Category Archives: PositiveRelationships

Helping Students Heal

The education blogosphere, as well as the general media, is full of articles dealing with opening schools in the fall, keeping students safe, social distancing by lowering class size, doubling the number of buses, and other, expensive fixes. Additionally, schools will have to take into consideration the mental and emotional health of students and deal with the multiple traumas they will carry with them.

As of this writing (June 3, 2020), the death toll from COVID-19 in the US is over 105,000 which has left hundreds of thousands of Americans grieving for their lost loved ones. Many have had to postpone or forego funerals and memorials in order to stay safe themselves. Among those who have lost family members are thousands of children who, already traumatized by the fear of illness or the loss of contact with their friends and teachers, are further hurt by the very real loss of parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, or friends.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic trauma, too…and with economic trauma comes social upheaval as families living from paycheck to paycheck start to panic when the food runs out…when the rent or mortgage is due…when the insurance coverage ends.

And we can’t talk about social upheaval without acknowledging the excessive number of deaths of Black Americans and the damage to communities of color by the racism present in Amerian society…racism which is exacerbated by economic trauma and political cowardice. The current political upheaval around the country will also traumatize students before they return to school in the fall, no matter how much their parents try to protect them from it.

Public schools have always been a stable force in students’ lives and when the next school year begins — whenever that is — they will have to take on the additional role of helping students heal from multiple traumas.

How can teachers and schools help their students and likely their families, too, heal after the pandemic and the societal upheaval?


First, cancel the state (and other) standardized tests. We already know that standardized test scores reflect the economic conditions in which a child is raised. We can just as easily rank schools and children using their family income if ranking must be done; the results will be the same. In any event, subjecting children to the added stress of standardized tests which for some determines whether they go on to the next grade is too painful to even consider.

Why shouldn’t high stakes testing be abandoned next year?

It would also waste precious instructional time, waste resources, and provide meaningless bad data. Look– if testing really worked, if it really told us all the things that guys like Toch want to claim it does, don’t you think teachers would be clamoring for it? If it were an actual valuable tool, don’t you think that teachers, struggling with spotty resources against unprecedented challenges, would be hollering, “If I’m going to try to do this, at least find a way to get me those invaluable Big Standardized Test!”

But no– in the midst of this hard shot to the foundations of public education, a lot of professional educators are taking a hard look at what is really essential, what they really need to get the job done. The Big Standardized Test didn’t make the cut. We don’t need the “smart testing,” especially since it isn’t very smart anyway. We just need smart teachers with the resources they need to do the work.

Note the last sentence, “…with the resources they need to do the work.” Canceling the tests will save money, too…millions of dollars. With the likelihood of budget cuts coming, that’s money that we can’t afford to spend on wasteful tests.


Second, build the new curriculum around healing…and that starts with recess and free time.

A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do

Play is urgently relevant to the new education world that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. “Play can mitigate stress,” Dr. Yogman tells us. “The executive function skills that kids develop through play can promote resilience, and play can restore safe and nurturing relationships with parents, teachers and other children, which also promotes resilience. That’s got to be our goal when kids get back to school. At every level, in our schools, homes, and communities, our social structures have to acknowledge the magnitude of stress all families, especially those with young children will experience, and design programs that mitigate that, including lots of physical activity and play.”

Schools should focus on developing good relationships between teachers and students. My 2020 Teachers New Year’s Resolution #4 was Develop Positive Relationships. In it, I quoted Educational Historian Jack Schneider,

But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.

Now, more than ever, students need consistent, caring adults in their lives. Teachers can be among those adults.

To paraphrase Schneider, above, yes, it matters that we teach reading, math, science, and history. But it also matters that teachers know their students and can spot children in need. It matters that teachers can relate to young people — see them, hear them, and care for them. Learning improves when teachers and students form personal relationships.


Stop sending needed public funds to unaccountable private institutions. We can’t afford to support three competing school systems (public, charters, and vouchers) with one pot of public funding. It’s time we direct our focus on investing in our public school system.

