Posted in Public Ed, Science, Tyson

A Vaccine Against Charlatans

I’ve been thinking about the state of science education in the United States. A while back I wrote about improving our science education, and since that time nothing has changed. At least not as far as our federal government’s (and in Indiana, the state government’s) attitude towards science is concerned. For example, the U.S. is now the only country in the world which has officially denied climate change by our attempted withdrawal from the Paris Accords…A coal lobbyist is running the EPA…and the Department of the Interior is working to sell off land it’s supposed to protect.

Sadly, the state of science literacy in the United States has allowed many Americans to be unaware of what’s happening. Many Americans don’t really understand why they should be concerned.

It’s important that we improve science literacy in the U.S. But how?

 

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

How can we help improve science education in the community, state, and nation? Here are some ideas for parents, teachers, and concerned voters…

1. End the waste of our time and money on standardized tests and use the savings to pay for professional development for teachers teaching science, and for equipment and supplies to help them. Use the savings to pay for professional development and supplies for all teachers.

2. Make sure children come to school ready to learn. To that end, we need to spend dollars on countering the effects of poverty beginning with good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in the country. The U.S.A. is 56th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Latvia, Cuba, Canada, South Korea, and the U.K. Science has taught us what to do…we need to see to it that there is carry-over of scientific knowledge into the real world.

3. Work to counter the effects of poverty by investing in early childhood education in which children can explore themselves and the world. Our enrollment rates and expenditures on Early Childhood programs lag well below the OECD average.

4. Provide every child with a full and balanced curriculum,

…including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.

5. Support students by lowering class sizes.

 

6. End the diversion of tax dollars to unaccountable and unregulated charter schools, or vouchers for private and parochial schools.

7. The relationship between poverty and achievement is well established, but instructional innovations, improvements, and support can’t overcome the effects of poverty alone. Students need support services to help ameliorate the effects of poverty. Services such as nurses, social workers, counselors, after-school programs, and transportation, should be available. The Chicago Teachers Union has developed a program, specific to Chicago schools, titles The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve 2.0. Many of the plans in this document are worth considering for other school systems.

8. Ensure that every school is staffed with fully-trained, professional educators and support staff.

9. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option.

10. The privatization of public education has increased school segregation. We know from research that desegregated schools narrowed racial and economic achievement gaps. It’s time to fulfill the requirement of Brown vs. Board of Education.

 

A PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY

…public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must 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 expense of the people themselves. — John Adams

The preceding suggestions will cost money, and you might ask, “How can we afford that?” Ending the overuse and misuse of standardized testing will provide one source of income for schools to use. Ending the diversion of tax dollars for privatization will provide more, but that won’t cover everything. We have to choose to spend more money on our future citizens.

Instead of asking, “Can we afford that?” we should state, “We cannot afford not to fully fund public education.” The public schools quite literally, hold our future. For the well-being of our children and grandchildren, we must fully fund our schools.

 

FOR SCIENCE TEACHERS

Science teachers at all grades need to keep up with current information, especially in today’s anti-science atmosphere. The following are some ideas to help keep science teachers up to date on science topics. Others interested in science education can also benefit from these.

  • Do your part to help students (and their parents) understand the scientific method, to see science in everyday life, and to dispel myths and misconceptions about science (e.g. “evolution is just a ‘theory'”).
  • Work with your colleagues to develop multi-disciplinary projects. Science can be found in history, geography, philosophy, physical education, the arts, and other subject areas.
  • Invite scientists from local industry and academia into your classroom to explore ideas with your students.
  • Be an advocate for science. Teach so that your students become as excited about science as you are. At a minimum, ensure that they are scientifically literate when they leave your class.
  • Join scientific organizations to advocate for science education and to keep up with the latest news in your field…groups like

○ The National Science Teachers Association
○ The American Association for the Advancement of Science
○ The National Science Foundation
○ The Association for Science Teacher Education
○ The Association for Science Education

  • Read about ways to improve science education in the U.S.

○ The Improving science education in America
○ The Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.
○ The How can we reform science education?

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won’t be easy. We can do it if we focus on today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

“When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us.”

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Posted in Accountability, Charters, Election, IN Gen.Assembly, ISTEP, Privatization, Public Ed, SBOE, Testing, vouchers

Education is NOT an Expense

INVESTMENTS

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.

