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

2017 Medley #9 – I Have No Words

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

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

YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY

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

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

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

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

“Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How lead poisoning affects children

HOW MUCH IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION WORTH

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

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

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

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

THE FALSEHOOD OF “FAILING” SCHOOLS

Media Consensus on ‘Failing Schools’ Paved Way for DeVos

The delegitimization of public education began before Betsy DeVos…

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

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

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

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

PRESCHOOL PROBLEMS

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

What should the focus of preschool be?

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

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

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

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

SCHOOL FUNDING FOR HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDING

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

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

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

FUNDING

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

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

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

FOOD OR TESTING? WHAT’S IMPORTANT?

Food Is Overrated

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

There is no evidence that food helps raise test scores.

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

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

FED’S VOUCHER PLAN

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

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

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

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

SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

RETENTION HASN’T AND DOESN’T WORK

Keep Flunking the Little Brats!

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

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

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

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

THE STATE OF THE NATION

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

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

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

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

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Posted in 1000 Words, DAP, Play Kid's Work, Preschool, Teaching Career

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – May 2013

Here are some pictures, graphic images and cartoons from around the net — plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

This month’s topic is early childhood education.

It’s a Wonder I Can Think at All

Children learn by using their senses. They hear, see, touch, smell and taste things and use the data they gather to make sense of the world.

I had always been offended by Paul Simon’s Kodachrome line,

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school,
it’s a wonder I can think at all.

However, we have become a nation which publicly equates education and testing. Children will learn that “school” is a place for testing and has nothing to do with learning. They’ll understand that “thinking” isn’t something you do in “school.” The definition of “school” will be…or has been…changed forever.

The Love of Learning

Written language is what makes the human species unique among all the Earth’s creatures. Developing a love of reading is one of the primary purposes of education and early learning. That’s why I am a big fan of Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook. He rightly points out that a love of reading is something which needs to be taught from the time a child is conceived.

Reading expands our minds both literally and figuratively. Instilling a love of reading in a child is the first and most important task of a parent after basic survival. One of the best ways to foster and grow that love of reading is to read aloud to your children…no matter how old, or young, they are.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)

A developmentally appropriate curriculum is essential for all early learning. We should test a child’s achievement to see where he/she is, rather than to pass judgment. Tests are simply reflections of a child’s developmental process and shouldn’t be used to make high stakes decisions about the child…and the younger the child is, the more important this is. The old adage is very true…”You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” We can’t make children learn something if they’re not ready.

Non-educators who make education policy need to learn this.

Lifelong Learners

No teacher exists who can handle every moment of the teaching experience expertly without error or fault. There is no such thing as someone who can’t learn more.

Good teachers must never stop learning. Why?

  • A good teacher is better if he/she understands what it’s like to be a learner.
  • No one knows everything. There are always ways we can grow and improve.
  • A good teacher makes sure students know that learning is a positive action….the Master Teacher let’s his or her students see them learning.
  • To paraphrase John Holt, “Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.” Every teaching day/moment is different. How you handle — and learn from — unexpected situations is an indication of your strength as a teacher.

Playing

Children…indeed, humans of all ages…use play to learn and grow.

The Value of Play…

Play in our species serves many valuable purposes. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavors.

Preschool Matters

We know that students who attend preschool achieve at higher levels. Ignoring this fact means that we are not looking to the future. The shortsightedness of our policy makers will catch up to us eventually.

Long Division: The Debate Over the Value of Preschool

In June, another study, also published in Science, found that children who participated in a state-funded preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., saw gains of nine months in prereading skills, seven months in prewriting skills and five months in premath skills, relative to their peers. Internationally, the PISA project, or Program for International Student Assessment, overseen by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, has found that high math achievement is associated with attendance at preschools. Gains from preschool attendance have been recorded as far afield as Argentina, Uruguay and Bangladesh. Today, more than 95% of toddlers attend preschool in England, which, along with Scandinavia and France, has a universal preschool system in place.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Legislatures, Preschool

Preschool Priority

What Works: Preschool

Here in the US we talk a good game about how important education is. Politicians claim to have the highest regard for teachers (non-union teachers, of course). Policy makers try to convince us that they consider our children a high priority. “Reformers” push their unproven “reforms” with promises of higher achievement. The American people are starting to get the message that the “Test and Punish” policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top do not increase student achievement. Poverty is still the major cause of low achievement in our public schools…yet the politicians, pundits and policy makers won’t admit it out loud. Nearly one fourth of our children live in poverty, and the congress, made up mostly of people wealthy enough to buy a seat of power, spend their time denying safety nets to those in poverty and protecting their own wealth and power.

