Posted in Due Process, PDK, Personal History, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Testing, US DOE

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

Today is the twelfth anniversary of this blog (see my main blog page, here). In the last dozen years of blogging, the education world hasn’t changed significantly. I started writing in the middle of the No Child Left Behind era, didn’t stop during Race to the Top, and continue now in the era of Betsy the Billionaire.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

I should probably rename this blog, “The Dead Horse Blog,” “Think Like Sisyphus,”  “The Wall: Beat Your Head Here,” or maybe simply “Belabored.”

On the other hand, my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year’s “Teachers’ Spring” will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I’ll keep going…just in case someone is listening.

Here are a dozen things I wrote in the early years of this blog…mostly about things that haven’t changed yet.

How to Guarantee School Improvement – September 2009

And here’s another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind…

Legislators, other politicians, and policymakers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.

If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America’s public school system would become the envy of the world.

 

Teaching is Doing – January 2014

Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren’t cut out for teaching…or that it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn’t realize that it’s not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can’t handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that “those who can’t, teach” has it backward. Teaching is doing…and it’s those who can’t who must move on to some other, less important line of work.

 

American Schools are Not Failing – October 2014

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America’s public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle-class families.

Politicians and policymakers can’t solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students when the problems don’t go away.

American schools are not failing…American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.

 

If I Could Go Back and Do It Again – March 2010

This quote names my biggest teaching frustration, written a few months before I retired. Now, eight years later, when I think about the years I spent teaching I try to remember the successes I had – and there were many – but it’s hard to forget the failures. I regret 1) not being able to help all the children I wanted to help, and 2) my failure to reach all the students I should have been able to reach.

My biggest teaching frustration has been allowing myself to do things in the classroom which, while mandated by federal, state and/or local authorities, were things that I knew were not in the best interests of my students.

 

Where Are All the Failing Schools – August 2010

This quote refers to the PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitude Toward the Public Schools. The most recent poll put the respondents who grade their school an A, B, or C, at 81%. Local schools continue to poll well, and even higher for those who know the schools best – parents of public school students.

A majority of 82% of the respondents to the poll do NOT see their local schools as failing giving them a grade of A, B or C. 49% scored their local schools as an A or a B. In other words, the school we know best we score higher than the schools we don’t know. We’re very negative about the quality of schools nationwide. But if such a high percentage of people are giving their own schools average to above average ratings where are all the schools that are doing so poorly?

 

Time For Some Therapy – March 2011

We’ve become a nation of cruel, angry, screamers. The national discussion has become nothing less than a national tantrum.

There’s no room for compromise…no room for discussion. There’s no time for sadness at the death of another human being. There’s no place for cooperation…no desire to work towards a common goal or define a common good.

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.

 

The Status Quo Hasn’t Changed – April 2011

When the so-called reformers — the Gates’s, the Broads, the Duncans — rail against the status quo they’re referring to nothing that exists today. The real status quo is a killing curriculum based on mindless bubbles on a test. That’s today’s status quo…and that’s no way to educate children.

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All – March 2009

For the last three days, I have been administering the Indiana state standardized tests or ISTEP+ to students with learning disabilities. These tests are not valid for these students because they do not measure what they claim to measure.

The test maker, McGraw Hill, claims that the test shows what students have learned and provides diagnostic information for remediation.

However, for these students the tests in their disability area are so difficult that they have 1) no hope of passing, 2) little chance of doing well enough to get a score that would provide anything more than a generalized list of their weak areas.

Students with learning disabilities are enrolled in special education because they are not able to perform at “grade level” in their area of disability. The purpose of special education is to provide extra support for the students so that they will be able to learn as much as they are capable of.

Simply put, the standardized tests that we are giving are not appropriate for all students. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum or test.

 

It’s Time For an Educated Secretary of Education – January 2010

For the last 34 years, I’ve searched for ways to improve my teaching and for ways to reach hard to reach students. The challenge is always there and what we as teachers do affects the lives of children in ways we can’t imagine. It’s frustrating that the people who control what goes on in the public schools of America (in the form of standardized tests, funding, etc) don’t have a clue. Am I self-righteous about my quest to improve my teaching? Yes…of course I am. I have worked hard to learn what I have learned about education and children. To have a basketball player with a degree in Sociology, who NEVER ATTENDED OR WORKED IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL and who is NOT a teacher, lead the nation’s public schools is, dare I say it, irresponsible on the part of the federal government.

 

Follow the Money – March 2010

When you scratch the surface of the current attacks on public education you’ll find big corporations (e.g. Pearson, McGraw-Hill) and wealthy businessmen (e.g. Bill Gates, Eli Broad). There’s money to be made in the new education industry – charters and private schools, vouchers programs, and the re-segregating of the American public school system.

Poverty is still the main issue that WE as teachers have to deal with nationwide.