 

It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

It seems that Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) doesn’t agree. He is. apparently, against public schools as stated in this post on facebook from last week.

 

“What the hell are we doing, putting government in charge of educating our children?”— Jim Lucas, October 4, 2018

LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS SAY ISTEP IS WORTHLESS

Lucas was responding to this article on Fort Wayne’s WANE-TV about the low test scores on this year’s ISTEP – Less than half of Indiana’s students passed ISTEP. Perhaps he only read the title because if he had read the entire article (or had watched the embedded video) he would have read this…

Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel says he hasn’t looked at [ISTEP test scores] and doesn’t care to.

“ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed,” he said. It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them.”‘

We shared some of NACS’ results with him. With only 45 percent of his high school students passed both sections of the test, he says that doesn’t line up with the nearly 95 percent of his students passing the national college-readiness ACCUPLACER test.

“There’s a disconnect between the test scores which makes us believe there’s a flaw in the testing system Indiana’s using for the ISTEP,” he said.

And this…

Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs agrees, calling the ISTEP a waste of time and tax dollars.

“While Southwest Allen County Schools is legally obligated to take the ISTEP+ tests, SACS does not place much value in their results,” he said. “ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents.”

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION – WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

Lucas is a member of the Republican super-majority in the Indiana House and a member of the House Education Committee. As such, he is at least partly responsible for the condition and quality of public education in Indiana, and he, along with others in the legislature, must be held accountable.

  • He favors the privatization of education and supports vouchers and charter schools. He also supports expensive testing programs. As a consequence, the funding set aside for public schools has been less than what is needed because money for testing and for financial support of voucher and charter schools all come from the same pot of funds.
  • He and his ilk have supported the deprofessionalization of Indiana’s teaching force…the loss of collective bargaining, the lowering of requirements to become a teacher, the lack of autonomy in the classroom, and a 16% decrease (adjusted for inflation) in the salaries of Indiana’s teachers.

In other words, Lucas is a member of the group (the education privatizers in the Indiana House, the Indiana Senate, and the State Board of Education – mostly Republicans) which has removed incentives for teachers, made choices on how and what to teach, yet has held teachers accountable for the decisions of the legislature. Those decisions have caused the current teacher shortage and damaged our public schools. If he doesn’t like how Indiana’s public education is working, he has himself, and his cronies, to blame.

High stakes standardized tests are academically worthless and a waste of money. They measure family income, not achievement. Charter schools and vouchers are diverting funds from public schools. Legislators, like Lucas, who have tied the hands of actual educators, must take responsibility for the damage they have done to public education in Indiana.

Lucas and his fellow Republicans own 70% of the Indiana House of Representatives and 80% of the Indiana Senate.

We can change those percentages on November 6.

 

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Posted in Election, Politics, Public Ed, Teaching Career

Don’t Bother Me With Politics. I Just Want To Teach.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

You come to school early every day, work your hardest to help the children in your classroom, stay late to finish getting ready for tomorrow (or take work home).

You buy materials for your classroom, averaging around $500 a year, but sometimes you spend more, as much as $1000. Sometimes you forget to keep track of what you get…things like snacks for the kids, stickers, posters, paper, pencils, markers/crayons, and books. It doesn’t matter too much, only a portion of what you spend is deductible on your taxes.

You find yourself worrying about the struggling students in your class. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get to them. There are too many other students in your class…and it’s impossible to help all of them who need extra help during the school day. So you often stay after school or come in early, to help one or two who have transportation. Some of your students need extra help, but there aren’t enough specialists to help them. Some need medical attention, but the school nurse is only at your building three days a week. Some of them need time with the school’s counselor or social worker, but their schedules are full. You end up being a nurse and counselor, as well as a teacher.

It’s Saturday, time to catch up. You spend the morning at school and rush to your own child’s soccer game after a few hours. You get home, make dinner, eat, and clean up, then collapse on the couch.

As you fall asleep watching TV, you think about the upcoming “Test week” and you worry that your students aren’t ready. Your evaluation is dependent on their success or failure despite the fact that you can’t go home with them to make sure they get enough sleep, do their homework, and are food- and housing-secure. If you teach third grade you understand that your students’ academic futures depend on their ability to pass the “reading” test.

You’re an average American teacher. Your classroom is overcrowded. Your school is underfunded.

How did this happen to American public school teachers?