The value of preschool is well known but it costs money and our state and national legislators are loath to spend money on our children if there’s no corporate hand-out included. Bailing out banks…reducing delays at airports (which occurred when members of Congress bought their plane tickets for a recess-NOTE: This link includes adult language)…funding wars around the globe…those things are funded with barely a blink of an eye. The billionaires who fund so-called “reforms” send their children to schools unburdened by large classes and high stakes tests. They buy legislators who transfer public education funds to edupreneurs and private schools. Meanwhile the nation’s public schools founder from lack of support, and we fund preschools at a level well below other higher achieving nations. The children left behind get fewer materials, fewer opportunities, crowded classrooms and high stakes tests. Their teachers get vilified for failing to solve the problems caused by the extreme inequity in our society.

Here’s an infographic from the Center for American Progress showing how our commitment to universal preschool compares to other nations. Click to see it in larger size.

[UPDATE: The United States is Far Behind Other Countries on Pre-K

Early childhood education and school readiness is essential to preparing our children to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy. Compared to other countries, however, the United States lags far behind on preschool, trailing a number of other countries in enrollment, investment, and quality.]

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in IN Gen.Assembly, Parent Trigger, Preschool, vouchers

The All-Out Attack on Public Schools in Indiana

Reposted from Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #113– February 13, 2013

Dear Friends,

The all-out attack on public schools continues unabated in the House Education Committee. Since last week:

  1. House Bill 1003, the enormous voucher expansion bill costing at least $47 million dollars and paying for vouchers for thousands of students currently in private schools, passed committee on a party line vote on Feb. 7th.
  2. House Bill 1004, described by the House leadership as the “Pre-Kindergarten voucher pilot program”, which funds preschool scholarships with state money for the first time but then entwines the bill with the voucher controversy by making these students eligible for K-12 vouchers without first trying out public schools, passed the committee 10-2 on Feb. 7th.
  3. House Bill 1358, the parent trigger bill which takes authority away from school boards over low performing schools and hands them over to an unelected cohort of parents if they petition to make them charter schools, passed the committee on Feb. 12th on a party line vote, 8-4.
  4. Now tomorrow’s meeting (Feb. 14th) will hear House Bill 1337, which would give the state new authority to dissolve the governing board of local school corporations as part of a gigantic rewrite of the famous Public Law 221. Such takeovers would be based on school letter grades, despite the consensus that has emerged in the Statehouse that the A-F system is flawed.
  5. Also scheduled for hearings tomorrow (Feb. 14th) are three bills I would dub the “Sour Grapes Election Bills” which cut the powers of Glenda Ritz to lead the state board (House Bill 1309), to co-chair the Education Roundtable (House Bill 1360) and to administer the voucher program (House Bill 1342). Senator Kruse said he would not cut the powers of Glenda Ritz, but no one in the House ever said that.
  6. As if that is not enough, a House Bill 1339 will be heard as well, postponed from Tuesday and the subject of great consternation by many over evaluation and labor issues.

It looks like “Cut Glenda’s Powers Day” in Rep. Behning’s committee, starting at 8:30 Thursday morning in Room 156-C.

Here are some details:

House Bill 1003 – Voucher Expansion (Click here for my testimony on HB 1003)

This is the worst bill for public school advocates, expanding payments for vouchers to $5500 each, when many public school administrators I talked to today only get $5200 to $5300 per child for their students. In the following year, minimum payments go up to $6500. This all adds up to over $47 million in new money for private schools, as I detailed in Vic’s Statehouse Notes #112.

HB 1003 is not scheduled for second reading amendments tomorrow, but it could be as early as Monday, Feb. 18th. If you keep pouring on your objections to House members, they will perhaps have to deal with many amendments and slow down the progress on this bill. Pour it on!