Research | Public Funds Public Schools

A wide range of research shows that private school voucher programs are an ineffective use of public funds…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Improve Student Achievement…

Private School Vouchers Divert Needed Funding from Public Schools…

Private School Voucher Programs Lack Accountability…

Absence of Oversight in Private School Voucher Programs Leads to Corruption and Waste…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Help Students with Disabilities…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Protect Against Discrimination…

Private School Vouchers Exacerbate Segregation…

Universal Private School Voucher Programs Don’t Work…

Charters, as well, have proven to be an experiment that has not lived up to its promises.

Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Says

The evidence on the effectiveness of charter schools in raising student achievement is, at best, mixed. There is no consistent evidence that charter schools are the answer to our education problems. A research literature that focuses on finding and studying “high-quality” charter schools naturally misleads the public about the average impact of all charter schools and demonstrates that academic performance in most charter schools is underwhelming.

At best, charters do no better than real public schools. It’s time to move the funding back to public schools where it belongs.

And yes, this means that there needs to be a change in leadership in Indianapolis and Washington. In order to divert public funds back to public education, and make sure there’s enough money for our public schools — aka our future — we need to throw out the anti-public education politicians. Elections matter.


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Listen to this – 2020 #1 – Wearing a Mask Edition

Meaningful quotes…


Schools have closed for the coronavirus pandemic and most will likely not open again this school year. Many school systems have gone to online learning, but because a significant percentage of students have little or no access to the internet, some students are not being served.

How can schools best serve all students (including students with special learning or physical needs) and what happens next year when some students have had the benefit of online learning experiences and others have not? Do we test all the kids to see where they are? Do we retain kids? (answer: NO!) The coronavirus pandemic, like other disasters and disruptions, hurt most, the kids who need school the most and have the least.

From Steven Singer
in Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

This just underlines the importance of legislation. Special education students have IDEA. Poor students have nothing. There is no right to education for them at all.

From Steve Hinnefeld and Pedro Noguera
in Time for ‘educational recovery planning’

…the massive and sudden shift to online learning is exposing huge gaps in opportunity. Some communities lack reliable internet service. Many families are on the wrong side of the digital divide. As Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said, a parent and three school-age children may share a single device, often a smartphone.

“The kids who have the least are getting the least now,” UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera told Hechinger Report. “They will, in fact, be behind the kids who are learning still.”

From Peter Greene
in Should We Just Hold Students Back Next Year?

Retention in grade doesn’t help — even in the face of nation-wide disruption.

…We have been suffering for years now under the notion that kindergarten should be the new first grade; next fall, we could give students room to breathe by making first grade the new first grade. In other words, instead of moving the students back a grade to fit the structure of the school, we could shift the structure of the school to meet the actual needs of the students.

From Nancy Flanagan
in If Technology Can’t Save Us, What Will?

Most important of all…kids need their teachers. They need human interaction which improves learning — and positive teacher/student relationships, even more. See also A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, below.

It turns out that technology cannot, will not replace the human touch, when it comes to learning that is worthwhile and sticks in our students’ brains and hearts. We already knew that, of course. But it’s gratifying to know that school—bricks and mortar, white paste and whiteboards, textbooks and senior proms—is deeply missed.

Public education is part of who we are, as a representative democracy. We’ve never gotten it right—we’ve let down millions of kids over the past century or two and done lots of flailing. There are curriculum wars that never end and bitter battles over equity, the teacher pipeline and funding streams.

But still. We need school.


From Rob Boston
in The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now

Science is a process, not an outcome. We must improve our science education so students understand science. We ignore science at our peril.

The rejection of science and refusal to see facts as the non-partisan things that they are have consequences, as Jerry Falwell Jr. – and his students at Liberty University in Virginia – are painfully learning. Put simply, viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They will wreak their havoc either way. 


From Diane Ravitch
in Noted education scholar says parents now more aware of vital role of schools, by Maureen Downey.

The profit motive won’t create better tests. Teachers who know their students will.

