Posted in Accountability, bullying, Internet, Politics, Privatization, Teaching Career

2017 Medley #19

Politics of Privatization, Bullies,
Accountability, On Teaching,
June is Internet Safety Month

THE POLITICS OF PRIVATIZATION

As Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence made no attempt to hide his preference for private education. His school-based photo ops were nearly always at parochial schools. His state budgets favored private schools and charters, and his friends in both the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education followed his lead.

Betsy DeVos joins Pence in the current administration as an unapologetic advocate for privatizing education and the destruction of public schools. She doesn’t hide the fact that her intent is to provide as much money for private schools as possible. She couches her preference in terms which imply support for students, but when we dig deeper we find that she doesn’t consider all students worthy of support.

Her budget cuts millions from programs designed to help the neediest students. She passes the buck to the states and private donors to pick up the monetary slack. The fact that the states don’t have the money doesn’t matter. With the continued tax cuts for America’s wealthiest citizens, money for education is scarce and DeVos prefers to direct it towards the children attending private schools rather than those attending public schools.

In her recent appearance before a Senate committee, DeVos refused to take a stand against discrimination. Instead she repeated the same inane statement about supporting federal antidiscrimination laws. Would she take a stand against discrimination when the federal laws were vague? No…

This is what happens when a know-nothing, anti-public education billionaire, buys her way into the highest education office in the land.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Again Fails to Say Voucher Programs Shouldn’t Allow Discrimination

From American’s United for Separation of Church and State

At a minimum, DeVos’ answers reveal that she knows her desire to let private schools discriminate with federal dollars is unpopular. Students deserve better than private school vouchers that undermine civil rights protections.

The issue of discrimination is one of the many reasons Congress should reject any efforts to impose a federal voucher program. Rather than diverting funds for private schools, we should be funding the public school system, which educates all students.

Betsy’s Choice: School Privatization Over Kids’ Civil Rights

From Steven Singer

Betsy DeVos seems to be confused about her job.

As U.S. Secretary of Education, she is responsible for upholding the civil rights of all U.S. students.

She is NOT a paid lobbyist for the school privatization industry.

Yet when asked point blank by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) whether her department would ensure that private schools receiving federal school vouchers don’t discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, she refused to give a straight answer.

She said that the these schools would be required to follow all federal antidiscrimination laws but her department would not issue any clarifications or directives about exactly how they should be doing it.

“On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle,” DeVos said at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education yesterday.

“I think you just said where it’s unsettled, such discrimination will continue to be allowed under your program. If that’s incorrect, please correct it for the record,” Merkley replied.

DeVos did not correct him.

The Demolition of American Education

From Diane Ravitch

The most devastating cuts are aimed at programs for public schools. Nearly two dozen programs are supposed to be eliminated, on the grounds that they have “achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness.” In many cases, the budget document says that these programs should be funded by someone else—not the US Department of Education, but “federal, state, local and private funds.” These programs include after-school and summer programs that currently serve nearly two million students, and which keep children safe and engaged in sports, arts, clubs, and academic studies when they are out of school. They have never been judged by test scores, but the budget claims they do not improve student achievement, and aims to save the government $1 billion by ending support for them. The budget assumes that someone else will pick up the tab, but most states have cut their education budgets since the 2008 recession. No mention is made of how other sources will be able to come up with this funding.

BULLIES

Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It

President Trump has made bullying great again.

Donald Trump’s campaign and election have added an alarming twist to school bullying, with white students using the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.

ACCOUNTABILITY

State Board Votes to Allow Voucher Schools to Bypass Accountability

The accountability laws in Indiana are a waste of time and money. The criteria used to judge a school, its students’ test scores and attendance, are inadequate and invalid. Tests and attendance do not indicate the quality of a school. The school climate and the involvement of parents are equally, if not more important to a school than how high the students score on a given achievement test. Student achievement tests should be used (if they’re going to be used at all) to assess student achievement, not the quality of a school or its teachers. Student attendance has very little to do with a school’s quality, and more to do with the economic status of the families of the students (for that matter, so do the achievement tests).

For decades, “reformers” have used poor test scores as the basis for claims that America’s public schools were “failing,” and to lobby for charters and vouchers. Now that they have charters and vouchers, the state rules about “accountability” are getting in the way of the smooth flow of tax dollars into private, parochial, and corporate pockets. The solution? Get the corporate stooges on the state board of education to “suspend” accountability for private, parochial, and corporate schools.