 

TEACHERS AND THEIR SCHOOLS UNDER ATTACK

American public school teachers are under attack, along with their schools and students. The attack is coming from the very people who should be supporting teachers the most. The attack is coming from their neighbors, friends, and relatives…and even from their colleagues…through their votes, or lack thereof.

The attack comes from the state legislature, the federal government, and those who voted for anti-public education politicians, or those who didn’t vote at all.

I’ve heard teachers say, “I don’t want to be bothered by politics. I just want to teach. I probably won’t vote anyway.”

It may not be to their liking, but teaching is a political act.

“[Teachers] want to tell legislators what’s going on, they want legislators to visit their classrooms, they want people to help them have the tools and conditions they need to do their job,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers. “They don’t see that as political, they just see that as part of, ‘Help me do my job.’”

But: Curriculum is political. Standards are political. Testing is political. Funding is political.

Education is political. Can teachers not be?

Phyllis Bush, a co-founder of NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, wrote,

…if we CHOOSE not to vote, we are allowing those who do vote to make decisions for us in our towns, our states, and our nation.

In Indiana, the members of the state board of education chosen by the Governor, and the legislature (led by the Governor), all elected by the voters of Indiana (the voters, including teachers’ friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues) have…

  • reduced funding for public schools by diverting tax dollars to private schools, parochial schools, and privately run charter schools. Many Indiana classrooms are now overcrowded.
  • passed legislation limiting teachers’ due process, collective bargaining rights, and salary increases. Salaries for Indiana teachers have shrunk by 16% since 2000.
  • passed legislation removing incentives for advanced study and experience.
  • supported reducing the requirements for becoming a teacher, thus trivializing the time, energy, and cost teachers expended to become licensed in Indiana.
  • made the overuse and misuse of standardized tests required for all public schools.
  • placed the blame on so-called “failing” schools and their teachers for students’ achievement difficulties due to out-of-school factors associated with poverty.

If you (or your friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues) didn’t vote or voted for policymakers who don’t support public education, then you (and they) have contributed to the legislation damaging public education in Indiana.

Teachers who don’t vote allow others to make decisions about what goes on in their classrooms. As the former first lady, Michelle Obama said this week, “Democracy continues, with or without you.” If you don’t vote, it goes on without you.

“Democracy continues, with or without you.”

Teachers, vote for candidates who will protect and support your profession and against those who pass legislation and make policy that will damage public schools.

Parents, vote for candidates who will support the public schools that 90% of our children attend.

Taxpayers, vote for candidates who will invest in the future of your state by supporting the constitutional mandate for a free, public school system. It is the duty of the General Assembly to

…provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.

REGISTER THEN VOTE

Indiana voter registration ends on October 9. You can register or check your voter registration at the Indiana Voter Portal.

Then vote on November 6, 2018.

The public schools of Indiana need you

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, Article Medleys, Charters, climate change, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, Racism, TeacherPay, vouchers

2018 Medley #23: Seven Disturbing Reads

Climate Change, Teacher Pay,
Privatization: Vouchers and Charters,
The U.S. Mistrusts Education,
Politics Matters, Ethnic Labels

I added a number to the title of this post because I read the latest by Nancy Flanagan, an education blogger who is ending her tenure at Education Week to go out on her own. Read her stuff…

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Kolbert shows us, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Earth is warming. Our food supplies and oxygen supply are at risk.

Simply put…There is just one country in the entire world – the United States, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry – which refuses to accept the truth. The ecosystem which has allowed humans to survive and thrive is dying; we’re killing it. We need to pay attention to the world’s scientists before it’s too late.

…having freed ourselves from the constraints of evolution, humans nevertheless remain dependent on the earth’s biological and geochemical systems. By disrupting these systems – cutting down tropical rainforests, altering the composition of the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans – we’re putting our own survival in danger. Among the many lessons that emerge from the geologic record, perhaps the most sobering is that in life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. When a mass extinction occurs, it takes out the weak and also lays low the strong. V-shaped graptolites were everywhere, and then they were nowhere. Ammonites swam around for hundreds of millions of years, and then they were gone. Richard Leakey has warned that

“Homo sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction but also risks being one of its victims.”

 

THE PAY GAP

Teacher Pay Gap Reaches a Record High

Teachers are compensated at a lower rate than other professionals. Ironically, the teacher pay gap is approximately the same as the gender pay gap. Women earn less than men for the same work. The teaching profession, which is traditionally filled by women, receives less than those professions traditionally filled by men.

