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

2017 Medley #28

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

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A PUBLIC GOOD

The Public Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISPARAGING PUBLIC EDUCATION

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

The Trump Administration prefers private education.

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

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

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

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

We need to decide.

➥ For further reading on public education:

AMERICA’S CHILDREN IN POVERTY

America’s Dirty Secret

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

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

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

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

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

State’s plan could go national

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

They like the fact that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

➥ See also:

Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

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

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

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

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

➥ For further reading on segregation and charters

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Baseball, Play Kid's Work, poverty, reform, retention, SAT, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, Tenure, Testing

Blogoversary #11: A Review

Today this blog begins its twelfth year (See NOTE, here). It would have been nice to be able to write a post on how American public school advocates have overcome the forces of so-called “education reform.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. The privatizers are still doing damage and spending their billions to turn public schools into charters. They’re still working to divert funds for public education into vouchers.

So instead, of a victory post, here is a short clip from each September that this blog has been in existence from September 2006 through September 2016.

On beyond thirty…

September 14, 2006

From my first post. Now, after 40 years, I am still fascinated by how humans learn…still volunteering in a local elementary school.

So here I am, now a part time pull-out reading specialist in a suburban/rural school in the midwest, still trying to figure out a better way to teach even after 30 years. I still find learning fascinating. It’s still hard for some children…easy for others…and I still want to know why.

“That” time of year…

September 10, 2007

It’s ten years since this post. Economic stratification and inequity is worse than ever. Test scores still reflect the income of the family.

Poverty, as the media is fond of saying, is no excuse. Gerald Bracey, educational researcher, replies that, true, poverty is not an excuse…it is a condition, just like gravity. “Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

All the Way with Pearl Jam

September 27, 2008

Sometimes I post non-education content. This song was for the Cubs. Last year they went “all the way.” #bucketlist

Duncan’s Background and Duncan’s Plans

September 6, 2009

*This quote is by Stephen Krashen…containing a quote by Susan Ohanian…

In her book, “Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids Caught in a Killing Curriculum,” published in 2001, Susan Ohanian, an experienced and award-winning educator who has actually taught in public schools, pointed out that:

“The pattern of reform … has spread across the nation: Bring in someone who has never been involved in public education; proclaim that local administrators and teachers are lazy and stupid; use massive testing to force schools into curriculum compliance” (page x).

Since this passage was written, this pattern of reform has clearly spread to the highest levels.

Tenure and Unions

September 22, 2010

Indiana teachers no longer have due process as a job protection. Before 2011 tenure in Indiana guaranteed a teacher a hearing in front of an impartial party. No longer.

Tenure, they say, protects bad teachers. Unions support and protect the tenure system which, they say, gives teachers in K-12 a “job for life.” The only problem with that statement is that it’s wrong.

Tenure, as defined by these reformers and in turn, the general public who listens to them, does not exist. K-12 teachers who achieve tenure — or permanent status — do not have a job for life. According to Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University’s School of Education,

Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.

Tenure’s primary purpose is economic job security, tied to the otherwise uncompetitive pay in comparison to other professions; however, tenure is not a lifetime guarantee.

Why Are SAT Scores So Low?

September 23, 2011

Here’s something which the corporate “reformers” don’t like to talk about. The higher the family income, the better the children do on SAT tests. Take a look at this…

Which Future Awaits our Grandchildren?

September 7, 2012

The shame of the nation, as Jonathan Kozol put it, is still the number of American children who live in poverty.

We don’t have to write off nearly a quarter of our children to poverty. I wrote a few days ago,

What other nation would accept a poverty rate of almost a quarter of its children?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine any other of the world’s wealthy nations allowing that to continue. The United States is among the world leaders in child poverty — We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Play is More Important Than Tests

September 9, 2013

Sadly, kindergarten is the new first grade.

I remember when the “abuse of testing craze” started a couple of decades ago…that was when we were required to use “research-based instruction.” A group of us got together and found a research basis for everything we did. Every teacher in our school system needed to be ready to justify what they did based on research.

