Posted in Comprehension, DeVos, Facebook, Politicians, poverty, Privatization, reading, special education, Taxes, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #33

Republicans, Facebook, Testing, Poverty, Reading Comprehension, Vouchers, IDEA

DO REPUBLICANS HATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN?

The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools

Incentives for parents who send their children to private schools, but none for public school parents.

That means that the “school tuition” that parents of public school kids are paying, in the form of state and local taxes, isn’t deductible from their federal taxes, and public schools themselves will have less money to spend on kids. But rich families who can afford private school get a brand new tax break. That’s a win for the 10%.

The Republican War on Children

No health insurance for poor children…tax incentives for wealthy children.

Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.

TOSSED OFF FACEBOOK

The False Paradise of School Privatization

Why did Facebook suspend Steven Singer’s (Gadfly On The Wall Blog) Facebook account for the second time in two months?

The first time was when he published School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less. This time it’s for The False Paradise of School Privatization. Could it be there’s someone working for Facebook who doesn’t like the politics of public education?

If you haven’t had a chance to read Singer’s post, The False Paradise of School Privatization, be sure to do so. Then, when you’ve finished that, check out Two Theories Why Facebook Keeps Blocking Me When I Write About School Privatization.

One person’s paradise is another person’s Hell.

So the idea of designing one system that fits all is essentially bound to fail.

But doesn’t that support the charter and voucher school ideal? They are marketed, after all, as “school choice.” They allegedly give parents and children a choice about which schools to attend.

Unfortunately, this is just a marketing term.

Charter and voucher schools don’t actually provide more choice. They provide less.

Think about it.

Who gets to choose whether you attend one of these schools? Not you.

Certainly you have to apply, but it’s totally up to the charter or voucher school operators whether they want to accept you.

It is the public school system that gives you choice. You decide to live in a certain community – you get to go to that community’s schools. Period.

READING: TESTING

PIRLS: The effect of phonics, poverty, and pleasure reading.

The last half of my 35 year teaching career was spent working with students who had difficulties with reading. I worked in rural schools with small, but significant numbers of low-income students. We knew then, and we know now, that child poverty is the main factor in low school achievement. We also know that factors associated with poverty, like low birth weight, poor nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of health care, have an impact on a child’s learning. These out-of-school factors are rarely discussed when politicians and policy makers blame schools and teachers for low student achievement.

You may have read about the recent release of the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) scores along with much pearl-clutching because of the nation’s poor performance. Most reporters focus on comparing scores of American students with students in other countries (We fall somewhere in the middle). Rarely is the impact of poverty noted.

Stephen Krashen continues to educate.

Kevin Courtney is right about the negative influence of poverty on PIRLS tests; two of our studies confirm this. He is also right in rejecting phonics instruction as the force responsible for the recent improvement in PIRLS scores: Studies show that intensive phonics instruction only improves performance on tests in which children have to pronounce words presented in a list. Heavy phonics does not contribute to performance on tests of reading comprehension. In fact, several scholars have concluded that knowledge of phonics rules, beyond the simplest ones, is acquired from reading.

For Further Reading: 

Valerie Strauss has a guest post from James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable which gives the PIRLS tests a more nuanced analysis.

Also from Valerie Strauss – Ten things you need to know about international assessments

READING: POVERTY

The Reading Achievement Gap: Why Do Poor Students Lag Behind Rich Students in Reading Development?

This article was published in 2015 by Richard Allington. Here he reinforces the need for access to books for low-income children.

Students from lower-income families experience summer reading loss because they don’t read much, if at all, during the summer months. Students from middle-class families, on the other hand, are far more likely to read during this same summer period. Low-income students don’t read during the summer months because they don’t own any books, and they live in neighborhoods where there are few, if any, places to purchase books. Middle-class students have bedroom libraries and live in neighborhoods where children’s books are readily available, even in the grocery stores where their parents shop. Middle-class kids are more likely to live in a neighborhood where one can find a child-friendly public library than is the case with children living in low-income areas. These children live in neighborhoods best described as book deserts.

Historically, low-income students relied primarily on schools as sources for the books they read. Ironically, too many high-poverty schools have small libraries, and there are too many classrooms that have no classroom library for kids to select books to read. Too many high-poverty schools ban library books (and textbooks) from leaving the building (fear of loss of the books, I’m usually told). However, even with fewer books in their schools and more restrictive book-lending policies, these kids do get most of the books they read from the schools they attend. But not during the summer months when school is not in session!

