Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, IN Gen.Assembly, poverty, Public Ed, reform, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage

2018 Medley #5

Unqualified Teachers and the Teacher Shortage,
DPE for Dummies, School as a Business,
Closing Schools, Poverty,
School Shootings, Arming Teachers,
Legislators in the pay of the NRA


Indiana lawmakers resurrect proposal to let districts hire more unlicensed teachers

[Not law as of this writing…]

In Indiana you can teach a high school subject if you have a degree in the subject you want to teach, a B average in your degree program, pass a test on the subject content, and have worked in the subject area field for 6000 hours. For example, if you have a college degree in English, in which you carried a B average, and worked in an English related field – let’s say journalism – and you can pass the state’s English test, you can teach high school English. You don’t have to know anything about child development or learning theory to start, though you do have to eventually learn something about pedagogy. In other words, you can walk into a high school classroom on the first day of a school year with no experience other than content knowledge.

Now, the Indiana legislature, in order to counteract the teacher shortage caused by its own punitive attack on public education and educators, is suggesting we expand that plan to all schools.

Now, we have such a shortage of teachers, that we need to relax the rules so that anyone can teach. Because, as I wrote in Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

…nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

The same people who made becoming and remaining a teacher so onerous and unattractive, and thereby created the current teacher shortage, are now telling us we need to make it easier for unqualified adults to teach our children…

Behning said he brought back the proposal because he thought it was a simpler fix to the bill’s original goal of addressing teacher licensure exams. The tests have been criticized recently for being too difficult and keeping potentially qualified teachers out of the classroom at a time when schools have struggled to hire in certain subjects such as math and special education.


Destroy Public Education (DPE) for Dummies

Do you know what “education reformers” are trying to do? Do you know when the “ed reform” movement got started and what drives it?

Thomas Ultican, a retired teacher (in California, I think), gives a succinct history of DPE – Destroy Public Education – beginning in the early 80s with the publication of A Nation At Risk.

His DPE Movement False Taking Points are excellent, as is his list of billionaires working together to privatize public education.

It is unlikely that government spending on education will end any time soon. However, as schools are increasingly privatized, public spending on education will decrease.

Today, we have come to expect high quality public education. We expect trained certificated teachers and administrators to staff our schools. We expect reasonable class sizes and current well-resourced curriculum. It is those expectations that are being shattered.

Many forces are attacking public education for diverse reasons, but the fundamental reason is still rich people do not like paying taxes. Choice and the attack on public education, at its root, is about decreasing government spending and lowering taxes.


Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

Stu Egan, a NC teacher, explains to business types why their ideas about “running a school as a business” is just so much B.S. As a thought experiment, he suggests that we consider what it would be like if we tried to run a business like a school, thereby showing how foolish it is to conflate the two. His main points underscore the fact that, since public schools are required to follow certain laws, they cannot, and should not, be run like businesses.

Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited…
Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM…
You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share…
Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business…
You will not get to choose your raw materials…
Be prepared to have everything open to the press…
You will not get to advertise or market yourself…
Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded…
Your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business… You will have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.

The Blueberry Story


What research really says about closing schools — and why it’s a bad idea for kids

Nationally so-called “failing” public schools are being closed rather than improved. In places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis, school boards and mayors are deciding that helping schools with low test scores isn’t worth the time and the effort. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the “low-performing” closed public schools are replaced by equally “low-performing” charter or private schools. In other words, the only thing that changes is that privatization gets a boost from those policy makers charged with the success of public schools.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, low test scores are not usually the fault of the school. Years of economic neglect leaves schools in high poverty areas with fewer resources, fewer opportunities, and deteriorating facilities. Poor students need more resources to help them achieve, yet the United States is one of only a handful of advanced nations where more money is spent on wealthy students than poor students. This is especially important because the United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty among developed nations and poverty correlates with lowered achievement.

Policy makers who close schools because they are “failing” are themselves at fault for the high rate of poverty in their district or state. The school…the teachers…and the students get punished because of economic circumstances.

