Posted in Arizona, Article Medleys, California, Charters, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Privatization, Purdue, Texas, Utah, vouchers

2018 Medley #4: Privatization and Push-Back

Pastors in Texas; Privatization at Purdue; Charters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, California, and Utah; Push-Back in Iowa


Voucher opposition article of faith for pastor

A small group of Texas pastors has come to the aid of public school students focusing on fighting vouchers, and the separation of church and state. The Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) have grown to become a force in the Lone Star State and lead a coalition of public education advocates to push back against the forces of privatization.

Other states have copied the PTC model, In Oklahoma, the Pastors for Oklahoma Kids has started advocating for public education.

Numbers of pastors and educators have started similar groups in other states, including Indiana.

We can’t afford multiple, parallel, state funded, systems of education in Indiana. The state should fund the public schools. Period.

“I am a Baptist Christian. I have certain convictions that have shaped my experience of God, faith, church and – frankly – I don’t want my tax dollars supporting religious programs that I don’t agree with, any more than my friends of other faith traditions don’t want their tax dollars supporting religious programs that might adhere to my own beliefs,” he said.

…The powerful case offered by Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children, however, could have many rethinking the blurring line between government and Indiana’s church-based schools.


Keep Purdue Public: Tell the HLC to Vote NO on Purdue-Kaplan Deal

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has organized a petition campaign in opposition to Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit company. This new aspect of Purdue’s university system will be named Purdue University Global.

The problem according to the AAUP is that, under a move by Governor Holcomb, all this would be exempt from public open records laws. This, says AAUP, does what most privatization schemes does…it favors shareholders over students.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin are concerned about the predatory history of for-profit colleges and urge transparency.

According to AAUP,

The Purdue-Kaplan deal puts Kaplan shareholders over Purdue students.

  • Pays 12.5% of revenue to Kaplan after operating costs are met
  • Pays Kaplan an “efficiency payment” of 20% of any cuts in operating cost

The Purdue-Kaplan deal takes resources from a public university and gives them to a private corporation.

  • Gives tax revenues and Indiana’s scholarship money, like the 21st Century Scholars Program, to a private corporation
  • Establishes a “public-benefit corporation” operated by and for the profit of Kaplan




How a loophole let charter schools ‘buy’ buildings and still collect rent from state

A charter school buys its building, then rents it to itself. The rent, of course, is reimbursed by the state. The school’s CEO calls it “a great perk.”

Like many charter schools, Executive Education Academy spends a good chunk of its budget on rent, some of which is later reimbursed by the state. That’s allowed, as long as the school doesn’t own its building, which Executive Academy doesn’t — technically.

The school at 555 Union Blvd., Allentown, is owned by the Executive Education Academy Charter School Foundation, a nonprofit set up solely to support the school. The school used to pay about $2.2 million a year in rent to a private landlord and get $100,000 back from the state.

Now the school will pay $2.3 million a year in rent to its foundation, which bought the building last summer, and still be able to apply for reimbursements from the state.

“That’s not the reason why we would do this, but that’s a great perk for a charter school,” said Robert Lysek, the school’s CEO. “I hate to say ‘it is what it is,’ but it kind of is.”


Sudden closure of charter school renews calls for stricter oversight

Read this story about how charter schools enrich their executives and end up closing in the middle of the school year, leaving parents and students scrambling for a new school (Note: Naturally, they often end up back at the stable, traditional, and open to all, public schools).

The lack of public oversight often leaves parents and children with few options. Whose choice?

The issue of charter schools funneling payments through entities owned by executives is not unique to Discovery Creemos.

A study by GCI last year found 77 percent of charter schools engage in business transactions involving their owners, board members or their families, a practice known as “self-dealing” or “related-party transactions.”


New York education officials move to block rules allowing some charter schools to certify their own teachers

The bottom line for corporate owned, privatized schools, is profit, not children. In-house training would allow those schools to hire cheaper, and therefore, more profitable, teachers…oh, and they wouldn’t have to worry about that pesky teachers union, either.

The regulations allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to certify teachers who complete the equivalent of a month of classroom instruction and practice teaching for 40 hours — compared to at least 100 hours under the state’s certification route, according to the lawsuit. And unlike teachers on a traditional certification route, they are not required to earn a master’s degree or take all of the state’s certification exams.