 

Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day – April 2010

If you don’t read aloud to your students EVERY DAY you’re not doing enough. Every elementary teacher…no matter what grade…should read aloud to his/her students each day. See Jim Trelease’s Web Site and the Read-Aloud Handbook.

 

Due Process: Not Anymore – May 2010

In 2011 the Indiana General Assembly removed due process which gave teachers some job protection.

There’s no doubt that there are inadequate teachers in our schools…and there’s no doubt that teacher’s unions protect their members (which is what unions are supposed to do). However, in Indiana, at least, unions can only guarantee that teachers receive due process. It’s the responsibility of the school leaders, the administrators and school board, to prove just cause that a teacher is incompetent. Believe it or not, teachers unions do not want bad teachers teaching. Tenure in Indiana means that a teacher has to have a hearing in which their inadequacies are proven…they get their day in court to defend themselves against the accusations of those who would fire them. A fair hearing…day in court…confronting the accusers…that’s how we do things in the US.

 

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Posted in Article Medleys, Duncan, Lead, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, reform, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

2018 Medley #22

Still Poisoning Our Children,
Public Education, Teachers Get Angry, Vouchers,
School Improvement,
Arne Duncan Wasn’t a Good EdSec (but you knew that). 

 

WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR POISONING OUR CHILDREN?

Still a problem and still outrageous: Too many kids can’t drink the water in their schools

History will likely reflect negatively on how we Americans have treated our children. Take their health, for example.

We know that lead causes damage, especially to young children. It causes things like developmental delay, learning difficulties, hearing loss, and seizures (It’s also not that great for adults causing high blood pressure, mood disorders and reproductive problems). There is no safe level of lead in the bloodstream.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on military defense, but can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning at home. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.

…it’s not just in Michigan: A new U.S. government report says millions of children were potentially exposed to unsafe drinking water at their schools, but nobody really knows how many. Why? Because many states don’t bother running the tests.

A July 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which surveyed school districts across the country on testing for lead in drinking water in 2017, found:

● 41 percent of districts, serving 12 million students, had not tested for lead in the 12 months before completing the survey.

● 43 percent of districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead. Of those, 37 percent found elevated levels and reduced or eliminated exposure.

And then there was this: 16 percent of the districts replied to the nationally representative survey by saying that they did not know whether they had tested.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A RIGHT, A PUBLIC GOOD, OR A CONSUMER PRODUCT?

Why School Reform Flounders

Is education a Right, a Public Good, an American tradition, a vehicle for fixing social inequities, an imposition on non-White/non-middle class children, or a public utility? Is it a private matter, a religious affair, a consumer product, or a national security imperative?

It would seem that the Indiana Constitution, quoted above, considers it a right.

Here is an interesting read about public education and its place in our society…

As historians like Prof. Cuban have long pointed out, the question of whether or not education is a basic right needs to take its place in line with all the other fundamental questions about education. Is it a right? Is it a public utility? Is it a tool of class domination?

 

TEACHERS GET ANGRY

The Teachers Movevement: Arizona Lawmakers Cut Education Budgets. Then Teachers Got Angry

It’s been a long time coming, but teachers are finally standing up for themselves and their students. Read this excellent piece on the Arizona teacher uprising.

The attacks seemed only to galvanize teachers. “They called us socialists, Marxists, communists! I’m a Republican!”

ANTI-PUBLIC EDUCATION: FUNDING

Arizona Supreme Court Blocks Ballot Initiative to Fund Public Education

Years of budget slashing, tax cutting, and lack of support for the public good, has left Arizona schools underfunded and struggling.

Paying taxes for the common good? That time has, apparently, passed us by.

From Jan Resseger

Paying taxes for the common good. What a novel idea these days—and something blocked last week by the Arizona Supreme Court. Failing to connect the taxes we pay with what the money buys, many of us find it easy to object to more taxes, but the case of Arizona makes the arithmetic clear. After slashing taxes for years, Arizona doesn’t have enough money to pay for public schools and universities. Not enough for the barest essentials.

 

TEACHERS MUST STAY ANGRY

Standing Up

The test-and-punish, micromanagement, and belittling of teachers/public schools, has been a constant for decades. It doesn’t work to help children learn, but it’s apparent now that children’s learning has never really been the reason for so-called “education reform.” It’s all been done for privatization.

Privatization is not just for better schools any more (since it’s been shown that it doesn’t help). Now it’s for “choice.” The privatizers believe that parents should get to choose where their education tax-dollars are spent, and to hell with the common good.

I wonder how many of those pro-choice parents and politicians are pro-choice when it comes to women’s reproductive choice, or a parent’s choice to opt out of “the test.”

Public school teachers — and those who are hoping to become public school teachers — have to accept the fact that it is up to them (along with parents and pro-public education citizens) to fight for the survival of public schools.

Teachers, you can’t just close your doors and teach anymore.

