Posted in Choice, DeVos, Public Ed

DeVos Gets it Wrong – Again

In a recent address to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attacks the very concept of public education. Her inability to understanding the “Public Good” is proof of her lack of qualifications for the office she purchased. America’s children deserve better.

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

In her remarks DeVos denounced public schools for low scores on the most recent PISA test, yet ignored, or is ignorant of the fact that the low achievement averages of our children are the result of America’s high rate of child poverty. When poverty is taken into account, America’s scores are among the highest in the world.

More than half of America’s public school children live in low income homes. The effects of poverty on achievement are well known, but DeVos doesn’t know or care about that. She is pathetically ignorant of how children learn and how public schools work.

THE FALSE CHOICE OF SCHOOL CHOICE

As we knew she would, she turned her attention to the lie of so-called “school choice,” and claimed that “choice” is the answer to our children’s low achievement. According to her, the addition of the Blaine amendments to state constitutions, those amendments which forbid the usage of public money for sectarian purposes, was a “bigoted” attempt to “force” the government to control the lives of children.

Wrong.

In the interest of the “Public Good” children are required to attend school. The choice is available for anyone to attend a private school or to be schooled at home, but it is in the interest of the state for all its citizens to be educated. In the past – before vouchers – parents worked with parish councils and churches to help pay for a parochial education for their children if that’s what they wanted.

An educated populace, is necessary to a free society. President Jefferson wrote,

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Public education serves everyone and is available for everyone. Public education provides the means to eliminate the ignorance of the entire populace. We only need to support our public schools and give them the means to do their job. Tax dollars should be reserved for public schools. We can’t afford to support two school systems – one public and the other private.

President (John) Adams wrote [emphasis added],

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.

Meanwhile, the private and religious schools that DeVos claims parents want to “choose” do not give a “choice” to parents. It is these same private schools, which take tax dollars in the form of vouchers, who are free to “choose” to reject the behavior problems, the learning problems, and the insufficiently pious.

In her remarks, DeVos refers to America’s “ugly history of unjust laws” which prevent tax dollars from going to parochial interests. She’s got it wrong. The ugly history associated with American education is the state sponsored segregation of children of color – despite Brown vs. Board of Education – into enclaves of neglect.

The “choice” needed by the parents of America’s children, is the “choice” of a fully funded, professionally staffed, and well maintained public school in every neighborhood.

DeVos is woefully ignorant of what public schools are for, what public schools do, and what public schools need. She doesn’t belong in the office she holds.

Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation

Our country has an ugly history of unjust laws that force families to violate their consciences or that disrespect their preferences. In the late 1800s, anti-Catholics tried to amend the U.S. Constitution. They failed at the federal level, but they maneuvered to enact the amendment in state constitutions throughout the country. 

These Blaine provisions prohibit taxpayer funding of “sectarian” – a euphemism at that time for “Catholic” – activities, even when they serve the public good. Activities like addiction recovery, hospice care, or — the amendments’ primary target — parochial education. 

These amendments are still on the books in 37 states. They were bigoted then, and they still are today. 

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Posted in Adams, Article Medleys, Douglass, Franklin, Oklahoma, Public Ed, sexism, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #8: Teachers Finally Stand Up

Teachers Stand Up, Speak Out

Why are public schools, and public school educators, such an easy target for abuse in terms of wage stagnation, underfunding, and worker disrespect? Why is it so easy for legislators and policy makers to treat teachers like enemies of the state?

Oklahoma teachers on strike.

WHO ARE THE TEACHERS?

One possible answer to the questions, above, is the relative value given to work done by women in our society.

Three-fourths of American teachers are female, and despite the fact that teaching is a difficult job, needing training and experience, it’s still considered “women’s work” by the patriarchal society at large. In nearly every job, at every level, in every area where both men and women are employed, women earn less – even when men and women are doing the same exact work.

The assumption has been, even among educators, that women who work will (or ought to) have a higher-earning spouse at home, so they don’t need to earn as much. There is rarely an assumption that women are the “bread-winners” of a family or that a woman might need to earn more than their partner of either sex. The tradition of women as teachers leads to teachers being disrespected because women are disrespected.

