Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, poverty, Privatization, Recess, vouchers, Wisconsin

2017 Medley #10

Vouchers, Public Education,
Early Childhood Education, Recess, Poverty

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Adding Insult to Injury

Tensions rise as vouchers pick up traction across Wisconsin

Here’s an outrageous twist on how a state pays for vouchers. The levy for the voucher schools in Wisconsin is included in the property tax bill where it is labeled for public schools! The local public school district is charged with raising funds for students using vouchers to go to private schools!

Starting last year, state law called for districts to raise taxes to pay for local students using vouchers — whether they were already enrolled in a private school or not. The cost shows up on a homeowner’s property tax bill as part of the public school levy. There’s no separate line item telling taxpayers the cost of the voucher program in their district.

“We’ve been put in the unenviable position of middleman,” said Colleen Timm, the superintendent of the Mishicot School District.

School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist, and the Religious Right

Everyone who has a stake in public education – and that’s really all of us – ought to save this post by Russ Walsh. Print it, along with the articles and videos to which it links, and bind it carefully. Refer to it often.

Walsh takes the topic of vouchers and explains where it came from, and what it’s purpose is.

And that purpose has little to do with educating children.

…vouchers are very good for the rich. If the rich can sell vouchers as the cure for educational inequality, they may be able to get people to ignore the real reason for public education struggles – income inequity. If the rich really want to improve schools, they need to put their money on the line. If the rich are really interested in helping poor school children they need to invest – through higher taxes (or maybe just by paying their fair share of taxes), not unreliable philanthropy, in improved health care, child care, parental education, pre-school education, public school infrastructure and on and on. This will be expensive, but we can do it if the wealthy would show the same dedication to the “civil rights issue of our time” with their wallets as they show to harebrained schemes like vouchers.

So vouchers are good for the rich, but they are also good for the racist. Voucher schemes were born in the racist south in the 1950s right after the Brown v. Board of Education struck down school segregation. After that ruling, many states passed voucher schemes to allow white parents to send their children to private schools and take taxpayers money with them. Many children, black and white are still feeling the negative impact of this racist response to desegregation. Today, vouchers have similar effects on schools. Vouchers may not provide enough money for low-income and minority students to attend private schools, but they may well provide enough money to subsidize attendance for their slightly more affluent white neighbors.

Another Study: Vouchers are not improving education

Yet another review of the studies showing that vouchers are for diverting tax money to religious schools, not helping children.

The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. All of these yield much higher returns than the minor, if any, gains that have been estimated for voucher students. (Emphasis added)

SUCCEEDING SCHOOLS

Public Schools: Who Is Failing Whom?

Call it lies, misunderstanding, or whatever you like, the idea that America’s public schools are failing is false.

In truth, it is politicians and policy makers who have failed. They have always found public education to be a convenient scapegoat at which to toss the blame for whatever failures of public policy they don’t choose to accept responsibility for.

Say it often enough and people will believe it is true, even if it is not. It’s time to change that narrative.

If the same words are repeated over and over again, they begin to be taken as true. “Failing public schools” are such words. I see them written and hear them spoken by legislators, journalists, and commentators who probably have not been in a public school in the decades since they attended one or never because they were educated in private schools.

…It is not the schools that are failing our children. It is the adults with political power who are failing our schools.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Littles– More Than a Score (A Film You Should See)

This post by Peter Greene contains a video which I have embedded as well, below. Kindergarten has lost its developmental appropriateness. The Common Core (and in Indiana, the new standards based on the Common Core, but not called the Common Core) has brought us to this place where we have chosen standardization over development, and our children will be the worse for it.

Marie Amoruso has been a teacher, an author and adjunct professor at Teachers College Columbia University, and Manhattanville College. She runs a consulting agency, and she has created a short film about this very subject. Yes, “More Than a Test Score” is not exactly a groundbreaking title, and yes, her delivery is at times a little over-fraught and yes, she kind of muddies Common Core in with other issues. But when she turns her camera on the classrooms of young children, she cuts right to the heart of what is so deeply wrong with the test-centered school movement. In seventeen minutes, with the help of several interview subjects, she addresses what children need and what they aren’t getting, and she takes us right into the classrooms to see the effects.

Teachers know what to do– the issue, as she lays it out, is getting the freedom to let them do it. In the absence of that, students learn to hate school.

PRIVATIZATION: RECESS

Privatizing Recess: Micromanaging Children’s Play for Profit

Along with the developmentally inappropriate Common Core and other standards-based intrusions on public schools, there is the continuing overuse and misuse of testing. The Big Standardized Test (to share Peter Greene’s description, the BS Test) has been the driving force behind corporate education “reform” over the last couple of decades. This has led to teaching to the test and spending inordinate amounts of instructional time focused on test prep. Physical Education and recess have been among the casualties of this debate. There’s no time any more for children to just play and recess has been disappearing from schools around the nation. Physical Education isn’t covered on the test, so it has been scaled back to minimal levels.

Enter an entrepreneur who wants to make some money teaching kids how to play. Schools, whose students are starved for physical activity, have jumped on this newest bandwagon…the privatization of Physical Education classes substituting as recess.

Recess is such a simple concept. It’s freedom for children. It’s adults saying “ We trust you to create your own fun. Make-up stuff, run and jump, play tag, swing or slide, climb, play kick ball, or soft ball, or jump rope. Or, sit by yourself and feel the sun on your back. Look at an anthill. Chase a butterfly!

Recess, done right, energizes children! There are no rules other than not hurting anyone. And teachers are always observing how children socialize on the playground and will step in if children display inappropriate behavior.

Why are so many adults not willing to let children be children for a short time each day at school?

POVERTY

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

The United States is one of three industrialized nations who spend more money to educate the children of the wealthy than to educate the children of the poor.

We know that the effects of poverty have an impact on a child’s achievement. Other nations understand that more is needed to provide support for children who come from high-poverty backgrounds. Indiana used to be an exception to that rule (see this article from 2015), but has since changed it’s plan and is moving to invest more in wealthy districts than in poor ones – a step backwards.

The state budget bill approved last month by the Indiana House continues a trend that we’ve seen for several legislative sessions: School districts that primarily serve affluent families are getting decent funding increases while high-poverty school districts are losing out.

Poverty and Its Effects on School Achievement Are Forgotten in the President’s Budget

Test and punishment doesn’t change the fact that children from poor families don’t achieve as well as children from wealthy families. The President’s new budget proudly expands school privatization, but ignores 90% of American children who attend public schools, half of whom are low income or worse.

In the list of programs for the Department of Education, there are three different expansions of school school choice and privatization—Title I Portability, some kind of pilot of federal vouchers, and expansion by 50 percent of the Charter Schools Program that underwrites grants to states for the launch of new charter schools. The K-12 education budget cuts after-school programs, two programs that help students prepare for and apply to college, and teacher preparation. There is nothing in Trump’s new education budget to expand the opportunity to learn for America’s poorest children in urban and rural public schools.