Later, (2002) the US Department of Education started the What Works Clearinghouse so teachers could find teaching techniques and methods which were (supposedly) supported by research.

But now the truth has come out…when research goes against what the “reformers” want it’s ignored…or denied.

Retention Wars: Blaming Children

September 25, 2014

More than a dozen states, including Indiana punish third grade children — 8 and 9 year olds — for low reading achievement by forcing them to repeat third grade. Retention in grade doesn’t work…and we have known it for decades.

In the past, parents, teachers, and administrators used to make the decision to retain a student in his current grade. Now it’s state legislatures, governors, and departments of education. We have allowed the wrong people — politicians and policy makers — to determine the academic placement of our children using the wrong kinds of tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

Teacher Shortage? When All Else Fails Blame the Union

September 18, 2015

…”Reform” is the status quo in Indiana. Indiana is a state where public schools are closed so charters can open, where bankrupt charters are forgiven their taxpayer-funded loans, where an A-F school ranking system is manipulated for the benefit of political donors, where vouchers are available with only minor restrictions, where teachers are evaluated based on student test scores because testing is overused and misused, where teachers no longer have due process rights, where untrained or poorly trained non-educators can walk into a classroom and start teaching with minimal oversight, where the Governor and members of the State Board of Education blatantly prefer privatization over public schools

#%@! Adults Should Quit Punishing Children

September 7, 2016

Retention in grade doesn’t help children. It merely shows how adults have failed children.

FLORIDA STILL REQUIRES THE PUNISHMENT OF 8 AND 9 YEAR OLDS

…as does Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington. Other states – Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia – encourage it, though it’s not required. Different hoops are needed to avoid it in various states. See K-3 Quality: Is there a third grade retention policy?

These states and Florida, demand retention in grade of third graders for not learning quickly enough, or not being able to pass a standardized reading test. Retention in grade isn’t remediation. Retention in grade punishes children for the failures of adults.

*All quotes are my words unless otherwise noted.

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Posted in Corp Interest, PDK, poverty, Public Ed, reform

XQ: Debunked Assertions and False Assumptions

PDK Poll: PARENTS LIKE THEIR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Last month, the PDK/Gallup poll of the public’s attitudes towards the public schools was released. The findings were consistent with previous years: Americans support their local public schools.

Public schools get their highest grades from those who know them best: public school parents.

…Americans made clear in last year’s PDK poll that they would rather see a school stay open and improve than start from scratch…

More than 70% of public school parents gave their children’s schools high marks. 84% of Americans don’t want their public schools closed. They would prefer to spend resources improving them instead of closing them.

The largest problem, according to the poll, is lack of funding.

Since 1969, the poll’s first question has been about the biggest problems facing the local public schools. As has been the case since 2002, the most common answers referred to lack of funding, cited by 22% this year. But that’s down from an average of 34% from 2009 to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Americans, it seems, are happy with their public schools. They don’t want them closed and replaced by unregulated charter schools. They don’t need vouchers. They want to keep and improve their local schools.

CORPORATE REFORM STRIKES BACK WITH DEBUNKED ASSERTIONS

You wouldn’t have learned anything about the PDK poll if you watched the corporate propaganda tool TV show, “XQ Super School Live,” on all four networks last week. The focus was on how public schools (all of them, apparently) are not keeping up with the times and “failing”.

Perhaps the media’s constant bashing of public schools, this show as an example, is one of the reasons the PDK poll showed that people think the nation’s schools are failing – even though their own neighborhood schools are graded higher. The fact that parents like their local public schools was ignored on “XQ Super School Live.”