Closing schools doesn’t help.

In 2017, three of my colleagues at the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) examined the research on school closings. Many studies, they found, confirm that closing schools in the name of improving student achievement is a “high-risk/low-gain strategy” that fails to increase students’ achievement or their overall well-being.

Chicago Sticks to Portfolio School Reform Despite All the Evidence that It Isn’t Working

Chicago is one of the places where school closings/replacement with charters is a way of life. The mayor and his hand-picked school board have failed the most vulnerable children of the city. Now, instead of admitting that the process has been a failure, the city has doubled down and continues to do the same thing…perhaps expecting different results.

First, as Chicago has continued to launch new charter schools and specialty schools and selective schools, parents have been enticed by the advertising along with the idea that at least at the selective schools, their children will study with a more elite peer group. Parents have been willing to try out the choice schools and have their children travel long distances to elite schools and thereby abandon the neighborhood schools, whose funding drops as children leave. This process has hollowed out the comprehensive neighborhood high schools, which have been left serving a very vulnerable population with a higher percentage of students in special education. Last week’s Chicago Sun-Times reported that there has even been cheating on the lotteries, cheating in which school leaders have been able to find space for their children or relatives’ children in more elite schools, leaving behind students without powerful connections. This is a lifeboat strategy gone bad—a system that saves the privileged and leaves behind on the sinking ship the children who lack means or power or extreme talent.


Much has been written about the Valentine’s Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in which 17 students and teachers were killed. Here are three articles which focus on the insane recent proposal to arm teachers because increasing the number of guns in a school will somehow make schools safer.

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

A radiologist explains why a bullet from an AR-15 is worse than a bullet from a handgun.

[Note: While both are unacceptable and both are horrible. One makes it much more difficult to survive.]

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

Have I Got This Straight?

Peter Greene describes the irony of giving “failing” teachers the responsibility of carrying guns and using them to protect students.

Teachers cannot be trusted with fragile young minds, because we will try to inculcate them with Very Naughty Ideas, like socialism…

But we can be trusted to use guns around those young minds.

…Teachers in public school are so terrible and have failed so badly that an entire new system of schools should be opened up so that students can escape those terrible public school teachers…

But we terrible teachers should be allowed to use guns in our schools. 

Despite Parkland’s opposition, Florida House panel votes to arm teachers

Follow the money. The NRA gets most of its money from “contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” It keeps the money flowing by buying legislators who do their bidding.

…just one more shameful aspect of American society…

The mother of slain geography teacher Scott Beigel, who gave his life to save his students, pleaded with lawmakers not to put loaded guns in the hands of teachers, even after a rigorous training and screening program.

“It could easily cause additional chaos and fatalities,” Linda Beigel Schulman told legislators. If another shooter attacks a school, she said, “with the ongoing chaos, law enforcement could unintentionally shoot at a teacher.”

Her voice breaking, Beigel Schulman said her son became a teacher to teach, “not to be a law enforcement officer.”

Posted in Finland, MLK, poverty, Public Ed, Segregation

American Selfishness: Sabotaging Our Own Future.


The government of the United States appears to be in chaos. The citizens of the United States are in an uproar. The U.S.-based broadcast media is reaping the benefits of its self-invented short-attention-span news cycle.

It seems insignificant, then, to focus on something as mundane as “where will we be in 20 years” or whether our leaders 30 years hence be able to guide us through a crisis. It’s much more exciting to focus on the latest outrage from Washington which, at the moment, is the President’s ‘s**thole countries’ comment.

Eventually, however, this outrage will morph into the next outrage…and we will turn our attention back to the day to day. We’ll go back to work, selling goods, providing services, or, in the case of America’s public school teachers, supporting every child who enters our classrooms. It won’t matter where they or their ancestors came from. It won’t matter what problems they bring with them. We accept them all.

As teachers, we know the importance of every child. We understand that we are educating the citizens of tomorrow. The classrooms we work in today hold the first responders, doctors, teachers, and leaders of the future. Every national, state, or municipal leader in America is someone’s child, and the majority of those children grew up attending public schools.


