Posted in Corp Interest, PDK, poverty, Public Ed, reform

XQ: Debunked Assertions and False Assumptions

PDK Poll: PARENTS LIKE THEIR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Last month, the PDK/Gallup poll of the public’s attitudes towards the public schools was released. The findings were consistent with previous years: Americans support their local public schools.

Public schools get their highest grades from those who know them best: public school parents.

…Americans made clear in last year’s PDK poll that they would rather see a school stay open and improve than start from scratch…

More than 70% of public school parents gave their children’s schools high marks. 84% of Americans don’t want their public schools closed. They would prefer to spend resources improving them instead of closing them.

The largest problem, according to the poll, is lack of funding.

Since 1969, the poll’s first question has been about the biggest problems facing the local public schools. As has been the case since 2002, the most common answers referred to lack of funding, cited by 22% this year. But that’s down from an average of 34% from 2009 to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Americans, it seems, are happy with their public schools. They don’t want them closed and replaced by unregulated charter schools. They don’t need vouchers. They want to keep and improve their local schools.

CORPORATE REFORM STRIKES BACK WITH DEBUNKED ASSERTIONS

You wouldn’t have learned anything about the PDK poll if you watched the corporate propaganda tool TV show, “XQ Super School Live,” on all four networks last week. The focus was on how public schools (all of them, apparently) are not keeping up with the times and “failing”.

Perhaps the media’s constant bashing of public schools, this show as an example, is one of the reasons the PDK poll showed that people think the nation’s schools are failing – even though their own neighborhood schools are graded higher. The fact that parents like their local public schools was ignored on “XQ Super School Live.”

“XQ Super School Live” began with the usual debunked assertions about American public schools. According to them, our high schools are “failing” because they

  • don’t graduate as many students as other countries
  • are “31st in math”
  • are “20th in language skills”
  • are “19th in science”

There was no discussion of the fact that American public schools accept everyone and support the largest percentage of students in poverty in the developed world. When sorted by poverty rate American students perform as well or better than most students in the world. The sheer numbers of students living in poverty in the U.S. (the second most in the developed world) accounts for our lower test score average. See The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools.

Throughout the program, there was no disclaimer which explained that some of the schools highlighted in the show have selective admissions…wihch could mean some lower performing students are excluded. In addition, the schools highlighted are all the recipients of huge ($10 million) grants (XQ Super Schools). What could your neighborhood school do with $10 million?

There was no discussion of schools whose students were poisoned with lead by the mismanagement and neglect of the state, and then left without proper educational resources.

There was no discussion of the many American schools with halls, stairwells, classrooms, and bathrooms that look like this:

The implication of the program was that American schools are old and inadequate…that pedagogy is unchanged since the industrial revolution…that our young people are stuck in a system that hasn’t changed for 100 years. The new, cool, innovativeness of the “Super Schools” was emphasized by the singing and dancing of clean, well-fed, well-clothed, motivated professional actors and entertainers children.

XQ’s FALSE ASSUMPTIONS ARE NOT THE REAL WORLD OF AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLS

Most public high schools – the ones without the $10 million grant from Steve Jobs widow, Laurene Powell Jobs – are filled with teachers and students who are struggling to do their best, often under difficult conditions. The assumption that there is no innovation or no modernization in today’s high schools is false. The assumption that the “rules” in schools are holding them back (read: nasty teacher union contracts), or that the construct and form of schools are “written in stone,” is false. There are innovative public schools in America and many have one thing in common; adequate (or better) funding and support from the community at large.

Ask yourself, “Where are the struggling schools in America?” Invariably, the answer to that question is “They are in struggling, high-poverty communities.”

American public schools in wealthy areas produce high achieving students who can compete with any other students in the world. Why? Because the schools are well-resourced. The students come to school with their basic needs met; adequate food, health care, and safety. The teachers are supported and their contributions are acknowledged.

I’m sure that the families and students who attend the schools that Laurene Powell Jobs is funding appreciate her contributions. But the vast majority of students in the United States attend schools without a wealthy benefactor. Many of those students go to schools where innovations are occurring, because despite what the stars on XQ Super Schools TV program claimed, schools have changed significantly in the last 100 years. Too many of America’s students, however, are in schools which are underfunded and under-resourced. Instead of providing a few schools with $10 million, we need to fully fund all America’s public schools. For all our children.

  • We, as a society, need to commit to funding the lives of all our children. They and their families need health care, food, clothing, shelter, and jobs with a living wage.
  • Public schools need teachers who are well-trained and well paid, not college graduates with five weeks of training or subject area professionals who know nothing about child development or pedagogy.
  • Public schools should have well staffed and well maintained educational facilities including appropriately staffed and resourced libraries.
  • Public schools should offer students classes and opportunities in the arts and physical education.

Schools are a reflection of society. As long as we live in a society based on inequity, we will have schools which struggle to succeed in their mission.