“XQ Super School Live” began with the usual debunked assertions about American public schools. According to them, our high schools are “failing” because they

  • don’t graduate as many students as other countries
  • are “31st in math”
  • are “20th in language skills”
  • are “19th in science”

There was no discussion of the fact that American public schools accept everyone and support the largest percentage of students in poverty in the developed world. When sorted by poverty rate American students perform as well or better than most students in the world. The sheer numbers of students living in poverty in the U.S. (the second most in the developed world) accounts for our lower test score average. See The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools.

Throughout the program, there was no disclaimer which explained that some of the schools highlighted in the show have selective admissions…wihch could mean some lower performing students are excluded. In addition, the schools highlighted are all the recipients of huge ($10 million) grants (XQ Super Schools). What could your neighborhood school do with $10 million?

There was no discussion of schools whose students were poisoned with lead by the mismanagement and neglect of the state, and then left without proper educational resources.

There was no discussion of the many American schools with halls, stairwells, classrooms, and bathrooms that look like this:

The implication of the program was that American schools are old and inadequate…that pedagogy is unchanged since the industrial revolution…that our young people are stuck in a system that hasn’t changed for 100 years. The new, cool, innovativeness of the “Super Schools” was emphasized by the singing and dancing of clean, well-fed, well-clothed, motivated professional actors and entertainers children.

XQ’s FALSE ASSUMPTIONS ARE NOT THE REAL WORLD OF AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLS

Most public high schools – the ones without the $10 million grant from Steve Jobs widow, Laurene Powell Jobs – are filled with teachers and students who are struggling to do their best, often under difficult conditions. The assumption that there is no innovation or no modernization in today’s high schools is false. The assumption that the “rules” in schools are holding them back (read: nasty teacher union contracts), or that the construct and form of schools are “written in stone,” is false. There are innovative public schools in America and many have one thing in common; adequate (or better) funding and support from the community at large.

Ask yourself, “Where are the struggling schools in America?” Invariably, the answer to that question is “They are in struggling, high-poverty communities.”

American public schools in wealthy areas produce high achieving students who can compete with any other students in the world. Why? Because the schools are well-resourced. The students come to school with their basic needs met; adequate food, health care, and safety. The teachers are supported and their contributions are acknowledged.

I’m sure that the families and students who attend the schools that Laurene Powell Jobs is funding appreciate her contributions. But the vast majority of students in the United States attend schools without a wealthy benefactor. Many of those students go to schools where innovations are occurring, because despite what the stars on XQ Super Schools TV program claimed, schools have changed significantly in the last 100 years. Too many of America’s students, however, are in schools which are underfunded and under-resourced. Instead of providing a few schools with $10 million, we need to fully fund all America’s public schools. For all our children.

  • We, as a society, need to commit to funding the lives of all our children. They and their families need health care, food, clothing, shelter, and jobs with a living wage.
  • Public schools need teachers who are well-trained and well paid, not college graduates with five weeks of training or subject area professionals who know nothing about child development or pedagogy.
  • Public schools should have well staffed and well maintained educational facilities including appropriately staffed and resourced libraries.
  • Public schools should offer students classes and opportunities in the arts and physical education.

Schools are a reflection of society. As long as we live in a society based on inequity, we will have schools which struggle to succeed in their mission.

OTHER REACTIONS TO XQ Super School Live.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

The message couldn’t have been more obvious: high school has been standing still for too long. However, that is demonstrably false. The American high school has been a battleground for intellectual and social issues for at least 65 years… let me begin to count the ways high schools have changed, and changed, and sometimes reverted to form…

Seven Times “XQ Super School Live” Denigrated America’s Teachers (And One Time It Praised Them)

…One minute into the broadcast, the message was clear, network television does not support America’s public high schools or its teachers.

…To hear XQ tell it, there are absolutely no innovative classrooms or teachers in any public high schools.