Just because Mike Pence is no longer in the Governor’s seat doesn’t mean that the state preference for privatization is gone…

Kudos to my former colleague, Steve Yager, for being one of the two votes against this.

Four private voucher schools previously cut off from accepting new voucher students because of academic failure, have been given a reprieve from the Indiana State Board of Education.

Due to receiving a grade of D or F for two consecutive years, the private schools had lost their ability to take on new voucher students. The schools can retain their current population of voucher students.

The schools were given permission to bypass accountability laws created for failing private voucher schools thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Holcomb. ISTA strongly opposed the bill throughout the legislative session, because it gives failing voucher schools a pass for low performance and allows a new voucher pathway via new school accreditation – schools with no track record.

ON TEACHING

On Teaching Well: Five Lessons from Long Experience

From an experienced teacher and teacher educator…Russ Walsh gives us the benefit of his years as an educator. You’ll notice the five lessons he presents have nothing to do with teaching to the test. Instead he deals with relationships between teacher and student, teacher as coach, pedagogical content knowledge, using student errors to guide teaching, and teacher self-reflection. This, along with his book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child, are essential reading for parents, teachers, and anyone who is interested in improving public schools.

At its most basic, teaching is about building individual relationships with children. If children trust you, they will be willing to follow you in your flights of instructional fantasy and if they follow you they will learn from you.

STAY SAFE ONLINE

Be Internet Awesome

June is Internet Safety Month. Share these tips from Google with your family.

To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

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Posted in Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Public Ed

Your School in a Market Economy

DISRUPTION

Betsy DeVos thinks this is a good way to run America’s public education system…allow for the privatization of public education and let the market decide whether or not a school remains open. DeVos thinks the marketplace provides all the safeguards schools need.

In the meantime, school privatization is providing the “disruption” so important to free-market types because schools that close before the school year ends are a feature, not a bug.

Southfield charter school closes shocking students, staff

In just one of many daily stories about fraud and corruption in the mostly unregulated charter industry, students in this Michigan town got to school last week to find that their school closed –
just three weeks before the end of the year.

Teachers were seen packing their belongings. They say they will get paid Friday but the school is not able to pay them through August.

Teacher pay is often budgeted throughout the year. A contract is generally for the length of the school year – 9 or 10 months, but the pay is spread out over the entire length of the calendar year. In other words, teachers won’t receive the pay for days they have already worked.

Taylor International has been beset by money problems since 2013 and according to Renaissance School Services, the company managed it and things came to a head.

“The board has resigned and we terminated our relationship with the school because we haven’t been paid in about six months,” said Richard O’Neill, Renaissance School Services.

The school didn’t pay the management company, so it was closed down. The bottom line for privately owned and operated schools is profit, not children. Was there any governmental oversight of the taxpayer funds spent for this school? Were the books open to all? Where did the money go? Who got paid? Who didn’t?

The resulting “disruption” which free-market “reformers” prize so highly, interferes with learning. School closures can have a negative effect on students.

Ben Kirshner and his colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder documented numerous negative effects of school closure, including higher dropout rates, lower achievement, loss of friendships, and weaker emotional ties between students and teachers.

STABILITY

When schools close before the school year ends, there’s no closure to the year. Students and teachers have no chance to say goodbye to each other and their friends. Teachers are left without a complete year of student work needed to compute grades. In some cases, teachers are left without their full pay and parents are left without a place to send their children for the remainder of the year. The taxpayers’ money is gone – and without public oversight, no one knows where it went.

Russ Walsh, in Creative Stability: A Better Plan for Public Schools, writes,

Every teacher knows that children learn best in a stable environment. That is why teachers spend the first several days of school establishing routines and norms for the smooth functioning of the classroom.

The disruption of a school closing gets in the way of that stability.

Public schools – real public schools, not privately owned and publicly funded charter schools – provide stability. They are part of the community and are owned by the community. The focus is on the students, not profit. The bottom line is education, not stock holders.

The free-market means competition and competition means there will be winners and losers. There should be no losers in public education.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, NAEP, Politics, Privatization, Testing

2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools’ test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for “parents to have choices.” Most refuse to allow “choice” when it comes to opting out of a state’s standardized test, but that’s another story.

