Category Archives: poverty

2019 Medley #4

Disrespecting Teachers,
Benefits of a Book-oriented Home,
Math is for Boys and Girls,
Poverty Affects Achievement,
Bill of Rights for School Children.

THE DISRESPECT OF TEACHERS

Our Public Schools Aren’t Failing; We’re Failing Our Public Schools

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

Ed reformers blame teachers for “failing schools” but that’s because the truth is closer to home. Here we read about Michigan’s “failing schools” caused by legislative neglect or, more likely, legislative abuse.

The state’s public schools were once admired across the nation. They were well-funded and supported, and provided an excellent education for children. These schools became “the center of community life” in many places in the state, and still do in many communities.

But our state’s “new landlord”, aided and abetted by the “multi-level marketing robber barons” of West Michigan, stopped funding our schools, allowing too many of them, especially in our largest cities, to fall into neglect and disrepair. Michigan’s last governor took $1 billion from the state’s education fund, while declaring himself the “education governor”, and we wonder why Detroit’s schools don’t have the resources needed to maintain their facilities, or pay their teachers a competitive salary. Our current Secretary of Education suggested the best solution to the problems with Detroit’s schools would be to simply shut down the entire district, and let families find other places to send their children–and this is the person in charge of the nation’s public schools.

Teachers not appointed to governor’s teacher compensation commission

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

The State Board of Accounts includes CPAs…the Native American Indiana Affairs Commission includes members of local Native Americans…

But a commission directly affecting teachers in Indiana has no teacher as a voting member.

Gov. Eric Holcomb followed through Tuesday on his pledge to charge a state commission with finding ways to make Indiana teacher pay more competitive with neighboring states.

However, none of the seven voting members of the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is a teacher.

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

State legislatures and policy makers choose how and what teachers must teach. When their choices don’t improve achievement, however, the teachers are the ones who are blamed…

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

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

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

THE BENEFIT OF HOME LIBRARIES

Home Libraries Confer Long-Term Benefits

Reading aloud to children is the single most important activity that parents and caregivers can do to help children become readers and achieve success in school. The study linked here reinforces the benefits of living in a book-oriented environment and explains that it has life-long benefits. Unfortunately, not all parents are able to afford the books for a home library or even provide transportation to public libraries.

Fortunately, there are a few sources of free books for children.

We’ve known for a while that home libraries are strongly linked to children’s academic achievement. What’s less certain is whether the benefits they bestow have a long-term impact.

A new large-scale study, featuring data from 31 countries, reports they do indeed. It finds the advantages of growing up in a book-filled home can be measured well into adulthood.

MATH IS FOR GIRLS, TOO

No intrinsic gender differences in children’s earliest numerical abilities

It turns out that men don’t have any more “natural” inclination for math then do women.

Across all stages of numerical development, analyses consistently revealed that boys and girls do not differ in early quantitative and mathematical ability. These findings indicate that boys and girls are equally equipped to reason about mathematics during early childhood.

LOOKING BACK

Here are two posts from the past which are still relevant to today’s educational environment.

Poverty Limits Student Achievement

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

David C. Berliner’s 2009 report explains the ways that poverty impacts student achievement. We must address poverty at the same time as we address school achievement or we’re doomed to fail. Legislators who blame teachers or students for “failing schools” must take responsibility for their own failure to create an equitable society. They must provide high-poverty schools with the resources needed to counteract the out-of-school factors impacting student achievement.

Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools, therefore, face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.

The Schools All Children Deserve

A Bill of Rights for School Children

Russ Walsh’s 2016 book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, contains this gem, a Bill of Rights for School Children, first published on his blog.

Fulfilling the items on this list would go a long way to providing equitable educational opportunities for all children.

As we look to future, it may be useful to consider some principles about public education that, for me at least, seem immutable. A Bill of Rights for the school child if you will.

1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public education.

2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe local neighborhood school.

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

4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.

5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.

6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well-planned, engaging, and collaborative.

7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.

8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.

9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.

10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses.