…each “Super School” profiled in the show. All of these schools have one particular non-traditional school policy in common. They all have some element of a selective admissions process…

Why a live, star-studded (Tom Hanks, Common, etc.) TV show on school reform is a problem

The thinking that if “only we can find the right school design model then all kids will have a great education” disregards the fundamental problems that do harm public education: devastating funding inequities that disadvantage the poorest of the country’s schools; curriculum deficits; issues facing teachers, including training, retention, lack of diversity, low pay and lack of authority in their own classrooms; and issues facing students, including poverty, trauma, poor health, unstable family life and learning disabilities.

THE STATUS QUO

I’ll end with a quote from Steven Singer. The status quo for the last four decades has been test and punish. So, when the “XQ Super School” group says we need to rethink high school, Singer agrees!

XQ Live – Desperate School Choice Rebrand After Trump Touched It

Rethink high school?

Sure! Let’s do that! Let’s rethink inequitably funding it. Let’s rethink high stakes standardized testing. Let’s rethink Common Core, stealing local control, teacher autonomy and a host of the kinds of top down bull crap XQ tried obscure while selling an issue of Tiger Beat.

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, DeVos, Politics, poverty, Quotes, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

Listen to This #11

IDIOCRACY IN ACTION

In 2009, Don McLeroy, then Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, said, “Somebody’s got to stand up to experts that…I don’t know why they’re doing it…”

Stand up to experts…because they have “expertise.” Why on Earth would we listen to people who are trained in a particular field and who, through research and study, have learned more than the rest of us?

McLeroy was railing against scientists who had the gall to suggest that they knew more about science than he did. And McLeroy’s attitude, which has been drifting through America for centuries, is on the rise again, and is responsible, at least in part, for the election of President Donald (“I love the poorly educated”) Trump.

Jim Wright says we’ve traded our moon ships for the Creation Museum. Carl Sagan was prescient in his 1996 interview.

The Later Days of a Better Nation, Part IV

From Jim Wright

Somewhere in the last half a century, we Americans traded Apollo moon ships for the Creation Museum and the ugly truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is a reflection of who we’ve become as a nation.

Trump is the utterly predictable result of decades of an increasingly dumber and dumber electorate. A deliberately dumber electorate, Idiocracy in action, a society that dismisses intelligence and education and experience as “elitism” while howling in drunken mirth at Honey Boo Boo and lighting their farts on fire.

…Trump is the result of a nation that glories in ignorance, manipulated by conspiracy theory and a primal fear of the dark, that embraces monkey violence and cowers from the unknown future with bluster and bared teeth and a gun clenched in one fist, instead of looking forward with quiet courage, head up, feet wide, braced and ready with curiosity and confident they are prepared to handle anything that might come along.

Trump is the result of a nation that traded the moon for the Creation Museum.

Carl Sagan’s last interview with Charlie Rose (Full Interview)

From Carl Sagan

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

Senator from Louisiana spends summer recess substitute teaching in home state

Speaking of experts…who are America’s education experts? The media and general public apparently believes that the answer to that question is “billionaires” and “textbook publishers.” Here’s a politician who disagrees. This Louisiana Senator has discovered that education is not just “telling them what they need to know.”

From Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana)

Every single person who makes policy for elementary and secondary education needs to substitute teach once a year.

Teaching the heart as well as the mind: Caring, kind adults can make all the difference

Instead of damaging the teaching profession with punitive laws which lower salaries, reduce teachers’ control over their classrooms, and allow anyone with 5 weeks (or less) of training to stand up in front of students, we ought to be improving the working conditions of teachers in order to attract those people who are willing to devote their lives to preparing the nation’s future.

From Phyllis Bush in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Those who want to fix teachers and kids seem to forget that all of the testing and all of the online learning and all of the latest technology and all of the moronic plans of those who have no idea about what is instructionally or developmentally appropriate have little to do with children.

NO MONEY WITHOUT SUPPORT

A Message to the Democratic National Committee

How would Democrats respond if the two largest teachers unions asked for something in return for their political support? Diane Ravitch has the answer we should all give when asked to donate to a political campaign.

From Diane Ravitch

Not a dime until you support public schools and oppose privatization.