For fifteen years the United States has had a test-based accountability system in place supposedly to close achievement gaps, raise school achievement, and drive school staff to work harder. There is widespread agreement that No Child Left Behind (now to be replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act) has failed to close achievement gaps and significantly raise overall achievement for the students who are farthest behind.

Poverty is indeed the problem in education

Stephen Krashen posted this on his blog along with the corresponding studies. Unfortunately, if you click the link above, the studies are all that are left on the blog. Somehow the following, which I retrieved (and can still retrieve) through my Feedly account, has disappeared.

Krashen is right…the problem with American education – like the problem with a lot of social issues in America – is poverty and inequity.

To the editor:

Missing from David Denby’s “Stop Humiliating Teachers” is a mention of the overwhelming research supporting his claim: Poverty is indeed the problem in education. Martin Luther King suggested this in 1967: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished” and research has confirmed that Dr. King was right again and again.

Studies published in scientific journals show that when researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our overall scores are unimpressive because of our unacceptably high rate of child poverty, now around 21 percent. In some urban districts, the poverty level is 80%. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is around 5%. The problem is poverty, not teacher quality, not unions, not schools of education, not a lack of testing and not low standards.

As Denby notes, poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care and lack of access to books. Studies confirm that each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance, and that when we remedy the situation, school performance improves.

As Susan Ohanian puts it, our motto should be “No child left unfed, no child without adquate health care, and no child without easy access to a good library.” The best teaching in the world will be ineffective if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Until we eliminate poverty, let’s at least protect children from its effects. This would cost a fraction of what we cheerfully spend on expensive “innovations” that have no strong scientific evidence backing them, such as frequent high-stakes testing, and the current trend to replace teachers with computer modules for basic instruction (competency-based education).

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Posted in Lead, Politics, poverty, Preschool, Privatization, Public Ed, retention, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #9 – I Have No Words

Poverty, Lead, Public Education, PreSchool, Funding, Food vs. Testing, Vouchers, Retention, Hate Crimes

Well…I have few words. Luckily, others have more…

YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY

Jennifer Garner urges Congress to fund early-childhood education: ‘A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you.’

Let’s start with poverty since it’s from poverty that nearly all the major problems with American education begin.

Actress, Jennifer Garner tells Congress what they should already know, that poverty affects a child’s life. Will they accept their share of the responsibility for the embarrassingly high rate of child poverty in the U.S.?

“A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you. A child who is not touched, who is not spoken to, who is not read to in the first five years of his or her life will not fully recover.

“Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse.

“When many of these children enter kindergarten, they don’t know their letters or numbers. They don’t know how to sit in a circle and listen to a story. They don’t know how to hold a book — they may have never even seen a book!

“That’s shocking, isn’t it? That 1 in 5 children in this country live in the kind of poverty that they could enter kindergarten never having seen a book.

“It’s easy to escape responsibility for disgrace like that by blaming the parents.

“Who doesn’t talk to a child or sing to a child?

“I’ll tell you who: parents who have lived their whole lives with the stresses that come with food scarcity, with lack of adequate shelter, with drug addiction and abuse. Parents who were left on the floor when they were children — ignored by their parents who had to choose — as one-third of mothers in this country do — between providing food or a clean diaper.

“Poverty dulls the senses, saps hope, destroys the will.

How lead poisoning affects children

HOW MUCH IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION WORTH

Lead Task Force Launches as Milwaukee Poisoning Levels are Higher than Flint

A year ago I might have said, “If a foreign power had poisoned the number of American children who currently live in lead infested environments we would consider it an act of war.” In today’s  political climate of antagonism towards anything which would benefit the “have-nots”, however, I don’t know if I can truthfully say that.

The most recent data shows over 25,000 children were tested in Milwaukee. More than 2,000 had lead poisoning.

“That’s 8.6 percent of the children tested. In Flint, Michigan, it was 4.9,” said Senator LaTonya Johnson, District 6 (D – Milwaukee).

THE FALSEHOOD OF “FAILING” SCHOOLS

Media Consensus on ‘Failing Schools’ Paved Way for DeVos

The delegitimization of public education began before Betsy DeVos…

…George W. Bush, Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, John King…

The language of “school choice” turns students into customers and schools into the marketplace. It turns public education into an oppressive, vaguely Soviet bureaucracy. In this framing, charters and vouchers represent freedom from oppression.

The papers that print these arguments don’t provide a definition of what they mean by “failing” schools—they don’t need to. Years of amplifying the pro-reform movements rhetoric has made “public schools” synonymous with “failing schools” when poor students of color are the subject. The words “failing schools” appeared in the New York Times 611 times between 2002 and 2014.

The rhetorical work of delegitimizing public education has already been done. While DeVos may be far to the right of the bipartisan vision of corporate education reform, the path towards privatization has already been paved.

PRESCHOOL PROBLEMS

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

What should the focus of preschool be?

Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.

…One major study of 700 preschool classrooms in 11 states found that only 15 percent showed evidence of effective interactions between teacher and child. Fifteen percent.

…It’s become almost a cliché to look to Finland’s educational system for inspiration. As has been widely reported, the country began to radically professionalize its workforce in the 1970s and abandoned most of the performance standards endemic to American schooling. Today, Finland’s schools are consistently ranked among the world’s very best. This “Finnish miracle” sounds almost too good to be true. Surely the country must have a few dud teachers and slacker kids!

And yet, when I’ve visited Finland, I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it. Having rejected many of the pseudo-academic benchmarks that can, and do, fit on a scorecard, preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.

SCHOOL FUNDING FOR HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

Just because Mike Pence moved to Washington D.C., doesn’t mean that Indiana isn’t fully complicit with the new administration’s goal of stripping funds from anything which would support low income families.

The state legislature is continuing previous years’ process of transferring funds from poor public schools to rich ones…all in the name of “equality.”

For over 20 years, Indiana has used a school funding device called the Complexity Index to direct more money to high-poverty schools, which face more complex challenges in educating students. The House budget reduces Complexity Index funding by 15 percent, or $136 million.

The result: High-poverty school districts, those that rely for extra funding on the Complexity Index, could face financial challenges in the two-year period covered by the budget. The legislation is now being considered by the Senate, which could make changes in the House-approved school funding formula.

According to data from Libby Cierzniak, an attorney who represents Indianapolis and Hammond schools at the Statehouse, average per-pupil funding would increase three times as much for the state’s 50 lowest-poverty school districts as for the 50 highest-poverty districts under the House budget.

FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDING

Trump’s Proposed 2018 Budget for K-12 Education: What It Means

Apparently “drain the swamp” means getting rid of anyone in the federal government who still tries to support anything or anyone other than wealthy nationalists.