OTHER REACTIONS TO XQ Super School Live.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

The message couldn’t have been more obvious: high school has been standing still for too long. However, that is demonstrably false. The American high school has been a battleground for intellectual and social issues for at least 65 years… let me begin to count the ways high schools have changed, and changed, and sometimes reverted to form…

Seven Times “XQ Super School Live” Denigrated America’s Teachers (And One Time It Praised Them)

…One minute into the broadcast, the message was clear, network television does not support America’s public high schools or its teachers.

…To hear XQ tell it, there are absolutely no innovative classrooms or teachers in any public high schools.

…each “Super School” profiled in the show. All of these schools have one particular non-traditional school policy in common. They all have some element of a selective admissions process…

Why a live, star-studded (Tom Hanks, Common, etc.) TV show on school reform is a problem

The thinking that if “only we can find the right school design model then all kids will have a great education” disregards the fundamental problems that do harm public education: devastating funding inequities that disadvantage the poorest of the country’s schools; curriculum deficits; issues facing teachers, including training, retention, lack of diversity, low pay and lack of authority in their own classrooms; and issues facing students, including poverty, trauma, poor health, unstable family life and learning disabilities.

THE STATUS QUO

I’ll end with a quote from Steven Singer. The status quo for the last four decades has been test and punish. So, when the “XQ Super School” group says we need to rethink high school, Singer agrees!

XQ Live – Desperate School Choice Rebrand After Trump Touched It

Rethink high school?

Sure! Let’s do that! Let’s rethink inequitably funding it. Let’s rethink high stakes standardized testing. Let’s rethink Common Core, stealing local control, teacher autonomy and a host of the kinds of top down bull crap XQ tried obscure while selling an issue of Tiger Beat.

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Posted in Article Medleys, poverty, Public Ed, RightWing

2017 Medley #24: “Government Schools”

The War Against ‘Government Schools’,
The Myth of Failing Schools

THE WAR AGAINST “GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS”

The War Against America’s Public Schools by Gerald Bracey, published 2001. The war continues…

What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean

In a New York Times op ed, Katherine Stewart reminds us that the phrase “government schools” carries a negative connotation. She then goes on to connect the phrase to radical market guru Milton Friedman, and before him, Jim Crow.

…in certain conservative circles, the phrase “government schools” has become as ubiquitous as it is contemptuous.

What most people probably hear in this is the unmistakable refrain of American libertarianism, for which all government is big and bad. The point of calling public schools “government schools” is to conjure the specter of pathologically inefficient, power-mad bureaucrats.

To Defend Public Schools, the Hard Left Puts On the Tin Foil Hat

David French, writing in the conservative National Review, responds to Stewart’s article and says that the right calls public schools “government schools” because that’s what they are.

Public schools are government schools…Too many Americans are stuck in a time warp, believing that the local school is somehow “their” school. They don’t understand that public education is increasingly centralized — teaching a uniform curriculum, teaching a particular, secular set of values, and following priorities set in Washington, not by their local school board. The phrase is helpful for breaking through idealism and getting parents to analyze and understand the gritty reality of modern public education. The phrase works.

Technically, French is correct. Public schools, like any public service, is, by definition, a branch of the “government.” That’s why governments at most levels have departments of education. That’s why school boards are (or should be) elected. That’s why teachers can’t engage in religious proselytization while they are working and are “agents” of the government.

But it’s the negative connotation Stewart wrote of that French promotes in his condescending attempt to support the privatization of public education. While disingenuously claiming that public schools are indeed government schools so the name doesn’t mean anything negative, he goes on to use the phrase negatively. He claims that, since public school supporters can’t defend the “failing” public schools, we take to name-calling to support our argument.

Even worse for the government-school loyalist, the fight takes place on unfavorable ground. Public schools are failing large segments of the public. They’ve been failing for decades. So rather than defend public schooling on its meager merits, all too many ideologues fall back on the old insults. “Racist!” they cry. “Theocrat!” they yell.

What could be more democratic than choice, he claims, falling back on the old argument that poor children ought to have the same “choices” that wealthy children have…without noting that…

  • It is often the schools which do the choosing while feeling perfectly comfortable in denying “choice” to students who are difficult or expensive to teach.

Ignoring these facts he begs us not to deny private school excellence over public school failure.

…Spend much time with America’s wealthier families, and it’s not uncommon to see parents with three kids in three different schools. They made choices based on each child’s unique needs. They give their children the best possible chance to succeed. Why deny these choices to poor kids? Should we punish them for their parents’ economic performance? Faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system and limiting parental choice, all too many defenders of government schools fall back on name-calling, conspiracy theories, and their own anti-Christian bigotries. But they can cite Rushdoony all they want. It doesn’t make him relevant. It doesn’t make public schools better. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate the good and decent effort to use greater competition to improve education for everyone — white and black alike.