OPPORTUNITY

Lily Eskelsen García: Education is not Uber

In my last post, I wrote,

Would a wealthy family send their child to a public school without a library? Would you be able to find a white suburban school without a playground or gymnasium? How about a music program?

Why do we expect poor families to accept poor facilities and understaffed schools?

From Lily Eskelsen García

Anyone could do this without a federal grant. Go in to the best public schools in your state…Go in. Walk around and see what they’ve got there to help those kids: gifted programs, athletics, arts. They’ve got a library. They’ve got a librarian…and they’ve got the staff and they’ve got the programs. Kids have access and opportunity.

TESTING

Retiring Monroe Schools superintendent blasts education officials

We’re still wasting millions of dollars annually on useless tests…

From Phil Cagwin in the Journal-News (Ohio)

“There also seems to be the expectation that our teachers should focus more on the common core standards and test results than on our children. Our teachers are not threatened by accountability, but when they are expected to teach to tests that have no value to instruction, and that change constantly, it seems such a waste of valuable time for quality student and teacher interaction, not to mention the millions of taxpayer dollars that funnel to the test making and scoring companies,” said Cagwin.

MONEY TALKS

Betsy DeVos: Trump’s illiberal ally seen as most dangerous education chief ever

DeVos is what happens when money runs the country instead of the people.

From David Smith, in The Guardian

What DeVos – a 59-year-old entrepreneur, philanthropist and former chair of the Michigan Republican party – lacks in expertise or charisma, she makes up for in money…

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Posted in Article Medleys, poverty, Public Ed, RightWing

2017 Medley #24: “Government Schools”

The War Against ‘Government Schools’,
The Myth of Failing Schools

THE WAR AGAINST “GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS”

The War Against America’s Public Schools by Gerald Bracey, published 2001. The war continues…

What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean

In a New York Times op ed, Katherine Stewart reminds us that the phrase “government schools” carries a negative connotation. She then goes on to connect the phrase to radical market guru Milton Friedman, and before him, Jim Crow.

…in certain conservative circles, the phrase “government schools” has become as ubiquitous as it is contemptuous.

What most people probably hear in this is the unmistakable refrain of American libertarianism, for which all government is big and bad. The point of calling public schools “government schools” is to conjure the specter of pathologically inefficient, power-mad bureaucrats.

To Defend Public Schools, the Hard Left Puts On the Tin Foil Hat

David French, writing in the conservative National Review, responds to Stewart’s article and says that the right calls public schools “government schools” because that’s what they are.

Public schools are government schools…Too many Americans are stuck in a time warp, believing that the local school is somehow “their” school. They don’t understand that public education is increasingly centralized — teaching a uniform curriculum, teaching a particular, secular set of values, and following priorities set in Washington, not by their local school board. The phrase is helpful for breaking through idealism and getting parents to analyze and understand the gritty reality of modern public education. The phrase works.

Technically, French is correct. Public schools, like any public service, is, by definition, a branch of the “government.” That’s why governments at most levels have departments of education. That’s why school boards are (or should be) elected. That’s why teachers can’t engage in religious proselytization while they are working and are “agents” of the government.

But it’s the negative connotation Stewart wrote of that French promotes in his condescending attempt to support the privatization of public education. While disingenuously claiming that public schools are indeed government schools so the name doesn’t mean anything negative, he goes on to use the phrase negatively. He claims that, since public school supporters can’t defend the “failing” public schools, we take to name-calling to support our argument.

Even worse for the government-school loyalist, the fight takes place on unfavorable ground. Public schools are failing large segments of the public. They’ve been failing for decades. So rather than defend public schooling on its meager merits, all too many ideologues fall back on the old insults. “Racist!” they cry. “Theocrat!” they yell.

What could be more democratic than choice, he claims, falling back on the old argument that poor children ought to have the same “choices” that wealthy children have…without noting that…

  • It is often the schools which do the choosing while feeling perfectly comfortable in denying “choice” to students who are difficult or expensive to teach.