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2019 Medley #1

Avoiding Special Ed Students, Charters,
Teacher Strikes, Teacher Pay, Guns in the Classroom,
Cheating Low-Income Students, Myths About Teachers, Reading Wars, Science Fact

 
PRIVATIZATION: STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES NEED NOT APPLY

Charter Schools More Likely to Ignore Special Education Applicants, Study Finds

Public schools accept every child who enters. The money to educate those most expensive to educate students comes from public funds. When the legislature allows public funds to go to private corporations in the form of charter and vouchers, that makes it more difficult for the real public schools to fulfill its mission. We can’t afford to pay for three separate school systems.

Public tax money needs to go to public schools.

The study found that charter schools were 5.8 percentage points less likely to respond to a query claiming to be from a parent of a student with severe disabilities.

So-called “no-excuse” charter schools, which serve predominately low-income minority students in a strict, college-prep academic environment, were 10 percentage points less likely to respond.

 

PRIVATIZATION: PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE FOR THE RABBLE

How to Teach Virtue? Start with a Charter School.

Chester Finn doesn’t understand (or support) the purpose of public schools and thinks that charter schools, with their history of corruption and failure, are the places to inculcate students with values. Finn’s single year as a public school teacher apparently qualifies him to judge all public schools to be valueless.

Privatizer Michael Petrilli, also mentioned in the article, is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,  a stronghold of ed reformers most of whom have no experience in actual education other than as students. Petrilli himself has never taught in a public school or studied education. His college degree (from a public university) is in Political Science.

Let us hope that the era of public education ruled by edu-ignoramuses is coming to an end.

Yes. The title is sarcasm.

But the idea must be acknowledged. It sprang from the mind of one of most venerable Famous Educators, a hoary pillar of the never-ending education reform movement, Chester E. Finn, known to his fellow reformistas as ‘Checker.’ Checker is currently paterfamilias of the Thomas Fordham Institute group, one of whom, Michael Petrilli, recently suggested that the education reform movement has been so successful in accomplishing its goals that it was currently fading into media obscurity. As if.

I have never been a fan of Finn’s approach to school reform. (Click here, for example.) Finn, whose teaching career spanned one full year, is one of those private-school, private-colleges, wordsmithy edu-pundits who look down—way down—on fully public education, seeing it as a hopeless tax-funded entitlement program for subpar youth.

PRIVATIZATION: TEACHER STRIKES

Is The Los Angeles Teacher Strike A Different Kind Of Strike?

Peter Greene writing in Forbes explains to business readers that the Los Angeles teachers strike is different than strikes of the past.

Teachers are striking to save public schools…and against those who believe that we can afford two, or even three different publicly funded school systems.

Public tax funds need to go to public schools, not private corporations in the form of charters or vouchers.

Teachers in many school districts and many states across the country find themselves in the unusual position of working in an institution led by people who want to see that institution fail. Back in the day, teacher strikes were about how best to keep a school district healthy, but these modern walkouts are about the very idea that public schools should be kept healthy at all. UTLA demands for smaller classes, more support staff, safer schools, community schools, and charter school oversight are not about making their working conditions a little better, but about keeping public education alive and healthy.

 

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WANTS SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

Lawmakers: Raise teacher pay by cutting elsewhere

I suppose we can’t really blame legislators for wanting something but not wanting to pay for it. Just like many Americans, they’re hesitant to invest in the common good. Someone may get something they (gasp!) don’t deserve.

We can’t have universal health care because we’d have to pay for it. We can’t repair our crumbling infrastructure because we’d have to pay for it. We can’t worry about climate change because it might cost money.

We’re Number One!!

Hardly. We’re a selfish lot. All our politicians claim that we’re “the greatest country in the world,” but are we? We’re not the wealthiest. We haven’t got the highest life expectancy, or the lowest infant mortality rate. There are other countries with fewer people living in poverty and other countries where people are happier.

On the other hand, our military spending is #1 in the world.

Perhaps if we spent a little more money on planning for our future, and less on blowing up other people, we’d be better off.

Indiana legislators want to give educators a raise, but they don’t want to pay for it. Their plan: Shame school districts into cutting spending elsewhere so they can target dollars to teachers.

Their tool for doing this is House Bill 1003, unveiled this week by House Republicans and presented Wednesday to the House Education Committee. It would “strongly encourage” districts to spend at least 85 percent of their state funds on instruction; it would subject them to public scrutiny if they don’t.

 

CONTROL GUNS, DON’T SPREAD THEM

When You Give a Teacher a Gun…

If you think we ought to be spending millions of tax dollars to arm teachers read this.