READING: COMPREHENSION

How To Get Your Mind To Read (Daniel Willingham)

Reading teachers understand that students’ comprehension improves when teachers activate prior knowledge before having students read a passage (or before they read aloud). What happens, however, when students don’t have the knowledge they need?

…students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.

VOUCHERS

Voucher Programs and the Constitutional Ethic

Acceptance of a voucher by a private school should be subject to that school’s compliance with certain basic requirements. At a minimum, school buildings should meet relevant code requirements and fire safety standards; teachers should be able to offer evidence that they are equipped to teach their subject matter; and the school should both teach and model foundational constitutional values and behaviors. Ideally, schools receiving public funds should not be permitted to discriminate on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation (religious schools have a constitutional right to discriminate on the basis of religion in certain situations, although they do not have a right to do so on the taxpayer’s dime) and should be required to afford both students and staff at least a minimum of due process. At present, we are unaware of any voucher program that requires these commitm

GIVING UP RIGHTS FOR PROFIT

DeVos Won’t Publicize a School Voucher Downside, But It’s Leaking Out Anyway

DeVos admits that students who attend private schools lose their rights under IDEA.

DeVos seems to forget that she’s the Secretary of Education for the entire United States, not just for private and privately owned schools.

There’s another key issue at stake in the conversation about vouchers for students with disabilities — one Jennifer and Joe asked DeVos about during their private conversation.

Do students with disabilities lose their rights to a fair and appropriate education — a guarantee under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — if they use vouchers to attend private schools?

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Evaluations, Florida, John Kuhn, Michigan, poverty, reform, special education, TeacherShortage

2017 Medley #32: The Teacher Shortage

The Teacher Shortage: Poverty,
Special Education, Evaluations,
Untrained teachers, and Accountability

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

The poverty problem

Why it’s a big problem that so many teachers quit — and what to do about it

As with most other results of the corporate “reform” movement in education, the most damage is done to students, teachers, and schools in areas that can least afford it: low-income areas and special education.

Linda Darling-Hammond and researchers from the Learning Policy Institute report on research detailing the effects of the current teacher shortage, and how it damages the education of low-income students in particular. The shortage is advanced by anti-teacher and anti-public education legislation and a bipartisan, public campaign against teachers that is ubiquitous. There no longer needs to be any discussion about which state is “the worst” for public education – Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan – it’s everywhere.

Our research on teacher shortages and the turnover that contributes to them emphasizes how much these conditions vary across teaching fields, types of schools, and locations. We document how they are much more problematic in some regions, states, and districts than others; more widespread in particular subjects; and most pronounced in schools that serve students of color and those from low-income families.

Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement for all the students in a school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom. These rates are highest in schools serving low-income students and students of color. [emphasis added]

Caring for ‘the least of these’

Funding cuts spell trouble for special education in Indiana

Indiana’s particular brand of “reform” has resulted in an education funding shortfall. Budget cuts would, of course, hurt the students most, who need the most help. The shortage of special education teachers, who are the strongest advocates for their students, makes this especially troubling.

Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: “Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding.”

Evaluations

There will never be enough bad teachers to satisfy some people (The Chicago Tribune).

Illinois “reformers” wonder how there can be so many highly-rated teachers when there are so many “failing” schools?

The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune is still unhappy with the way teachers in Illinois are evaluated because the current system still has too many teachers rated in the top two tiers of the ranking categories.

We had the same problem here in Indiana a few years ago.

Study finds 87 percent of Indiana teachers “effective”

Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 97 percent of those teachers who were rated have been classified in the top two categories of effectiveness? Today’s data simply does not correlate with the student results we’re seeing in the classroom.

The data does, indeed, correlate, because student test scores are not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. The “failing schools” narrative is more complicated than “reformers” will admit. Schools can’t be judged by test scores alone and the quality of teachers isn’t the only variable that has an impact on student achievement.

“Reformers,” however, are interested in damaging the teaching profession in order to lower salaries and increase profits. Blaming teachers is good for the privatization business.

Once the profession is damaged, and fewer young people seek a career in education, the lowering of standards (and consequent increase in profits) can continue. Florida, for example…

Damaging the profession

Florida’s Teacher Gap Is No Mystery

Florida is “solving” the problem by opening up alternative paths, because the way to get better teachers and fill teaching jobs is by making it possible to slap any warm body into a classroom. My favorite bar-lowering idea― Florida Atlantic University will give Palm Beach Schools a list of students who flunked out of medical and science programs so that those students can be recruited to teach. And meanwhile the remaining dedicated, qualified teachers of Florida wonder how much longer they can hold on.