Ignoring these facts he begs us not to deny private school excellence over public school failure.

…Spend much time with America’s wealthier families, and it’s not uncommon to see parents with three kids in three different schools. They made choices based on each child’s unique needs. They give their children the best possible chance to succeed. Why deny these choices to poor kids? Should we punish them for their parents’ economic performance? Faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system and limiting parental choice, all too many defenders of government schools fall back on name-calling, conspiracy theories, and their own anti-Christian bigotries. But they can cite Rushdoony all they want. It doesn’t make him relevant. It doesn’t make public schools better. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate the good and decent effort to use greater competition to improve education for everyone — white and black alike.

Three kids in three different schools? What poor family would have the transportation resources for this situation, unless French wants vouchers to cover the cost of taxis, time off work to transport children, or extra cars for kids to transport themselves. Why not? Should we punish those children “for their parents’ economic performance?”

Are public schools failing “large segments of the public?” Public schools struggle to effectively educate the shamefully high number of high-poverty students in America because they don’t have the money or resources to support them in the way they need to be supported. There aren’t enough counselors, nurses, and social workers in high-poverty schools. There aren’t enough librarians, books or materials. There isn’t enough science equipment. There aren’t enough learning specialists. School buildings are in disrepair. And the budget proposed by the current administration in Washington will guarantee that there won’t be enough after school programs. [For a good discussion of the needs of public school students see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools by the Chicago Teachers Union.]

Public school advocates are not “faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system.” Instead we’re faced with the difficult task of responding to the misinformation, deflections, and lies coming from privatizers who deny that poverty has anything to do with low school achievement and that it’s the politicians and policy makers who have failed to fully support public education. Policy makers ought to be held responsible by their constituents to provide full public school funding based on the needs of the community. Policy makers ought to be held responsible for relieving the pressures of our society’s economic inequality, rather than blaming the victims who are relegated to understaffed, and under-resourced institutions.

And we’re not faced with the task of defending a failing system. America’s public schools are not failing.

Public schools, when statistics are corrected for demographics, perform better than private schools. The University of Chicago Press reviewers of The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, by Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, write,

Private schools have higher scores not because they are better institutions but because their students largely come from more privileged backgrounds that offer greater educational support. After correcting for demographics, the Lubienskis go on to show that gains in student achievement at public schools are at least as great and often greater than those at private ones. Even more surprising, they show that the very mechanism that market-based reformers champion—autonomy—may be the crucial factor that prevents private schools from performing better. Alternatively, those practices that these reformers castigate, such as teacher certification and professional reforms of curriculum and instruction, turn out to have a significant effect on school improvement.

Instead of accusing public school advocates of “anti-Christian” bigotry because we refuse to approve of mixing public tax dollars with religious school education, French ought to get his facts straight.

The Right Wing in America Has Long Tried to Destroy ‘Government Schools’

Another discussion of the “government schools” phrase. The people who are working to privatize public education hate government, and because public schools are government sponsored public services, they hate public education, too. This isn’t new.

Do they also hate public libraries? public parks? and public water systems? Do they hate the government run military?

…these people are working with a completely different ethical system than the rest of us and a different philosophy, but it’s a coherent one and they are pursuing their goals with very strategic, calculating tools.” That’s also why the right is so focused on the teachers’ unions. It’s not because they are only concerned about the quality of education and think that teachers are blocking that. First of all, this is a cause that hated public education—what they would call government schools; they don’t even want to say public education—before there were teachers’ unions.

THE MYTH OF FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Challenging the myth that public schools are failing is one of the greatest obstacles facing public school advocates. Some selected responses to that myth…

What the numbers really tell us about America’s public schools

What I have suggested for ameliorating the low performance of low-income children, on all our assessments, are characteristics of schooling and the provision of health and other supports for children now present in wealthier communities. Perhaps, then, we should rely on John Dewey to help low-income students succeed, instead of putting our faith in vouchers, charters, test preparation, teacher accountability and the like. To paraphrase just a little, Dewey said:

“What the best and wisest … parents want for their children, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

…why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?