Here are just some of the percentage losses reported by the NY Times for departments whose programs are likely directly to affect children and families: Education, -14 percent; Health and Human Services, -16 percent; and Housing and Urban Development, -12 percent. The cuts are likely to affect public housing and subsidies for housing vouchers, may affect support for homeless shelters, and will eliminate after-school programs. Being erased altogether are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps very poor people pay gas bills in the winter and the Legal Services Corporation. School lunch, school breakfast and summer feeding programs have been made into mandatory spending and are not covered by this budget. We’ll have to watch for a later, more detailed budget to observe these programs, and we can hope they will be spared. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is slightly reduced from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion in Trump’s proposed budget. There are also significant cuts to health programs and much debate currently about the future of the Affordable Care Act.

FUNDING

It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death.

It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death. Betsy DeVos is the tip of merely one crumbling iceberg. Dismantling America’s essential social services is highly profitable for an oligarchy of corporate billionaires and their political cronies. Shock and Awe methods assure that multiple targets are hit fast and hard to keep people divided, to avoid mass resistance for a single cause. Ask Naomi Klein how this works.

For 24 million American men, women and children, a death panel looks like President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – with the smiling approval of the majority of Congress. “Healthcare” that condemns 24 million Americans to slow and painful premature deaths is NOT healthcare. If a third world country’s leaders did this while dismantling public education, America would invade it and overthrow its corrupt governing officials.

FOOD OR TESTING? WHAT’S IMPORTANT?

Food Is Overrated

The first sentence in this post from Peter Greene hits the nail on the head. We still focus almost exclusively on test scores. Anything that doesn’t improve test scores – as if a raise in test scores was actually evidence of “improvement” – isn’t worth doing, apparently.

There is no evidence that food helps raise test scores.

Mind you, this is from the administration that wants us to believe that three million votes were cast illegally, that Obama wiretappppped Trump Towers, that microwaves can be used to spy on us– all this and more, without a shred of evidence. But children doing better in school because they have gotten food to eat– that is some wildass crazypants conspiracy nutbaggery. You think being able to eat food helps children do better in school?? Woah– just let me check you for your tin foil hat.

Reformsters, this is at least partly on you. This is the logical extension of the idea that only hard “evidence” matters, and only if it is evidence that test scores go up. We’ve dumped play, understanding of child development, and a whole bunch of not-reading-and-math classes because nobody can prove they help raise test scores to the satisfaction of various reformsters. It was only a matter of time until some literal-minded shallow-thinking functionary decided that there was no clear linkage between food and test scores.

FED’S VOUCHER PLAN

Here’s The Skinny: Trump’s Trying To Push A Voucher Plan On Us

This morning, President Donald J. Trump revealed his skinny budget, and it’s both skinny on details and in its support for public education. The Trump plan would cut the Department of Education’s budget by 13.5 percent, which according to The Washington Post, would be “a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.”

At the same time, the budget would funnel $250 million of taxpayer dollars into a private school voucher program and use an additional $1 billion to fund a reckless experiment called “portability” that could be a stepping stone to even more voucher plans.

There are so many reasons to oppose Trump’s $250 million voucher program. Vouchers divert desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students. They are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and threaten religious liberty, among other things.

SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY

Opinion: Georgia won’t improve its schools until it stops teacher blame game

Politicians and policy makers need to step up and accept their share of the responsibility for fixing the problems which beset America’s public schools. Closing schools, diverting funds, or punishing students and teachers, won’t help to relieve the high rate of poverty in the U.S. It’s time to face the facts. Poverty impacts a child’s ability to learn and numerous out-of-school-factors can’t be controlled by teachers no matter how good they are. The best teachers in the world can’t help children learn if they are hungry, sick, or lack access to books.

The rhetoric about “fixing” failing schools is only political posturing until the real discussion about what is happening in the communities and homes of those students is addressed. EVERY CHILD should have access to equitable education – that was the intent of the Education and Secondary Education Act originally authorized in the 1960’s (now called Every Student Succeed Acts), and that is the belief of EVERY TEACHER I ever met. However, there are many influences impacting schools that are not being considered by these tests. The teachers cannot fix all of the societal issues plaguing these schools.

RETENTION HASN’T AND DOESN’T WORK

Keep Flunking the Little Brats!

Invest in preschool and early intervention instead of wasting time and damaging children with the failed “intervention” of retention-in-grade.

Students who struggle with reading in third grade are more likely to get into issues down the road, like academic failure, discipline issues, poor attendance, drop-outs, etc. These problems might be connected to reading issues, or both the problems and the reading issues could be related to some other factor like – oh, let’s just go out on a limb and say … poverty.

…As Stanford researcher, Linda Darling Hammonds, has written:

“We have had dozens and dozens of studies on this topic. The findings are about as consistent as any findings are in education research: the use of testing is counterproductive, it does not improve achievement over the long run, but it does dramatically increase dropout rates. Almost every place that has put this kind of policy in place since the 1970s has eventually found it counterproductive and has eliminated the policy. Unfortunately policy makers often are not aware of the research and they come along years later and reintroduce the same policies that were done away with previously because of negative consequences and lack of success.”

THE STATE OF THE NATION

With hate crimes against Jews on the rise, one community grapples with how to respond

Hate crimes against Jews (and Muslims, Latinos, other immigrants of color, the LGBT community) continue to rise. Nationalism rears its ugly, bigoted head. Those who say, “It’s not me because I’m not [insert ethnicity],” do so at their own peril.

My grandparents came here to escape the Tzar’s pogroms in the early 20th century. This could be their cemetery.

“The thing that’s most painful, the thing I keep thinking… is, they came to America, they had so much hope,” she said. “And I just keep thinking about the shattered gravestones and the shattered hopes.”

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Posted in Choice, Curmudgucation, poverty, Privatization, Quotes, vouchers

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #3

A collection of quotes from around the (mostly) education blogosphere…

CHANGE THE STATUS QUO

I Am Not Hostile To Change

As a nation we’ve stopped even pretending that we’re trying to help schools with struggling students. Instead, we’re choosing to let them languish, underfunded, while we throw away needed resources on religious school vouchers or divert money to the charter school ripoff industry. Meanwhile, we’ve continued to bludgeon America’s public schools with worthless test and punish policies to “prove” that schools are failing while ignoring the real cause of low achievement in America – poverty.

That is the status quo in American public education.

From Peter Greene [emphasis added]

I would love to see a change in the rhetoric about failing schools. Instead of declaring that we will “rescue” students from failing schools and offering lifeboats for a handful of students, I’d like to change to a declaration that where we find struggling and failing schools, we will get them the support and resources that they need to become great.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – POVERTY

DeVos and charter schools pose major threat to education

The most serious problem facing America’s public schools is still poverty.