Three kids in three different schools? What poor family would have the transportation resources for this situation, unless French wants vouchers to cover the cost of taxis, time off work to transport children, or extra cars for kids to transport themselves. Why not? Should we punish those children “for their parents’ economic performance?”

Are public schools failing “large segments of the public?” Public schools struggle to effectively educate the shamefully high number of high-poverty students in America because they don’t have the money or resources to support them in the way they need to be supported. There aren’t enough counselors, nurses, and social workers in high-poverty schools. There aren’t enough librarians, books or materials. There isn’t enough science equipment. There aren’t enough learning specialists. School buildings are in disrepair. And the budget proposed by the current administration in Washington will guarantee that there won’t be enough after school programs. [For a good discussion of the needs of public school students see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools by the Chicago Teachers Union.]

Public school advocates are not “faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system.” Instead we’re faced with the difficult task of responding to the misinformation, deflections, and lies coming from privatizers who deny that poverty has anything to do with low school achievement and that it’s the politicians and policy makers who have failed to fully support public education. Policy makers ought to be held responsible by their constituents to provide full public school funding based on the needs of the community. Policy makers ought to be held responsible for relieving the pressures of our society’s economic inequality, rather than blaming the victims who are relegated to understaffed, and under-resourced institutions.

And we’re not faced with the task of defending a failing system. America’s public schools are not failing.

Public schools, when statistics are corrected for demographics, perform better than private schools. The University of Chicago Press reviewers of The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, by Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, write,

Private schools have higher scores not because they are better institutions but because their students largely come from more privileged backgrounds that offer greater educational support. After correcting for demographics, the Lubienskis go on to show that gains in student achievement at public schools are at least as great and often greater than those at private ones. Even more surprising, they show that the very mechanism that market-based reformers champion—autonomy—may be the crucial factor that prevents private schools from performing better. Alternatively, those practices that these reformers castigate, such as teacher certification and professional reforms of curriculum and instruction, turn out to have a significant effect on school improvement.

Instead of accusing public school advocates of “anti-Christian” bigotry because we refuse to approve of mixing public tax dollars with religious school education, French ought to get his facts straight.

The Right Wing in America Has Long Tried to Destroy ‘Government Schools’

Another discussion of the “government schools” phrase. The people who are working to privatize public education hate government, and because public schools are government sponsored public services, they hate public education, too. This isn’t new.

Do they also hate public libraries? public parks? and public water systems? Do they hate the government run military?

…these people are working with a completely different ethical system than the rest of us and a different philosophy, but it’s a coherent one and they are pursuing their goals with very strategic, calculating tools.” That’s also why the right is so focused on the teachers’ unions. It’s not because they are only concerned about the quality of education and think that teachers are blocking that. First of all, this is a cause that hated public education—what they would call government schools; they don’t even want to say public education—before there were teachers’ unions.

THE MYTH OF FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Challenging the myth that public schools are failing is one of the greatest obstacles facing public school advocates. Some selected responses to that myth…

What the numbers really tell us about America’s public schools

What I have suggested for ameliorating the low performance of low-income children, on all our assessments, are characteristics of schooling and the provision of health and other supports for children now present in wealthier communities. Perhaps, then, we should rely on John Dewey to help low-income students succeed, instead of putting our faith in vouchers, charters, test preparation, teacher accountability and the like. To paraphrase just a little, Dewey said:

“What the best and wisest … parents want for their children, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

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

…why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?

Because far right policymakers have convinced us all that it’s true.

It’s not.

Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested…

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

The Myth of Public School Failure

But when schools are doing better than ever before, the best way to encourage continued improvement is not a concerted attack on school governance and organization. A more effective approach would be praise for accomplishment, provision of additional resources to programs whose results justify support, and reforms on the margin to correct programs and curricula shown to be ineffective. 

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Posted in A-F Grading, Choice, DeVos, ESSA, Public Ed, Quotes, retention, special education, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage

Listen to This #9

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Sometimes They’re Right

America’s public schools are not “failing.” However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve. After reminding us how the nation’s public schools are the best in the world, Rob Miller goes on to remind us that many criticisms of public education are true. It’s up to us to make public education the “unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children.

From Rob Miller

…public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.

CHOICE

I got to choose private schools, but will vouchers really help other kids make it?

Indiana’s voucher program began as a way to “save poor children from ‘failing’ schools.” It was restricted by income, and parents had to try the public schools before they could get a voucher to send their child to a private school. It didn’t matter that it was the state, not the schools that was “failing” the students. All that mattered was that privatizers rationalize a way to give tax money to private schools and churches.

Once it was clear that private and parochial education didn’t provide better services for poor children, the argument changed.

The voucher program has been expanded to include middle class students, and students who have never set foot in public schools. Public dollars are being used to pay for religious instruction.

The call is now for “choice.” There’s no attempt to claim that private and parochial schools are better. The entire reason for the voucher program is now “choice.”

From Emmanuel Felton in The Hechinger Report

School choice by its very nature uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.