If you think teachers should have guns in school, you’re just wrong. It’s not “up for debate” any more than gravity.

If you’re a teacher who reads all of this and thinks, “Well, that’s not me. I’m different. I’ve had a gun for years. I’m a hunter, and a responsible gun owner. I’m all about gun safety. I was in the military. I just want to protect my students and colleagues”, then you are precisely the kind of person who should never be permitted to have a loaded weapon in a school. You’re exactly the sort of person that shouldn’t be allowed to carry a deadly weapon into a room full of children looking at you as someone who cares about their learning, and their well-being.

 

CHEATING LOW-INCOME STUDENTS

Kids In Disadvantaged Schools Don’t Need Tests To Tell Them They’re Being Cheated

They already know.

…I’ve never met a union official who believed schools in impoverished cities didn’t need improving. I never met anyone who works in a school or advocates for public education who was fine with the opportunity gap that plagues so many children in this country.

But I’ll set that aside and instead make this point: stories like the Trentonian’s give us clear evidence that kids who are in these schools themselves know full well what is going on. They are saying, with unmistakable clarity, that their instruction is unacceptably poor. They are telling us many of their peers have given up and have no interest in school.

What are multiple administrations of standardized tests going to tell us that these kids aren’t already telling us themselves?

 

CHALLENGING THE MYTHS ABOUT TEACHERS, PART 2

About that “Most public employee teachers are in these positions because they lack the talent to compete in the private sector” comment…

Greatest. Idea. Ever.

Put those people who believe that “those who can’t, teach” in a long term subbing position…in an underfunded school…with children who live in poverty…and then have their evaluation be based on test scores!

I could maybe respond by saying that the inherent ignorance displayed by this proves how valuable having an education really is and that the reasoning he/she attempts to use to put down teachers really is proof that public education is not respected as it should be.

Yet I will respond by saying that I would teach that person’s student if that was the case.

But first, I might ask this person if he/she would be willing to become a long-term substitute teacher in an underfunded school where many in the student population are affected by poverty and then have his/her name attached to the test scores.

Then I will just carry on – teaching.

 

THE READING WARS REDUX

Why The Reading Wars Will Never End

Peter Greene speaks truth. We haven’t learned how to quantify the skills of the human brain. Anyone who tells you that “this program will help every child read” is shoveling bullshit.

Every person who has ever tried to teach a group of six-year-olds to read understands that you have to use every tool you have.

The heart of the problem is that we don’t know how to tell what works. And that’s because we don’t have a method to “scientifically” measure how well someone reads.

Yes, we have tests. But testing and pedagogy of reading are mostly locked in a tautological embrace. I think decoding is The Thing, so I create a test that focuses on decoding, then implement classroom practices to improve decoding skills and voila– I scientifically prove that my decoding-based pedagogy works. Mostly what we’re busy proving is that particular sorts of practices prepare students for particular sorts of tests. Big whoop.

…Reading, as much as anything in education, demands that we measure what cannot be measured.

 

SCIENCE FACT

Come To Miami, Florida’s Sea Level and Sewage Capital

The United States stands alone in denying climate change. Its impact is already being felt around the world…take Florida, for example. Guess who is being hurt the worst…

As nuisance flooding increases, the wealthy are moving to higher ground, formerly less desirable areas – and pushing out low income residents. Climate gentrification creating a new generation of climate refugees.

 

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Listen to This

Recent quotes and comments…

IT’S POVERTY

Public schools didn’t cause poverty, but policymakers expect schools to overcome all the out-of-school factors related to living in poverty. When was the last time legislators were graded A-F by the state government?

The Columbus Dispatch

Some might argue that poverty and family problems aren’t the province of public schools. But they most certainly are the burdens of public schools, and schools won’t get better without addressing them. — The Columbus Dispatch

Stephen Krashen

Until poverty is eliminated, school must protect students from poverty’s impact by investing more in food programs, health care, and libraries. — sdkrashen.com

Steven Singer

Living in poverty means less access to healthcare, neonatal care, pre-kindergarten, and fewer books in the home. It often means fewer educated family members to serve as a model. And it often means suffering from malnutrition and psychological trauma. Impoverished parents usually have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet and thus have less time to help with homework or see to their children. All of this has a direct impact on education. — Gadflyonthewallblog

 

SCHOOL SEGREGATION

Schools still segregated even after Brown vs. Board of Education? Here’s why…

Nikole Hannah-Jones

“Schools are segregated because white people want them that way. … We won’t fix this problem until we really wrestle with that fact.” — Vox.com

Nikole Hannah-Jones at NPE 2017.