Teachers Say They had No Idea Sacramento Charter School was Shutting Down

When my local school district decided to close four elementary schools (three of which I had worked in!) due to funding shortfalls and declining enrollment, local members of the school board held town meetings all across the district to hear from citizens and explain why they wanted to do what they were going to do. The process took an entire year…and many voters were against the plan. If they chose to, those voters were able to exercise their displeasure with the plan during the following school board election.

Unfortunately, parents who patronize charter schools, and teachers who work in such schools, have no such electoral protection. Parents, students, and teachers, have no “choice” when a charter school closes. The money is gone. The students’ educational year is disrupted. Teachers are out of a job.

Parents began looking for transcripts and were trying to get their kids transferred to new schools. Teachers were waiting for stipends and belongings from their classrooms.

While reading a prepared statement, Contreras-Douglas got emotional. She insisted staff was aware of the school’s low enrollment and financial troubles before shutting down Wednesday.

“Several meetings with teaching staff were conducted to specifically address this issue throughout the school year,” Contreras-Douglas said.

But teachers say they didn’t have any idea the school was closing until it happened.


Tribune Editorial: Charter schools need state board’s oversight

Public schools have locally elected and locally based school boards. The schools are subject to the financial oversight of both the local school board and the state department of education.

Charter schools ought to have the same public oversight.

This legislation speaks to the bigger issue of what we want charters to be. When they first came into being, the intent of charters was to be laboratories where alternative approaches could be tested without the interference of public-school bureaucracies. Many have succeeded doing exactly that.

But some ideologues are trying to use charters as the leading edge of an educational disruption movement with the intent of dismantling the public school system and the teachers union, replacing it with a marketplace where every parent goes shopping for schools. In that view, the state school board represents market suppression.


Iowa public school advocates fight for funding amid cries for ‘choice’

Thousands of Iowans are pushing back against “school-choice” in Iowa.

A grassroots group made up of Iowa public school parents and activists is fighting what organizers say is an onslaught from lawmakers intent on eroding the state’s public education system.

Iowans for Public Education was formed online in November 2016 after Republicans won majorities in both the Iowa House and Senate. It has since grown to more than 12,500 followers.

The group organized a Teachers Rally last February that brought thousands to the Iowa Capitol grounds to oppose changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law. It has launched petitions and letter-writing campaigns.

Posted in Charters, Children'sLiterature, Choice, Finland, Privatization, Quotes, Segregation, Shock Doctrine, TeacherShortage, vouchers

Listen to This #1: Don’t be a Malfoy!

Random quotes…


From a sign at the Women’s March, January 20, 2018, in Oklahoma City. Published in The Oklahoma Observer, February 2018.

In a world full of Malfoys, be a Hermoine.


Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes

America’s inadequate response to the hurricane damage done to Puerto Rico has opened the door to the vulture capitalists who have decided that the solution should include school privatization – because it worked so well in Chile and New Orleans.

It’s time to reread The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Whose interest is being served by privatizing the schools of Puerto Rico? I guarantee, it’s not the students.

From Steven Singer

Corporate school reform is not about making better schools. If it was, you would see plans like this being proposed in Beverly Hills and rich white neighborhoods across the country.

But somehow that never happens.

These schemes only show up in poor communities populated predominantly by people of color.

How the Shock Doctrine works.


Oklahoma pastor: Standing in the gap for our school children

“reformers” don’t mention that the “choice” of attending a school on a voucher belongs to the school, not the student; the “choice” in the management of a charter school belongs to the corporate board of directors, not the voters through an elected school board.

From Rev. Clark Frailey

…children in public schools deserve the choice not to be marketed and sold as investments in profiteering schemes.


Charter Schools Are Driving Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The nation has reneged on the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education, and has stopped trying to integrate public schools. Corporate school “reform” has brought on more segregation. I’d say it was an unintended consequence, but…

From Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor’s Professor and professor of Sociology, Public Policy and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Charlotte, quoted by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

…Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were once the nation’s bellwether for successful desegregation. Today, the district exemplifies how charter schools can impede districts’ efforts to resist re-segregation…This research has important implications not only for schools and communities in the Charlotte Mecklenburg region, but for the national debate over the growth and role of charter schools in our nation’s education system.