GRADING SCHOOLS IN INDIANA

Board members favor counting test scores more than growth

From Christopher Tienken quoted by Steve Hinnefeld

Whether you’re trying to measure proficiency or growth, standardized tests are not the answer…

ESSA INDIANA

Diploma rule a setback for Indiana schools, students

Federal law requires that students with special needs have an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. It’s required that the IEP describe a modified program appropriate to the student. Yet, now we find that the same Federal laws which require those accommodations for special needs students, requires that they, along with their teachers and schools, be punished for those accommodations.

Since charter schools and schools accepting vouchers enroll fewer special needs students than public schools, it is the “grade” of the public schools which will suffer because of this loathsome and abusive practice. It is the students who were told what they needed to do, and who did it, who will be told, “your diploma doesn’t really count.”

From Steve Hinnefeld

…students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.

TRUMP-DEVOS

After Six Months, What Has Trump-DeVos Department of Education Accomplished?

The sooner this administration is history, the better.

From Jan Resseger

To summarize—Betsy DeVos has said she intends to “neutralize” the Office of Civil Rights, which can only be interpreted as weakening its role. DeVos is delaying rules to protect borrowers who have been defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit colleges. While DeVos promotes school accountability through parental school choice, her staff are busy demanding continued test-and-punish accountability from the states. And finally, the D.C. voucher program remains the only federally funded tuition voucher program, despite that DeVos has declared the expansion of several kinds of school vouchers to be her priority.

DEVOS ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education

From Valerie Strauss, in the Answer Sheet

We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes.

The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

The attack on public education, and on eight year old children in particular, continues. Florida uses a “third grade reading test” that students must pass, else they face retention in grade. Just like Indiana…
Just like Ohio…
Just like Mississippi…
and Oklahoma…
and Arizona…
and Connecticut…
California…
Michigan…

Another abusive “learn or be punished” policy.

From Peter Greene in Curmudgucation

What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida’s power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

…the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn’t believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.

TEACHER SHORTAGE: PAY

Teacher Pay Penalty Driving Educators Away From Profession

8 steps to destroy public education…

  1. Schools are labeled “failing.”
  2. Teachers are demonized for not raising test scores.
  3. Tax money is diverted to private and charter schools creating a public school funding crisis.
  4. Funding crises yields a drop in teacher salaries.
  5. Fewer young people choose a career in education creating a teacher shortage.
  6. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes.
  7. Larger class sizes means lowered achievement, especially for poor students.
  8. Lowered achievement means more schools will be labeled “failing.”

This quote deals with step 5 in the process.

From Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“We are moving into a world where fewer people are trying to enter teaching, in part because the profession has been degraded by misguided accountability measures and also because of the erosion of pay,” says Mishel.

TEACHERS UNION

Blaming Unions for Bad Schools

From Walt Gardner

It’s so easy to scapegoat teachers’ unions for all the ills afflicting public schools (“State of the Teachers Union,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). The charge is that they are more interested in protecting teachers than in teaching students (“This is what teachers unions really protect,” New York Post, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.

But what these critics don’t admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong? (Correlation is not causation.) Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Billionaires, DeVos, Healthcare, PersonalizedLearning, Privatization, Public Ed, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #21

Public Education, GOP Health Care [sic], Vouchers, Billionaire “Reformers,”
Personalized Learning

PAYING IT FORWARD

America’s future depends upon the education and care of all its children. Today’s high school graduates will be our leaders in 2040. Today’s kindergartners will be the policy-makers of 2060. Will those adults – today’s children – be ready to take the reins of government and policy-making? Or will they be living in a dying nation, wallowing in fear and ignorance?

Our national behavior today must be one of “paying it forward,” or our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will suffer the consequences.

Are You Going to Educate the Children of This Nation or Not?

What would it take to truly educate America’s children?

1. We allow the question of “What should the government do, and what should private enterprise do?”—a totally ideological concept – to get in the way of providing collectively for our children…

2. We allow non-education “experts” to hang up shingles and pretend that we do not know what works…

3. We pretend there is not enough money to do the job well…while spending large proportions of our budgets on measuring rather than learning…

4. We allow businesses to demand that schools deliver specifically trained employees to their door with certifications, licenses, core skills, and work ethics to reduce their cost of doing business, but we do not ask them to pay their fair share to educate the workers they will need…

5. We insist we want to educate all children equally well, but sabotage poor districts when they do well…

6. We know from studies that the quality of teachers is the primary determiner, outside of quality of homelife and basic health, in whether a child/children learn well. Yet, we continue to micro-manage, undermine, underpay, and refuse to listen to teachers who have consistently performed well…

7. We continue to report and accept reports of school performance based on invalid and useless test scores as though they meant something…

8. We allow people to publicly lie about our schools, the children in them, and the people who work for them without contesting or refuting what they say on a regular basis…

THE IMPACT OF THE GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN ON STUDENTS

Public schools fear GOP health care plan

The proposed Senate GOP health care plan will cause emotional and physical shock for children in public schools. When that happens, perhaps the government will succumb to political pressure and turn public education over to the private sector in a perfect scenario of the Shock Doctrine. If that happens, prepare to see schools provide inadequate support for “unprofitable” children.