When adjusting only for inflation, the researchers found that teachers, compared to other college graduates, are paid nearly $350 less per week in salary in 2017, or 23 percent less.

When they adjusted for education, experience, and demographic factors, the gap had barely shrunk – 18.7 percent, up from 17 percent in 2015.

While benefits such as health insurance and retirement improved for teachers relative to other professionals during that period, the total compensation (wage and benefit) penalty for public school teachers grew from 10.5 percent to 11.1 percent in 2017.

 

VOUCHERS DIVERT PUBLIC MONEY TO RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

The False Promise Of School Vouchers

Schools which accept vouchers in Indiana have a choice. They can either accept or reject your child. They don’t have to justify their choice. They can reject your child because of your family’s religious beliefs, your child’s sexual or gender preference, your child’s academic achievement level, or his or her behavior problems. The only “choice” parents have is whether or not to fill out an application for a private school. After that, it’s up to the school to choose the child.

Vouchers do not improve school achievement. Voucher schools are not subject to public oversight as are public schools.

…new studies have shown, not only do the claims made by voucher supporters fail to withstand closer scrutiny, these programs also allow private, often religious, schools to receive a skyrocketing volume of taxpayer funds without oversight. These facts should be enough to dissuade anyone from the notion that private school voucher programs are what’s best for America’s students.

First, public schools are under legal obligation to be open and nondiscriminatory in their acceptance of all students, regardless of race, sexual orientation or ability. Voucher programs, on the other hand, are governed by different laws in different states, but most allow private schools to accept taxpayer dollars but reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability to ability to pay.

That’s right: voucher programs actually fund discrimination. According to an analysis by the Huffington Post of the Florida Hope Scholarship Program—a voucher program aimed at public school students who have undergone bullying—10 percent of the schools participating in the program have “zero tolerance policies” for LGBTQ students. And nearly 20 percent of participating schools have dress-code policies that lead to disproportionately punish students of color.

 

CHARTER SCHOOLS: PRIVATE SCHOOLS DIVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO PRIVATE WALLETS

Charter School Corruption Is Changing Education Policy And Politics

Lack of public oversight has yielded a charter industry full of corruption and cheating. Public money should go to public schools…and all schools accepting public funds ought to subject to the same oversight, restrictions, and requirements.

As scandalous news stories and scathing reviews of the charter industry continue to emerge, the negative impacts these schools have on families and communities will prompt more to question the wisdom of expanding these schools and draw more attention to the need to ratchet up regulations for the charters already in existence.

 

THE U.S. DOESN’T VALUE AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY

Let’s fund education like we value it

In OECD nations, funding for education increased an average of 4% from 2010 to 2014. In the U.S. it dropped by 3%.

The United States has always had a national undercurrent of suspicion with respect to education. During the 2016 campaign, then Candidate Trump even went so far as to claim that “I love the poorly educated.” What he meant to say was that he loved everyone who supported him, but the implication, which has been borne out in his administration’s attitude towards public education, is that there was no need to improve the education of those who needed it the most — as long as they voted for him.

And Trump wasn’t the first to bring in the education level of voters to the campaign. In the 1952 campaign, Adlai Stevenson was branded an “egghead” by V-P candidate Richard Nixon. Richard Hofstadter, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, wrote that the term was coined because “the country seemed to be in need of some term to express that disdain for intellectuals.”

School teachers have frequently been accused of being agents who disrupted tradition and taught children politics. A school board member (and local Eagle Forum member) in my district once accused staff members of exercising “mind-control” over students (something many of the teachers wished they could actually do in order to increase student attention to their assignments!). In another example, a Texas state school board member once proclaimed that “Somebody’s gotta stand up to experts” when educated people tried to explain why actual science needed to be included in the state science curriculum.

The title of this piece hits the nail on the head. We, as a nation, don’t value education and we don’t want to pay for it.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a conservative think tank focused on education policy issues. One of their frequent contributors is a person named Dale Chu…

• Chu: Finally, there are those who argue that the system as it currently exists works perfectly fine for the era it was designed for (think the G.I. Bill and universal high school). In this view, education is wrongly perceived as broken. Moreover, the thinking goes, we won’t make any headway unless we solve larger societal issues like poverty or institutional racism—though for better or for worse, reformers tend to part ways when it comes to race.