Because far right policymakers have convinced us all that it’s true.

It’s not.

Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested…

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

The Myth of Public School Failure

But when schools are doing better than ever before, the best way to encourage continued improvement is not a concerted attack on school governance and organization. A more effective approach would be praise for accomplishment, provision of additional resources to programs whose results justify support, and reforms on the margin to correct programs and curricula shown to be ineffective. 

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Posted in Curmudgucation, Early Childhood, Florida, Gadflyonthewall, ICPE-MCSCI, Killion, Politics, poverty, Quotes, RiseAbovetheMark, vouchers, Walsh

Listen to This #8

MEN IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

Calling Nurturing Men to the Teaching Profession

Most of my 35 years as a teacher was spent with students in grades K through 3. The quote below from Nancy Bailey suggests that it was difficult because of the strong-willed women I worked with. I can think of only one or two cases where I was made to feel unwelcome at the primary level from my colleagues.

It was much more difficult to deal with parents who were skeptical that a man could give their child the nurturing education necessary in the primary grades. Even worse, were those (few times) when parents actually requested another teacher because they didn’t want their daughters in my class. I understand the fear that makes a parent do that. The news stories of teachers who betray the trust parents have put in them and abuse children are frequent enough that there are some parents who would be scared to take a chance. I understood the parent request…but it saddened me.

From Nancy Bailey

Men who teach early childhood education have a lot of moxie. It can’t be easy to walk into an elementary school of strong-willed women who know the craft of teaching.

Some of my third grade students during recess on the last day of school, 1976-1977.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Why Churches Should Hate School Vouchers

Normally, I like to keep quotes short…one or two sentences, or a paragraph at the most. With this quote from Peter Greene, however, I felt like I needed to include two paragraphs.

Vouchers entangle Church and State, despite the ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court, and as such, are a danger to both the public schools and the church schools accepting vouchers.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State listed ten reasons for rejecting vouchers. At the top of the list…Vouchers Undermine Religious Liberty. They wrote,

…vouchers force Americans to pay taxes to support religion. This runs counter to the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. In America, all religious activities should be supported with voluntary contributions.

James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and other Founders strongly supported the separation of church and state and opposed taxation to support religion. As Ben Franklin succinctly put it: “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

From Peter Greene (Curmudgucation)

Somebody is going to try to cash in on voucher money or make a point or indulge in performance art, and taxpayers will be horrified to learn that their tax dollars are going to support a school that promotes satanism or pushes sharia law or teaches that all white folks are evil (I am confining myself to outrageous things that will outrage people– the list of outrageous things that people will happily put up with is a longer list).

So in the storm of outrage, taxpayers will demand that government make sure not to send voucher dollars to That School That Teaches Those Awful Things. Politicians will ride that wave, and before you know it, we will have a government agency whose mandate is to decide which churches are “legitimate” and voila– the Government Bureau of Church Regulation.

Op-ed: Myth busting Indiana’s voucher system

From Rocky Killion (See Rise Above the Mark)

Instead of throwing more money at this unproven two-system approach, Indiana legislators should use Indiana’s resources on proven strategies that will improve public education, including early childhood education, reducing class size, investing in professional development for educators, and assisting students who live in poverty. These are the strategies the best education systems in the world have implemented to become the best.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS: FLORIDA

FL: Death To Public Education

Indiana, North Carolina, Arizona, Ohio…all the states in which wealthy privateers are doing damage to public education…don’t reach the heights of damage done to the public schools and public school children of Florida, according to Peter Greene at Curmudgucation. And Florida is, frankly, a terrible place to be a public school student right now. In this post, Greene lists many of the things that Florida has done to support privatization while neglecting or punishing public schools. The third paragraph in the article contains a list of actions so despicable that only the most ardent “reformer” would fail to see the damage done to children.