For the past three decades, Medicaid has helped pay for services and equipment that schools provide to special-education students, as well as school-based health screening and treatment for children from low-income families. Now, educators are warning that the GOP push to shrink Medicaid spending will strip schools of what a national superintendents association estimates at up to $4 billion per year.

That money pays for nurses, social workers, physical, occupational and speech therapists and medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs. It also pays for preventive and comprehensive health services for poor children, including immunizations, screening for hearing and vision problems and management of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

Surprise!

Red-state school leaders vent frustrations with GOP health bill

The loss of funding proposed in both the Republican budget and “health care” bill, is a purposeful destruction of the safety net for our neediest children.

Fleming County [Ky] Schools Superintendent Brian Creasman was taken aback when he discovered the bill would make cuts that could devastate his ability to provide health services to needy and disabled kids.

Here in rural Kentucky, the heart of Trump country where three out of four voters cast ballots for Donald Trump and many regard McConnell as their political protector, Creasman initially thought the bill’s potential cuts to school districts must be a misunderstanding.

Only they weren’t.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Vouchers don’t help children succeed. They are part of the plan to defund and destroy public education. U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos is fond of saying that parents should choose the “best fit” for their children. However, when the “best fit” doesn’t support the public good, then public funds ought not to be used.

You are welcome to choose a religious education for your child. In the Notes on the state of Virginia, Jefferson wrote, “it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” There is a place for parochial education in the U.S.

When tax dollars are used to pay for a parochial education, however, it does pick my pocket, and ought to be prohibited.

No academic gain, voucher study says

“This study confirms what many have suspected – private school vouchers are not a solution to helping kids succeed in school,” Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said.

“As we see more and more evidence that private school vouchers aren’t benefiting kids, I call on legislators and the governor to undertake an analysis of the financial accountability of the state’s voucher program as well.”

But advocates of the program say it’s not just about academics, it’s about a parent’s choice to pick the proper educational environment for their child.

Wiley’s group pushes for school choice and said those using the study to criticize the program “have never said a positive thing about school choice in their lives.”

Evidence casts doubt on voucher education

“Should Indiana policymakers be accountable to the public for using their tax dollars on a program that’s hurting children?” he asked, “Policymakers should pay attention to evidence, and not just advocacy groups!”

Trump’s Voucher Onslaught: Trump And DeVos Push Private School Tax Aid Scheme, But The Details Of Their Plan Remain Vague

In a May 23 statement denouncing Trump’s education budget, the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) noted that the Indiana voucher program isn’t alone in its lack of academic success: “Recent research in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., is clear: Students who use vouchers perform worse academically than their peers who do not use vouchers.”

NCPE, which Americans United co-chairs, noted several other concerns: “[V]ouchers underserve many students, including low-income students who often cannot afford private schools even with a voucher, students in rural areas who may have no other educational options nearby, and students with disabilities who often cannot find private schools to serve their needs.”

Additionally, vouchers lack accountability to taxpayers, threaten the religious freedom of both taxpayers and religious schools and can deprive students of the rights guaranteed to public school students, NCPE pointed out…

Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, and the Walton Family

BILLIONAIRE “REFORMERS”

Intellectual Arrogance

Attending school does not make one an educational professional. Billions of dollars of personal wealth does not give one experience teaching children. Buying influence and political power does not help one understand child development. Teaching children, and learning about learning, takes more than a fat wallet.

This intellectual arrogance has never been demonstrated more clearly than in recent pronouncements concerning education in America. Brilliant people in diverse fields outside of education feel perfectly comfortable making judgments and policy recommendations about education that impacts millions of students as well as educational professionals. Their audacity is appalling and their ignorance is inexcusable. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have announced their goal to prepare 80 percent of American high school students for entrance into universities. Eli Broad, another billionaire, gives money to school districts with the clear expectation that they will implement his business-based plans. Alan Bersin, a US Attorney political appointee, believed high school students would learn best with three hours a day of genre studies. He imposed this policy by threatening termination of educational professionals who disagreed with him. Similarly, mayors have their own ideas about how to improve student achievement, notably without any substantive research to support them. George Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy used testing to determine the success of schools, however testing in itself, has not provided solutions to educational achievement. Arne Duncan and President Obama pushed merit pay and charter schools when substantive research does not support either of these policy initiatives. Trump’s DeVos hasn’t a clue about educational research as her feeble efforts have ably demonstrated. The advocacy for these already repudiated initiatives reflects a lack of understanding of the ultimate impact on students and educational professionals.

ANOTHER TECH MONEY GRAB

Four Reasons to Worry About “Personalized Learning”

Just another money grab by rich technocrats.

