool, Public Ed, Quotes, Trump, Tyson

Listen to This #7

PRE-SCHOOL

Building a Better Pre-School: Finding the Right Balance

Russ Walsh looks at two recent studies of preschool instruction, one focusing on academics in preschools, the other on social and emotional learning. The unsurprising results of the research? Developmentally appropriate instruction. [emphasis added]

From Russ Walsh

“In order to ensure that our pre-schools are finding the right balance between academics and play, we need to be sure that we are employing the best teachers available and we need to make sure that these teachers are getting the finest, best informed professional development possible. No program, no research, no policy can come close to matching what the well-informed, well-prepared teacher can provide for children in the classroom.We cannot do pre-school on the cheap just because the children are small. We cannot run pre-school, as is often the case now, with poorly trained, poorly compensated para-professionals. The answer, ultimately, is not in the false dichotomy between academics and play, but in the will of our policy makers to make sure that every child has access to teachers who are prepared to do the job well and who are compensated appropriately for it.

AMERICA’S SCHOOLS ARE NOT FAILING

The purported failure of America’s schools, and ways to make them better by David C. Berliner

I posted twice in the last couple of months about the lie promoted by politicians, privatizers, and “reformers” which claims that America’s schools are “failing.”

David C. Berliner, Education Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, writes that real improvement will cost money. He wrote, paraphrasing Dewey –“What the best and wisest (among the wealthiest) parents want for their children, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” [emphasis added]

From David C. Berliner

…“fixing” the schools, about which so many of our editorialists and political leaders talk, needs deeper thinking than a knee-jerk reaction to our mean score on any international test. That mean score hides the diversity of our scores by social class and housing tract, and easily misleads us about what solutions might exist. When our leaders say teachers are not good, we need to point out to them how well some of our students are doing, and that a recent Mathematica report for the U.S. Department of Education states that the quality of teachers working in low-income schools is about the same as the quality of teachers working in high income schools. So blaming teachers won’t fix schools that need fixing!

A PLACE TO VENT

Angry (tl;dr)

During the second half of my teaching career one of my roles was that of (co-) test coordinator for my school. It didn’t take long for me to realize that classroom teachers were being forced to spend more and more time “teaching to the test,” a practice which had previously been avoided.

Each year more tests were added, taking up more and more instructional time, with less and less diagnostic information returned to the teachers. Each year it took longer and longer for the information to be returned to the classroom so that, by the time the results came back, the students had moved on.

I complained loudly…bitterly…obnoxiously. Other teachers agreed with me…even the principal agreed with me, but there was nothing to be done. I complained to the administration, who passed the buck to the State Department of Education…who passed the buck to the State Legislature…who passed the buck to No Child Left Behind.

In 2006 I decided that I needed a place to vent, so I started this blog.

If I were a better writer I could have written this post by Peter Greene.

From Peter Greene

My colleagues at school were, by and large, not interested. They complained when we were gored by the tip of the iceberg that passed by us, but they had no particular interest in finding out what the tip was attached to, or how big and wide the iceberg really was. And I was turning into the staff crank. So I turned to the outlet that has always served me in the past– writing– and for a number of reasons (mostly admiration of the bloggers already out there) I turned to blogging.

It did not occur to me that anybody would read my stuff. My goal was to vent, to rail about policies and articles that struck me as foolish, destructive, blind, ignorant.

POLITICS

Trump dumps Paris climate deal: reaction

The first two quotes need no comment…

From Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh

“The United States will come to rue this day,” said Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. “President Trump has argued that his decision puts economic interests first, that it will cut out interference from foreign bureaucrats and help U.S. business. In fact this move puts all business and economic interests at much greater risk. Climate change knows no borders, its impacts are blind to national flags. If global efforts to limit warming fail then we are all in trouble. From climate change, Mr. President, you can run but you can’t hide.”

We Aren’t Number One…Not Even Close

From Sheila Kennedy

It’s enough to make you think American policymakers put a higher priority on the bottom lines of Big Pharma and Big Insurance than they do on the health of average citizens.