From Paul Donnelly

Those who support for-profit charter schools are distracting the public from the real issues facing our children. America has a shameful child poverty rate (over 20 percent), communities suffer from underfunded schools, and our society has a broken criminal justice system that sends too many young people to jail instead of college. There’s no question that America’s schools need to be fixed, but more importantly, we need to fix our democracy.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – VOUCHERS

School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

It has never really been about the students and their achievement. All the talk about helping poor students “escape” from the “failing” public schools has just been a smokescreen for diverting public money into church collection boxes and corporate bank accounts.

This report shows once more that vouchers don’t increase student achievement. What are the chances that “reformers” will reverse their position and work to end the transfer of tax dollars to unsuccessful voucher programs? Where are the calls for “helping children escape failing schools” now?

From Martin Carnoy, Economic Policy Institute

The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. All of these yield much higher returns than the minor, if any, gains that have been estimated for voucher students.

The Studies Agree: Voucher Plans Simply Do Not Work

From Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

…these days, the battle over vouchers is primarily about ideology. The plans continue to be promoted by think tanks and politicians who don’t like public schools, public services or public anything, really. Their goal is privatization at all costs.

Call that what you will – but let’s stop pretending voucher plans are designed to help children. More than 25 years of facts, figures and statistics prove otherwise.

Facts About Vouchers

Click the link above to see information about the statements below.

From the National Coalition for Public Education

Private school vouchers undermine public schools.
Private school vouchers don’t improve academic achievement.
Private voucher schools don’t provide the same rights and protections.
Private school vouchers don’t offer real choice.
Private school vouchers harm religious freedom.
Private voucher schools underserve students with disabilities.
Private school vouchers underserve low-income students.
Private school vouchers fail to provide accountability to taxpayers.
Private school vouchers often fund poor quality schools.
Private school vouchers do not save taxpayer money.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – CHOICE

“School Choice” is like diverting money from parks to backyard swingsets and calling it “recreational choice”

Two quotes from Doug Masson. The first – “choice” ignores the concept of the public good.

From Doug Masson

Public education isn’t important merely because it serves the public, it is important because it creates the public. The school’s role as a public institution is something that often gets left out or ignored when the subject of “school choice” and vouchers are brought up. Disregard of the public school’s role in creating the public is a fundamental flaw in the “money-follows-the-child” model of funding education.

The second – “choice” is a movement based on selfishness, weakening our communities and our society.

The more we turn ourselves from members of the public into an atomized collection of individuals, the weaker our communities and democratic institutions become. Dressing up these decisions in the language of “choice” does not change this fact.

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM” STRATEGIES – PRIVATIZATION

Who in their right mind thinks improving “failing” schools means defunding then shutting them down? Republicans.

From Chris Savage, Eclecta Blog

In a rational society, if a school is struggling, there would be a recognition of a systemic problem that needs to be dealt with. In the case of schools, that problem is invariably crippling poverty. Shutting down community schools doesn’t resolve that problem. Making these schools compete on an uneven playing field with for-profit charter schools doesn’t resolve that problem. Instead, our government should be INVESTING in schools and INVESTING in rebuilding communities. This is the only way improving our so-called “failing” schools will work.

And, let’s be clear: These schools aren’t “failing”. These schools have been FAILED.

FINLAND: A LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS

This is why Finland has the best schools

From William Doyle

In class, children are allowed to have fun, giggle and daydream from time to time. Finns put into practice the cultural mantras I heard over and over: “Let children be children,” “The work of a child is to play,” and “Children learn best through play.”

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, IN Gen.Assembly, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, vouchers

2017 Medley #6

Poverty, Privatization: Vouchers and Choice, Public Education 101 for Betsy DeVos

POVERTY

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Public education in America is not failing. What is failing is our inability or unwillingness to relieve poverty. Children who live in poverty have lower achievement. This isn’t new information. Jonathan Kozol has been sounding the alarm since 1967. We should be ashamed that so many American children live in poverty.

It’s time for politicians to focus on reducing poverty and let the teachers who work with actual students help decide what is best for their students.

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

Politics, not education, got us into this mess, and it is politics that must get us out of it.

We must not go further down this rabbit hole. The future of our educational system, and the future of our children, is at stake. No one who has not worked in the sector of public education should be making decisions about our school system without careful consideration of the insights of those who will be directly impacted by those decisions.

When we adjust for poverty, American students score high on international tests. Here we see how American students who are educated in schools with less than 10% students in poverty, compare to countries with less than 10% of their students who live in poverty.

Report: School Funding Increases Lag For Low-Income Students

Somehow we have forgotten that children who come to school from high poverty homes need more resources to help them learn, not fewer. They need counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. They need well trained teachers, and support staff trained in remediation techniques. They need health care and an environment free from toxins like lead. They need pre-schools and summer programs.

It’s time we stop providing more for wealthy students than poor students. All our children need a fully funded, well staffed, and well resourced school.

Recent changes to Indiana’s school funding formula increased per-pupil funding across the state. At the same time it slashed special funding formerly given to students deemed at-risk, including students living in poverty, English-language learners and those who qualified for textbook assistance.

So, in certain districts with low populations of at-risk students, Sugimoto found, that although enrollment declined, the districts received an overall bump in funding per student. He says, in some cases, districts with fewer students saw their overall still increase.

“Those would have been districts that had very modest enrollment declines,” says Suigimoto, in an interview. “The increase in funding would have certainly made up for that.

Yet, overall funding across the state still lags behind pre-2009 rates, when adjusted for inflation.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Voucher programs currently in force in the U.S. have not helped children’s achievement, but they have reduced funds for an already cash strapped (not “flush with cash”) public schools. The “status quo” in 2117 America is the reduction of funds for public schools, increased test and punish policies, and a growing trend towards charter schools and vouchers for religious and private schools.

Instead of letting “the money follow the child” we ought to be “following the money” to see who is benefiting from the expansion of privatization schemes.

Study confirms voucher programs discriminate

Research led by an Indiana University professor confirms what school voucher critics have long argued: Voucher programs receive public funding yet discriminate on the basis of religion, disability status, sexual orientation and possibly other factors.

The finding is especially timely as President Donald Trump and his designee to serve as secretary of education, Michigan school-choice activist Betsy DeVos, have indicated they will use federal clout and money to push states to expand voucher programs.

Voucher programs go beyond what court approved

[Voucher programs] arguably run afoul of the establishment clause – what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the wall of separation between church and state. If not that, the widespread religious discrimination should raise concerns about the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. And some voucher schools appear to discriminate against special-needs students, which could raise issues with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS–INDIANA

The Indiana General Assembly, not satisfied with one of the largest voucher programs in the nation, continues to come up with new ways to divert funds from public education to private pockets.

Note that Indiana’s voucher plan has not helped Indiana’s school achievement. Competition hasn’t resulted in better education for everyone…just inadequately funded public schools which still seem to out-perform privatized education options.