ALEC and Indiana’s Voucher Program

Millions of Indiana’s tax dollars are going to subsidize parents who wish to send their children to a religious school. Vouchers are no longer directed towards the poor. Voucher recipients no longer have to “try” the public schools or have come from a “failing” public school. And voucher schools can choose their students. These tax dollars are spent with no public oversight.

From Sheila Kennedy

Indiana’s voucher program has “become increasingly affluent and white,” which shouldn’t surprise us, since these schools “set their own admission standards and can reject students for any reason.”


No school until age seven: Finland’s education lessons for the future

We can’t duplicate Finland’s educational system in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but we can learn from them…

From Kristiina Volmari from the Finnish National Agency for Education

We want our teachers to focus on learning, not testing. We do not, at all, believe in ranking students and ranking schools…


Teacher Burnout or Demoralization? What’s the Difference and Why it Matters

The teacher shortage; this is why.

From Doris Santoro in NEA Today

This teacher was not burned out. This woman was saying ‘I can’t teach the way I know I’m supposed to be teaching.’ The profession had changed. This isn’t burnout. This is demoralization.


New Jersey Orders Closure of Trenton Charter School


Instead of trying to “fix” education by privatizing public schools and throwing money to private and privately run schools that don’t do any better than neighborhood public schools, we should be doing a better job of supporting local public schools.

Privatization of public education is an example of policy makers refusing to accept their share of  responsibility for supporting the children of our nation. Improving the lives of our young people is not the sole responsibility of public schools…nor should it be.

From Russ Walsh

…Learning happens best in consistent, predictable environments. The disruption that often accompanies the charter sector is antithetical to learning. Adults in charge need to stop looking for quick fixes like charter schools and vouchers and get down to the serious work of addressing income inequity, segregation, and the wise investment of funds and educational expertise in the public schools.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Privatization, reform, Religion, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, vouchers

2018 Medley #3

School Shootings, Religion in School, Teacher Shortage, Reform, Charters, Vouchers


Wake Up, America! You Have a School Shooting Problem!

Since this blog post of Steven Singer’s was posted less than a week ago, we’ve had yet another school shooting…this one in Los Angeles. And we have heard talk of a Trump/Russia/NRA connection

What has been done to curb gun violence in the US since Newtown (2012)? Columbine (1999)?

“Thoughts and prayers…” Absolutely nothing.

According to an FBI study that looked at incidents from 2000-2013, nearly one quarter of all U.S. shootings took place at schools. And they’re on the rise.

Yet this latest incident barely raised an eyebrow in the collective consciousness.

Hardly anyone even attempted to offer a solution.

The reason?

Since Sandy Hook, we’ve effectively given up.

In December of 2012 a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and we did nothing.

We stood by after the murder of elementary kids and couldn’t get up the collective energy to do one damn thing to stop things like this from happening again.

No new regulations.

No assault weapons ban.

No gun buyback programs.



Local School to Train Teachers After Church/State Violations

Last Monday (1/29/2018), I posted Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana which dealt with a lawsuit against a school for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This case from Michigan, deals with the same sort of thing. Here, however, school authorities have made a commitment to teach their teachers about the law.

Here are three more publications, each endorsed by a variety of religious and civic groups, which will give you a good background on how to handle religion in public schools.

Once teachers, administrators, and other school employees know what the law requires, there should be no excuse for mixing education and proselytization in public schools. This information ought to be mandatory at the beginning of every school year.

A suit may still be filed over the Bible study before school starts, but this is a good development overall. And it needs to be replicated nationwide. These problems are so pervasive all over the country that the Department of Education should force all public schools to have a mandatory in-service day to train teachers and administrators on what the law says they can and cannot do within the parameters of the First Amendment.


Cycle of frustration

The constant drumbeat of so-called “education reform” has been that public schools are “failing.” “School failure” really means societal failure. It’s odd, isn’t it, that America’s “failing” public schools are located in high poverty areas…and all the “bad teachers” are teaching at those schools while America’s schools for the middle class and wealthy are excelling. It’s odd because out of school factors contribute to school achievement much more than teachers do…yet policy makers don’t accept responsibility for societal failure which leads to “school failure.”

The national attack on public education which began in earnest in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind (though school privatization has long been a right-wing/libertarian dream) has done nothing but disrupt and damage public schools around the country. Part of the attack, especially here in Indiana, has been against public school teachers and their unions.