If federal and state leaders gave any thought to change, they would drop the federal mandate for annual testing because it is useless and pointless. Students should be tested by their teachers, who know what they taught. If we can’t trust teachers to know their students, why should we trust distant corporations whose sole motive is profit and whose products undermine the joy of teaching and learning?


From Jitu Brown, National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance
in One Question: What Policy Change Would Have the Biggest Impact on Alleviating Poverty?

The fact that poor children are suffering more during the current world crisis than wealthy students should not be surprising. We have always neglected our poor children.

According to the United Nations, America ranks twenty-first in education globally among high-income nations. When you remove poverty, the United States is number two. This tells me that America knows how to educate children, but refuses to educate the poor, the black, brown, and Native American.


From Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC,
in Making Connections. There’s No Such Thing as Online Preschool

Using public dollars intended for early childhood education to give children access to a 15-minute-per-day online program does not expand access to preschool. It doesn’t address the crisis in the supply of quality, affordable child care. It doesn’t help parents participate in the workforce. And it doesn’t help families choose an “alternative” option for or version of pre-K because it is something else entirely. To what extent we want to encourage parents to access online literacy and math curricula to help their 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for school is a conversation for another column. In this one, the only question is whether these technology-based programs can be “preschool”—and the answer is no.


From P.L. Thomas
in Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)

Proponents of whole language and balanced literacy have never said that phonics wasn’t important. What they do say, however, is that other things are important, too.

Test reading is reductive (and lends itself to direct phonics instruction, hint-hint), but it is a pale measure of deep and authentic reading, much less any student’s eagerness to read.

Because of the accountability movement, then, and because of high-pressure textbook reading programs, we have for decades ignored a simple fact of research: the strongest indicator of reading growth in students is access to books in the home (not phonics programs).


From Russ Walsh
in Hula Dancing, Singing and a Teacher’s Impact

Over the years I’ve had several former students relate to me what they remembered from my class. I had a student tell me how important an art project was as a connection to his father. Another student thanked me for helping her during a difficult time in her family. A student who grew up to be a teacher and taught in my district told me that she was reading the same book to her students that I read to her class. Many students, in fact, talked about my reading aloud to them as the most important thing they remember. And a student remembered how I had trusted her to clean off the top of my desk every day after school.

I never had a student come to me and thank me for teaching them how to multiply…or spell “terrible”…or take a standardized test…or count syllables in a word. I take that as a compliment.

The messages we send to kids last a lifetime and they are not often about the times table or coordinating conjunctions or how many planets are in the skies. It is the personal messages and connections that are remembered. It is the belief a teacher instills that we can do that resonates through the years. It is that one book that made a special impression that we remember. That is a lesson we all must take into every interaction we have with a child.


From John Prine
in Hello in There

Thanks, and good night, JP.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”


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2020 Teachers’ New Year’s Resolutions: 4. Focus on developing positive relationships

2020 Teachers’ New Year’s Resolutions
4. Develop Positive Relationships

It’s a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while often broken, can be redefined as goals toward which we should strive.


  • Focus on developing positive relationships in the classroom.

Economists Ate My School – Why Defining Teaching as a Transaction is Destroying Our Society

Teachers are the most important in-school factor when it comes to student success in school. Out of school factors, especially those related to poverty, have a greater impact. Teachers, however, do not have any control over things like…

  • prenatal care
  • inadequate medical, dental or vision care
  • food and housing insecurity
  • environmental toxins such as lead
  • family stresses
  • neighborhood characteristics.

Teachers do have control over the relationships they maintain with their students. Measuring the impact of those good relationships between teachers and students can’t be reduced to a number. It’s something that teachers and their students can feel on an emotional level, and students respond well to teachers who care about them.

Resolution #4: Focus on developing positive relationships in the classroom.

Teaching is not a transaction. It is relational.

Teaching is not about inputs and outputs. It’s about curiosity and knowledge.

It shouldn’t be governed by market forces that dehumanize all those involved into mere widgets to be manipulated in a systemic framework. Teaching should be governed by empathy, art and science.