It would seem logical, then, for us to recognize that the children in our public schools are the key to the future of our nation. It would seem logical that we would do everything in our power to provide all of them with the best education we can – for the common good. The nation’s future depends on the quality of our leaders, and our leaders of tomorrow are sitting in our classrooms today.

Unfortunately, not all humans are logical.

Nations with high achieving schools, such as Finland, secure their future by investing heavily in education. They focus on equity…providing for all the needs of all their children. The small number of Finnish children who live in poverty (less than 5%) also have free medical care and other national safety nets to support them as they grow.

But here in the U.S. (child poverty rate – greater than 20%) we tend to focus more of our attention and more of our investment on rich children than poor children (See HERE and HERE). That might be good for our rich children, but with the increase in economic inequity in the U.S. and the removal of the few social safety nets we have, we’re shortchanging a greater and greater percentage of our children.


We’re hurting ourselves and our future because we’re so focused on those in power getting the most for themselves (and money equals power, so those with money get the “best” for their children), keeping poor kids poor, keeping black and brown kids poor, and keeping black and brown kids in separate schools. We’re writing off a huge percentage of American children…among whom may be the people we need to lead us through the problems of the 21st century.

And for some reason…we just don’t care. Oh, individually we might, and for sure, politicians will give lip service to “better education” and “opportunity for all.” But as a nation? No, we don’t care about public schools – at least not as much as we care about the Super Bowl, the new iPhone, our Facebook profile, getting as much for ourselves as we can…etc.

Can We Be Serious?

Poverty and racism and pedagogy and curriculum and standards and infrastructure and a plethora of threads tied up to the question “Why can’t we make our schools better?” But if we dig past all of these, we get to a fairly simple answer.

As a country, we aren’t serious about it.


What would wealthy parents do if their children went to school and had to spend the day with their coats on because the heat didn’t work on the coldest day of the year?

Right…we all know that would never happen. We all know that we wouldn’t allow schools for the wealthy to be in such disrepair. Schools for the wealthy don’t have to choose between support staff and heat. They don’t have to choose between a well stocked library and toilet paper.

But, when the children attending the school are low income children, now a majority in America’s public schools…and mostly children of color…there doesn’t seem to be enough money to take care of building maintenance that children of the wealthy would never have to worry about. Low income children are the children who are exposed to lead in their drinking water. Low income children are the children whose schools don’t have libraries or trained librarians. Can you imagine a school for wealthy children having the same problems?

‘Kids are freezing’: Amid bitter cold, Baltimore schools, students struggle

Jeffrey San Filippo, a teacher at Calverton Elementary/Middle School, said that when he arrived at work Tuesday morning, the building was “extremely cold.” Later in the morning, the temperature in his classroom was in the mid-40s. After lunch, students gathered in the cafeteria to finish the day “because the classrooms were entirely too cold,” he said.

Students were wearing gloves and winter coats, San Filippo said. Some called their parents and asked to go home.

“I think this really just shows Baltimore City’s facilities have been underfunded for years, and this is what happens when you have a cold spell,” he said. “The boilers can’t keep up, and students are made to suffer.”

A fact/reality check on Gov. Hogan’s Baltimore schools claims

Years of deferred maintenance projects left city school students shivering in classrooms with temperatures below 50 degrees — again. This news is not exactly, well, news. Six years ago, I was also a Baltimore City teacher forced to decide between upholding the uniform policy (no coats or hats!) or letting students freeze in my classroom. It was precisely the necessity of purchasing my own space-heaters or copy paper or books that pushed me to leave the classroom and commit to ensuring resource equity through education finance innovation.


Why are other countries able to take care of all their children…to prepare properly for the future…but we’re not?

Simple…it’s good old American selfishness. “I’ve got mine and if you don’t have yours it’s not my problem.”

This is the individual equivalent of “America First.” We’re going to close the door on immigrants because whatever’s happening to their country isn’t our problem. People fleeing from war, famine, and disease…not our problem.