The current attempt to improve educational achievement by lowering standards for becoming a teacher, is a direct result of the attacks on teachers.

[Note: the amendment discussed in this editorial has not yet been passed into law (as of Feb 2, 2018).]

The pattern in Indiana education policy has become all too familiar:

1. Pass a law to disrupt public education in the pursuit of “reform.”

2. Express dismay over the repercussions of the new law without acknowledging what caused them.

3. Pass another law to “fix” the problems created, doing additional harm to public schools.

The most recent example surfaced Wednesday when a last-minute amendment was added to a bill to allow public schools to fill up to 10 percent of staff with unlicensed teachers. Why is this necessary? Because some school districts are struggling to hire faculty in the face of teacher shortages. Why are there shortages? Because laws regarding teacher evaluations, tenure and collective bargaining have made the field less attractive.


The Sad Impact of Corporate School Reform on Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities

Thanks to Nancy Bailey for her continuing attention to the damage that so-called education “reform” causes students with disabilities.

School choice is not going to do anything to fix these problems.

  • Charters and most private schools have a record of pushing kids with emotional/behavioral difficulties out.
  • As taxpayers we don’t know what takes place with children who are home schooled.
  • How does one address the mental health needs of students who sit in front of screens for school? Too much tech exacerbates mental health problems!

We need strong public schools, schools with resources that will address the needs of children and teens.


Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

Some reasons for the slow-down of charter school expansion…

1. Charter teachers have begun to unionize. One reason for developing charter schools was to “bust the teachers unions.”

2. “Failing” charter schools are simply converting to voucher accepting private schools to continue to receive public tax dollars.

3. Charter schools have suffered from an excessive number of scandals resulting in bad publicity.

Diverting public tax dollars to charters (and vouchers) has been a waste of money. Instead we should be working to increase resources and achievement at real public schools.

Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.

And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.

We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.

Largest Charter School Fail Ever Doesn’t Faze ‘School Choice’ Fans

The failure of this “school choice” was mostly ignored during “school choice” week.

In the run up to what was billed as “record breaking celebrations” of charter schools and other forms of “school choice,” there was a serious bump in the road when news outlets in Ohio reported the largest charter school closure ever in that state, and perhaps the nation, had suddenly sent over 12,000 students and their families scrambling to find new schools midyear.

…“My kids went to bed last night crying,” said a Cincinnati mom whose children attended the school.

“To just rip them out of the environment they are most used to,” complained another mom whose children had attended the school for eight years. “They have relationships with their teachers,” she said in a news video posted on the ECOT Facebook page.


How Mike Pence expanded Indiana’s controversial voucher program when he was governor

More and more money for private schools coming out of public tax dollars…which eats into money for the public schools.

Where does the money go? To whom are the private schools accountable? Where is the public oversight? Answers – No one knows…no one…and there is none.

Pence, who describes his religious beliefs as evangelical, removed the cap on the number of students who could qualify for a voucher to a private school, increased the limits on qualifying family income, and removed Daniel’s stipulation that the student had to try the public school first.

No longer was money being saved as a small number of students transferred from public to private schools. Now middle-income families already using private schools were having their tuition paid for, at least partially, by the state.


There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

Study Finds Recession-Era Education Cuts Significantly Impacted Student Outcomes: How Many Constitutional Rights Were Violated?

…a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

‘Distressed’ schools lost funding

No wonder Gary and Muncie community schools are distressed. Both Indiana school districts have had their budgets cut dramatically over the past decade. It’s not surprising they’ve struggled to pay the bills.

Trump’s Judges: The GOP’s Slow Poison for Democracy, and the Planet

Lawyer Richard Ayres has been fighting for the environment in federal courts for nearly five decades, but he says he’s never seen an onslaught on basic environmental protections like the one coming out of the Trump White House. Still, something scares Ayres even more than the determination of the Trump team to dismantle President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives, shrink federally protected lands, weaken smog standards, scale back habitat for rare species, and expand drilling into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

What most unnerves Ayres and other veteran environmental lawyers and legal experts is the unprecedented opportunity President Trump has to fill the federal judiciary with anti-regulatory, pro-business appointees.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, Pence, Politics, Privatization, reading, Uncategorized

2017 Medley #34


Reading Crisis in California, Ed-Reform in Indiana,
Civics Education, Charters, Politics, 


California’s Reading Crisis: Why Aren’t U.S. Kids Reading Well?