Turn off the tap: Privatization effort too big a drain on schools

Broad and costly expansions of the so-called Choice Scholarship program are found in multiple bills, including Senate Bill 534, which will be heard by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee this afternoon.

SB 534 carries a price tag of as much as $206 million a year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. Repackaged from last year’s unsuccessful “Educational Savings Accounts” to “Special Education Scholarship Accounts,” the intent is the same: Give parents an allotment of tax dollars to spend however they might choose. A companion bill in the House, HB 1591, carries an even more audacious price tag of as much as $366 million a year.

Latest voucher gimmick: Education Savings Accounts

Give Indiana Republican legislators points for resourcefulness. They keep finding new ways to undermine public schools by expanding the state’s school voucher program. The latest, and arguably the most egregious, is the creation of Education Savings Accounts, state-funded accounts to pay for private schooling and other expenses.

Senate Bill 534, scheduled to be considered today by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, would create ESAs for the families of special-needs students who choose not to attend public school and don’t receive a private-school voucher.

The state would fund the ESAs with money that would otherwise go to the public schools where the students would be eligible to enroll — typically about $6,000 per student but potentially quite a bit more for some special-needs students. Then the students’ families could decide where to spend the money: private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, and other services from providers approved by the State Board of Education.

How Can Schools Be Voucherized? Let Us Count the Ways… and the Consequences

Here is Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, in a recent column commenting on what vouchers do to public school funding. This time the example is Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana: “Vouchers drain state tax dollars, creating deficits, or the need for tax increases. When Indiana started its voucher program, it claimed it would save taxpayers money. Not only did that not happen, the state’s education budget is now in deficit, and the millions shelled out for vouchers grows each year. Last year, vouchers cost the taxpayers of Indiana $131.5 million as caps and income levels were raised. Indiana now gives vouchers to families with incomes as high as $90,000 and to students who never attended a public school.” Burris adds that while the program was passed, “promising that it would help poor and lower-middle class families find schools they like for their children… as it turned out, five years after it began, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools and many vouchers are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.”

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: A Visit to the For-Profit Edu-Mall

PUBLIC EDUCATION 101 FOR BETSY DEVOS

Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education for the United States, has assumed control over the office charged with overseeing America’s system of public education. She has no experience in public schools: not as a teacher or educator, parent, or even a student. She is arguably the least qualified person to ever hold the office, with the possible exception of Bill Bennett (who also had minimal encounters with public education, but he at least earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from a public university).

As a public service, here are a couple of things which could serve to educate Secretary DeVos about public schools…including an excerpt from the Michigan Constitution about public education.

Educating Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos does not understand what it is like to teach in any school let alone poor public schools. She does not understand what the lives of real teachers and students are like…

Here’s what’s hard. I have added a few new points:

  • Watching your school district throw money at unproven technology when basic needs are your students not met.
  • Being dismissed as a teacher, when you are the only professional in the room who understands children and how they learn.
  • Being dismissed as a parent, when you understand your child best.
  • Being an over tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
  • Coming to school hungry and/or sick, or having an untreated toothache.
  • Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
  • Working on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty, who face all the terrible problems that come with that.
  • Not having a home.
  • Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
  • Having such a large class with so many diverse students you know it will be difficult to teach.
  • Not having enough resources and materials to teach effectively.

Why We Still Need Public Schools

We still need public schools…

The mission of public education is sixfold.

1. To provide universal access to free education
2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children
3. To unify a diverse population
4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society
5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient
6. To improve social conditions

That mission has been accepted by the states and most have provisions for public schools in their constitutions. The constitution of Michigan, for example, provides for free, universal, public education.

§ 2 Free public elementary and secondary schools; discrimination.
Sec. 2. The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

The constitution also provides for universities, public libraries, and a popularly elected state board of education. In 1970 the state decided to prohibit private schools and private school students from using public tax money.

No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students.

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Posted in DeVos, Duncan, Politicians, poverty

The Common Knowledge is Wrong

NATIONAL “REFORM” IS BIPARTISAN

Here in Indiana we’re used to blaming Republicans for the “reformist” changes to public education – changes which are ongoing! Changes which are the not-so-new status quo.

It is the Republicans who, over the last decade, have authored and expanded the voucher and charter programs which divert funds from public schools to private pockets. It is the Republicans who still push to continue the test and punish policies of the Bush II and Obama administrations. It is the Republicans who worked hard to deprofessionalize the teaching profession by reducing collective bargaining options, evaluating teachers using student test scores, allowing off-the-street college grads to start teaching with no pedagogical training, and eliminating the option to pay higher salaries to teachers with more experience and training (In what other profession is experience a detriment to salary increases?).

Lest we forget, however, the Democrats nationwide have not necessarily been friends to public education. Arne Duncan did his best to coerce states into expanding charter schools while no research existed to suggest any advantage. He was not above threatening states who didn’t accept the Common Core, expand charters, or continue test and punish policies.

So, nationally, the “reforms” have come from bipartisan sources. Sometimes Republicans. Sometimes Democrats. What is it about public education that makes it a target of political tampering, obstruction, and destruction? The answer is power…and most importantly, money.

Control over public education is, by definition, political. Public education is funded with public money which needs public oversight – a political activity. There is also the lure of billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on public education every year. Privatizers of all political stripes want to get their hands on that money and they are using political means to get it. One important way has been to promote the myth that America’s public education system is “broken” and schools are “failing.”

TALKATHON

From noon on February 6th to noon on February 7th the Democrats in the U.S. Senate staged a “talkathon” against the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education – with the occasional interruption by a Republican Senator to speak in her favor. The event was, of course, unsuccessful, and we’re now faced with the least prepared U.S. Secretary of Education since the department was created in 1980, and possibly since the creation of the Office of Education in 1867.

I listened to the “talkathon” for several hours on February 6th, and I heard Democrats decrying the inexperience, conflicts of interest, and general unpreparedness of DeVos…along with lofty and passionate calls to unite to save our public schools.

I agreed with most of what they said, but there were some who used the same arguments from the Bush/Cheney and Duncan/Obama privatization agenda. It isn’t clear from their speeches (Full Disclosure: I have not listened to or read all of them) whether they are against closing schools and replacing them with charters or not. Still, there were examples of disinformation which perpetuated the myth of “failing” schools.

One example came from Colorado Senator Michael F. Bennet who quoted these statistics…

Congressional Record – Senate, February 6, 2017, p.S725

As a nation, we are falling behind the rest of the world…American 15-year-olds score lower than their peers in 14 countries in reading, 36 countries in math, and 18 in science.

Those who have studied the PISA scores, which is the “score” he is referring to, should understand that it’s America’s greater number of students who live in poverty that has skewed our international scores lower than those of other OECD nations.

This isn’t anything new, by the way, so we’re not “falling behind.” American students’ test scores have always been middling, since the international tests were begun in the 1960s.