It’s how we do things in the U.S. My kid goes to the best school in the state. Your kid’s school has no heat, no books, no toilet paper? Not my problem. The new tax law…which provides for the permanent well being of the corporate sector, but expires for the middle class and low income Americans…is an example of this. The wealthy have theirs…if you don’t have any, too bad, but it’s not my problem.

We’re living through a national epidemic of selfishness and stupidity.

As Jim Wright at Stonekettle station said,

“Fuck you, I got mine” is a lousy ideology to build civilization on.

We’re too selfish…too stupid…to understand that what happens to my neighbor has an impact on me. What happens to the poor in America, has an impact on all of us. What happens in “s**thole countries” has an impact on the United States. To think otherwise is to live in ignorance and displays a monumental lack of foresight.

It seems we would rather sabotage our own future than help others.

Posted in Article Medleys, books, Choice, Immigrants, poverty, Public Ed, Quotes, Teaching Career

My Year-End Favorites

The “Year’s Bests” and “Year’s Mosts” list…images, blog posts, quotes, podcasts, and books.

Thanks for reading…


The Success of America’s Public Schools

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

In which Steven Singer teaches us how well our public schools are doing. Facts matter.

From Steven Singer

…America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

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

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


My Own Favorite Blog Post of the Year

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

I follow Steven Singer’s post with one of my own about the amazing success of America’s public schools.

When she looks at the U.S. international test scores, Secretary DeVos, and other policy makers see “failing schools.” This is wrong. The low average scores, and the even lower scores aggregated for low income students, indicate that economic inequity is overwhelming the infrastructure of our public school systems. Instead of blaming public schools, politicians and policy makers must take responsibility for ending the shameful rate of child poverty and inequity in America.

My Most Popular Blog Post of the Year

Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

This post about how Indiana and Wisconsin are destroying the teaching profession,  received the most attention of anything I wrote this year, picking up several thousand hits.

From Live Long and Prosper

…in order to offset the loss of teaching staff in the state, rules for becoming a teacher have been relaxed…

…because nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.


Trump fires Lady Liberty.

Retired Chicago-area teacher Fred Klonsky provides an editorial comment about the nation’s immigration policy. This sums up the year accurately…

From Fred Klonsky


Have you Heard: Truth in Edvertising

With a “market-based” education economy comes advertising. Jennifer Berkshire, Jack Schneider, and their guest, Sarah Butler Jessen, discuss “edvertising”. If you are at all concerned about the privatization of public education you owe it to yourself to listen to this.

From Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider

…in schooling certainly there is a private good aspect to it. But schooling is also a public good. It’s something that benefits our society, our neighborhoods, our communities. It benefits the most advantaged, but it also benefits the least advantaged at least theoretically. So when we acting as consumers, we’re only acting in alignment with the private good aspect of education.

So think for instance, buying an alarm for your house versus trying to cultivate safer cities or safer neighborhoods. Whereas one of those is an inherently private good. The alarm is only going to protect me and my family. The public good is going to benefit everyone in the community and that’s not something I can promote via shopping.


My favorite quotes from the year…from actual, real-life educators.

The Hypocrisy of “Choice”

Testing Opt Out: Parent Wants Conference; School Calls Police *Just in Case*

From Mercedes Schneider

One of the great contradictions within corporate ed reform is the promoting of a “parental choice” that stops short of the parent’s choice to opt his or her children out of federal- and state-mandated standardized testing.


School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

From Russ Walsh

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

2 School Districts, 1 Ugly Truth

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.


On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

We need to learn from history.

By Timothy Snyder

Lesson 10: Believe in Truth: To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Publisher’s Description

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

Here’s a video of Timothy Snyder talking about his book, HERE.


Books I hope to get to in 2018…

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools, by Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi

Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education, by John Merrow

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

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


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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


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.

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 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.”


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!

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

Who is Accountable?


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.


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


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.


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.

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


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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


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.