After twenty years of ed reform, teachers have arrived at a point where they cannot shut the door and teach. Every teacher has to be an advocate for her profession, her school, and the institution of public education. Every policy and directive that descends from above has to be examined for its various effects, both on education and the profession, because teachers can no longer trust the People In Charge. The people who should be helping to smooth the road are building speed bumps and brick walls instead. To shut your door and teach is to the door to your room in a burning building; you may not feel the heat yet, but if you do nothing, you will surely feel it soon.

When we talk about reasons that so many fewer people pursue or stay with a teaching career, I’m not sure we discuss this point enough. You may want to Just Teach, but that will not be an option. You will have to fight constantly just to get to do your job. It’s a huge disincentive– “I would really like to do that job, but it looks like I won’t really get to do the job I want to do.”

 

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Ready, Fire, Aim: Vouchers Hurt Math Scores for Low Income Students

After seven years of running the nation’s most expansive voucher program…

After a half billion dollars of public money diverted to private, religious, schools…

We now hear policy makers suggesting that we “study and evaluate” the concept of vouchers.

Now?

Low income students were the ostensible reason for Indiana’s aggressive voucher policy. I’ve argued for a long time that this was a pretext — the real reason was 1) subsidizing religious education; 2) hurting teachers unions; and 3) diverting money to friends and well-wishers of policymakers — but, if you take lawmakers at their word that this was being done to help low income students, then it looks like we’ve wasted a lot of money and done some harm in the process.

Says State Board of Education member, Gordon Hendry, “The conclusions are somewhat concerning. It demonstrates the need for further study and evaluation so we can have more data about the results of this program.” With all due respect (and at least Hendry responded to the South Bend Tribune), the time for study was before we jumped into the voucher pond with both feet…

 

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

Indiana officials didn’t have to go far to find a new model for improving schools

I’m all for school improvement and it’s possible that this program will provide needed help, although I’m not sure that Chicago should be our role model for improving schools. You can learn about 5Essentials here and here.

My big fear with this program, and others like it, is that politicians and policy makers will impose a program on the public schools and then blame students, teachers, and schools if and when it doesn’t work. They don’t accept their share of the responsibility. Accountability is never taken by the policy makers, it’s only imposed, along with the mandates, on those in the schools.

Politicians and Policy makers, try this program, to be sure, but accept responsibility for our state and nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty and it’s impact on school achievement!

The 5 Essentials model focuses on five qualities that strong schools share — effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. The Indiana Department of Education has built its own evaluation around these attributes. The state will start using its model based on the 5 Essentials at low-performing schools in their annual school quality reviews, which begin in October and are done by a team of experts, local educators, and school administrators or board members.

Arne Duncan with his boss…lest we forget that the Democrats are/were complicit in school “reform.”

THE EDUCATION LIES

Duncan and DeVos Are Both Wrong, We Need Old School Reform

The education lies discussed in this article are

  • money does not matter
  • ineffective teachers are ruining public schools
  • charter schools will outperform public schools
  • federal leadership on rigorous standards will save us all

Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings may have been worse. Betsy DeVos might be the VERY worst. But Arne Duncan was no slouch when it came to running a damaging U.S. Education Department!

The “education reforms” that Duncan says worked—desegregation and more equalized school funding—preceded his tenure as Secretary. He did nothing to further those reforms. Instead, he routinely pushed through reforms that didn’t work. An honest appraisal of the past decade reveals that Duncan caused more harm than good.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, Darling-Hammond, Lead, poverty, Privatization, read-alouds, Segregation, vouchers

2018 Medley #21

The New Segregation, “Choice,” Vouchers,
Environmental Toxins: Lead,
Read-aloud to Big Kids

THE NEW SEGREGATION

The New Segregation of Schools

The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was, for all practical purposes, reversed in 1999 when a federal court ruled that forced integration was no longer necessary because “intentional” segregation no longer existed.

The result is that the U.S. has returned to separate schools for rich and poor, separate schools for black and white…and the schools are not “equal.”

When some students walk through the door, they will take their first steps toward an endless potential of possibilities.

Their schools have been cleaned and polished, new textbooks and computers await them, and their long-tenured teachers will comment on how much they look like their older siblings.

Other students will walk into an entirely different setting. Students and teachers will be forced to learn in hot classrooms because the air conditioning has not been looked at since last spring. Their textbooks will have broken spines and the inscriptions of graduates from 1992.

Some of the teachers who greet them at the door are kind enough, but they are scared to death because they just received their emergency certificate last week due to the dwindling teacher pool.

Realistically, as students return to class after the summer break, they will be walking into two different public school systems.

There is the public school system for the privileged, another for the poor and powerless.

 

School Choice Is the Enemy of Justice

“Choice” has become the new tool of segregation.

Choice and innovation sound nice, but they also echo what happened after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, when entire white communities in the South closed down schools to avoid the dread integration.