…and Michigan…

We don’t need no education

The Michigan legislators and governor are a match for Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and the rest of the nation by showing how easy it is to cause a teacher shortage.

Snyder seems to show few actual emotions of any kind. But his fellow Republicans in the legislature are vindictive and nasty. They seem to hate teachers, even more than they hate most in the public sector, and especially hate teachers’ unions.

Five years ago, they passed a law preventing local districts from paying more than a certain percentage of health care coverage for their teachers.

Republican lawmakers also rammed through right-to-work in a lame duck session at the end of 2012, gloating as they did it that this was bound to weaken the MEA and other unions who traditionally give money to try and defeat them.

If that weren’t enough, they also promptly passed a law that would make it so public school districts are no longer required to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks, as had been common practice for decades.

Nor were they done humiliating educators:

New teachers traditionally started at a low salary, then advanced year by year on a negotiated schedule till they reached something like a middle-class life style. But the benevolent legislators also pulled the rug out from under teachers in that way too, passing another law in 2012 that allowed school districts to not move teachers up on the salary schedule.

“As a result, we have teachers across the state in many districts who haven’t seen a raise in five years,” the MEA’s Crim says. Couple that with inflation and the rising cost of benefits, and it’s no wonder that a lot of students have had second thoughts about going into the profession.

How do you think the state of Michigan will deal with the lack of teacher? Again, like Indiana and Wisconsin…

Others have suggested we just drop the requirement for a teaching certificate and let retired professionals take a crack at the classroom.

That might make some sense at the university level, though being able to do a job doesn’t automatically mean you can teach others the subject matter. But it doesn’t work at high school and especially for elementary school.

Who will accept responsibility?

Label the Lawmakers

Accountability measures for public school achievement are universally aimed at teachers, students, and school systems. Sometimes parents are part of the mix, but rarely are one of the most important stakeholders in public school achievement included in accountability legislation and provisions.

Those unaccountable stakeholders? They are the legislators and policy makers who control the funding for education and the out of school conditions in which children live.

John Kuhn, superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, wrote this letter several years ago. Nothing has changed. 100% of the blame for low achievement is still being heaped on teachers and schools. Legislators and policy makers are still doing their best to damage the teaching profession and avoid their own responsibility.

It’s time to revive this post…

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

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Posted in Accountability, class size, Gadflyonthewall, Legislatures, NancyBailey, poverty, research, retention, Walsh

Who is Accountable?

RESEARCH-BASED EDUCATION

In the 1990s my school system demanded that our teaching be research-based. This was pre-NCLB, so the purpose had nothing to do with “the test.” Rather the goal was to make sure all teachers were using “best practices” for their teaching. I was reminded of this recently when I read this post by Russ Walsh…

Knowledge, Belief, and the Professional Educator

…as I have talked to teachers over the years about instructional practice, I have heard a lot of faith-based language.

  • “I don’t believe in homework.”
  • “I believe in phonics.”
  • “I don’t believe in teaching to the test.”
  • “I believe in independent reading.”
  • “I believe in using round robin and popcorn reading.”

For about 2,000 years doctors “believed” that blood-letting was an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments. Today, I would bet if you encountered a doctor who recommended blood-letting for your flu symptoms, you would run, not walk, out the office door screaming. Science, and mounting numbers of dead patients, caught up with blood-letting. So, as professionals, we need to hold ourselves to the same standards. We need to follow the science and stop talking about our beliefs and start talking about the scientific research behind our instructional decision making.

Scientists understand that science isn’t static. It changes as knowledge increases. We know now that the Earth revolves around the Sun…that germs, rather than demons, cause disease… and that we had better find alternatives to our current energy sources before we choke the breath out of life on Earth. Our understanding grows. Our knowledge grows.

The same is true with learning. As teachers, our understanding of child development, pedagogy, and the impact of the outside world on our students must grow and change as our understanding of those concepts changes based on new research. We need to alter our presentation and adapt our instruction to incorporate new information and techniques as they become available.

A teacher who thinks she knows everything there is to know about teaching and learning will not be effective for long, because what she needs to know will likely change throughout her career. Teachers must be the life-long learners we wish our students to become…we must continue to be students…if we want to grow in our knowledge and ability.