Why are so many kids struggling with reading? The vast majority of students’ reading difficulties are due to lack of opportunities…before they even get to school. Students who grow up in poverty deal with out-of-school factors which contribute to lowered achievement. David C. Berliner lists seven such factors which get in the way of achievement.

(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children;
(2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance;
(3) food insecurity;
(4) environmental pollutants;
(5) family relations and family stress;
(6) neighborhood characteristics;
(7) extended learning opportunities, such as preschool, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.

Until we can successfully eliminate or reduce the shameful rate of childhood poverty in the United States we’ll continue to have an economic/racial achievement gap. No amount of charter schools, testing, school closings, vouchers, or other ed “reform” will change that.

But in order to learn how to read it’s important to look at other areas in a child’s life.

If a child doesn’t have access to good health care and they are sick and hungry, they probably aren’t going to learn to read well.


A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

Carol Burris, the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education has researched the ed-reform debacle in Indiana. This is the first of a three part series.

Daniels, who was governor from 2005 to 2013, would earn national recognition for his methodical and persistent undermining of public schools and their teachers in the name of reform.

Pence would follow Daniels as governor, pushing privatization even further. Pence would award even more tax dollars to charter schools and make Indiana’s voucher program one the largest in the country.

Klipsch would start and run a political action committee, Hoosiers for Economic Growth (a.k.a. Hoosiers for Quality Education), that would play a major role in creating a Republican majority in the Indiana House to redistrict the state to assure future Republican control.


We Urgently Need Civics Education

Yes, we do!

The decreased focus on civics coincides with No Child Left Behind. No surprise there…

A functioning democracy depends on an informed citizenry, including baseline knowledge of societal laws and institutions. Bafflingly, many schools no longer teach children how our government works, and what basic rights Americans are guaranteed.

Between 2001 and 2007, 36 percent of American school districts decreased focus on social studies and civics, according to a study by George Washington University’s Center on Education Policy. By 2006, just 27 percent of 12th graders were proficient in civics and government, said the National Center for Education Statistics.


Schools Choosing Students: How Arizona Charter Schools Engage in Illegal and Exclusionary Student Enrollment Practices and How It Should Be Fixed

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report about the charter industry in Arizona. They discovered that [surprise!] charter schools have found ways to avoid the accountability forced upon public schools. This is worth examining carefully.

The analysis focused on whether charter schools:

• Discourage the enrollment of students who don’t have strong grades or test scores
• Set an enrollment limit on students with special education needs or have questions in their enrollment documents that may suppress the enrollment of these students
• Discourage or preclude the enrollment of students with disciplinary records
• Have questions in their enrollment documents that may have a chilling effect on non-English speaking parents and students
• Discourage or preclude immigrant students from enrolling by requiring them to provide Social Security numbers or other citizenship information
• Require students and parents to complete pre-enrollment requirements, such as essays, interviews or school tours
• Refuse to enroll students until their parents commit to volunteer at the school or donate money to the school
• Require parents to pay impermissible fees that create barriers to enrollment
• Present other barriers for enrollment or continued enrollment

Some of these exclusionary policies violate state and/or federal laws. The fact that so many Arizona charter schools’ enrollment policies and procedures contain plain legal violations demonstrates a clear failure of accountability. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools authorizes and governs the vast majority of charter schools. The agency is responsible for ensuring that charter schools follow all laws and abide by the terms of their charter contracts. It is concerning that they have missed these violations of the law, most of which are publicly posted on schools’ websites or written into other widely available documents like student handbooks.

Though similar issues may be occurring within district schools, the ACLU of Arizona chose to focus its research on charter schools after hearing from several parents whose children were denied enrollment or faced barriers to enrollment at charter schools across Arizona.


Republican Senator exposes Trump’s clueless and wildly unqualified judicial nominee

The Trump administration has nominated candidates to federal judicial positions who are blatantly unqualified. This, for example…

The administration has also appointed cabinet members who want to destroy the department they are in charge of, or have absolutely no idea (“oops”) what their department does.

When we talk about unqualified cabinet members we can’t forget Betsy DeVos…

Trump education pick painted by Dems as unqualified

This is a good time to remind everyone that the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is just as unqualified as the nominee for judge in the previous clip.