This kind of racial avoidance has become normal, embedded in the public school experience. It seems particularly so in Los Angeles, a suburb-driven city designed for geographical separation. What looks like segregation to the rest of the world is, to many white residents, entirely neutral — simply another choice.

How America’s public schools keep kids in poverty by Kandice Sumner, Boston Public School teacher.

If we really, as a country, believe that education is “the great equalizer,” then it should be just that — equal, and equitable. Until then, there’s no democracy in our democratic education.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

More Bad News For Private School Vouchers In Florida And Indiana

The success or failure of students no longer matters to education “reformers.” Now it’s all about the “choice.” Unfortunately, most school “choice” advocates don’t mention that it is the school that makes the “choice,” not the student.

Public schools accept all students.

The latest study highlighting vouchers’ poor academic results looks at Indiana’s program, the nation’s largest. Researchers studied thousands of low-income Indiana students who used a voucher to switch from public to private schools beginning in the 2011-12 school year.

Focusing on students in grades five through eight over the course of four years, the study found the voucher students consistently scored worse in math than their public school peers. The results for English proficiency were a wash; “there were no statistically significant positive effects after four years,” was how the education blog Chalkbeat described it. These study results echo those from an Indiana voucher study released last year.

So, Indiana diverts more than $150 million per year in taxpayer money away from public schools and into private schools with little to show for it. “Although school vouchers aim to provide greater educational opportunities for students, the goal of improving the academic performance of low-income students who use a voucher to move to a private school has not yet been realized in Indiana,” wrote the study’s authors.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Improving education Across America with guest Linda Darling-Hammond

What kind of schools and teachers do we need for our children? Linda Darling-Hammond lists the top five actions we need to take to improve education in the U.S.

tl;dr More money is needed to reduce out-of-school factors which interfere with achievement.

How do countries that have built an education system that is really strong, do it? And what’s the difference between what they’re doing and what we see in the united states right now?

Number 1, they take care of children. They have a child welfare system. They don’t allow high rates of child poverty. In the United States, one out of four children lives in poverty — homelessness has increased astronomically, children with food insecurity and so on, raggedy early childhood system for learning in the United States. And these nations…Canada is one of them, also, by the way, that’s near the top…take care of children. They have food and housing and they have early learning opportunities that are high quality.

Number 2, they fund schools equally…[in the United States] the rich get richer, the poor get poorer…

EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE: LEAD POISONING

Educators Demand Safe School Water as Nationwide Lead Crisis Comes to Light

Policy makers have long held public schools solely responsible for their students’ achievement. The A-F school grading system in Indiana and other states places the burden on schools alone to solve the problems of low test scores — as if tests alone were an adequate measure of student achievement…as if there were no out-of-school factors that had an impact on student achievement.

Policy makers must be held accountable as well as schools.

From John Kuhn

Educational malpractice doesn’t happen in the classroom. The greatest educational malpractice in the Unites States happens in the statehouse not the school house.

If we truly cared about how our students end up, we would have shared accountability, where everyone whose fingerprints are on these students of ours, has to answer for the choices that they make.

One of the out-of-school factors having an impact on student achievement is the presence of environmental toxins in neighborhoods, like lead.

Exposure to lead has an impact on children’s school achievement and behavior. Public schools in areas with high levels of lead exposure (according to the CDC any exposure to lead is too much) are labeled “failures” because of the students’ low achievement. Yet, in many cases, it’s public policy which allows exposure to lead.

And it’s not just the children. Adults who work in schools are also exposed to high lead levels.

According to a new study by the Government Accountability Office that was also prompted by the Flint crisis, only 43 percent of school districts test for lead in drinking water. About a third of districts that do test reported elevated lead levels.

That means tens of millions of students and educators could be exposed to lead—a proven neurotoxin that is especially devastating to children’s developing brains—through water they consume at school. Educator unions are leading the charge in many communities to demand water testing and access to the results and advocating for policies to ensure future monitoring.

 

READ-ALOUD

Read Aloud in Middle and High School? Of Course

Russ Walsh presents the case for read-aloud after elementary school.

If we want students to value reading we need to let them know that we value reading.

Research supports the use of read aloud for motivation. Qualitative studies by Ivey and Broadus (2001) and Ivey and Johnston (2013) found that student read-aloud was an integral part of a reading engagement strategy. As the authors said in the 2001 study

For the students in our survey, it is clear that high-engagement reading and language arts classrooms would include time to read, time to listen to teachers read, and access to personally interesting materials [emphasis mine].

 

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Posted in Duncan, poverty, Public Ed

Public Education is a Public Responsibility

John Merrow’s latest blog post is a review of Arne Duncan’s new book, “How Schools Work.”

My first thought about Duncan’s book was how ironic it was that someone who had never attended a public school or worked in a public school, claimed to know how schools actually work. But that’s something I’ve ranted about many times, and I’ll try not to do it again in this post…

 

As I was reading I thought that Merrow’s review was generally thoughtful and fair, but then I read the comments.