To the extent that work done by women is denigrated in our society, teachers are denigrated.

To the extent that work done by women is disrespected in our society, teachers are disrespected.

To the extent that work done by women is shortchanged in our society, teachers are shortchanged.

Blogger Jan Resseger has a similar response…

Kentucky: Teachers Stand Up for a Decent State Budget, Their Pensions, and Public Responsibility

Maybe part of our forgetting about teachers comes from gender bias. As we have all noticed in West Virginia last month, and now in Oklahoma and Kentucky, most of these teachers are energetic young women. All the old messages come into play: Teachers do their work because they love our children; the money isn’t so important to them. They’re probably married and have another income to depend on in addition to whatever they can bring in from teaching. These women should be good sports as they do more with less. And the worst: Teaching is really just glorified babysitting.

TEACHER’S MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD

Finally…thankfully…teachers are speaking out in large numbers. They have been taking the brunt of the political, legislative, and social war on public education that has been waged for the last four decades. The war has been fought on several fronts…the most notable being funding. Public school funding has taken a hit from the poor economy as have other areas, but with the recovery, those who control the money have not seen fit to increase funding for schools.

In Indiana, teachers have seen a loss of earning power adjusted for inflation of over 15% in the last 15 years. Add to that, larger classes, media bashing, professional demoralization and fewer benefits which have resulted from the recent recession, tax cuts, and political pandering. Most teachers are doing more with less…and less…and less. Policy makers assume that teachers will pick up the slack, which, of course, they do…at a rate of about $500 per teacher, per year. There are more than 3 and a half million teachers in the United States. In other words, teachers subsidize our public schools by more than $1 billion a year.

Salaries are not keeping up with inflation…funding is not keeping up with inflation…teachers are donating money, as well as time, for their students…it all adds up to…

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Teachers have had it. Why they’re revolting against low pay and inadequate school funding.

…Underpaid and under-resourced teachers have had enough. Tired of struggling to pay their bills and educating students without sufficient resources — or, in some places, heat to keep kids from freezing in the winter — teachers are suddenly rebelling in places not known for union activism.

The protests are coming in states that have seen the country’s deepest funding cuts for public education by Republican legislators, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona…

Arizona teachers rally at the statehouse.

No Wonder Teachers Are Saying Enough Is Enough

Teachers have long been underpaid. Their average salary is a little over $58,000 a year. While that’s just below the national median income, teachers have the kinds of qualifications that should mean they bring home more than the average employee. About half of public-school teachers have a master’s degree, and nearly two-thirds have more than 10 years of job experience. And yet they make 17 percent less than other similarly educated workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Compensation for all college graduates rose over the last two decades, adjusted for inflation, but for teachers it actually declined.

Oklahoma teachers are protesting 10 years of low pay. Here’s what their walkout looked like.

Thousands of teachers returned Tuesday to the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City to protest low teacher pay and years of cuts to school funding, continuing a strike launched Monday.

Nearly 200 of the state’s 550 school districts remained closed, according to a tally on the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Facebook group. An estimated 30,000 teachers and educators had gathered at the capitol on Monday, joined by hundreds of state employees.

Teachers are demanding that state legislators come up with $3.3 billion over the next three years for school funding, benefits, and pay raises for all public employees. On Monday, lawmakers didn’t give an inch.

That made teachers even angrier.

Kentucky teachers.

And We Will Rise: Day 3 of the Oklahoma Walkout

Don’t try us, Oklahoma legislatures. We work in classrooms of 30-35 children, seven-plus hours a day, with very few supplies, no restroom breaks, kids who are out of hand, kids who are hungry, kids who are angry, kids who have horrible home lives, kids who have broken hearts. And we still get up every school day, ready to work, ready to do everything necessary to help our kids, in conditions that are not suitable for what we need to do with pay that barely pays our bills and feeds our families.

Go ahead, try to reduce us to ashes.

The Phoenix will continue to rise.

TEACHERS ARE QUITTING

While many teachers are taking to the streets, others are leaving. Teachers are moving to other states to seek better conditions for themselves and their own children. They’re looking for places where public schools are publicly supported.