  • She has no education background.
  • She has no experience in public education, either as a student, parent, or teacher.
  • She knows absolutely nothing about what goes on in a public school.

DeVos is just the latest, and most egregiously unqualified Secretary of Education in a long line of unqualified Secretaries of Education.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, forced DeVos to admit that she has never led an organization akin to the Education Department, and has never used any of the financial aid products she will offer to students as head of it.

“So you have no experience with college financial aid or management of higher education,” Warren said.

DeVos was also pressed on civil rights laws dealing with students with disabilities, saying early in the hearing implementation should be left up to the states.

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire circled back to DeVos near the end of the hearing, informing her the law was a federal statute.

“Federal law must be followed when federal dollars are in play,” DeVos said.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

Require Ed. Secretary Betsy DeVos to Teach in a Public School

Betsy DeVos and any corporate reformer who impacts school policy should be required to spend at least a month each year teaching in a public school classroom.

DeVos just attended Gov. Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd meeting in Nashville. Let Jeb Bush and his corporate friends and politicians who drive corporate reform also teach for a month.

None of these individuals understand the problems they have created in the classroom. If they taught a class for a month they would see firsthand what they have done.



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

2017 Medley #33

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


The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools

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

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

The Republican War on Children

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

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

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


The False Paradise of School Privatization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, this is just a marketing term.

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

Think about it.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Stephen Krashen continues to educate.

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

For Further Reading: 

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

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


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

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

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

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


How To Get Your Mind To Read (Daniel Willingham)

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

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

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


Voucher Programs and the Constitutional Ethic

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


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

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

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

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

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

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.

Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, dyslexia, OnlineLearning, Privatization, reading, special education, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #29

Teaching, Privatization: Vouchers, 
DeVos’s Attack on Special Education, Dyslexia, Screen Time as Textbooks


Another Faux Teacher Memoir

Teachers are told how to teach by legislatures and are critiqued by pundits who apparently know everything about education because “they went to school.” Do we see this sort of behavior in other professions?

  • Are doctors told how to practice medicine by people who “know all about medicine” because they have been sick before?
  • Do you automatically know how to handle 150 high school math students just because you have a degree in math? Are you able to present content in a way that students can understand just because you know that content?
  • Would a chemistry major be allowed to dispense drugs at a pharmacy?
  • Would an anatomy major be allowed to practice medicine at a local hospital or clinic?
  • The majority of Americans know nearly 100% of the content taught by early childhood educators. Because you have internalized one-to-one correspondence or the concept of “story,” does that mean you can help preschoolers develop those skills and concepts? Since you know arithmetic are you automatically able to explain the process to 8 and 9 year olds in a way they will understand?

Teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. A teacher should understand learning theory, child development, and pedagogy. A college graduate with a degree in pre-law can’t hope to learn how to teach in a five week course as completely as someone who has had 3 and a half years of education training, plus a semester of student teaching.

It’s no surprise to Peter Greene, then, when a college grad with a pre-law degree, along with five weeks of TFA training found teaching difficult. I love his metaphor of Christopher Columbus…those who are lionized for “discovering” something that the professionals in the field already know.

…Is it the part where she puts in her two years and then leaves for her “real” profession (in this case, lawyer and memoirist)?

…I’ve seen all of these stories hundreds of times. The fact that Kuo tells a tale more nuanced than the infamous Onion TFA pieces doesn’t mean she isn’t working the same old territory. And while Kuo seems to be a decent writer, she doesn’t appear to have gleaned any insights that aren’t already possessed by millions of actual teachers (the majority of whom stuck around long enough to actually get good at the job).

…only in teaching do we get this. Students who drop out of their medical internship don’t get to write memoirs hailed for genius insights into health care. Guys who once wrote an article for the local paper don’t draw plaudits for their book of wisdom about journalism and the media. But somehow education must be repeatedly Columbusized, as some new tourist is lionized for “discovering” a land where millions of folks all live rich and fully realized lives. [emphasis added]


Fla. Newspaper Exposes Host Of Problems In State’s Voucher Scheme

The problems with vouchers are similar nationwide. In Florida, for example, they have a problem with the lack of public oversight. Go figure…

…private schools in the state are accepting $1 billion a year in taxpayer funds with virtually no oversight. The result has been what you’d expect: a raft of fly-by-night schools, some of which use questionable curriculum, hire unqualified staff and place children in dangerous facilities.