Blogger GF Brandenburg commented…

gfbrandenburg
August 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm

You didn’t really expect him to admit that all his efforts to improve education, USING HIS OWN YARDSTICKS, namely the NAEP, actually failed miserably, do you?

I draw an additional lesson: you should let neither professional athletes nor neophytes (ie neither Michelle Rhee’ nor her two husbands, nor Arne Duncan, nor Andre Agassi, nor Lebron James, nor Betsy DeVos) run education.

Merrow replied…

John Merrow
August 17, 2018 at 7:27 am

Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present….End of story.

Am I wrong in thinking that Merrow’s response seemed to imply that it’s ok for non-education-professionals such as Rhee, DeVos, Gates, et al, to run schools, create and implement school policy, and make decisions affecting the 50 million public school children in the U. S.? Because, “Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present…”

I agree that they have the “legal” right to do those things…but the “ethical” right, the “professional” right, the “educationally sound” right? Not so much.

Education is still something that most people think “anyone can do” since “we all went to school.”

Why is education singled out as something “anyone can do?” Public Health is also a public responsibility, but we generally find health professionals making choices and policy in that area.

When has there ever been a Surgeon General who did not have some connection to a medical profession? (Answer: Never) When has there ever been an Attorney General who hadn’t studied law? (Answer: Never) Yet only 3 of the eleven Secretaries of Education had degrees in education or teaching experience in K-12 education (Bell, Page, and King).

Unfortunately, the problems facing education are complicated and generally come from the outside such as the effects of poverty on children and their families and the inequity of funding. If Duncan, as a sociologist (Harvard, BA, 1987), had used his position to try to impact the social order that has led to one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, that would have been different. But he didn’t. He pushed policies that had a direct impact on how schools were run, how teachers were evaluated (junk science), and how tests were used (misused). Duncan, like most education “reformers” who are ignorant of what goes on inside a school, tried to affect the education of America’s students by doing things to schools, rather than aiming at the out-of-school-factors.

Public education is a public responsibility, but that is not the end of the story. There can be no “race to the top” when kids, schools, and school systems don’t all have the same starting point. We can’t have “no child left behind” while children are still being left behind economically and socially. We will never be a nation where “every child succeeds” until we are a nation where every child is given a fair chance to succeed.

The achievement gap will continue to plague us until we can rid ourselves of the economics gap…and the racial gap. No amount of charter schools, vouchers, or the misuse of testing will change that.

 

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #14

Testing Rules from Amateurs,
“Fixing” Brains, Public Education,
Teacher Shortage, Your Tax Dollars at Work,
Accountability Double Standards,
Retention in Grade

 LEAVE THE TESTING ANALYSIS TO THE EXPERTS

MI: When Legislators Don’t Understand Testing

When I was teaching, I administered individual diagnostic tests to students. The instructions for every one of the tests reminded me that the test was to be used for its intended purpose. No conclusions unrelated to that intended purpose were considered valid.

Standardized achievement tests, however, are frequently (at this point, more frequently than not, I would wager) used for making conclusions unrelated to their intended purpose.

The reason? Legislators and politicians have taken over the responsibility of choosing how to evaluate children…and, for the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing.

Tests should not be given for any purpose other than that for which it was intended. To do so, as most states are doing, is invalid, irresponsible, and a form of educational malpractice.

In this post we learn of Michigan legislators who consider a bill which requires teachers to “pass the SAT” before earning a teaching certificate. If that sounds odd to you, it’s because you cannot “pass” the SAT. Nor can you “fail” it. It’s not a spelling test, or a final exam.

Pass the SAT? What does that even mean? The SAT gives you a score, which as I told my students every year, is neither “good” nor “bad” until the college you’re applying to says so. I talk to someone on line with ties to the testing and data biz and she absolutely hates it when people talk about passing or failing test. And yet, here we are, demonstrating once again that civilians (even elected ones) don’t understand that tests are produced for very specific purposes and can’t just be swapped to whatever purpose you like as if all tests are fundamentally the same. And instead of seeing some rich source of nuanced data that can be carefully decoded for a wealth of information, these citizens just see a thing that you either pass or fail. No more nuance or richness than a light switch.

And these are the people who legislate how tests must be used and what rewards and punishments will be doled out because of them. Yes, one of the biggest problems with modern ed reform is that it’s amateur hour in education. Knowing what the heck you’re talking about– that’s the test that people in power keep failing.

 

BILLIONAIRES WANT TO “FIX” BRAINS RATHER THAN ADDRESS POVERTY

Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

Gates and his billionaire friends are determined to find the cause of low achievement anywhere but with poverty (just like DeVos, and other NRA shills, look for the answer to gun violence anywhere but with the actual guns). The billionaires are afraid that the solutions might cost money (see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

They want to fund research in executive functioning and why students who live in poverty have such trouble. How about if they start with these reports of actual research already done…

The U.S. does not have an education problem. It has a poverty problem.