Others are walking away from the profession completely.

The biggest loss, however, is with pre-service teachers. There are fewer and fewer young people choosing teaching as a profession…and with good reason. The pay gap between teachers and other similarly educated professionals is still large.

It’s hard to recruit young people to a career which doesn’t pay well and is regularly insulted and figuratively spat upon by the national media and politicians.

Teacher Exodus, Plummeting Enrollments and Teacher License Deregulation: I don’t feel fine.

As a dean of a school of education I have watched our undergraduate enrollments take a nose dive (55%) in the last 3 years. I meet with prospective students and parents who actively encourage their sons and daughters to avoid becoming a teacher. I know teachers that actively advise their students to avoid teaching. And I have talked to high school students who tell me they’ll never go into teaching. When I ask why, I get this response, “I’ve seen what my teachers go through. They’re not allowed to teach. So many of them are miserable. No thank you.”

PAYING FOR THE COMMON GOOD

The anti-taxers – or more accurately, anti-taxers-of-the-wealthy – have convinced Americans that all taxes are always bad. But that’s not true.

We’re not the highest taxed nation on Earth, contrary to what some political leaders would have you believe. And our businesses and wealthy fellow citizens could pay more than they do, especially after the latest tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Our taxes pay for the physical infrastructure of our cities and counties which benefit everyone. It pays for roads and their upkeep, water and sewage systems, transportation, libraries, parks, and support for the elderly and needy. Taxes also pay for public schools.

When we refuse to pay taxes, we refuse to pay our membership fee for living in a free society.

When we shortchange public education we shortchange our future. That is something Americans throughout history have understood…

Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1749

The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country. [emphasis added]

Letter to John Jebb from “The works of John Adams, second President of the United States : with a life of the author, notes and illustrations”

by John Adams, Second President of the United States, 10 September, 1785.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves. [emphasis added]

Address to the National Convention of Colored Men, Louisville, Ky.

by Frederick Douglass, African American writer and abolitionist, speech at the National Convention of Colored Men, 1883

[T]he fact remains that the whole country is directly interested in the education of every child that lives within its borders. The ignorance of any part of the American people so deeply concerns all the rest that there can be no doubt of the right to pass laws compelling the attendance of every child at school…

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Jim Trelease, Privatization, Public Ed, read-alouds, SchoolShootings, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #7

Public Education, Testing, 
Arming Teachers, Privatization, Jim Trelease

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Our Public Schools Are Better Than the NCGA Would Want You to Believe

Here’s a good summary of the reasons we shouldn’t rely on test scores to compare education in the United States with other countries. Simply put, if the U.S. didn’t have one of the highest rates of child poverty among advanced countries, our test scores would be higher because test scores reflect family income.

This isn’t news…(see here and here).

  • “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
  • “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
  • “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
  • “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
  • “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

10 Reasons To Support Public School

Peter Greene reminds us that public schools are expected to be everything for everyone. We aren’t always successful, but there are very few places where public schools try to help every child achieve to his or her highest potential.

10) The promise of public education

…Our dream is to provide every single child with the support and knowledge and skills and education that will allow each to pursue the life they dream of, to become more fully themselves, to understand what it means to be human in the world. We do not always live up to that dream, but US public schools have lifted up millions upon millions of students, elevated communities, raised up a country.

TESTING

The Lone Voice of Dissent Against Standardized Testing

For years I felt like the lone voice against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing in my school, and school district…in fact, I started this blog in 2006 because I wanted a place to vent about that very topic. Perhaps other teachers in our district felt the same way, but were afraid to speak out. Most of the teachers in my building just sat quietly while I ranted about wasting all the time with tests that didn’t help anyone. No one ever thanked me, but no one ever objected. Our principal would sometimes say, “Now is not the time,” or “Just do it.” I understand that he was under pressure from the central office, who, in turn were under pressure from the state, to administer tests. Still, it would have been nice to have some support from other educators (perhaps there was, and I just didn’t see it). It would have been nice to hear from an administrator, “I agree, but we have no choice.” Something would have been better than nothing.