The driving force behind any education system must be what’s best for the child. And that “best” ultimately must be defined by parents and children.

The goal of education can never be to prepare kids for a career. It must be to eradicate ignorance, to quench curiosity, to aid self-expression and guide students toward becoming whatever it is they want to become.

Measuring learning outcomes by standardized test scores can never achieve this goal. That’s like trying to monetize a rainbow or putting the ocean in a cage.

School privatization can never achieve this goal. That’s like treating human beings like cash, like thinking the rules of football can govern architecture.

And treating teachers like worker drones can never achieve this goal. You can’t entrust a whole class of people with the most precious thing you have – your children – and then treat them like dirt.

The Ed-Debate is Missing “Relationships”

Jack Schneider (a former high school teacher and the founder of University Paideia, a pre-college program for under-served students in the San Francisco Bay Area) said that relationships really matter! He wrote What’s missing from education policy debate

But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.

The goal of education should be to build lifelong learners and good, productive citizens, not test-takers. Characteristics like perseverance, motivation, and self-discipline will be of greater benefit than parsing sentences or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers.

Academics are important, but it’s who we are and who our students grow to be that determines our success in life…much more than the facts we know or our score on a standardized test.

Positive Relationships Make Children (and Adults) Happier!

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement

School climate and student achievement should never compete with each other, according to Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at the University of Southern California.

“By promoting a positive climate, schools can allow greater equality in educational opportunities, decrease socioeconomic inequalities, and enable more social mobility.”

Astor and three colleagues recently combed through research dating back to 2000 – 78 studies of school systems in the U.S. and overseas – and found substantial evidence that positive school climates contribute to academic achievement and can improve outcomes for students, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Want to make your school happier? Build positive relationships with your students!

Interested in more? Read Astor’s report…

A Research Synthesis of the Associations Between Socioeconomic Background, Inequality, School Climate, and Academic Achievement


  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.


  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”


  • Educate Yourself.

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Listen to This – Nineteen for 2019

Nineteen meaningful comments and quotes from 2019 from my blog and others…


Making Laws About Teaching

Speaker Bosma, Qualifications Matter!

Jennifer McCormick

Perplexing but not surprising- people who are most judgmental & outspoken about the qualifications necessary to perform a job are typically those people who have never done the job.

Hey Kindergarten, Get Ready for the Children.

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

Peter Greene

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem. The solution is not to declare, “We had better lean on these little slackers a little harder and get them away from their families a little sooner.” Instead, try asking how your kindergarten program could be shifted to meet the needs that your students actually have. 


Punishing third graders

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

Nancy Flanagan

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…

Blaming Teachers

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

Paul Murphy

As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade.


The Intent of Indiana’s Voucher Program

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Doug Masson

…that the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

Why is this even a thing?

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

Dan Holub, executive director of the ITSA

Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training…

Retention-in-grade Doesn’t Work (Still)

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

Stu Bloom

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?


Reading on Grade Level…

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

Mitchell Robinson

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.


The Relationship Between Teacher and Child

It’s All About Growth

Stu Bloom

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.


Reading Aloud Instead of Worksheets

Father’s Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

Stu Bloom

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.


Just say “NO!” to Online Preschool

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Matthew Lynch

Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens


Science in the United States

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.

Robert Gebelhoff

This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

Public Schools for the Common Good

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

Rob Boston

As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.


Read Aloud to your Children

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Kelly at Happy You Happy Family

The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. (More on that in a minute.)

Misusing Tests


Sheila Kennedy

The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

The times they are a’ changin’.

Greta Thunberg’s full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit

Greta Thunberg

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

The Teacher Exodus

Educator: There’s A Mass Teacher Exodus, Not Shortage

Tim Slekar

When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It’s not. Conditions would get better. They’re not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It’s declining. That can’t be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don’t support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that’s why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren’t they coming.


Billionaire Busybodies

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

Nancy Bailey

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.


It’s Poverty

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

Stu Egan

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.