But then, what do we expect when we elect people so corrupt and self-serving they don’t even care about the health of the planet their children and grandchildren will inherit?

MIKE PENCE – OBTUSE AND IGNORANT

Mike Pence: ‘For Some Reason’ Liberals Care About Climate Change

Is Vice President Pence really this obtuse?

From Mike Pence

“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.”

It seems that Vice President Pence hasn’t heard anything about climate change. He doesn’t seem to know why it’s an issue for “the left,” which in this case means anyone who wants to prevent the catastrophic destruction of the earth’s ecosystem by global warming. He hasn’t heard that, with the rise of greenhouse gasses,

  • the earth gets warmer,
  • the oceans get warmer,
  • the ice at the poles melts,
  • the life in the ocean is at-risk,
  • the sea-level rises threatening coastal cities,
  • more moisture is in the air making storms wetter and stronger,
  • causing flooding and more…

The Vice President has apparently not talked to the Secretary of Defense who believes global warming is a threat to national security…or the former Secretary of the Navy…or the U.S. Army…See also, the planet Venus.

Yet we really shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same person who said

…”2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer.”

and

“The truth is, [evolution] always was a theory, Mr. Speaker.”

A few years ago, when he was in the House of Representatives, Pence was scientifically ignorant about smoking…or maybe he was getting money from the tobacco companies.

His ignorance also showed in his use of the word theory when talking about Evolution. In science, a theory is an explanation of a natural process which encompasses facts, laws, inferences, and hypotheses. Pence, like so many other ignorant creationists, confuses the popular meaning of the word theory with its scientific meaning. For an explanation of why theory is not “just a guess” see, Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work.

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Posted in ALEC, Pence, Preschool, Privatization, Ritz, vouchers

Pence, Preschool, and Privatization

A tweet from NEA…

REJECTING FEDERAL DOLLARS

Mike Pence, as Indiana’s governor, rejected an $80 million preschool grant from the federal government. He said it was because he didn’t want “federal strings attached,” but my guess is that there were two different reasons.

First, the grant was supported by Glenda Ritz, the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction who insulted Pence by getting more votes than he did in 2012. Pence, with help from the State Board of Education and the Republican wing of the General Assembly, spent four years doing everything he could to prevent her from doing her job.

Second, the federal preschool dollars didn’t help Pence with his plan to privatize and religionize public education. Instead it just benefited children.

THE PENCE PLAN CONTINUES

This past year, while the V.P. was moving into his West Wing office, the Indiana General Assembly approved a preschool plan which links preschool money to vouchers, thereby expanding what is already the nation’s most expansive voucher plan. Pence would be proud.

But vouchers weren’t all the ALEC supported privatizers in the Indiana General Assembly were after. They also included $1 million for a “virtual preschool” plan.

Because sitting in front of a computer screen for 15 minutes a day is the same as participating in a quality preschool program.

WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS

So Indiana has increased privatized preschool as part of the latest voucher expansion, and has made tech companies happy by paying for a “virtual preschool.” But the research discussed in an article from KQED News referred to public preschools, which children actually attended.

The article, “What the Science Says About How Preschool Benefits Children,” stated that students with public preschool experience, are more successful in Kindergarten. They don’t need vouchers. They don’t need 15 minutes a day of screen time. They just need high quality preschool programs like those Mike Pence stalled by rejecting 80 million free dollars.

They listed four key findings…

  • That while all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids often make the most gains…
  • Children who are dual-language learners “show relatively large benefits from pre-K education” — both in their English-language proficiency and in other academic skills…
  • And yet, the researchers said, that doesn’t mean preschool should necessarily be targeted toward poor or disadvantaged kids. “Part of what may render a pre-K classroom advantageous” for a poor student or a child learning English, “is the value of being immersed among a diverse array of classmates.”
  • Not all preschool programs are alike. Features that may lead to success include: “a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum,” and an emphasis on the quality and continuous training of pre-K teachers. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, the study concludes, “to generate more complete and reliable evidence on effectiveness factors.”