The U.S. child poverty rate of over 20% compares unfavorably to most other advanced nations in the world (Finland, for example, has a child poverty rate of 5%). The fact that children in poverty don’t achieve as high as their wealthier peers puts the U.S. at a disadvantage when comparing test scores. Our average test scores are lower because within that average is a larger number of scores from students who live in poverty.

Steven Krashen explains [with my emphasis]…

The secretary of education’s first priority

Research consistently confirms that low academic achievement is the result of poverty. In some urban areas, the child poverty level is 80% (the national average is an unacceptable 21%; in high-scoring Finland it is 5%).

When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students’ performance on international tests is near the top of the world. This shows that low achievement is not due to poor teaching, low standards, or unions. The major cause is poverty.

Poverty means food deprivation, insufficient medical care, and little access to reading material; each of these has a strong negative impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world will not help if children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.

Krashen kindly cites research for his statements – See here. Check out his blog for dozens of other posts with similar conclusions and loads of research citations.

The test scores of our wealthier students show that American schools are not failing and that high rates of child poverty are causing our scores to be unremarkable. Of course there are some teachers, administrators, and schools who could do a better job of reaching their students, but on the whole, our schools do well. However, politicians, including Democrats, have a hard time assuming their share of the responsibility for the shamefully high child poverty in our nation. It’s easier to talk about “failing” schools and “bad” teachers…it’s easier to blame the teachers unions and even college teacher preparation programs…than to face the fact that our lowest performing schools are often under-resourced and under-supported. It’s easier to blame schools and teachers than share any responsibility for schools filled with our most economically challenged children who come to school with significant disadvantages.

THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE IS WRONG

Senator Bennet is not the only one, of course, and it’s even possible that his reference to test scores was only to make a political point and he actually understands that poverty plays a significant role in student achievement. But his quote reinforces the idea that American schools are “failing.” It’s common knowledge.

Well, the common knowledge is wrong.

Steven Singer, blogger at gadflyonthewallblog, recently posted an article about this subject (I used a quote from his article in a previous post) which also ran on the Huffington Post.

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

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

Here’s why: the United States educates everyone. Most other countries do not.

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.

That can’t be said of many countries with which we’re often compared – especially countries comparable to the U.S. in size or diversity. So from the get-go, we have an advantage over most of the world.

We define education differently. Though our laws are woefully backward, in practice we look at it as a right, not a privilege. And for a full 13 years (counting kindergarten) it’s a right for every child, not just some.

But that’s not all! We also provide some of the highest quality education you can get in the world! We teach more, help more, achieve more and yet we are criticized more than any system in any country in the world.

We don’t exclude economically disadvantaged students from our schools. We don’t exclude students with special needs from our schools. We don’t exclude students with behavioral challenges [added later, h/t Joe V]. America’s public schools, unlike private and privately run schools, must accept everyone.

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

The challenge that faces us is to teach our fellow citizens the truth. The truth is that our schools have not failed, our teachers are not incompetent, teachers unions are not responsible for low achievement, and test scores should not define the success or failure of a child or a school.

With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, that challenge just got a lot harder.

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Posted in Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Competition, DeVos, Equity, Jonathan Kozol, Lead, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed

2017 Medley #4

Privatization, DeVos,
Public Education: A Common Good,
Poverty, Inequity, Achievement Gaps,
Lead, Competition, Words Matter

PRIVATIZATION

The dangerous rise of privatization and corporate education reform

The passage below is from an excellent post about the “fundamental elements” of the privatization movement.

When we first started fighting the corporate “reformers” in Indiana we were told that, since public schools were “failing” (NOTE: they’re not…see below, U.S. Public Schools: Success), “reform” was necessary in order to help students achieve at a higher level. Providing money to send children to private schools would help those students “stuck” in “failing” schools and give them the opportunity to achieve more.

Once it became clear that privatized schools (charters or private schools) weren’t better at raising student achievement than real public schools, the achievement of children no longer was a legitimate argument for defunding and privatizing public education. Now, the Indiana “reformers” have switched their argument to “choice” for “choice’s” sake. The money should follow the child and parents have complete control of public funds used to send their children to whatever school they choose. This means, of course, that tax money is spent with no public oversight and is no more rational than a citizen “choosing” to use tax money to fund a trip to the bookstore instead of supporting funding of the public library.

It’s also true that in many cases, attendance at a particular privately run school is the school’s choice rather than the parent’s. “Is your child expensive to educate? Sorry we’re not equipped to handle his needs.” “Does your child need special education services? Sorry, we don’t have the facilities to deal with her.” “Are there unaddressed behavior problems getting in the way of your child’s education? You’ll have to take your child to another school until he can behave himself.”

The point of school “reform” has never been about student achievement. It’s about segregation and moving tax money into the hands of private corporations and religious organizations.

The charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement are making unprecedented gains in their effort to privatize public education in the United States.

With Betsy DeVos on the verge of becoming the United States Secretary of Education and President Donald Trump promising to divert $20 billion in federal funding from public schools to privatization through school choice programs, the movement to undermine public education must be deliriously excited about their prospects over the next four years.

Of course, the proponents of corporate education reform have been riding high for more than two decades thanks to the policies and politics of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom used their time in office to promote charter schools and the broader corporate reform agenda.

AS LONG AS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DEVOS

Here’s How Much Betsy DeVos And Her Family Paid To Back GOP Senators Who Will Support Her

How much did Betsy DeVos spend to buy your senator’s vote?

THE COMMON GOOD

Universal Public Education and the Common Good

Jan Resseger, in her blog, quotes Jonathan Kozol about public education…

“Slice it any way you want. Argue, as we must, that every family ought to have the right to make whatever choice they like in the interests of their child, no matter what damage it may do to other people’s children. As an individual decision, it’s absolutely human; but setting up this kind of competition, in which parents with the greatest social capital are encouraged to abandon their most vulnerable neighbors, is rotten social policy. What this represents is a state supported shriveling of civic virtue, a narrowing of moral obligation to the smallest possible parameters. It isn’t good for Massachusetts, and it’s not good for democracy.”

…and William Barber

In the United States, expanding opportunity for marginalized populations of students in our so-called universal education system has involved two centuries of political struggle —securing admittance and equal opportunity for girls, for American Indians, for African American children of former slaves, for immigrant students, and for disabled students—many of them formerly institutionalized. In the words of the Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, “We’ve come too far to go back now.”

See also Vote ‘no’ on charter schools by Jonathan Kozol

POVERTY: NEEDED SUPPORT ABSENT

Priorities In a School System Where Nearly Half of Students Live in Poverty

Technology is an important part of public education, and children from high poverty backgrounds need the benefits of technology just as much as wealthy children, but they also need good teachers, small classes sizes, support services (nurses, social workers, etc), a well-rounded curriculum, quality facilities, well-stocked school libraries, and a host of other social and material benefits which the wealthy insist upon for their own children (See The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

We spend millions of dollars on education every year, but it’s still not a priority. States are scrambling to find the money to support their schools, but the political winds are blowing in the “no more taxes” direction. We don’t want to pay taxes to benefit someone else’s children. Our current plan is to move towards privatization, thinking that some private corporation will pay for educating our children not realizing that the price for privatization is too high.