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Opposing Mediocre Minds: Einstein on Education

Today, March 14 is Pi day (3.14) and the birthday (#140) of Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein is remembered as the physicist who developed the theories of special, and general relativity.

the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers…

…that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity.

He came to the U.S. in the early thirties and, with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and the accompanying anti-semitism, he decided to stay (after short stays in both Belgium and England). He was already internationally known, having won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect.

Princeton offered him a job and he became a U.S. citizen in 1940 (while also retaining his Swiss citizenship).


Einstein was more than a world famous scientist. He was also someone who examined philosophy, religion, and politics and much of his writing has applications for students and teachers.

The quotes below (from Wikiquote) reflect the universality of Einstein’s thought and apply to education and learning.


It is ironic that the first quote I’ve listed here is one on the value of science institutions to nations. This week I read that our current administration has requested deep cuts in science funding.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. funding for science.

The administration is asking for…

  • a 13% cut for the National Institute of Health.
  • an 8% cut for NASA
  • a 12% cut to the National Science Foundation
  • 17% less for the Office of Science in the Department of Energy
  • A cut of 1/3 for the EPA overall and cuts of 40% for science and technical programs and 66% for air and energy research (climate change)

It would be nice if someone would stop the war against knowledge.

Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If therefore, we wish to promote culture we have to combine and to organize institutions with our own power and means.

As long as we’re looking at the behavior of our current government, here are a couple of things Einstein said that are important to our current national atmosphere.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

Force always attracts men of low morality.


Here are three thoughts from Einstein that relate directly to our overuse and misuse of testing. He understood that testing isn’t learning. Schools ought to be places where opportunities are provided for learners to explore the wonders of personal and intellectual growth, not the learning of facts for a test.

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.


Einstein’s experience reinforces the fact that relationships in education are as important as the content.

School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave…I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement.

After reading the following quote I thought it would be nice to be able to gather all my former students together in one place and apologize (on behalf of myself and the state’s curriculum) for not letting them have more personal involvement in their growth.

It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.

Teachers want to be paid enough to live on, but for the most part, we follow our career in order to help the next generation through the life-bumps on the way to adulthood. I don’t like the word “calling” when it comes to teaching, mostly because this gives legislators the idea that we don’t care about getting paid enough to live on. But teachers are, for the most part, “called” to do their work because they love children and learning.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

The beauty of science is that, not only does it begin in wonder, it also ends in wonder. Often non-science teachers are afraid to teach science. This is, in part, becuase their own sense of wonder has been lost…and that is too bad.

All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.

It’s often said that children become less curious as they go through school. Is that because we teachers do something to stifle their curiosity?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.


What is the very purpose of schooling? Do we teach students so they can “grow up to be something” or so they can grow as human beings?

It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person.


If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.


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Post #1,000 – What Matters to Students

[Note: My home blog is at I started my blog in 2006 and this is the 1000 post.]


This is entry #1,000 for this blog.

My very first post on this blog was titled, as was the blog at that time, On Beyond Thirty. I had just finished my 30th year as an elementary school teacher in my local school system, and was anxious to express the frustrations I felt at some the changes happening to public schools throughout the nation. At the time, however, I didn’t realize how much more difficult things were going to get.

For the most part, over the last 999 posts, I’ve focused on the damage “reformers’ have done to public schools, with an occasional nod to music and baseball.


Over the 40 years I’ve spent in public education either as a classroom teacher, a pull-out reading specialist, or a volunteer, I’ve taught about 1,000 students (not counting my college years as an intern and student teaching).

I started teaching at a time before computers and the internet. In my first blog entry I wrote,

…my first class of third graders had no clue what a personal computer was, and had never heard of an iPod, an SUV or a hybrid car. They listened to music on records made of vinyl, or on cassette tapes, watched movies on film projectors in theaters or on TV broadcast, didn’t have cable TV, and would have thought that “internet” had something to do with moving fish from the end of the hook to the boat.