House Bill 1004 – Preschool Grants (Click here for my testimony on HB 1004)

HB 1004 is scheduled for second reading amendments tomorrow. It is likely an effort will be made to delete the final section of the bill which makes students getting preschool scholarships eligible for K-12 vouchers. Without this final “poison pill” feature, the bill provides new support for preschool education in Indiana, a reform that Gov. Daniels and Dr. Bennett completely ignored in their agenda. Rep. Behning explained that the final section linking the concept to vouchers was a direct request of Speaker Bosma.

House Bill 1358 – Parent Trigger (Click here for my testimony on HB 1358)

Rep. Huston, former Chief of Staff for Dr. Bennett, who sponsored HB 1357 to give local school boards more power in picking whoever they want for superintendent, also sponsored the parent trigger to take power away from local school boards when schools get a D or an F. If parents get 51% of parent signatures on a petition, they can turn the school over to a charter school operator. A fierce battle over this concept came in 2011, and the matter was settled in the charter school bill when the Senate gave the local school board the final say over the parent petition. Now Rep. Huston is bringing the battle back to give parents final authority based on a petition. Two speakers led off supportive testimony representing a California group called Parent Revolution. No one explained who paid their way to come to Indiana to testify. After lengthy testimony, the bill passed 8-4 on a party line vote.

House Bill 1337 – School Accountability and Turnaround Academies

I started reading this bill today thinking it was mostly the Turnaround Academy bill that never made it through the General Assembly last year. I totally underestimated the scope. This massive bill rewrites Public Law 221, the law passed in 1999 with bipartisan support which has been the guidepost for accountability in Indiana. After 14 years, Rep. Behning brings a radical new plan. Among other features:

  1. It gives the state authority to dissolve or merge local school corporations.
  2. It creates independent schools, a new creation for when turnaround academies have turned around.
  3. It removes “improvement” as the stated goal of PL 221, replacing it with “performance.”
  4. It requires science assessments to be included in high stakes school letter grade decisions by 2014-15.
  5. It allows students to be assessed in relation to peers (norm-referenced) by removing the well known language from PL 221: “Compare each school and each school corporation with its own prior performance and not to the performance of other schools or other corporations.”
  6. It focuses these vast new powers on school corporations and schools getting a D or an F, even though the current A-F system is clearly broken.

All those with a strong stomach should read the entire bill and prepare to defend local school boards from state takeover using a flawed A-F system.

The “Sour Grapes Election Bills”

More than 1.3 million Hoosiers voted for Glenda Ritz, more than for Gov. Pence. In December, over 10,000 signed a petition to honor her victory after Gov. Pence said at a press conference that her election would not change his education agenda. All of those voters and petition signers should go to work on House Bills 1309, 1360 and 1342. They all cut major powers of the State Superintendent in three different arenas. They are blatantly political efforts to change the powers she won in the election. All those who are outraged by these three bills should contact members of the House with your thoughts.

Contact House Education Committee Members

It is time to act, preferably before tomorrow morning’s hearing, but any time in the next few days. Please contact members of the House Education Committee:

Chairman: Representative Behning

Republican Members: Representatives Rhoads, Arnold, Burton, Clere, DeVon, Huston, Lucas, and Thompson

Democrat Members: Representatives Vernon Smith, Battles, Errington and VanDenburgh

Then contact your own Representative to express your thoughts about these crucial bills. Taken together, the bills in the House Education Committee since February 5th constitute a bigger attack on public education than the monumental 2011 agenda: vouchers that don’t just save money but pay for thousands already in private schools, state powers to dissolve local school boards, and dismantling the powers of the State Superintendent.

If you’ve had enough, you need to tell the members of the House, promptly and decisively.

Thanks for your efforts on behalf of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. I keep hearing reports that some public school supporters read these “Notes” with great interest but don’t translate that interest into joining ICPE. To keep our outstanding lobbyist Joel Hand in place, who testified this week in Ways and Means about the enormous fiscal cost of the voucher bill, we need all members from last year to renew and we need new members who support public education. Please join us!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.