Personal learning entails working with each child to create projects of intellectual discovery that reflect his or her unique needs and interests. It requires the presence of a caring teacher who knows each child well.

Personalized learning entails adjusting the difficulty level of prefabricated skills-based exercises based on students’ test scores. It requires the purchase of software from one of those companies that can afford full-page ads in Education Week.

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Posted in Adams, Jefferson, Public Ed, Quotes

Public Education: Born on the Fourth of July

[This post is from July 4, 2013. I’ve updated it to reflect the current year, updated some links, and made a few other minor changes.]

“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.” — John Adams

JOHN ADAMS

The quote above from John Adams, who began his adult life as a school teacher in Massachusetts, is a clear indication of his belief in the importance of a public education system which would educate everyone…by “the whole people” for the benefit of “the whole people.” He also specifically declares that it is to be done at public expense — public funding for public schools.

On the 241st anniversary of the declaration of our nation’s independence it’s worth noting that public education is not something new. It’s one of the basic foundational institutions of our democracy supported by the authors of the nation.

Adams himself was well educated and cared about public education. He made two assertions which would likely dismay “reformers” in their quest to privatize public education. First, as the quote above makes clear…

…the federal government has a clear responsibility for education that includes paying for it.

Second…

That a primary purpose of education is to “raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.”

The public pays for it. The public supports it. The purpose is to equalize the education of the citizenry.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

The education of the citizenry was so important that even Adams’ political rival, Thomas Jefferson, declared in his 1806 State of the Union address that the government should support public education.

…a public institution can alone supply those sciences which though rarely called for are yet necessary to complete the circle, all the parts of which contribute to the improvement of the country and some of them to its preservation.

Jefferson proposed a constitutional amendment to fund public education. When that never materialized he directed his attention

…to his beloved state of Virginia. He developed a comprehensive plan for education which encompassed elementary, secondary, and university levels.

Jefferson believed the elementary school was more important than the university in the plan because, as he said, it was “safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe” (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 241). He had six objectives for primary education to bring about this enlightenment and which highlighted what he hoped would make every person into a productive and informed voter:

  1. “To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  2. To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
  3. To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  4. To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  5. To know his rights; to exercize with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  6. And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.” (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 239)

Adams and Jefferson, so often on opposite sides of political arguments, were in accord when it came to supporting public education. The nation needed a publicly funded school system which would educate all. Public education was an institution necessary for the maintenance of our democracy.

WE STILL NEED PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Six years ago Peggy Zugibe, a school board member from New York, wrote

In the 1800s, when our country took in more immigrants and it became more diverse, education reformers saw public education as a means of creating productive citizens, ending poverty and crime and unifying an increasingly diverse population. Those societal goals are as relevant today as they were then.

Those goals are as relevant in 2017 as they were in 2011.

She referred to a publication by the Center on Educational Policy titled Why We Still Need Public Schools.

The publication asserts that public education is expected to…

…fulfill certain public missions that go beyond the purely academic purposes of all schools, public and private.

These public missions can be characterized by six main themes:

  1. To provide universal access to free education
  2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children
  3. To unify a diverse population
  4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society
  5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient
  6. To improve social conditions

Those six missions of public education are as important now as they have been at any time during our nation’s history. Channeling public funds to privately run charters, or to parochial and other private schools through vouchers is not the way to support public education.

IMPROVE PUBLIC EDUCATION

Public schools, supported by public dollars, accept all children. If a charter or private school cannot provide for a wheelchair-bound child’s physical needs the child returns to a public school. If a charter or private school cannot provide for the needs of a child with special academic or behavioral needs the child returns to a public school. Public schools must provide for all children…those with special needs, those of average ability, those who have no home, those who are hungry, and those whose language skills are inadequate to communicate.

We don’t improve our democracy by redirecting public dollars to private and charter schools, many of which do not accept all children.

We need to improve our public schools so they are equipped to provide services to every child by

  • lowering class sizes.
  • providing a well rounded, rich curriculum including the arts, civics and physical education.
  • providing resources including a fully stocked library/media center with qualified librarians.
  • providing social support including qualified counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
  • addressing inequities which enrich schools for the wealthy while providing scant resources for schools in high poverty areas.
  • providing developmentally appropriate education (not test driven) beginning in pre-school.
  • respecting and developing professional educators who are paid at comparable rates as others with their education and experience, who have time to adequately plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues, and who are provided with relevant, high quality professional development.
  • providing appropriate services to all students with special physical, academic and language needs as required by the law.
  • providing facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.
  • engaging parents to fully participate in their child’s education.
  • fully funding public schools.

We need to fix our public schools…not close them. On that, I think Adams and Jefferson would agree.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Privatization, Public Ed, SGO, vouchers

2017 Medley #20 Privatization

Choice, SGOs,
Neighborhood Schools,
Vouchers, Wealth Privilege

Time to catch up on some reading 📖.