…the billionaires reason that not only can executive malfunctioning cause substantial classroom learning problems and school failure, it also can adversely affect socio-economic status, physical health, drug problems, and criminal convictions in adulthood. Consequently, if teachers of poor students know how to improve executive function, their students will do well academically and reap future “real-world benefits.” For Gates, who is always looking for “the next big thing,” this can be it in education.

Most people looking at this reasoning would likely think, “If executive functioning is poorer in poor children, why not eliminate the apparent cause of the deficiency, i.e., poverty?” Not so for the billionaires.

 

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATORS

Our Schools Are Not Failing; Our Policy Makers Are : Raleigh’s Amorphous Way of Measuring Schools

With the exception of “class size caps” the words “North Carolina” in the following quote (and its source blog post) can be replaced with “Indiana” (or any number of other states).

And when you are the North Carolina General Assembly that is trying to privatize the public school system, you undertake a series of actions that weaken public schools such as school performance grades aligned with achievement, intentionally not fully fund schools, create class size caps with no funding of new classrooms, and throw millions of dollars into vouchers.

You try and disenchant the teaching profession by removing due-process rights and graduate degree pay from new teachers to a point where state education programs have experienced a significant drop in candidates.

And yet public schools are still doing the job.

 

PAYING FOR EDUCATION: THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

Fact Sheet: Yes, Increase the Salaries of All Teachers

Indiana and other states need to do something to reverse the growing teacher shortage. The number of students enrolled in teacher education programs in Indiana in 2015-16 has dropped by half since 2010-11. In 2010-11 there were 13,493 students enrolled in teacher training programs. That number was 6,813 in 2015-16.

For the last few decades public school teachers have been made the scapegoat for the failure of students to achieve.

The state government under Mitch Daniels began the punishment of teachers in 2011. Since then

  • collective bargaining rights for teachers have been restricted.
  • the state began what is now the largest private/parochial school voucher program in the nation, and increased funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.
  • the state passed a property tax cap amendment to the constitution, and shifted state funding of public education to the state legislature.
  • teachers have lost tenure (due process) and seniority protections.
  • the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries has been reduced.
  • accountability measures requiring teacher evaluations to be based on student test scores despite lack of validity have been instituted.

A raise in teacher pay is only the first step towards restoring the teaching profession.

Note that the legislature, policy makers, and politicians are not held accountable for societal issues leading to lowered achievement such as funding, class size, and the effects of poverty.

The annual pay for teachers fell sharply from 1995 to 2015 in relation to the annual pay of similar workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, public school teachers are paid less than other comparable workers in every state, and they earn 11 percent less on average, when accounting for nonwage benefits. This calculation is based on comparable weekly wages [emphasis added].

 

MONEY LAUNDERING FOR SCHOOL “CHOICE”

FL Schools Using Taxpayer Money to Teach Ridiculous Lies

Should tax dollars be used to fund schools which teach that “dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not.”

This report from Florida discusses what’s taught in private schools using textbooks from Abeka, BJE Press, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Some of Indiana’s parochial schools use the same books.

Where is your educational tax dollar going?

The constitutional issues here are rather complex. There are two arguments that can be made here on either side. On the one hand, giving taxpayer money to religious entities seems like a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, especially when it’s used to teach things that advocate very sectarian ideas, something the government is clearly forbidden from doing.

On the other hand, the voucher is not aimed specifically at religious schools. Parents get a voucher and can use it to send their kids to any kind of school, religious or secular. The fact that the money is “laundered” through parental choice does make a difference constitutionally because it’s akin to someone getting public assistance and then using a portion of it to tithe at church, or buy some religious product or service. The government is not funding the religious activity directly, so that does mitigate, at least to some degree, the Establishment Clause problem.

Either way, we can be appalled by the fact that our tax dollars are used to promote vile and dishonest ideas like this.

 

THE DOUBLE STANDARD IN SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

‘Wild West of education’

Where is the accountability for all non-public schools which receive state tax dollars? You know that if a public school was avoiding accountability the “reformers” in the state would be all over them. Yet accountability somehow doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to F rated charter or voucher schools.

Indiana grades schools with an A-F system, and according to the state grades, IVS is a failing school. In fact, all virtual charter schools in Indiana received F grades from the state in both 2016 and 2017, according to the State Board of Education’s recent report. Any one of them could be closed by its authorizer, only to be replaced by yet another virtual school.

As Cavazos’ recent explorations of the peculiar origins of the new Indiana Agriculture and Technology School show, Indiana is the Wild West of education. There are few rules for virtual schools to follow, but lots of money to be made.

This past session, our legislators killed three bills regarding accountability for charter school authorizing, even though Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick called for improved accountability in virtual charter schools.