Indiana school voucher debate continues

The Indiana State Supreme Court rule that vouchers don’t violate the state’s constitutional restriction on giving tax dollars to religious groups because the money goes to the parent. No matter how you look at it, however, tax dollars are going to churches which teach sectarian religion.

And, by the way, students in public schools are allowed to “speak about God,” too.

“I wanted an environment where my children were allowed to speak about God,” she said. Her daughter recently brought home artwork with a pumpkin that also included a picture of a cross.

…traditional public schools are subject to state Board of Accounts audits, while board meetings and budgets are public. Teachers must meet licensing requirements credentials. Also, private schools receiving vouchers also can be more exclusionary in who they admit.


The Pharisaical DeVastation of Betsy DeVos

Remember, during her confirmation hearing, when DeVos was asked whether she supported the “federal requirement” protecting students with disabilities and it was clear that she had no clue what IDEA was?

Remember, during her confirmation hearing, when DeVos refused to say that all schools getting federal funds should be subject to the same accountability standards.

Why are we not protecting the lives of those who are already born? I feel that being “pro-life” is not a matter reserved for the issue of abortion and the unborn, but should include those who are living and need help.

Hubert Humphrey once said in 1977, “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”


Scientists May Have Found Out What Causes Dyslexia

I tend to be skeptical when someone says (or writes) that “the cause” has been found for something. People have a tendency to latch on to a “reason” and not let go. My guess is that the information in this study will be helpful for some students (and adults) with reading difficulties, but not all.

In my experience, the causes of reading difficulties – often labeled dyslexia, even when it’s not – are varied. As a layman (I’m a teacher, not a neuroscientist), I discovered early in my career that what works for one child, might not work for another, even though their symptoms might be similar.

I’m not suggesting that this line of research be abandoned. On the contrary, we need to continue to find ways to help children learn. We just need to be aware that there might not be one, single, identifiable, cause or remedy for reading problems.

It’s worth pointing out that this is just one study, and that plenty of other researchers view dyslexia as a neurological trait. Perhaps these visual differences are a consequence, rather than a trigger, of dyslexia. Additionally, people with dyslexia sometimes see it as not something that needs to be “fixed,” but a type of creative advantage.

Do We Need a New Definition of Dyslexia?

Some background information about Dyslexia…

1. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability…

2. …that is neurobiological in origin…

3. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities…

4. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language…

5. …that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities…

6. …and the provision of effective classroom instruction…

7. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.


A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens

Special note to schools and teachers who have students read textbooks online…

…from our review of research done since 1992, we found that students were able to better comprehend information in print for texts that were more than a page in length. This appears to be related to the disruptive effect that scrolling has on comprehension. We were also surprised to learn that few researchers tested different levels of comprehension or documented reading time in their studies of printed and digital texts.

Posted in NPE, Privatization, Quotes, Ravitch, reform, Teaching Career, vouchers

From NPE 2017 – Listen to this #13

Memorable quotes from Saturday at the Network for Public Education 4th Annual Conference. Check out the live streaming and video, here (Facebook link) for much, much more.



From Colleen Wood

Now More Than Ever – it’s not just a theme, it’s what we do.

From Diane Ravitch

In the coming election [our organization] will not endorse anyone who supports charters or vouchers…

…We want to improve education, not monetize it.

From Yohuru Williams

We reject Betsy DeVos. We reject Donald Trump. We reject Race to the Bottom. We reject privatization. We reject vouchers. We reject inequality. We reject alienation. We reject your narrative of inequality. We stand for justice.

Yohuru Williams at #NPE17CA


From an Arkansas legislator/teacher

How is shutting the door and saying ‘Just let me teach’ working out for you?

Jonathan Foley in United We Stand Divided We Fall

[Teachers, as first responders, are] willing to risk it all for the next generation.


From Michelle Gunderson

Kindergarten is the new Second Grade, and a really, really bad Second Grade.

From Frank Adamson

This is not an evidence battle. This Is an ideological battle.

From Steven Singer

We invest the majority of our educational funding in rich white kids. The poor and minorities are left to fend for themselves.

From Tanya Clay House

[When speaking with a pro-voucher privatizer,] Every child deserves the benefit of a quality education. That’s why we have public education that you’re not funding.