CHOICE

School “choice” is based on the lies that public schools are failing (they’re not. It’s our society which is failing our children), and that the private sector always does everything better (they don’t. Remember the banking crash in 2008?).

School “choice” is not-so-secret code for school privatization. There’s no proof that children do better in charter schools or with vouchers for private schools. There’s no proof that anyone benefits from privatization – except those who pocket the tax dollars earmarked for public education.

School Choice: An Ugly Idea

School “choice” began as a way of keeping “my” students away from students of other economic strata or races. If we could choose our school we’ll choose the one where “our people” are – it’s tribalism at its worst. And it has worked. Segregation has increased with privatization through both charters and vouchers.

I am talking about the ugly idea that school choice and competition will lead to better schools. School choice ideology is born in racism, sustained by a concerted disinformation campaign, and designed to develop a work force of compliant worker drones, while further enriching the wealthy and undermining democratic control of the schools. School choice, better called school privatization, will destroy public education. That is its purpose.

…In order to sell the idea of school choice, i.e., school privatization, choice champions had to first sell the false narrative of failing schools. Americans had a long tradition of valuing their public schools, in part because the schools were generally doing a good job and in part because all citizens had a voice in how they were run and how their tax money was spent. In order to change the narrative, privatizers pointed to international test scores, deteriorating schools in the inner-cities, and reports from economists that seemed to show that this could all be changed if we just fired the low performing teachers and rewarded the high performers. So in many cities, local elected school boards were replaced by appointed boards, the public lost its voice, public coffers were raided to open charter schools, who promised but mostly failed to deliver, improvement, and the public schools further deteriorated for lack of funds (See Philadelphia and Detroit).

SCHOLARSHIP GRANTING ORGANIZATIONS

Exclusive: Money diverted from public schools?

Money earmarked for public education is drained from the public schools using vouchers and charters. In addition, tax revenues are reduced through tax breaks for Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Here’s how…

But here’s what’s unusual, if not controversial, about the scholarship programs: Wealthy donors can potentially “profit” from their contributions through extensive tax benefits that can drain money from state treasuries which fund public services — including public schools.

The programs are available in 17 states and are being considered by legislators in several others. They are praised by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — a longtime school choice advocate — and are the focus of two congressional bills that seek to create a federal version of the program.

All the programs basically work this way: Individuals and businesses make cash or stock donations to scholarship granting organizations. The organizations award scholarships to qualifying families with K-12 students, primarily children in failing public schools or whose families’ income meets the state’s poverty threshold. Students can then attend a private or religious school of their choice. What makes these programs unique is that donors get a full or partial credit toward their state taxes, which they are not allowed when donating to most other charities, and this allows them to realize a sizable tax advantage when combined with a federal deduction on the same gift. Plus, in some states, donors also get a state deduction.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Here’s an Idea: Guarantee Every Child an Excellent Education

Instead of closing under-resourced public schools and opening charters which don’t improve on education, we should follow the lead of high achieving nations and invest in our children by providing every neighborhood a high quality public school.

So if we start from the idea that every student should get an excellent education, we start with the proposition to support and renew our public schools.

In doing so, we would need a national commitment to bringing every public school up to snuff.

Many of them already are – Hint: they’re found in rich neighborhoods. The ones that struggle are almost always found in poorer neighborhoods, and that’s no accident. It’s the result of savage funding inequalities.

VOUCHERS

In Two States, Vouchers Fail Once Again

Yet another series of studies showing that privatization does not improve achievement.

Two new studies of private school voucher programs – one in Indiana and the other in Louisiana – confirm that students using vouchers to attend private schools will see a drop in their academic achievement.

In both programs, students who use a voucher experience a decrease in math test scores in the first few years. This is in line with other recent studies we’ve seen of programs in Ohio and the District of Columbia, where students using vouchers are doing even worse academically.

Another look at Indiana voucher study

Steve Hinnefeld explores the Indiana study more closely…

Maybe the message isn’t that voucher students who stick with private schools do OK academically, but that voucher students who do OK academically are more likely to stick with private schools.

THE PRIVILEGE OF “CHOICE”

Is School Choice Just Expanding Privilege?

School choice promoters claim that “choice” allows children to attend the “good” schools despite their zip codes. Is that true or is “choice” just another way (as if we really need another way) to separate the “haves” and the “have nots?” – a false promise to lower classes and un-priviledged minorities (or are they majorities now?) in order to lull them into a sense of complacence about the economic deserts to which they’ve been relegated.

In a perfect world, all parents would be able to locate themselves in a neighborhood with a school that meets all of their needs. Those who advocate for “school choice” would have you believe that using tax dollars to build for-profit charter schools and vouchers will result in more students having access to better schools. “School choice” is one of those things that sounds good in theory, but the evidence suggests that choice policies most often do not result in better options for the students who need it the most.