And it’s still going on. American teachers and students are being forced to administer and take tests which are being misused…to rank schools, to determine teacher pay, to rank students. It’s unprofessional, educational malpractice, and child abuse.

I’ve seen some of these people reduced to tears by administrators unfairly manipulating them based on their students’ test scores.

Yet none of them have the guts to stand up and be counted when the moment comes.

I say again – everyone wants to fight. But no one wants to do the fighting.

They want someone else to do it for them.

Does that make you angry?

It makes me furious.

But if you feel that way, you’ve got to do something about it.

You think teachers are too cowardly? What have YOU done to fight corporate education reform today?

Do Impacts on Test Scores Even Matter? Lessons from Long-Run Outcomes in School Choice Research

Almost every major education reform of the past 20 years at both the state and national level has rested on a common assumption: Standardized test scores are an accurate and appropriate measure of success and failure. It has followed that programs or policies that increase student scores on standardized tests are “good” and programs that fail to do so are “bad.”

TEACHERS DON’T WANT TO CARRY GUNS

Poll: Most U.S. Teachers Want Gun Control, Not Guns To Carry

The last thing on my mind when I was a pre-service teacher was where I would keep my gun to protect my students from killers shooting up schools with assault-style rifles. My goal as a classroom teacher was to help children achieve as much as they could, academically and personally, while they were in my class. My goal as a reading specialist was to help children who were struggling to overcome the obstacles standing in their way.

It’s time to change our rules about guns. There’s no need for us to be the one country in the world where mass murders are frequent events. We need to require universal background checks, close gun acquisition loop-holes, and remove assault weapons from the catalog of civilian weapons. If trained soldiers at a military base could not prevent a soldier armed with two handguns from killing a dozen people how do we expect a teacher with a handgun to survive against a shooter with an assault rifle?

There are reasonable restrictions to the First Amendment. It’s time to adopt reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.

As I put the finishing touches on this post, I read the following two articles on the Guardian. Must Reads:

The Parkland teachers provide graphic and convincing reasons for keeping guns out of classrooms. The students provide the reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in school, and they overwhelmingly favor gun control measures over security steps meant to “harden” schools, according to a new Gallup poll.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE AND COMPETITION DON’T WORK

Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’

Charter schools and parochial/private schools that accept vouchers do not provide a better education than public schools.

…I didn’t find charter schools to be, on balance, more innovative than public schools. Some of the most remarkable innovations I observed were in the very public schools that choice advocates dismiss — in places such as Charlotte, Newark, Coachella and Waipahu. And while some charter schools are deeply innovative, many grind away on test scores, with innovation limited to cute test-prep jingles. Free of regulation, you might think private schools would lead the way in innovation, but most are focused on the college application process, a serious impediment to innovation.

Still Waiting for Convincing Evidence

People don’t want vouchers because private schools are better than public schools. People want vouchers because they want to use tax money to pay for religious education. They want to use tax money to shelter their children from those who are “different.”

The voucher debate, therefore, is a question not just of values but also of effectiveness, and research should play a significant role. So how should we interpret the available evidence? At most, only one of the more than two dozen states that have tried statewide vouchers and tuition tax credits has yet to demonstrate convincing, measurable success with them, Given this reality, it is hard to make a case for substantially replacing our system of public schooling on a national scale. The American workforce continues to be the most productive and creative in the world. This does not mean we cannot do better, but it does indicate that we should proceed with caution and care.

The Truth About Charter Schools

Not all charter schools are as bad as the one described in this post, but before we continue the charter school experiment we need to put in place safeguards to insure that charter schools are held to the same accountability standards (including financial) under which public schools are required to operate.

…I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

Today, March 23 (actually, yesterday, by the time I get this finished and posted) is Jim Trelease’s birthday. My last post, Carved in Stone, was about reading aloud to children…Jim Trelease’s life work.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet from the Weekly Reader Book Club titled The Read-Aloud Handbook. Three decades later, the 30-page pamphlet had grown, in the seventh edition, to a 350 page book complete with a bibliography of several hundred read aloud book suggestions spanning a third of the book.