 

VOTE YOUR INTEREST

Why Politics Matters

Why do the poorest, sickest Americans vote for candidates who promise to take away their health-insurance? Why do struggling workers vote for candidates who promise to move their jobs overseas? Why do middle-class taxpayers vote for candidates who give tax breaks to the wealthy, reducing services for those who need it?

That was the astonishing conclusion of a study reported by Inc. The study ranked life expectancy in all 50 states, and came to some truly eye-opening conclusions. Among them: residents of Mississippi have the same life expectancy as residents of Bangladesh.

 

LABELS AND ETHNICITY

Disowning the Lie of Whiteness

“Nazis march unmasked in our streets…too many of our police use murder and atrocity to ensure the social order.”

Labels reduce us to one thing: black, Hispanic, Jewish, Socialist. We’re all much more complicated than that.

I don’t want to live in a world where human beings are tattooed and numbered and sent to their deaths.

Because the Holocaust is not over.

American slavery is not over.

Neither is Jim Crow or lynching or a thousand other marks of hatred and bigotry.

Nazis march unmasked in our streets. Our prisons are the new plantation. And too many of our police use murder and atrocity to ensure the social order.

As long as we allow ourselves to be white, there will be no justice for both ourselves and others.

 

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Posted in Due Process, PDK, Personal History, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Testing, US DOE

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

Today is the twelfth anniversary of this blog (see my main blog page, here). In the last dozen years of blogging, the education world hasn’t changed significantly. I started writing in the middle of the No Child Left Behind era, didn’t stop during Race to the Top, and continue now in the era of Betsy the Billionaire.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

I should probably rename this blog, “The Dead Horse Blog,” “Think Like Sisyphus,”  “The Wall: Beat Your Head Here,” or maybe simply “Belabored.”

On the other hand, my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year’s “Teachers’ Spring” will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I’ll keep going…just in case someone is listening.

Here are a dozen things I wrote in the early years of this blog…mostly about things that haven’t changed yet.

How to Guarantee School Improvement – September 2009

And here’s another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind…

Legislators, other politicians, and policymakers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.

If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America’s public school system would become the envy of the world.

 

Teaching is Doing – January 2014

Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren’t cut out for teaching…or that it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn’t realize that it’s not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can’t handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that “those who can’t, teach” has it backward. Teaching is doing…and it’s those who can’t who must move on to some other, less important line of work.

 

American Schools are Not Failing – October 2014

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America’s public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle-class families.

Politicians and policymakers can’t solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students when the problems don’t go away.

American schools are not failing…American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.

 

If I Could Go Back and Do It Again – March 2010

This quote names my biggest teaching frustration, written a few months before I retired. Now, eight years later, when I think about the years I spent teaching I try to remember the successes I had – and there were many – but it’s hard to forget the failures. I regret 1) not being able to help all the children I wanted to help, and 2) my failure to reach all the students I should have been able to reach.

My biggest teaching frustration has been allowing myself to do things in the classroom which, while mandated by federal, state and/or local authorities, were things that I knew were not in the best interests of my students.

 

Where Are All the Failing Schools – August 2010

This quote refers to the PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitude Toward the Public Schools. The most recent poll put the respondents who grade their school an A, B, or C, at 81%. Local schools continue to poll well, and even higher for those who know the schools best – parents of public school students.

A majority of 82% of the respondents to the poll do NOT see their local schools as failing giving them a grade of A, B or C. 49% scored their local schools as an A or a B. In other words, the school we know best we score higher than the schools we don’t know. We’re very negative about the quality of schools nationwide. But if such a high percentage of people are giving their own schools average to above average ratings where are all the schools that are doing so poorly?

 

Time For Some Therapy – March 2011

We’ve become a nation of cruel, angry, screamers. The national discussion has become nothing less than a national tantrum.

There’s no room for compromise…no room for discussion. There’s no time for sadness at the death of another human being. There’s no place for cooperation…no desire to work towards a common goal or define a common good.

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.

 

The Status Quo Hasn’t Changed – April 2011

When the so-called reformers — the Gates’s, the Broads, the Duncans — rail against the status quo they’re referring to nothing that exists today. The real status quo is a killing curriculum based on mindless bubbles on a test. That’s today’s status quo…and that’s no way to educate children.