…There is little evidence that [charter schools and vouchers] help young people in urban areas, where parents aren’t able to transport their kids to “better” schools in other parts of town.

Is it ethical to give your child “every advantage”?

We all want the best for our own children. One way to make sure that our children get “the best” is to make all public schools “the best.” That way every child gets the “advantage” instead of just the children of the wealthy.

Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high.

I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?

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Posted in Bennett, Mitch Daniels, NCLB, Pence, Public Ed, Ritz

Tiny, Decent Things

PART I: THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

I began my whine against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing when No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 and Indiana doubled down on student testing.

I complained to my principal, the school corporation, my local legislators. I became an officer in my local teachers association, and a delegate to the state teachers association representative assembly, but we couldn’t change things either.

I retired in June of 2010 and two years later joined a public education advocacy group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Since the Save Our Schools March in 2011 in Washington D.C., our members have been working to end and undo “education reform” in Indiana and the U.S.

2011 was a watershed year for privatization in Indiana. Mitch Daniels and his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, along with help from the Indiana General Assembly, hit hard at public schools and public school teachers.

2011 was the year that Indiana…

  • cut $300 million from public school funding while at the same time they…
  • passed a voucher law which drained even more public tax dollars from public schools
  • reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • introduced test-based evaluations for teachers
  • increased funding for charter schools

The privatizers haven’t backed off since then…they’ve continued to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and strip funds from public education to support the ravenous appetite of an ever-expanding privatization plan consisting of vouchers and charter schools.

Each year, when the Indiana legislature is in session, we do our best to minimize the damage done to public schools. And each year we lose a little more ground. We had a bright light of hope in 2012, when Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, beating Tony Bennett on a platform which supported public schools, but that was short-lived. Governor Pence, the legislature, and state school board, worked together to make sure she was unable to slow down the damage to public education by the privatizers.

It’s not just Indiana. A few days ago Nancy Flanagan wrote…

The War on Teachers and the End of Public Education

Three days ago, Diane Ravitch wrote this:

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly.

She’s right. The end of public education as we know it is in sight. And there’s a war on public school teaching toward that end, with Betsy DeVos as Field General.

It keeps happening even though privatization has increased segregation and hasn’t improved instruction or achievement.

PART II: ENCOURAGEMENT

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. It’s hard not to give up. We need frequent inspiration to help reenergize ourselves…to remind ourselves that public education is worth saving, and no matter how many times the politicians and privatizers damage public education in Indiana (and across the nation) we need to keep trying. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we need to get up again. No matter how many times we’re silenced, we need to speak out again.

Public schools are open to every child in the state, not just the wealthy or the able. Public schools are an investment in our future…and support for public education means an educated citizenry, a lower incarceration rate, an improved economy, and happier lives. Public education is not just for me…not just for you…but for us, because we are all responsible for, and dependent upon, each other. The students we serve are not just mine – or yours – or even their parents’. They are ours. Within each child is the future of our society.

In order to save America’s public schools it’s necessary for each of us to do what we can. All of us are important…from those who run for the legislature, to those who work quietly in the background registering voters, to those who convince a friend to support public schools. We must, as Danusha Veronica Goska wrote in ‘Political Paralysis’ From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, do “tiny, decent things” to support the public education system. With enough of those “tiny, decent things,” we can give public education the support it needs to survive.

…when we study the biographies of our heroes, we learn that they spent years in preparation doing tiny, decent things before one historical moment propelled them to center stage.

Moments, as if animate, use the prepared to tilt empires.

Be one of the prepared.

CHANGE THE WORLD

Write your legislator. Write for publication. Run for office. Support and/or contribute to pro-public education candidates. Learn about the issues facing public education and share what you have learned with others. Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends. Volunteer in a public school. Help a child learn. Donate a book to a school or a family. Organize or join with others to support public schools. Join the PTA. Send your children to public schools. Call into a talk show. Write a letter to the editor.

Get involved.

Do something.

Don’t give up.

Goska ended her essay…

I suspect that we all have our three-in-the-morning moments, when all of life seems one no-exit film noir, where any effort is pointless, where any hope seems to be born only to be dashed, like a fallen nestling on a summer sidewalk. When I have those moments, if I do nothing else, I remind myself: the ride in the snow; the volunteers at the food bank; the Nepali peasants who fed me. Activists like the Pole Wladyslaw Bartoszewski who, decades before he would earn any fame, got out of Auschwitz only to go on to even more resistance against the Nazis, and then the Soviets. Invisible, silent people who, day by day, choice by choice, unseen by me, unknown to me, force me to witness myself, invite me to keep making my own best choices, and keep me living my ideals.

If all of us do “tiny, decent things” to support public education, we can slow or even stop the takeover of public education by those who would destroy it.

Alone, each one of us might not be able to “tilt the empire” of the privatizers, but perhaps we can preserve public education long enough for our cumulative efforts to gather strength and eventually succeed.

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