The idea behind “school choice” is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it’s not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides “vouchers” to divert money to privatization. We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don’t get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don’t receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn’t receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good…for the community…for all of us.

Is the drive for “choice” in public education just another symptom of America’s growing selfishness? It’s framed in a selfish way focusing on “what’s best for me no matter what it does to the community.” I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can’t blame parents for trying to find a good “fit” for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,

They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either…They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That’s compassion.

But there’s common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation’s future.

The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo…

That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

…So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.

THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven’t been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education “reform” in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton…took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller…and doubled down with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top…all Democrats. There’s a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don’t actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,

…Don’t label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test. We know that’s not true…

President Obama’s Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as “failing” and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an “arbitrary” test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their “privatizing” ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.

Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are “failing.” The fact that it’s not true hasn’t seemed to matter.

Here’s a study showing that charter schools don’t do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the “reformers” say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don’t tell the whole story when it comes to student learning…I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from “failing” public schools. Now it’s about “choice” for “choice’s” sake…just because.

In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.

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Posted in ALEC, Pence, Preschool, Privatization, Ritz, vouchers

Pence, Preschool, and Privatization

A tweet from NEA…

REJECTING FEDERAL DOLLARS

Mike Pence, as Indiana’s governor, rejected an $80 million preschool grant from the federal government. He said it was because he didn’t want “federal strings attached,” but my guess is that there were two different reasons.

First, the grant was supported by Glenda Ritz, the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction who insulted Pence by getting more votes than he did in 2012. Pence, with help from the State Board of Education and the Republican wing of the General Assembly, spent four years doing everything he could to prevent her from doing her job.

Second, the federal preschool dollars didn’t help Pence with his plan to privatize and religionize public education. Instead it just benefited children.

THE PENCE PLAN CONTINUES

This past year, while the V.P. was moving into his West Wing office, the Indiana General Assembly approved a preschool plan which links preschool money to vouchers, thereby expanding what is already the nation’s most expansive voucher plan. Pence would be proud.

But vouchers weren’t all the ALEC supported privatizers in the Indiana General Assembly were after. They also included $1 million for a “virtual preschool” plan.

Because sitting in front of a computer screen for 15 minutes a day is the same as participating in a quality preschool program.

WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS

So Indiana has increased privatized preschool as part of the latest voucher expansion, and has made tech companies happy by paying for a “virtual preschool.” But the research discussed in an article from KQED News referred to public preschools, which children actually attended.

The article, “What the Science Says About How Preschool Benefits Children,” stated that students with public preschool experience, are more successful in Kindergarten. They don’t need vouchers. They don’t need 15 minutes a day of screen time. They just need high quality preschool programs like those Mike Pence stalled by rejecting 80 million free dollars.

They listed four key findings…

  • That while all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids often make the most gains…
  • Children who are dual-language learners “show relatively large benefits from pre-K education” — both in their English-language proficiency and in other academic skills…
  • And yet, the researchers said, that doesn’t mean preschool should necessarily be targeted toward poor or disadvantaged kids. “Part of what may render a pre-K classroom advantageous” for a poor student or a child learning English, “is the value of being immersed among a diverse array of classmates.”
  • Not all preschool programs are alike. Features that may lead to success include: “a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum,” and an emphasis on the quality and continuous training of pre-K teachers. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, the study concludes, “to generate more complete and reliable evidence on effectiveness factors.”

There was no mention of a 15 minute “virtual” preschool.

MR. PENCE GOES TO WASHINGTON

Don’t think for a minute that the Trump/DeVos plan for privatization of America’s public schools has nothing to do with Mike Pence. DeVos helped fund Indiana’s privatization movement. There’s little doubt that the Trump/DeVos goal of privatizing America’s public education system will be modeled on the success Pence, and his predecessor Mitch Daniels, had in Indiana.

Effectiveness doesn’t matter…the only thing they care about is funneling public tax dollars into corporate and religious pockets under the guise of “choice.” They don’t support public education. They don’t care to provide educational equity for the shameful number of children in America who live in poverty. They don’t care about them. They just care about diverting tax dollars. They just care about increasing private school attendance.