 

LA FINALLY ACCEPTS YEARS OF RESEARCH INTO RETENTION

Louisiana ends policy that held thousands of students back a grade or more

Being forced to choose Social Promotion or Retention is a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other. Investing in education and providing students the help they need (not just what they can afford), is the answer. Not every child will succeed…but many, many more children won’t fail.

“But then when I got the numbers for New Orleans and for Louisiana – and you know a lot of Louisiana was not affected by Katrina – New Orleans was a little bit worse but Louisiana was still really bad on retention,” she says. “And as I talked to more people it was clear that it was an effect of standardized testing.”

Reckdahl recently wrote about overage students in Louisiana and investigated the impacts of retention for The Hechinger Report. So many students have been held back due to mandatory retention that in 2017 the Louisiana State Legislature decided to end it. Now, schools offer summer classes, online classes and help from specialized teachers as alternatives for students who don’t pass the LEAP test.

Reckdahl says there’s one big takeaway from the state’s “experiment” with retention.

“It’s not enough to scare a kid into performing,” she says. “You can’t just say I’m going to hold you back.”

 

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Posted in Adams, Election, Jefferson, Madison, poverty, Quotes, SchoolShootings, Teaching Career, vouchers

Listen to This #4

Recent quotes and comments…

THE AMERICAN FRONT

Reflections on Noblesville shooting: Our schools shouldn’t be war zones

When did sending our children to school become the same as sending our sons and daughters off to war?

From Elaine Monaghan

I know my children are in a war zone because at least once a month they practice getting shot at.

MAY 7, 1945

Defeated Neo-Nazi Candidate Patrick Little Thinks He Actually Came In ‘First Or Second’

Thankfully, this candidate lost decisively, but the fact that nearly 55 thousand people voted for him is disheartening.

May 7, 1945 is the date of the Nazi surrender in World War II. There are thousands of Americans who apparently wish to reverse that defeat.

From Jared Holt

Patrick Little, the neo-Nazi candidate who sought to represent California in the U.S. Senate, received 54,507 votes, giving him a dismal 1.4 percent of the popular vote and ending his chances of challenging Sen. Diane Feinstein in 2018.

Scene at German surrender in World War II, Reims, France, May 7, 1945.
Ralph Morse—Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

TEACHING IN AMERICA

There is No Dignity in Teaching

A Must Read: Teachers take care of our children…sometimes at the expense of their own…

From Kelly LaLonde

There is no dignity in teaching.

We are blamed for the ills of society. We are tasked to perform miracles every day. We are told “I pay your salary, you work for me.” by parents who don’t like their kids’ grades. We are called racist, lazy, discriminatory, and overpaid. We are told over and over again that we are failing our kids.

INDIANA’S TEACHERS

Teacher pay in Indiana continues its downward slide

…and this is how we reward them?

From Carmen McCollum

In Indiana, teacher pay has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since the 1999-2000 school year, according to the Department of Education: Teachers now earn almost 16 percent less than they did two decades ago.

APATHY WINS THE POPULAR VOTE

Public Schools and Donald Trump

We can no longer afford to be apathetic. Less that 26% of eligible voters elected President Trump.

From John Merrow

…if “not voting” had been a choice, it would have won the popular vote in every presidential election since at least 1916.

INVEST IN OUR CHILDREN

We know the “root cause” of poor school performance.

Krashen’s “voice in the wilderness” reminding us to invest in our children.

From Stephen Krashen

…until we eliminate poverty, we can do a lot to protect students from the negative impact of poverty. Children of poverty suffer from food deprivation, lack of medical care and lack of access to books, each of which effects school performance. We can invest more in food programs, improved medical care (eg school nurses), and libraries and librarians.

We don’t have to worry about “improving teaching and classroom practice.” The best teaching in the world will have no effect if students are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.

FALSE PATRIOTS

Marijuana Arrest Statistics Show Racist Nature of Our ‘Justice’ System

My comment for the quote below from Ed Brayton is with a quote from Carl Schurz; “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

From Ed Brayton

Fake patriots — tribal nationalists — view any such criticism as hating America. The opposite is true. Some of us care enough about our country to demand that it do the right thing. The rest are just mindless cheerleaders for the status quo.

DEVOS AND THE DRIVE TO EXPAND VOUCHERS NATIONWIDE

Religious Vouchers

Public education is a public good and a public responsibility. The purpose of religious schools is the furthering of a particular set of religious principles. Giving tax dollars to religious schools is in direct conflict with the establishment clause of the first amendment. The Betsy DeVos/Mike Pence/Donald Trump quest for national vouchers is not constitutional.

From Peter Greene

…it’s not just a matter of “It’s my kid so I’ll teach her what I want to” personal freedom, because every student who gets this kind of education is one more misinformed uneducated person released into society, and that damages and diminishes us as a country. When uninformed miseducated hold jobs, or raise children of their own, or vote, bad things happen that cause problems for everybody.