WE ALL MUST BE READING TEACHERS

If every teacher gave this article to their personal doctor…

The Hechinger Report

Nearly four years ago, a baby boy named Anselmo Santos sat in his doctor’s office in Oakland, California, chewing on a cardboard children’s book. The book came from a specially designed tote bag of literacy tools that Anselmo’s doctor had just handed his mother. While the chubby infant chewed, Dr. Dayna Long explained the importance of talking, reading and singing with young children to encourage healthy brain development. — Hechinger Report

EDUCATION BASED ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT

What’s the most valuable resource in the U.S.?

Valerie Strauss

After World War II, the Finns realized their human beings are their most valuable resource. Their budget reflects this belief. In spite of having three major political parties, all factions agree that human development is paramount, and the educational program has had consistent attention over decades…

When you think your people are important, it shows. — The Answer Sheet

INEQUITY IN EDUCATION

UNICEF

What can be done to reduce educational inequalities?…

• Reduce the impact of socio-economic inequalities – Through a combination of family allowances and public services, rich countries can ensure that all children are able to enjoy learning, develop varied interests and achieve their full potential. Reducing the segregation of children with different family backgrounds into different schools can also help to ensure that all children have equal opportunities. — An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries

SAVE THE ECONOMY – ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE

Which are you more concerned about – the U.S. economy or climate change? Hint: They’re the same.

The U.S. Government

Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century. — U.S. Global Change Research Program

 

EDUTOURISTS

Teaching is – or should be – a job for professionals…not for privileged Ivy League graduates as a resume booster on their way to the boardrooms or law offices of corporate America.

Mitchell Robinson

I now refer to the people that go the TfA route as “edutourists”–because they think playing at being a teacher will be fun, and look good on their resumes when they apply to business school, or law school, or for an internship on Capitol Hill. The vast majority of TfA edutourists have no intention of remaining in the classroom for more than a year or two, and have “bought in” to the notion that TfA experience is best seen as a “stepping stone” to other, “more important” career choices. That’s simply not how teachers view teaching. — Eclectablog

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Just in Case Someone’s Listening

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

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

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

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

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

How to Guarantee School Improvement – September 2009

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

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

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

 

Teaching is Doing – January 2014

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

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

 

American Schools are Not Failing – October 2014

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Where Are All the Failing Schools – August 2010

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

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

 

Time For Some Therapy – March 2011

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

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

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.

 

The Status Quo Hasn’t Changed – April 2011

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

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All – March 2009

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Follow the Money – March 2010

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

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

 

Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day – April 2010

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

 

Due Process: Not Anymore – May 2010

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

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

 

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2018 Medley #22

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

 

WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR POISONING OUR CHILDREN?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Why School Reform Flounders

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

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

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

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

 

TEACHERS GET ANGRY

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

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

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

ANTI-PUBLIC EDUCATION: FUNDING

Arizona Supreme Court Blocks Ballot Initiative to Fund Public Education

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

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

From Jan Resseger

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

 

TEACHERS MUST STAY ANGRY

Standing Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

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

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

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

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

Now?

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

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

 

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE EDUCATION LIES

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

The education lies discussed in this article are

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

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

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

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2018 Medley #21

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

THE NEW SEGREGATION

The New Segregation of Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

School Choice Is the Enemy of Justice

“Choice” has become the new tool of segregation.

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

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

More Bad News For Private School Vouchers In Florida And Indiana

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

Public schools accept all students.

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

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

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

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Improving education Across America with guest Linda Darling-Hammond

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

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

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

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

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

EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE: LEAD POISONING

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

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

Policy makers must be held accountable as well as schools.

From John Kuhn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

READ-ALOUD

Read Aloud in Middle and High School? Of Course

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

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

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

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

 

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Public Education is a Public Responsibility

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

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

 

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

Blogger GF Brandenburg commented…

gfbrandenburg
August 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm

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

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

Merrow replied…

John Merrow
August 17, 2018 at 7:27 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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