The same for preschool. They’re not interested in supporting the research which suggests that poor children benefit the most from preschool. They’re more interested in the money they can get by redirecting students from public schools into parochial and private schools.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, class size, IN Gen.Assembly, Privatization, Testing, US DOE, vouchers, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2017 Medley #14

Class Size, Testing,
The Federal Role in Education, Privatization, Indiana General Assembly, Walmart

CLASS SIZE

Trump’s Education Budget Will Undermine Teaching and Schools

Thirty-five percent of America’s school districts – especially high-poverty districts – use federal money to reduce class sizes. The Trump budget will result in larger class sizes in exactly the locations where smaller class sizes are needed the most.

Once again, it is America’s high poverty students who are shouldering the burden so the wealthy can have a lower tax obligation.

Why is this important? Class size reduction is not only extremely popular among parents and teachers – it is one of the very few reforms proven to work through rigorous evidence, and to provide especially large benefits for children from low-income families and students of color, who see twice the academic gains from small classes. Indeed, it is only one of a handful of educational policies that has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap between economic and racial groups.

TESTING: PISA

Is PISA Data Useless?

Peter Greene asks some questions about the PISA test. Privatizers and “reformers” love to quote America’s “low scores” on the PISA and other international tests (see The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools), but new information about the PISA indicates that analyses of the results might not be accurate. What then?

The Testocrats have been quietly assuming that taking a Big Standardized Test on a computer is exactly like taking it on paper. But what if that’s not true? What if taking a math test involves not only math skills, but test-taking skills. And what if computer test-taking skills are not the same set of skills as pencil-and-paper test-taking skills?

What if the Big Standardized Tests aren’t really measuring what they purport to measure at all, and the whole test-centered education model is built on a sham?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION

Don’t Trash the Department of Education. Fix It.

In education, just like other areas of our society, the federal government has an important role to play. In the current education atmosphere, the federal government needs to make sure that equitable funding exists for all schools.

The nation is slowly but surely moving back to segregated schools and as Earl Warren put it in 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It’s the job of the federal government to make sure that states don’t revert to the illusion of “separate but equal.”

…it’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.

The department has a vital and important role to play in making sure our system of public education serves everyone. Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.

Separate but equal?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION: VOUCHERS

Save Our Schools! Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is ignorant about public education. Like other Trump cabinet and administrative appointees, she has spent her life trying to do damage to the very aspect of society her department is charged with supporting. During her confirmation hearing she proved to America that she is woefully ignorant of how public schools work.

The last thing that America needs is for the nation’s schools to contribute to increased segregation by race, ethnic group, or economic status.

Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation who researches public policy to address educational inequality, examined DeVos’ comment during her Senate confirmation process that “empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”

To the contrary, Potter found that “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at the status quo.” Potter considered not only racial diversity, but religious diversity as well: “(D)ata suggest that there is a strong risk that voucher programs will be used by white families to leave more diverse public schools for predominantly white private schools and by religious families to move to parochial private schools, increasing the separation of students by race/ethnicity and religious background.”

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Latest D.C. Voucher Study: Program Harms Students’ Academic Achievement

When the Indiana General Assembly, along with then-Governor Mitch Daniels, demanded a voucher program for Indiana’s private schools, the argument was that children who live in poverty should have the same access to “high-quality” schools as wealthier students. The error in that logic is clear. A “high-quality” school is defined by higher test scores and greater support from economically affluent communities. When you segregate students economically, you’ll see schools with lower test scores in economically depressed areas.

Over the last few years we’ve learned that voucher accepting private schools and privately run charter schools are not guaranteed to give children a better education. So the reason for providing tax money to private and privately run schools has changed. No longer are we diverting tax dollars away from public education in order to help poor children “escape” from so-called “failing” schools. Now it’s for “choice.” Every parent should have the right to choose the best school for their children. This is reasonable, but private choices shouldn’t be tax supported.

People don’t get subsidies from the government for other “choices.” We don’t get a voucher to move into any neighborhood we want to move to. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” a private country club over public parks. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” books at a book store instead of the public library. Like other public benefits, public schools are, and should be, the tax supported option. The cost of other options are the responsibility of the tax payer.

Instead of underfunding and closing public schools filled with struggling students, we should improve the quality of the school and its teachers. We need to invest in our public schools, and we need to invest more where more support is needed.