In its massive diversion of funds towards technology, the proposed Operating Budget of Baltimore County Public Schools does not address the great need of all students for more support staff, and subjects the existing School support staff to ever more crushing workloads.

INEQUITY

Stopping a Disastrous Cycle

To be involved in public education is to be aware of the disparities and inequities in the nation’s schools. Instead of providing more resources where they are needed, American public schools too often provide fewer resources where more are needed. This is because the locations where more resources are needed are, by definition, those places where fewer resources exist. Until we change from a society which provides more for children of the wealthy than children of the poor, our “achievement gap” will remain.

There’s a telling question in this Kappa Delta Pi article. “…why do we send our children into schools every day with…unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialities needed…?”

The answer, of course, is that we, as a nation, don’t consider poor kids “ours.” Poor kids are “theirs.” “Ours” vs. “theirs” is why the US is one of three advanced nations to provide fewer resources to poor students than to wealthy students. Americans haven’t learned yet that there is a cost for providing less for some students than others – a cost of continued poverty and the need for welfare, higher rates of incarceration, and more social stratification.

“Ours” vs. “theirs” is the basis for the entire privatization movement. It’s reasonable for every parent to want what is best for their own child, but the “competition theory” which pits private and privately run schools against public schools guarantees that there will be winners and losers. The goal for Americans should be to emulate the Finns and make what is “best for my child” the same for all children. Eliminating “losers” by providing adequate resources won’t hurt the “winners” and it will provide society with a larger pool of productive and participating citizens.

Imagine going into the hospital to have your tonsils removed and the operating room is filthy, the doctor is using decades-old instruments, and there are no nurses available to assist.

Most of us would turn around and run.

So, why do we send our children into schools every day with the same conditions—unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialties needed to address critical social-emotional issues that stand in the way of academic success?

Sadly, these students can’t turn around and run away, or at least not until they get older and drop out.

POVERTY: ACHIEVEMENT GAP

FACT – Hunger is a major contributing factor to the Education Achievement Gap.

Instead of focusing on ways to deprive public schools of the resources they need and transfer tax dollars to private corporations, our leaders’ attention ought to be directed to ending the high rate of child poverty in the U.S.

The evidence is overwhelming that the lack of sufficient food undermines an individual’s ability to function and it has an especially devastating impact on children.

And hunger is a very real problem in this country, especially when it comes to a significant number of the nation’s children.

POVERTY: LEAD

House GOP quietly closes investigation into Flint water crisis

The governor’s policies have poisoned thousands of children. The children of Flint – and thousands of other children around the country – are being thrown away because we can’t afford to clean up our water and neighborhoods.

Here’s a plan for Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Eli Broad or any other billionaire who wants to spend money on education…invest your money in cleaning up lead poisoning instead of privatizing public education…you’ll get better results.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, senior Democrat on the oversight panel, said he wants Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to produce key Flint-related documents within 30 days. Cummings said Snyder and his administration have obstructed the committee’s investigation into the Flint crisis for a year, refusing to provide — or even search for — key documents.

Snyder’s intransigence has thwarted committee efforts to answer critical questions about what he knew as the crisis unfolded and why he didn’t act sooner to fix Flint’s water problem, Cummings said.

“Requiring Governor Snyder to finally comply with the committee’s request will allow us to complete our investigation and offer concrete findings and recommendations to help prevent a catastrophe like this from happening again,” Cummings wrote to Chaffetz. “In contrast, allowing Governor Snyder to flout the committee’s authority will deny the people of Flint the answers they deserve.”

U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: SUCCESS

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

It’s common knowledge that America’s public schools are failing. Common knowledge is wrong.

As ever, far right politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether they be Democratic Neoliberals or Republican Tea Partiers, are using falsehoods about our public schools to sell an alternative. They say our public schools are beyond saving and that we need to privatize. They call it school choice but it’s really just an attempt to destroy the system that has so much going for it.

We should strengthen public education not undermine it. We should roll up our sleeves and fix the real problems we have, not invent fake ones.

COMPETITION

Competition vs. Quality

Peter Greene provides us with a beautiful metaphor for our national garden of children…

The goal of public education is excellence for everyone, but competition produces excellence for only a few, and sometimes not even that. It’s a lousy metaphorical framework for education. Better, say, to talk about a garden on which we focus the full resources of the community to plant and water and tend living things to grow and mature without worrying about which one is tallest, sweetest or most vibrantly colored, or how we could best deprive one flower of water so that another can win a greenery contest. Education is not a race, and competition will not improve it.

WORDS MATTER

Five Strategies for Motivating the Student Who was Retained Last Year

I very much want to believe that the author of this article didn’t mean for it to sound the way it did. I want to believe that she doesn’t consider a child with special needs (identified or not) a burden. I want to believe that she doesn’t consider children who struggle an onerous responsibility. I want to believe that she just made a poor choice of words when she said that a teacher is “saddled” with a child who is retained in grade.

Saddle, according to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, has as one of its meanings: to place under a burden or encumbrance.

No child, especially those who have special learning needs, should be made to feel like they are a burden to adults whose job it is to educate them.

For my comments on retention in grade as a method of remediation, see Retention.

Have you ever been saddled with a student who failed the previous year in your subject and found that they were either just as motivated or less motivated than the year before? Yeah. Me too. I took some time to research some strategies that will help us motivate those students who just didn’t make it the year before and got retained. These strategies are geared toward students who failed due to lack of work ethic, not lack of ability. That’s an article for another day!

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #3

Choice, Vouchers, Poverty, A Public Good, School Finance, Teachers, A Story

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: Whose Choice Is It?

It’s National School Choice Week…a time to celebrate (?) the privatization and destruction of America’s public schools.

Private and privately run schools which receive public tax dollars should be held to the same standards as public schools.

  • They should have open board meetings.
  • Their finances should be open and subject to audit by the public.
  • They should have the same requirements for hiring teachers and administrators.
  • They should have the same requirements for curriculum. 
  • They should be required to provide an appropriate education for all students no matter their achievement level, academic ability, first language, physical needs, behavioral needs, religious beliefs, ethnicity, economic status, or skin color.

In addition,

  • No school, public or private, or its teachers, should be judged solely on the test scores of its students.
  • No public funds should be used for sectarian purposes.
  • No student should be turned away from any publicly funded school because they are too expensive to educate.

We should make all public schools high quality. We should improve our local schools, not privatize them. We should give all our nation’s children the resources they deserve, not just those who are chosen by private and privately run schools.