In those days teachers were aware that educational fads came and went. Each year, it seemed we were introduced to some new idea which would help us make every child a success. None of those ideas worked for everyone, of course, but most of us tried everything and kept the parts that worked for us. We all knew that there would always be some children who would challenge our abilities to teach the curriculum.

In that way, our teaching philosophies and teaching methods changed and grew. Today, in Indiana, experience doesn’t count for much according to the state legislature, but we knew that a good school had a mix of young teachers and veterans. We learned from each other, and our students benefited.


Over the last 40 years one educational concept has helped me more than any other; Building good relationships between teacher and student. Students benefit when teachers build positive relationships in the classroom. In Relationships Matter, I wrote,

The goal of education should be to build lifelong learners, not test takers. Skills like perseverance will be of greater benefit than parsing sentences or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers.

Academics are important, but it’s who we are and who our students grow to be that determines our success in life…much more than the facts we know or our score on the SAT or other test.

The concept of good relationships came home to me late last year when I received a visit from a former student. I wrote about that in Tests Don’t Measure Everything.

The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) is currently running a social media campaign focusing on things in public education which work (click here). The student I wrote about in Tests Don’t Measure Everything wrote her story which will be published on the NEIFPE blog at the end of February. In it she said,

Right after Christmas that year, my family had a particularly hard weekend. My mom and dad fought a lot, but we were all used to it and didn’t think much of it. Things seemed different, however, and we were all old enough to recognize it. They sat us down and told us they were getting a divorce. We were also moving, which meant changing schools and leaving our home behind. I was devastated. My family was falling apart and everything I knew and loved was about to change.

That Monday, I went back to school. I was sad and withdrawn. I remember sitting with my sister at lunch instead of my friends. She was a fifth grader and equally despondent. There was nothing we could do to fix our parent’s problems. We would walk home quietly together and then sit up in her room. Each day was never ending. By Wednesday of that week, I was a mess. I was holding in so much, and there wasn’t anyone to talk to. I had stopped participating in class and withdrew socially. Mr. Bloom knew it immediately.

I am sure there was a moment where the other kids saw Mr. Bloom come over to me and kneel down by my desk. I am sure someone came in and watched the classroom for him as he quietly walked me to the adjoining room. I don’t remember any of that. But that day was a defining moment in my childhood. As we went and sat down in the other classroom, he quietly asked me what was wrong. I remember that being all I needed to hear…he knew I was hurting and I began to sob. At that point, I didn’t care. He didn’t need to say anything because what I needed was to be held and rocked like the broken child that I was. This man, this father, this teacher recognized that I was going through something horrible. My world was upside down and he knew it. It was everything I needed at that exact moment. I needed to feel safe and comforted by a grown up I trusted. My parents were dealing with their own emotions, and I felt so alone. He listened when I told him what was happening at home. He explained that it wasn’t anything I had done, and he told me that it would get better…it was exactly what I needed to be told at exactly the right time.

What may seem insignificant to an outsider was life changing for me, even at nine years old. I had enough common sense even then to realize things were going to be a lot different after this school year. But I had someone who cared and made the rest of that school year awesome. School was my escape. I joke to my mom even now that Mr. Bloom’s talk saved me from years in therapy. He was the one reliable person in my life that year. His class was my safe place and he made my days normal. For this I am forever grateful.

I remembered that incident when I talked with her, but I had no idea that it was as important to her as it was…so important that she remembered it in such detail 30 years later.

I also remember a letter I got from a student. It was written from prison. I wrote about it 2 years ago.

The adult Joe wrote to tell me that his father had recently died. He said that, at the end of the year in third grade, I had helped him create a Father’s Day card. I remembered that. It was common for us to make Mother’s Day cards in May each year, but Father’s Day takes place after school ends for the summer. For some reason, I decided that particular year, that I would have my class make Father’s Day cards as well. I don’t think I had ever done it before…and I don’t remember doing it again. I told the students to save the cards after they got home for the summer…and to give them to their fathers (or another important male relative) on Father’s Day.