The Department of Education just released a new study of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program. And the findings confirm what we’ve known for years: The program doesn’t improve students’ academic achievement. In fact, it has resulted in statistically significant negative impacts on student test scores.

The study found that students using a D.C. voucher performed 7.3 percentage points worse in math than their peers. The program especially hurts students in elementary schools, which comprise 68 percent of the voucher students in the study and are the largest demographic in the program. These students performed worse in math and reading: 14.7 percentage points lower in math and 9.3 percentage points lower in reading.

This conclusion isn’t a surprise considering similar results were reached in recent studies of voucher programs across the country. The studies have found negative impacts on student achievement for voucher students in Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana.

PRIVATISATION: CHARTERS

PolitiFact Florida: How not-for-profit are charter schools, really?

Are non-profit charter schools a better use of tax dollars? Not necessarily.

The management company does not manage the governing board; rather, it handles certain aspects of the operations of the school under a contract with the governing board.

The Miami Herald’s examination of South Florida’s charter school industry found several instances of for-profit management companies controlling charter schools’ day-to-day operations.

The Herald found examples of charter schools relinquishing total control of their staff and finances to for-profit management companies. In Miami-Dade County, the Life Skills Center paid 97 percent of its income to cover fees incurred by a management company.

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Quick takes on the 2017 legislative session

What did the Indiana General Assembly give us this year?

  • Large budget increases for charters and vouchers, not so much for public schools
  • No voter input for state education policy making
  • Continued emphasis on expensive and wasteful testing policies
  • Another voucher expansion, this time it’s attached to a minimal pre-K increase
  • Lower professional requirements needed to teach in charter schools

This is a state that (still) really hates its public schools.

A session of the Indiana General Assembly is kind of like a tornado. When it’s over, you crawl out of your shelter, look around and assess the damage.

Lawmakers finished their business and left the Statehouse on Saturday morning. Here’s a quick look at some of the wreckage they left on the education front.

Voucher program gets outsized share of K-12 funding increase

Students who receive tuition vouchers to attend private religious schools will get nearly 10 percent of the K-12 education funding increase that Indiana lawmakers included in the 2017-19 state budget.

That’s an outsized share given that voucher students make up only about 3.5 percent of the students who receive funding from the state.

WALMART

The Walmart Tax

I’m tired of subsidizing Walmart employees so the Waltons can retain their position as America’s richest family. With a family net worth of $130 billion, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage so the public doesn’t have to fork over $6.2 billion in welfare…

In essence, when a Walmart employee must rely on food stamps or other safety-net benefits, taxpayers are paying a portion of that employee’s wages.

Walmart (including its Sam’s Club operation) is currently the largest private employer in the country–and one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. Walmart employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year. Money not paid out in salary goes directly to the shareholders’ bottom line.

Not only is this greedy and despicable, it is bad business. For one thing, as awareness of this subsidy grows, the numbers of people shopping at Walmart declines. But there are other costs incurred.

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

2017 Medley #10

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

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Adding Insult to Injury

Tensions rise as vouchers pick up traction across Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that purpose has little to do with educating children.

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

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

Another Study: Vouchers are not improving education

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

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

SUCCEEDING SCHOOLS

Public Schools: Who Is Failing Whom?

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

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

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

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

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

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: RECESS

Privatizing Recess: Micromanaging Children’s Play for Profit

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

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

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

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

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

POVERTY

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poverty is indeed the problem in education

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

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

To the editor:

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Medley #9 – I Have No Words

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

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

YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY

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

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

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

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

“Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How lead poisoning affects children

HOW MUCH IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION WORTH

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

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

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

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

THE FALSEHOOD OF “FAILING” SCHOOLS

Media Consensus on ‘Failing Schools’ Paved Way for DeVos

The delegitimization of public education began before Betsy DeVos…

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

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

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

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

PRESCHOOL PROBLEMS

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

What should the focus of preschool be?

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

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

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

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

SCHOOL FUNDING FOR HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDING

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

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

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

FUNDING

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

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

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

FOOD OR TESTING? WHAT’S IMPORTANT?

Food Is Overrated

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

There is no evidence that food helps raise test scores.

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

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

FED’S VOUCHER PLAN

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

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

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

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

SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

RETENTION HASN’T AND DOESN’T WORK

Keep Flunking the Little Brats!

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

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

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

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

THE STATE OF THE NATION

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

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

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

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

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