The most recent legislation diverts millions of dollars from public schools to charter schools.

From Florida State Senator Linda Stewart quoted by Peter Greene (Curmudgucation)

The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

HYPOCRISY

More Truth in Teacher-Written Education Blogs Than Corporate Media

The entire “reform” movement – the obsession with standardized tests, the growth of charters and vouchers – has grown up and taken over as the status quo of American education with virtually no input from professional educators.

  • Have teachers been left out because teaching is a traditionally female dominated profession so the good-old-boys in state legislatures and board rooms across the country disrespect teachers as easily as they disrespect women in general?
  • Have teachers been ignored because “reformers” assume that going to school is enough “experience” to dictate how education ought to be?
  • Have teachers been silenced because millionaires and billionaires must be smart or they wouldn’t be rich, so we must listen to their “new” ideas for education?
  • Teachers comprise the last and largest labor unions left in the U.S. Are teachers shunned because destroying America’s unions in order to raise up the oligarchy won’t be complete until the NEA and AFT are relegated to the ineffectual level of other unions?

The hypocritical conflicts of interest within the political system are rampant, in which legislators and policy makers with economic and political ties to textbook and testing companies, charter management companies, and parochial schools, make policy for public education. Yet teachers aren’t consulted about public education policy because they might be “biased.”

From Steven Singer (Gadflyonthewall)

For some people, my position as an educator discredits my knowledge of schools. Yet getting paid by huge testing corporations doesn’t discredit journalists!?

POVERTY

School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

  • The status quo in American education is testing and punishing children, teachers, and schools. 
  • The status quo in American education is diverting public tax dollars from public schools to religious, private, and privately owned schools.
  • The status quo in American education is requiring “accountability” from public schools, while charters and voucher schools need not be transparent.
  • The status quo in American education is closing public schools and replacing them with charters instead of fixing them.
  • The status quo in American education is blaming teachers for student low achievement without society accepting a share of the responsibility for communities struggling with gun violence, drug and alcohol abuse, toxic environments, lack of health care facilities, and other effects of poverty.

From Russ Walsh

Those of us who continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education are accused of using poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Right up front let me say I am against the status quo and I have spent a lifetime in education trying to improve teacher instruction and educational opportunities for the struggling readers and writers I have worked with. To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.

POLITICS

About That Partisan Divide

From Sheila Kennedy

Today’s Republicans and Democrats do not share a belief in the nature of the common good. Democrats believe that government has a responsibility to ensure access to healthcare. Republicans don’t.

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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, Finland, kindergarten, poverty, Racism, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn…

Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes…

SCHOOL IS ABOUT FINDING YOUR HAPPINESS…

In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland’s education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, “If you don’t have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?” She responded…

The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.

Equity.

In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,

…the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.

Equity.

Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done…and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.

But, whine the contrarians, “Finland is not the U.S. We can’t just import their whole education system. They’re a smaller country…not so diverse!”

True.

In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and…

  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation’s slave past. We can’t build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize…to close the schools and replace them with charter schools…instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren’t the cure to low achievement.

See also…

  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be “haves” and “have nots.” There will be inequity.

…INSTEAD WE BLAME TEACHERS

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. “Reformers” love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn’t result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

…INSTEAD WE LOWER STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS

In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that “we have to get more ‘good people’ into the classroom,” so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach…

New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.

ALEC: ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION ACT

ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, “certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession.” That’s true, and that’s as it should be.

They say, “comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals.” What is their definition of “improved teacher quality?” What is their definition of “qualified?”

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you’re ALEC, the answer is “they don’t.”

Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC…

I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.

…INSTEAD WE OBSESS OVER TESTING

An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on…better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.

Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I’m afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there’s a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.

…there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten…

…Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose…[emphasis added]

INSTEAD…

…of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty.

…of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

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