I read to all my classes…kindergarten through 6th grade…Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can’t remember ever missing a day. It was my belief — and it still is — that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.

If there is one person who influenced my teaching more than any others, it’s Jim Trelease.

And how exactly does a person become proficient at reading? It’s a simple, two- part formula:

The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

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

2018 Medley #5

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

HIRING UNDER QUALIFIED PERSONNEL

Indiana lawmakers resurrect proposal to let districts hire more unlicensed teachers

[Not law as of this writing…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

DPE FOR DUMMIES

Destroy Public Education (DPE) for Dummies

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRY RUNNING A BUSINESS AS A PUBLIC SCHOOL

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

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

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

The Blueberry Story

CLOSING SCHOOLS

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

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

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

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

Closing schools doesn’t help.

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

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

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

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

SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have I Got This Straight?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…just one more shameful aspect of American society…

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

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

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

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Posted in FirstAmendment, Public Ed, Religion

Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana

Religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. ― James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822.

Teachers and administrators in a public school in Webster Parish, Louisiana, were sued by a student and her family for leading students in prayer, encouraging prayer and bible reading, and generally promoting the Christian God.

What happened when a public school student sued over prayer

The Coles [those who brought the lawsuit] say that prayer over the loudspeaker each morning is just the beginning of an unconstitutional indoctrination of students that is promoted and supported by teachers, the principal, the superintendent and the school board.

“Virtually all school events — such as sports games, pep rallies, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies –include school-sponsored Christian prayer, religious messages and/or proselytizing,” according to the lawsuit filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is clearly unconstitutional. Neither a public school nor its representatives (teachers, administrators, or any other employee) can legally promote religion or religious beliefs (see Abington School District v. Schempp).

One of the parents who favored continuing the religious instruction in the public schools was Greg Lee.

…Greg Lee’s fifth-grade daughter was upset, not relieved. She and her friends took it upon themselves to pray anyway, Lee says.

Lee, a banker who also views himself as a servant of God, says he’s instilled his sense of deep faith in his children. It has always been a part of their life. They have always prayed — at church, at school, and whenever they feel the need to.

Lee’s daughter’s choice to “pray anyway,” was completely legal, and in fact, it is what should have been happening all along.

Despite the protestations of some on the Religious Right, it is legal for students to pray in school, as we shall see in a moment, which is all Greg Lee claims to want.

That is all Greg Lee and others in Webster Parish say they want. To fight for their longstanding beliefs. For the rights and souls of their daughters and sons — and America.

“If you begin to tell me that my children do not have the right to pray in school, then that’s an attack upon the relationship I have with my God and the relationship that they have with our God,” Lee explains.

If that’s all he wants. It’s true that every child, in every public school in America, already has the right to pray whenever they want to as long as they don’t disrupt the learning process and as long as they don’t harass their fellow students.

According to the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools, a document signed by 35 religious and civic groups,

Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners. In the classroom students have the right to pray quietly except when required to be actively engaged in school activities (e.g., students may not decide to pray just as a teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate.

In other words, Greg Lee’s daughter has always had the right to pray in school.

Is that really what Lee and others who object to the lawsuit want? If so, then perhaps this is all just a misunderstanding about what the law requires and a careful reading of the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools will educate the parents and educators of Webster Parish, Louisiana.

It’s more likely, however, that they actually want their own brand of Christianity taught in their local public school. They might be willing to let others, who do not have the same beliefs, attend the school, and sit quietly while the local version of Christianity is being taught, but even with that, it would not be legal.

No, people like Lee and others quoted in the article, seem to believe that they have the right to impose their religious beliefs on a captive audience. They consider anything else an attack on their religion.

Again, from What happened when a public school student sued over prayer

The questions spread far beyond this corner of Louisiana, and were raised by none other than President Donald Trump last summer.

“Schools should not be a place that drive out faith and religion, but that should welcome faith and religion with wide open, beautiful arms,” Trump says during a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. “It’s time to put a stop to attacks on religion.”