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All – March 2009

For the last three days, I have been administering the Indiana state standardized tests or ISTEP+ to students with learning disabilities. These tests are not valid for these students because they do not measure what they claim to measure.

The test maker, McGraw Hill, claims that the test shows what students have learned and provides diagnostic information for remediation.

However, for these students the tests in their disability area are so difficult that they have 1) no hope of passing, 2) little chance of doing well enough to get a score that would provide anything more than a generalized list of their weak areas.

Students with learning disabilities are enrolled in special education because they are not able to perform at “grade level” in their area of disability. The purpose of special education is to provide extra support for the students so that they will be able to learn as much as they are capable of.

Simply put, the standardized tests that we are giving are not appropriate for all students. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum or test.

 

It’s Time For an Educated Secretary of Education – January 2010

For the last 34 years, I’ve searched for ways to improve my teaching and for ways to reach hard to reach students. The challenge is always there and what we as teachers do affects the lives of children in ways we can’t imagine. It’s frustrating that the people who control what goes on in the public schools of America (in the form of standardized tests, funding, etc) don’t have a clue. Am I self-righteous about my quest to improve my teaching? Yes…of course I am. I have worked hard to learn what I have learned about education and children. To have a basketball player with a degree in Sociology, who NEVER ATTENDED OR WORKED IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL and who is NOT a teacher, lead the nation’s public schools is, dare I say it, irresponsible on the part of the federal government.

 

Follow the Money – March 2010

When you scratch the surface of the current attacks on public education you’ll find big corporations (e.g. Pearson, McGraw-Hill) and wealthy businessmen (e.g. Bill Gates, Eli Broad). There’s money to be made in the new education industry – charters and private schools, vouchers programs, and the re-segregating of the American public school system.

Poverty is still the main issue that WE as teachers have to deal with nationwide.

 

Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day – April 2010

If you don’t read aloud to your students EVERY DAY you’re not doing enough. Every elementary teacher…no matter what grade…should read aloud to his/her students each day. See Jim Trelease’s Web Site and the Read-Aloud Handbook.

 

Due Process: Not Anymore – May 2010

In 2011 the Indiana General Assembly removed due process which gave teachers some job protection.

There’s no doubt that there are inadequate teachers in our schools…and there’s no doubt that teacher’s unions protect their members (which is what unions are supposed to do). However, in Indiana, at least, unions can only guarantee that teachers receive due process. It’s the responsibility of the school leaders, the administrators and school board, to prove just cause that a teacher is incompetent. Believe it or not, teachers unions do not want bad teachers teaching. Tenure in Indiana means that a teacher has to have a hearing in which their inadequacies are proven…they get their day in court to defend themselves against the accusations of those who would fire them. A fair hearing…day in court…confronting the accusers…that’s how we do things in the US.

 

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Posted in Article Medleys, Duncan, Lead, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, reform, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

2018 Medley #22

Still Poisoning Our Children,
Public Education, Teachers Get Angry, Vouchers,
School Improvement,
Arne Duncan Wasn’t a Good EdSec (but you knew that). 

 

WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR POISONING OUR CHILDREN?

Still a problem and still outrageous: Too many kids can’t drink the water in their schools

History will likely reflect negatively on how we Americans have treated our children. Take their health, for example.

We know that lead causes damage, especially to young children. It causes things like developmental delay, learning difficulties, hearing loss, and seizures (It’s also not that great for adults causing high blood pressure, mood disorders and reproductive problems). There is no safe level of lead in the bloodstream.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on military defense, but can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning at home. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.

…it’s not just in Michigan: A new U.S. government report says millions of children were potentially exposed to unsafe drinking water at their schools, but nobody really knows how many. Why? Because many states don’t bother running the tests.

A July 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which surveyed school districts across the country on testing for lead in drinking water in 2017, found:

● 41 percent of districts, serving 12 million students, had not tested for lead in the 12 months before completing the survey.

● 43 percent of districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead. Of those, 37 percent found elevated levels and reduced or eliminated exposure.

And then there was this: 16 percent of the districts replied to the nationally representative survey by saying that they did not know whether they had tested.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A RIGHT, A PUBLIC GOOD, OR A CONSUMER PRODUCT?

Why School Reform Flounders

Is education a Right, a Public Good, an American tradition, a vehicle for fixing social inequities, an imposition on non-White/non-middle class children, or a public utility? Is it a private matter, a religious affair, a consumer product, or a national security imperative?