Joe’s letter reminisced about the Father’s Day card. He wrote how I had helped him think of things to write, spell words he didn’t know, and illustrate the card. Then he told me that the card he made that day was the last contact he ever had with his father. For that young man the fact that I had decided to make Father’s Day cards with my class became a significant life fact a few years later.

I wish I could say that I was instrumental in the lives of each of the one thousand students who passed under my educational care, but, of course, I wasn’t. There were students who I had trouble with, and with whom I was unable to develop the kind of relationship they needed. Those are the students I failed. Those are the students to whom I need to say,

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t the person you needed at that time in your life.”

As the adult in the room, it was my fault…my weakness…my responsibility. It was my failing that I was unable to help some of the children I worked with. I know that their letters to me, should they ever write, would be very different.


School curriculum is important. Teacher effectiveness is important. Maintained facilities are important. Sufficient resources are important.

But the relationship that teachers build with their students makes or breaks the learning process.

In his post, A Bill of Rights for School Children (not yet published), Russ Walsh includes ten “rights” to which students are entitled, including a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe neighborhood school, and the right to developmentally appropriate instruction. He also includes,

Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person. [emphasis added]

In their rush to blame teachers for low student achievement “reformers” fail to understand that a score on a standardized test isn’t all there is to school. They don’t understand that the human interaction between student and teacher is every bit as important as knowing who invented the spinning jenny or when World War I ended. I don’t believe that any of my students would ever write to tell me that they were glad I taught them math facts, how to spell their, there, and they’re, or how to fill in circles on a bubble test.

When Henry Adams, great-grandson of the second president, and grandson of the sixth, wrote,

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean influence as a “test facilitator.”


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2014 Medley #13

Relationships, Teaching Profession,
Segregation, Charters


A friend wrote the following about a former student of hers. Her entire statement is proof of the power of positive relationships in the classroom. The goal of education should be to build lifelong learners, not test takers. Skills like perseverance will be of greater benefit than parsing sentences or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers.

Academics are important, but it’s who we are and who our students grow to be that determines our success in life…much more than the facts we know or our score on the SAT or other test.

“Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.”

One of the most wonderful things I have had the opportunity to experience as a teacher is watching one of my former students grow into a strong and beautiful young woman. This one student has emailed me a few times a year to keep me updated on school and her life since she moved on from my 6th grade class. Now she is graduating high school!

I went back to read the very first email she had sent me in August 2008. She made a promise to me in that email that she would try harder and she would always remember all the “lectures” (this was “real” talk) I gave and use them. She promised this because “I know you cared.” She made good on her promises!


Teaching and learning are not market transactions…

Four decades ago more than 20% of college graduates finished their studies with a degree in education. Indeed, when I received my teaching certificate in 1975 (a few years later than the data in the chart below) there was a glut of elementary school teachers. I sent out well over 100 resumes (with information about my 4.0 graduate school GPA) to public school systems in the Midwest. I received three responses…and from those three, I was able to get 2 interviews…and eventually one (1) job.

That’s all changed.

With all the “reformer’s” hype about “bad teachers” and “high quality teachers” America is systematically destroying the teaching profession. While bemoaning the fact that teachers are terrible, people like Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush and some members of the Indiana State Board of Education are supporting the placement of untrained people in public school classrooms.

Is this attitude of “reformers” simple stupidity? malice? jealousy? greed?

The graphic below shows a drop from about 20% in 1970 to about 6% today in college students graduating with education degrees. If you factor in the fact that nearly half of all beginning teachers never make it to their fifth year the number is even smaller. If someone had purposely designed a plan to destroy the profession of teaching in the public schools of America they couldn’t have done a better job. Where will tomorrow’s teachers come from? Perhaps we won’t need any.

See also:
Digest of Educational Statistics
Fewer PA college students want to be teachers
Education Majors in PA. State Universities Drop 31% – Corbett’s Mission Accomplished
Students hesitant to pursue teaching
Enrollment falling among education majors
Hard economic lesson: Education majors decline: Financial, political factors discourage would-be teachers
Education Majors Earn Less Regardless of Career
Number of teachers in training down statewide
The 5 Worst College Majors If You Want to Make Money


American schools are now more segregated then they have been in the past 50 years. Charter schools have contributed to the increase in segregation, but most is due to housing patterns.