There was no mention of a 15 minute “virtual” preschool.

MR. PENCE GOES TO WASHINGTON

Don’t think for a minute that the Trump/DeVos plan for privatization of America’s public schools has nothing to do with Mike Pence. DeVos helped fund Indiana’s privatization movement. There’s little doubt that the Trump/DeVos goal of privatizing America’s public education system will be modeled on the success Pence, and his predecessor Mitch Daniels, had in Indiana.

Effectiveness doesn’t matter…the only thing they care about is funneling public tax dollars into corporate and religious pockets under the guise of “choice.” They don’t support public education. They don’t care to provide educational equity for the shameful number of children in America who live in poverty. They don’t care about them. They just care about diverting tax dollars. They just care about increasing private school attendance.

The same for preschool. They’re not interested in supporting the research which suggests that poor children benefit the most from preschool. They’re more interested in the money they can get by redirecting students from public schools into parochial and private schools.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Holcomb, Lead, Pence

2017 Medley #5: Lead – Just a Few IQ Points

Poisoned Futures

FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 1

Flint Weighs Scope of Harm to Children Caused by Lead in Water

Emails released by the office of Gov. Rick Snyder last week referred to a resident who said she was told by a state nurse in January 2015, regarding her son’s elevated blood lead level, “It is just a few IQ points. … It is not the end of the world.” Dr. Hanna-Attisha and others who have studied lead poisoning have a sharply different view of lead exposure, for which there is no cure. “If you were going to put something in a population to keep them down for generations to come, it would be lead,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said. [emphasis added]

OVERCOMING THE EFFECTS OF LEAD POISONING

My last post, The Common Knowledge is Wrong, was my attempt to defend public education in America. I maintain that public education is not failing. What is failing is our inability and/or unwillingness to take on the problems facing our children and their schools: a high rate of child poverty, inequitable resources in schools serving high-poverty students, and policy makers who choose to deflect their responsibility thereby dumping the problem on public schools. I wrote,

We don’t exclude economically disadvantaged students from our schools. We don’t exclude students with special needs from our schools. We don’t exclude students with behavioral challenges. America’s public schools, unlike private and privately run schools, must accept everyone.

Instead of blaming schools for societal problems…instead of privatizing…we ought to spend our time, energy, and resources on improving the schools we have. All of us, politicians included, should accept responsibility for the national shame that is our high child poverty rate.

It’s well known that poverty has an impact on student achievement. My contention in the above referenced post is that teachers and schools can’t overcome the affects of poverty in their students without additional help. What is the impact of poverty on students? In We Have a Poverty Crisis in Education on the Science of Learning Blog, Kristina Birdsong explains…

Students living in poverty struggle in ways most others do not. They face a plethora of issues, including but not limited to the following:

  • Increased risk for behavioral, socioemotional, and physical health problems
  • Decreased concentration and memory
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Higher rates of suspension, expulsion, absenteeism, and drop out
  • Poor hygiene and malnutrition
  • Lack of preparedness for school

Out-of-school factors like those listed by David C Berliner in his research study, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, have a definite and powerful impact on student achievement. One of the out-of-school factors Berliner discusses is that of environmental pollutants. Of the six issues listed above in Birdsong’s article, the first two can be directly caused by lead poisoning. The other four can be indirect results of lead poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.

…there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.

NO SAFE LEVEL

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Lead

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.

Educational Interventions for Children Affected by Lead (CDC)

Lead is a developmental neurotoxicant, and high blood lead levels (HBLLs) in young children can impair intellectual functioning and cause behavioral problems that last a lifetime. Primary prevention of HBLLs remains a national priority and is the only effective way to prevent the neurodevelopmental and behavioral abnormalities associated with lead exposure. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children already have experienced blood lead levels known to impair academic performance.

Lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, hearing and speech problems, and thus, lowered school achievement. Dealing with children who have lowered ability, behavioral difficulties, or attention problems caused by lead is something schools have some experience with, but interventions can be expensive. The costs must be shared by the communities, states, and the federal government.

EAST CHICAGO, INDIANA

I’m not going to reproduce the entire history of the rise and fall of East Chicago’s industry and the subsequent discovery that the land in some areas of the city were contaminated. You can see an excellent timeline with details at Timeline: Timeline: History of the USS Lead Superfund site in E.C.

The election of Mike Pence as Vice-President of the United States has had an unintended benefit for the residents of East Chicago. When lead and arsenic contamination was found in the soil in areas around East Chicago, Pence did as little as he could to help the residents. Perhaps he thought because the contamination was in a high poverty area no one would notice. Perhaps he didn’t care because East Chicago and the surrounding urban area (the second largest metro area in the state) usually votes Democratic. In any case, once Pence left office, the new governor, Eric Holcomb, lost little time in getting help for the people.

Thank you, Governor Holcomb

Holcomb grants East Chicago disaster request Pence denied

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday he will grant a disaster declaration for East Chicago to help address issues at the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site – a request Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor, denied.

Mayor Anthony Copeland had previously requested a disaster declaration from Pence, but it was denied in December. Holcomb agreed to increase state assistance to the city, according to the governor’s office, and help residents of the Calumet neighborhood affected by lead and arsenic contamination.

Whether the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency will be of any assistance isn’t yet known. The point is, however, that the children of East Chicago, like those in Flint, Michigan, have already been damaged.

FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 2

State of Michigan to stop subsidizing Flint water bills for water they cannot drink

The state attorney says that the water in Flint is safe now, but people shouldn’t drink it. What gall!

Governor Snyder and his cronies who have punished the citizens of Flint for the last two years ought to be punished themselves. Here’s an idea. Move the Governor’s Mansion, and the State Offices to Flint so they will have to live under the same conditions as the residents.

The state has decided that it will no longer help its people by subsidizing water bills…

“Unfiltered Flint water is safe, just don’t drink it, says state attorney”. That was the headline for a recent MLive.com article. In the article, the state attorney says Flint’s drinking water is “safe” but, “We are still recommending residents don’t drink unfiltered water.”

Despite this fact, the state of Michigan announced this week that it will no longer be subsidizing the water bills for Flint residents who cannot drink the water they are paying for…

…in the city with the highest water rates, and arguably the worst water quality, in the country.

Flint water rates highest in country, study claims

A study released Tuesday, Feb. 16, by Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch showed Flint residents were being charged more for water than any other customers in the nation’s 500 largest community water systems.

HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE

New York Changes How It Tests for Lead in Schools’ Water, and Finds More Metal

And it continues…

When experts said last year that New York City’s method of testing water in public schools for lead could hide dangerously high levels of the metal, officials at first dismissed the concerns. They insisted that the city’s practice of running the water for two hours the night before taking samples would not distort results.

Still, the city changed its protocol, and the results from a new round of tests indicate that the experts were right.

So far, the latest tests have found nine times as many water outlets — kitchen sinks, water fountains, classroom faucets or other sources — with lead levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion as last year’s tests found, according to a report released by the state health department last week.

Fort Worth ISD still finding high levels of lead in school drinking water

Three months after Fort Worth ISD announced it would be replacing hundreds of old drinking fountains due to high levels of lead found in school drinking water, a FOX 4 Investigation has uncovered that the problem is more widespread and will cost more money to fix than first believed.

There is no federal, state or local mandate requiring schools to test their drinking water. Fort Worth ISD voluntarily began testing a few schools in June after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan made national headlines.

Schools around the country find lead in water, with no easy answers

In Portland, Ore., furious parents are demanding the superintendent’s resignation after the state’s largest public school district failed to notify them promptly about elevated lead levels detected at taps and fountains.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) has ordered lead testing at every public school in the state after dozens of schools in Newark and elsewhere were found to have lead-contaminated water supplies.