The two following quotes are more than two hundred years old. They are from two of the men who founded The Republic. We should not allow public money to be spent for religious schools.

Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, [ca. 20 June] 1785

From James Madison

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

From Thomas Jefferson

…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever…

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Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, Early Childhood, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, retention

2018 Medley #13: Investing in Children

Retention-in-grade, Early Childhood Education,
Poverty in America,
Poisoning our Children

The anti-tax atmosphere in the U.S. is taking its toll. Every one of the articles listed below deals with a problem that the U.S. refuses, or is unable to pay for…fully funding schools based on the needs of children, lack of investment in early childhood education, the high rate of child poverty, and most disturbing, the lack of funding, ability, or will, to keep our children safe from lead poisoning.

The recent tax plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy, will make it even more difficult for states, especially poor states, to fund their public schools.

PUNISHING CHILDREN WHO NEED HELP

Don’t punish schools because Johnny can’t read. Invest in them instead.

Instead of throwing money at vouchers and charter schools we need to fully fund public schools and give kids the support services that they need. When children struggle with learning to read the tendency is to blame the child and make him or her repeat a grade. This. does. not. work.

Some children need additional help beyond their classroom. Instead of closing their schools because of low achievement test scores, their schools should receive the funds to hire specialists and support staff so students can get the extra help they need. Retention doesn’t help, and the research shows it.

Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We’re not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:
“It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental.”

See also
Thoughts on Michigan’s New Mandatory Retention Law

Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back

INVEST IN OUR FUTURE. INVEST IN OUR CHILDREN

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

We know that investment in early childhood education pays off, but we’re still lagging behind the rest of the world.

The US is a global laggard in investing in early childhood programs. Even though more parents are working, enrollment in early schooling (before kindergarten) at the age of 3 in the US is 30 percentage points below the OECD average. The gap is just as stark for 4-year-olds: 87% are enrolled in pre-primary and primary education, on average, across OECD countries. In the US that figure is 66%.

THE U.N. IS TAKING NOTE OF AMERICA’S POVERTY PROBLEM

America’s poor becoming more destitute under Trump: U.N. expert

If you’ve had the feeling that America’s poor aren’t getting the help they need, you’re not alone. A report from a U.N. investigator brings to light the fact that the U.S., with the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world, is working hard to increase economic inequity.

Poverty in the United States is extensive and deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor people, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

…the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship…

A COUNTRY THAT POISONS ITS CHILDREN

Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Michigan…every one of those states, as per the articles below, have problems with their children being exposed to lead. Every one of those states ought to make sure that public schools are fully staffed to handle children with the special needs caused by lead exposure.

Unfortunately, this is just a small sampling of lead exposure in the United States. A large number of our children are being poisoned and are going untreated. Public schools are tasked with having to deal with children who are living with the effects of lead poisoning…and need to be funded accordingly.

Indiana

EPA Finds More Lead Contamination in Northwestern Indiana

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered more lead contamination in northwestern Indiana.

Soil samples collected since October have revealed more than two dozen contaminated yards in Hammond and Whiting, The Chicago Tribune reported .

Tests found 25 yards with soil lead levels exceeding the federal cleanup standard of 400 parts per million. One home’s soil tested as high as 2,760 parts per million of lead.

Illinois, Chicago

Chicago Residents Use Kits to Test for Lead Contamination

…lead was detected in nearly 70 percent of the almost 2,800 homes tested over the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

New Jersey

Lead in NJ’s children: Fixing it is a billion-dollar problem

No safe level of lead in a child’s blood has been identified, but county health departments generally take action when testing shows 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. About 4,800 children in New Jersey surpass that threshold, according to the latest figures.

Michigan, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids parent fighting lead poisoning wins environmental award

Tests for lead levels in young children living in the 49507 ZIP code, which includes much of southeast Grand Rapids, revealed the area had the most children in the state with elevated lead levels, according to a 2016 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible damage to many organs and is also linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike Flint, where the water supply was to blame for increased lead exposure, Grand Rapids’ problem is primarily tied to the lead paint found in many older homes. Four out of five homes in Grand Rapids – and nearly three out of five countywide – were built prior to 1978, the year lead was banned in paint.

Michigan, Flint

Sh-h-h. Snyder state update left out 75% drop in reading proficiency in Flint

Snyder and his administration didn’t cut it either, apparently ignoring the reading mission the same way they ignored the Flint water crisis: Third-grade reading proficiency in Flint, where Snyder allowed the water — and children — to be poisoned by lead, dropped from 41.8% in 2014 to 10.7% last year.

That’s a nearly three-quarters drop.

Read it again: That’s nearly a three-quarters drop in third-grade reading proficiency among children whose lives were affected by lead poisoned water during the Flint water crisis.

A Slow Death for Our Children.
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