It would seem that the Indiana Constitution, quoted above, considers it a right.

Here is an interesting read about public education and its place in our society…

As historians like Prof. Cuban have long pointed out, the question of whether or not education is a basic right needs to take its place in line with all the other fundamental questions about education. Is it a right? Is it a public utility? Is it a tool of class domination?

 

TEACHERS GET ANGRY

The Teachers Movevement: Arizona Lawmakers Cut Education Budgets. Then Teachers Got Angry

It’s been a long time coming, but teachers are finally standing up for themselves and their students. Read this excellent piece on the Arizona teacher uprising.

The attacks seemed only to galvanize teachers. “They called us socialists, Marxists, communists! I’m a Republican!”

ANTI-PUBLIC EDUCATION: FUNDING

Arizona Supreme Court Blocks Ballot Initiative to Fund Public Education

Years of budget slashing, tax cutting, and lack of support for the public good, has left Arizona schools underfunded and struggling.

Paying taxes for the common good? That time has, apparently, passed us by.

From Jan Resseger

Paying taxes for the common good. What a novel idea these days—and something blocked last week by the Arizona Supreme Court. Failing to connect the taxes we pay with what the money buys, many of us find it easy to object to more taxes, but the case of Arizona makes the arithmetic clear. After slashing taxes for years, Arizona doesn’t have enough money to pay for public schools and universities. Not enough for the barest essentials.

 

TEACHERS MUST STAY ANGRY

Standing Up

The test-and-punish, micromanagement, and belittling of teachers/public schools, has been a constant for decades. It doesn’t work to help children learn, but it’s apparent now that children’s learning has never really been the reason for so-called “education reform.” It’s all been done for privatization.

Privatization is not just for better schools any more (since it’s been shown that it doesn’t help). Now it’s for “choice.” The privatizers believe that parents should get to choose where their education tax-dollars are spent, and to hell with the common good.

I wonder how many of those pro-choice parents and politicians are pro-choice when it comes to women’s reproductive choice, or a parent’s choice to opt out of “the test.”

Public school teachers — and those who are hoping to become public school teachers — have to accept the fact that it is up to them (along with parents and pro-public education citizens) to fight for the survival of public schools.

Teachers, you can’t just close your doors and teach anymore.

After twenty years of ed reform, teachers have arrived at a point where they cannot shut the door and teach. Every teacher has to be an advocate for her profession, her school, and the institution of public education. Every policy and directive that descends from above has to be examined for its various effects, both on education and the profession, because teachers can no longer trust the People In Charge. The people who should be helping to smooth the road are building speed bumps and brick walls instead. To shut your door and teach is to the door to your room in a burning building; you may not feel the heat yet, but if you do nothing, you will surely feel it soon.

When we talk about reasons that so many fewer people pursue or stay with a teaching career, I’m not sure we discuss this point enough. You may want to Just Teach, but that will not be an option. You will have to fight constantly just to get to do your job. It’s a huge disincentive– “I would really like to do that job, but it looks like I won’t really get to do the job I want to do.”

 

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Ready, Fire, Aim: Vouchers Hurt Math Scores for Low Income Students

After seven years of running the nation’s most expansive voucher program…

After a half billion dollars of public money diverted to private, religious, schools…

We now hear policy makers suggesting that we “study and evaluate” the concept of vouchers.

Now?

Low income students were the ostensible reason for Indiana’s aggressive voucher policy. I’ve argued for a long time that this was a pretext — the real reason was 1) subsidizing religious education; 2) hurting teachers unions; and 3) diverting money to friends and well-wishers of policymakers — but, if you take lawmakers at their word that this was being done to help low income students, then it looks like we’ve wasted a lot of money and done some harm in the process.

Says State Board of Education member, Gordon Hendry, “The conclusions are somewhat concerning. It demonstrates the need for further study and evaluation so we can have more data about the results of this program.” With all due respect (and at least Hendry responded to the South Bend Tribune), the time for study was before we jumped into the voucher pond with both feet…

 

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

Indiana officials didn’t have to go far to find a new model for improving schools

I’m all for school improvement and it’s possible that this program will provide needed help, although I’m not sure that Chicago should be our role model for improving schools. You can learn about 5Essentials here and here.