As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don’t speak English. The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with most difficulties will be housed in the least well financed schools.

Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.” While the reformers and the takeover artists and the hedge fund managers talk and talk and talk about the miraculous results of school choice, research shows that these results are uneven at best.

See also…

No, Betsy, School Choice Is Not a Good Thing

Public education is a “common good” provided for all people.

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally-staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds and resources available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. Public monies are rightly spent to make that good local school a reality. In public education, as with smoking and seat belts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

HB 1228 – Vouchers for Underperforming Schools

Indiana’s voucher plan takes public funds and gives it to schools which are economically unaccountable to the public.

Public dollars for public schools. Period.

If the purpose of “school choice” is for students to be able to get out of failing schools and move to a better school, then this proposal makes a lot of sense. If the point of the exercise is to subsidize parochial education, to bust unions, or to divert public education money to friends and well-wishers, then obviously this proposal would not be met with favor.

Whether this would save the state money or cost it money is tied to the question of how many students that attend voucher schools would otherwise attend public schools. There seem to be a fair number of kids who were going to attend the voucher schools anyway but are now being subsidized by taxpayers to go to these schools. (“[M]ore than 50 percent of students accepting vouchers had never attended a public school.”) So, in terms of financial impact to taxpayers, the question is whether, if their private school underperformed the public school and they were no longer eligible for a voucher, the kids would stay at the private school or go to the public school in their area.

What Mike Pence doesn’t like to admit about Indiana’s school voucher program

I don’t know that Vice President Pence doesn’t like to admit this…my guess is that he thinks that it doesn’t sound good politically, but he and most of his fellow super-majority cronies in the state legislature and the new administration in the executive branch are all in favor of “choice.” There’s a basic cultural divide between those who believe in supporting public education (along with public highways, public libraries, parks, etc) as a “public good” and those who believe that 1) the government can’t do anything right, and 2) privatization is always better.

Those of us who believe that the government has some responsibilities, and needs the resources to provide for its citizens, must start electing representatives who agree with us.

Indiana’s school choice program started under a prior governor as a small pilot, tailored to poor families that did not believe public schools were providing their children with an adequate education. Gov. Pence, however, escalated this program into a de facto entitlement for middle-upper-class families, pulling millions of dollars from our poorest schools so that these more affluent families could subsidize a private school education for their kids. Betsy DeVos wants to expand these voucher programs to as many states as possible.

Pence likes to claim that Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country. What he does not like to admit is that in five years of this program, Indiana’s taxpayers have sent more than $345 million to religious schools with little to no state oversight or regulation. These taxpayer dollars would have otherwise funded public education in our state.

POVERTY

Trump not informed about education

Like many who are ill-informed about public education, President Trump assumes that America’s schools are “failing.” He assumes (as do most Republicans and many Democrats) that the public school system in the United States is not working and in need of an overhaul.

It’s true that we can improve America’s public schools, but the best and most effective improvement would be to reduce the level of child poverty in the United States. Stephen Krashen continues to preach. Will anyone hear him?

In his inaugural address, Mr. Trump said that our educational system “leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.’” President Trump is apparently unaware of the fact that when researchers statistically control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world.

Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor medical care, and lack of access to reading material. All of these have profound negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world will have little value if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Our child poverty rate is 21%, the highest of all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

Martin Luther King was right: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (1967, Final Words of Advice)

President Trump’s staff needs to focus on the real problem in American education.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Students who live in poverty need more educational resources, not less. The United States continues to provide more resources for middle and upper class students. It’s poverty, stupid.

United States’ schools with fewer than 10% of students living in poverty score higher than any country in the world. Schools with student poverty rates that are less than 24.9% rank 3rd in the world, and schools with poverty rates ranging from 25% to 49.9% rank 10th in the world. However, schools with 50% to 74.9% poverty rates rank much lower – fifth from the bottom. Tragically, schools with 75% or higher poverty rates rank lower in reading scores than any country except Mexico.

THE SUCCESS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Focusing on the Pebbles

When public schools are supported, great things can happen.

When the history of the United States is written from the vantage of the middle of the 21st century, and the question asked is what was it that made the United States the preeminent nation in the world during the 20th century, the answer will be found in the 19th century.

It won’t be the telegraph, or the telephone, or the automobile, or even the computer that has made America great. Rather, it was the invention of the common school.

  • It was the public schools that gave America some mobility across social classes, providing a modicum of truth to the premise that we are the preeminent land of opportunity.
  • It was the public schools that changed our immigrants into patriotic Americans.
  • It was the public schools, along with public libraries, that gave Americans the skills and opportunities to develop the kinds of knowledge necessary for a democracy to function.
  • It is the public schools that serve most of our nations’ special education students, hoping to give them productive lives, and hoping to give their parents some relief from a tougher parenting role than most of us have had to face.
  • It is the public schools that primarily serve the English Language Learners who, in another generation, will constitute a large part of the work force that we depend upon.
  • It is the public schools that serve America’s neediest children and their families.
  • And it is the public schools, in the wealthier neighborhoods, that provide a large proportion of American students with a world-class education.

SCHOOL FINANCE

Trump says our schools are “Flush with Cash!?” They’re Falling Apart!

One phrase in this article speaks volumes.

“…many schools are still waiting…especially those serving minority students.”

Los Angeles Unified School district routinely has broken desks and chairs, missing ceiling tiles, damaged flooring, broken sprinklers, damaged lunch tables and broken toilet paper dispensers.

They’re flush with cash!?

New York City public schools removed more than 160 toxic light fixtures containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a cancer causing agent that also hinders cognitive and neurological development. Yet many schools are still waiting on a fix, especially those serving minority students.

They’re flush with cash!?

At Charles L. Spain school in Detroit, the air vents are so warped and moldy, turning on the heat brings a rancid stench. Water drips from a leaky roof into the gym, warping the floor tiles. Cockroaches literally scurry around some children’s classrooms until they are squashed by student volunteers.

They’re flush with freakin cash!?

Are you serious, Donald Trump!?

THE CLASSROOM TEACHER

‘The level of workload expected of teachers is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives’

This article is from November, 2016, but it really needn’t be dated. We’ve been neglecting our teachers and schools for decades.

Teachers are reaching – or perhaps have reached – a point where this level of work commitment is becoming corrosive. Children do not benefit from overworked teachers. This level of work is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives.

This year, this level of work has failed once again to result in a pay rise commensurate to the workload. The 1 per cent rise will make teachers feel unvalued. They also know that they remain without a voice.

The next year will also see the recruitment crisis worsen. Why? Well, graduates will see the pay and the conditions of service and seek alternative employment.

We will also see schools having to continue with a worthless testing regime and even more cuts that will affect all areas of education.

A STORY

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

“Alternative facts” are the new “naked.” This seems like an appropriate time for a “reminder.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.