But this is not an attack on religion. It is, however, an attack on their right to use government facilities and spokespersons in the form of public schools and its employees, to proselytize.

It’s clear that the President doesn’t understand the law either (no surprise there). Students are welcome to pray. No one has attacked religion. But our laws don’t allow a government entity to choose one religion over another, or to choose any religion over none. The Establishment Clause requires government, and its representatives, to remain neutral in the area of religion. That means no school sponsored prayer. No captive audience religious services.

I’m pretty sure they would be arguing the exact opposite if their child attended a public school which began each day with a prayer to Zeus, Marduk, or Allah.

Just as I was getting ready to post this blog entry, I read the following by Ed Brayton about the same lawsuit…

The Same Bad Arguments in Every Public School Church/State Case

So if your beliefs are so deeply rooted, why do they need the government to force others to go along with them for you to feel satisfied? Your kids already have every right to pray in schools. They can prayer [sic] any time they want as long as they don’t disrupt the functioning of the school. They can pray 100 times a day if they want. You know what they can’t do? Force others to listen to it or participate in it.

And you know how easy it would be to get you to recognize that reality? One single Muslim prayer would do it.

Exactly right!

Further Reading:

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

American Selfishness: Sabotaging Our Own Future.

THE CURRENT OUTRAGE

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

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

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

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

“I BELIEVE THAT CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE”

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

Unfortunately, not all humans are logical.

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

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

WHY ARE WE IGNORING THE MAJORITY OF AMERICAN CHILDREN?

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

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

Can We Be Serious?

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

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

SEGREGATION: SCHOOLS FOR THE WEALTHY, SCHOOLS FOR THE POOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SELFISHNESS: SELF SABOTAGE

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

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

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

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

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

As Jim Wright at Stonekettle station said,

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

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

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

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Posted in Public Ed, Teaching Career

Resolution #3: Educate Yourself

A series of resolutions for 2018…

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #3

  • Educate yourself.

BUT I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME

Teachers are overworked and overstressed. Often teachers go home after a difficult day at school and spend an hour or two on planning, assessing student work, or on piles of mostly meaningless paperwork.

A few hours later, after a rushed meal, minimal time with family, and a night of not-enough-sleep, it starts over again.

Weekends are a bit better…time to catch up on everything.

It’s no surprise, then, that teachers feel like they don’t have time to find out what’s happening in the politics of public education. They only know that it seems like each year there are more and more restrictions on what and how they can teach, more tests for their students, fewer resources, and larger classes.

Meanwhile, the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) continue to move forward increasing funding for charter schools and unaccountable voucher schools by diverting public money from public schools.

THE ARGUMENT FOR EDUCATING YOURSELF

Make the time.

I know…I’m retired. I don’t have to get up and face a classroom of kids every day. It’s easy for me to say. I get it.

But things have changed since I retired. I can write letters and blog posts, and argue with legislators in support of public education and public educators, but I’m out of date. A lot has changed since I last had my own classroom in 2010. I don’t know what today’s classrooms are like in your school.

Teachers, this is your profession, and it consists of more than just the time you spend with your students. I would ask you to think of time spent educating yourself about what’s happening in education as one part of your professional development.

The political world of public education will

  • affect your students and your children, if you have any, as they progress through school
  • affect you and your economic status while you’re working and in retirement
  • affect how many more years you will be able to teach
  • affect how large your class sizes are
  • affect your academic freedom
  • affect what you teach, how you teach, and how often your students have to pause their learning to take a standardized test.

Right now, legislators, most of whom haven’t set foot in a classroom since they were students, are making decisions which will affect you, your students, and your classroom.

This is your profession. You owe it to yourself, your students, your future students, and your community, to educate yourself. Be the lifelong learner you wish to see in your students.

[If you’re not a teacher, you owe it to yourself, your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, and students of the community, to educate yourself. What happens to public education affects your children – and all of the above – and your community.]

WHERE TO START

Here are some places to start (feel free to add more in the comments)…

Read Books (in no particular order)

Read Blogs (in no particular order)

Listen to Podcasts

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #1

  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #2

  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #3

  • Educate yourself.
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