My big fear with this program, and others like it, is that politicians and policy makers will impose a program on the public schools and then blame students, teachers, and schools if and when it doesn’t work. They don’t accept their share of the responsibility. Accountability is never taken by the policy makers, it’s only imposed, along with the mandates, on those in the schools.

Politicians and Policy makers, try this program, to be sure, but accept responsibility for our state and nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty and it’s impact on school achievement!

The 5 Essentials model focuses on five qualities that strong schools share — effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. The Indiana Department of Education has built its own evaluation around these attributes. The state will start using its model based on the 5 Essentials at low-performing schools in their annual school quality reviews, which begin in October and are done by a team of experts, local educators, and school administrators or board members.

Arne Duncan with his boss…lest we forget that the Democrats are/were complicit in school “reform.”

THE EDUCATION LIES

Duncan and DeVos Are Both Wrong, We Need Old School Reform

The education lies discussed in this article are

  • money does not matter
  • ineffective teachers are ruining public schools
  • charter schools will outperform public schools
  • federal leadership on rigorous standards will save us all

Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings may have been worse. Betsy DeVos might be the VERY worst. But Arne Duncan was no slouch when it came to running a damaging U.S. Education Department!

The “education reforms” that Duncan says worked—desegregation and more equalized school funding—preceded his tenure as Secretary. He did nothing to further those reforms. Instead, he routinely pushed through reforms that didn’t work. An honest appraisal of the past decade reveals that Duncan caused more harm than good.

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Posted in Duncan, poverty, Public Ed

Public Education is a Public Responsibility

John Merrow’s latest blog post is a review of Arne Duncan’s new book, “How Schools Work.”

My first thought about Duncan’s book was how ironic it was that someone who had never attended a public school or worked in a public school, claimed to know how schools actually work. But that’s something I’ve ranted about many times, and I’ll try not to do it again in this post…

 

As I was reading I thought that Merrow’s review was generally thoughtful and fair, but then I read the comments.

Blogger GF Brandenburg commented…

gfbrandenburg
August 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm

You didn’t really expect him to admit that all his efforts to improve education, USING HIS OWN YARDSTICKS, namely the NAEP, actually failed miserably, do you?

I draw an additional lesson: you should let neither professional athletes nor neophytes (ie neither Michelle Rhee’ nor her two husbands, nor Arne Duncan, nor Andre Agassi, nor Lebron James, nor Betsy DeVos) run education.

Merrow replied…

John Merrow
August 17, 2018 at 7:27 am

Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present….End of story.

Am I wrong in thinking that Merrow’s response seemed to imply that it’s ok for non-education-professionals such as Rhee, DeVos, Gates, et al, to run schools, create and implement school policy, and make decisions affecting the 50 million public school children in the U. S.? Because, “Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present…”

I agree that they have the “legal” right to do those things…but the “ethical” right, the “professional” right, the “educationally sound” right? Not so much.

Education is still something that most people think “anyone can do” since “we all went to school.”

Why is education singled out as something “anyone can do?” Public Health is also a public responsibility, but we generally find health professionals making choices and policy in that area.

When has there ever been a Surgeon General who did not have some connection to a medical profession? (Answer: Never) When has there ever been an Attorney General who hadn’t studied law? (Answer: Never) Yet only 3 of the eleven Secretaries of Education had degrees in education or teaching experience in K-12 education (Bell, Page, and King).

Unfortunately, the problems facing education are complicated and generally come from the outside such as the effects of poverty on children and their families and the inequity of funding. If Duncan, as a sociologist (Harvard, BA, 1987), had used his position to try to impact the social order that has led to one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, that would have been different. But he didn’t. He pushed policies that had a direct impact on how schools were run, how teachers were evaluated (junk science), and how tests were used (misused). Duncan, like most education “reformers” who are ignorant of what goes on inside a school, tried to affect the education of America’s students by doing things to schools, rather than aiming at the out-of-school-factors.

Public education is a public responsibility, but that is not the end of the story. There can be no “race to the top” when kids, schools, and school systems don’t all have the same starting point. We can’t have “no child left behind” while children are still being left behind economically and socially. We will never be a nation where “every child succeeds” until we are a nation where every child is given a fair chance to succeed.

The achievement gap will continue to plague us until we can rid ourselves of the economics gap…and the racial gap. No amount of charter schools, vouchers, or the misuse of testing will change that.

 

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