There are, however, times when a teacher’s attempts to use “best practices” and a well-researched basis for teaching is thwarted by outside forces. For example, the out-of-school factors associated with child poverty interfere with learning and achievement. Even the most well-trained, up-to-date, and knowledgable teacher will have difficulty reaching students who come to school traumatized, hungry, or sick.

In addition to social factors interfering with teaching and learning, the government can be a hindrance to good, research-based education. Two ways government interference prevents schools from doing what is best for students are 1) inadequate funding, resulting in large class sizes, and 2) the requirement that students either pass a test or repeat a grade.

LEGISLATIVE INTERFERENCE: CLASS SIZE

We know that class size has an impact on student achievement and learning, especially with young, poor, and minority students. Smaller class sizes work because students are more engaged, they spend more time on task, and instruction can be customized to better meet their needs.

So why don’t we reduce class sizes?

It costs too much.

Legislators don’t want to spend the money to reduce class sizes. State legislatures around the country are generally filled with adults who have never taught and don’t know anything about education or education research. Instead of learning about the research into class size, (or listening to teachers) they simply look at the cost. Smaller class sizes means higher costs…and with the obsessive, anti-tax atmosphere in most states, legislators don’t want to increase funding for public schools just to make classes smaller.

Small Class Size – A Reform We’re Just Too Cheap To Try

Steven Singer makes the case for small class sizes…

The benefits go far beyond the classroom. Numerous studies concluded that reducing class size has long lasting effects on students throughout their lives. It increases earning potential, and citizenship while decreasing the likelihood students will need welfare assistance as adults or enter the criminal justice system. In short, cutting class size puts a stop to the school-to-prison pipeline.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that those students who benefit the most from this reform are the young, the poor and minorities.

See also Class Size Matters.Org

LEGISLATIVE INTERFERENCE: RETENTION IN GRADE

Studies going back over 100 years are consistent in their conclusion that retention in grade does not result in higher achievement.

This is a subject where legislators, parents, and even many educators, don’t know, or refuse to accept the research. If a child doesn’t learn the material required for a certain grade, then the impulse is to “give him another chance” by retaining him. I’ve heard parents and teachers claim that retention in grade gives a child “the chance to grow another year,” or “catch up.” None of those statements are based on research. Retention does not help students, and often causes harm.

Legislatures in many states, including Indiana, have chosen third grade as the year in which students must either “be average” in reading or repeat the grade. The legislature, in other words, has decided that, if students cannot reach an arbitrary cut-score on an arbitrary reading test in third grade, they will not be allowed to move on to fourth grade. The cause of the failure is often not taken into consideration. Students have trouble learning to read for a variety of reasons, yet legislatures apply the single intervention of retention in grade to reading difficulties no matter what the cause. Unfortunately, this has no basis in educational research.

Students are punished by legislative decree for not learning to read soon enough or well enough.

Recently Michigan joined the “punish third graders” club.

County public schools brace for implementation of third-grade retention law

In an effort to boost reading achievement in the early stages of elementary school education, public schools across the state of Michigan are conducting universal screening and diagnostic testing of kindergarten through third grade students.

The testing is in response to Public Act 306, passed in October 2016 by Michigan lawmakers, called the Third Grade Retention Law. The law was passed to ensure that students exiting third grade are reading at or above grade level requirements. All students in grades K-3 will be assessed three times per year, fall winter and spring. The assessments will identify students who need intensive reading instruction and provide useful information to help teachers tailor instruction to meet individual student needs. The law also states that a child may be retained in third grade if he or she is one of more grade levels behind in reading at the end of the third grade.

FORCE and FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

Florida is another one of the states which punishes children for not reading well enough. In this article Nancy Bailey takes the state to task.

If they aren’t reading well enough, they will have to remain in third grade–so they will do more reading remediation! They will watch as their classmates leave them behind.

At this point, how much do you think children like to read?

The Florida plague, the undeniably ugly and stupid practice of flunking children if they are not reading well by third grade, is now a reform across the country.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Legislatures force teachers and schools to accept practices which we know through research are detrimental to student learning. We’re forced to accept responsibility for working conditions which interfere with achievement, and then we are held accountable when the practices fail.

Teachers (and schools) should be accountable for understanding the

scientific research behind our instructional decision making.

But policy makers should also be held accountable for the instructional restrictions they place on public schools.

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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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