TEACHER EVALUATION

Will policy makers continue to blame teachers, teachers unions, or lazy students for low student achievement?

Ask your legislator…

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Posted in Indiana, Pence, Privatization, Ritz

No bias, No spin, No jargon…sometimes

Chalkbeat, “a nonprofit news organization,” says of itself…

Everyone has an opinion about how to fix education, especially for the poorest children. As a nonprofit news organization, we at Chalkbeat offer you solid facts about what is actually happening and what it means, from local reporters who really understand.
No bias, no spin, no jargon.

That self-assessment is true, sometimes. In its daily newsletter, Rise and Shine, Chalkbeat reposts articles focusing on education from a variety of sources…some pro-public education, some pro-“reform.”

It’s own news stories, however, are often different.

In July, for example, on the occasion of Mike Pence’s elevation to the position of V.P. candidate on the Republican ticket, Chalkbeat posted an assessment of his “education record.” On Wednesday, following the national debate by the two vice presidential candidates, they reposted the same article in Rise and Shine

Mike Pence faced Tim Kaine in the only VP debate last night. We’ve got the story on his (somewhat surprising) record on education.

Here is, in part, what they wrote

As governor, Pence has supported expanding charter schools and voucher programs. But Pence’s signature education initiative was a push to create the first state-funded preschool program. Despite opposition from many Republican allies in the state legislature, Pence was a staunch advocate for the small preschool pilot program that launched in 2015. [emphasis added]

What is surprising is that Chalkbeat neglected to mention that in 2014 the Indiana Department of Education, under State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, had applied for a federal grant to fund preschool education which Pence stopped dead in its tracks. He rescinded the application for the $80 million grant which would have brought preschool programs to low-income students. Pence, instead, opted to push for a preschool “pilot” program which would serve students in only 5 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

In another move, Pence created a new agency to support his privatization plans, in direct opposition to the State Department of Education. He closed the agency after some political fallout, and then went after the State Superintendent.

Ten times Pence didn’t make Indiana great again

9. Pence disenfranchises State Superintendent Glenda Ritz (ongoing)

Before Pence got settled into the governor’s chair, he created the Center for Education and Career Innovation, which became a mirror agency to Ritz’s Department of Education. CECI was just the beginning of the rift between Pence and Ritz. Although he dissolved CECI in 2014, Pence supported the state legislature’s push to weaken Ritz’s office, including attempts to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position instead of an elected one and removing the superintendent as chair of the Board of Education.

It seems to me that his “signature education initiative” during his term as governor has been to support private education at the expense of public schools, and to disrupt the work of the elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz.

And Pence’s education plan isn’t surprising at all. When he ran for Governor he told the citizens of Indiana that he wanted to privatize public education…and he’s worked hard to do that. Since Glenda Ritz ran on a pro-public education platform, the fact that Pence has done everything he could to stand in her way isn’t surprising either.

What is surprising about Pence’s education record in Indiana? Not much.

And Chalkbeat? It’s not surprising that they claim that his “signature education initiative” is a preschool program yet don’t mention his thumbing his nose at an $80 million grant which would have done more. They get their support from some of the most powerful “privatizers” in the business…

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Gates Family Foundation
  • The Anschutz Foundation
  • The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • The Walton Family Foundation

Chalkbeat tries, and often succeeds, at being an objective news source for education. Sometimes, however,  the deep pockets of Gates, Walton, and others, show through.

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

2016 Medley #20

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

PRESCHOOL, EXCUSES, AND IRONY

Excuses won’t help children get head start

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

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

Ober’s response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attacking the Public in Public Education

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

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

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

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

READING

Bringing Back Some Teacher Control to Reading Instruction

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

Let teachers exercise their professional judgement.

Let teachers teach.

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

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

Yes, Long Experience Makes Better Teachers

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

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

…Here are the report’s four central findings:

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

TEST AND PUNISH

Arizona Fails its Children!

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICS

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

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

What a hypocrite.

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

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

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