The two articles below discuss the successes and failures of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

Michigan 1 of 20 states with most-segregated schools

Segregation is still widespread at American public schools, 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling, a new report shows.

And it no longer impacts just black and white students.

Black and Latino students are more likely to attend schools with mostly poor students, while white and Asian students are more likely to attend middle-class schools, according to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Are Segregated Schools a Relic?

The 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education is a propitious time to ask if the landmark decision has achieved its primary goal. In a provocative essay, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom acknowledge that the number of “majority-minority” schools has increased by several percentage points over the past two decades (“Brown at 60: An American Success Story,”The Wall Street Journal, May 13). But they assert that it is logistically impossible to entirely eliminate segregated schools unless mass busing is instituted.

Rucker Johnson has an interesting historical perspective on how reduced segregation improved the achievement of minority students while not harming the achievement of white students.


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

Leonie Haimson had this to say about charters in New York…

…charter schools are publicly funded but governed by private corporate boards, and do NOT have to follow the same laws or rules that public schools do.

…Charters are not governed by any democratically elected body, and are able to enact extreme disciplinary policies, and often exhibit high suspension and student attrition rates.

…Charter schools have also used their private status to evade federal constitutional and statutory protections for employees and students.

Everything that Charter Schools Have Taught Traditional Educators About Building Great Schools

An editorial cartoon…

The Money

A Reader Explains the Purpose of Charter School Waiting Lists and Lotteries

The bottom line for charter administrators and boards is money, not students or parents as this comment by a former charter employee shows…

I once recommended to the principal that we stop taking applications after a certain point. I had two reasons for suggesting this: 1) We were giving families false hope, as anyone other than the first five to ten on the waiting list had no realistic chance of getting in, and 2) We could make better use of the time and money being spent on processing applications for students we knew would never be accepted, and on marketing to more families when we were already at capacity. His response was that we needed to keep adding as many names as possible to the waiting list, so that we would have numbers to back up our organization’s efforts to demonstrate the need for more charter schools.

Agassi’s School Partner Aims for $1 Billion With Firm

There’s not much about students in this article about Andre Agassi’s charter school plans. They talk about high expectations, but my guess is that their talking about money. The point is once again that the goal is greed, not student learning.

The goal is to generate a profit for investors while serving a higher public purpose, said Turner, principal and chief executive officer of the new firm. Public-impact investing, which dedicates funds to issues such as education, community development, the environment and health care, has been increasing and is likely to climb further this year, according to JPMorgan Chase and Co. and the Global Impact Investing Network, which studied 125 companies that manage a total of $46 billion in such investments.

‘It’s Proven’

The Politics

Jeb Bush bashes traditional public schools (again)

Jeb Bush is running for president and he’s filling the airwaves with half truths about charter schools and public schools. The bad news is that people will hear and believe what he says.

He didn’t, of course, mention that schools in the [charter] network have a reputation for higher suspension and attrition rates than traditional schools in their districts.

…He didn’t mention the recent analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University that concluded that students at charter schools in Chicago actually don’t perform any better on state-mandated standardized tests than students in traditional public schools.

…What he didn’t mention was a big charter school study last year that concluded that Florida charter schools had math and reading test scores that were either no better or worse than traditional public schools.

…he didn’t mention that research showed private and public schools don’t educate the same populations of students and that many private schools that accept vouchers have high attrition rates and don’t have the same “accountability” measures involving high-stakes standardized testing that is required in public schools.

…He also didn’t mention a recent report by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, funded by pro-voucher groups, that concluded that Milwaukee’s voucher program, the oldest and largest in the country, didn’t affect student test scores but did improve graduation rates. But it should be noted that more than half of the students who enrolled in the voucher program dropped out, which, one would be reasonable to assume, affected the graduation rates.


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

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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