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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Posted in climate change, Curmudgucation, David Berliner, Dewey, Pence, Preschool, Public Ed, Quotes, Trump, Tyson

Listen to This #7

PRE-SCHOOL

Building a Better Pre-School: Finding the Right Balance

Russ Walsh looks at two recent studies of preschool instruction, one focusing on academics in preschools, the other on social and emotional learning. The unsurprising results of the research? Developmentally appropriate instruction. [emphasis added]

From Russ Walsh

“In order to ensure that our pre-schools are finding the right balance between academics and play, we need to be sure that we are employing the best teachers available and we need to make sure that these teachers are getting the finest, best informed professional development possible. No program, no research, no policy can come close to matching what the well-informed, well-prepared teacher can provide for children in the classroom.We cannot do pre-school on the cheap just because the children are small. We cannot run pre-school, as is often the case now, with poorly trained, poorly compensated para-professionals. The answer, ultimately, is not in the false dichotomy between academics and play, but in the will of our policy makers to make sure that every child has access to teachers who are prepared to do the job well and who are compensated appropriately for it.

AMERICA’S SCHOOLS ARE NOT FAILING

The purported failure of America’s schools, and ways to make them better by David C. Berliner

I posted twice in the last couple of months about the lie promoted by politicians, privatizers, and “reformers” which claims that America’s schools are “failing.”

David C. Berliner, Education Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, writes that real improvement will cost money. He wrote, paraphrasing Dewey –“What the best and wisest (among the wealthiest) 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.” [emphasis added]

From David C. Berliner

…“fixing” the schools, about which so many of our editorialists and political leaders talk, needs deeper thinking than a knee-jerk reaction to our mean score on any international test. That mean score hides the diversity of our scores by social class and housing tract, and easily misleads us about what solutions might exist. When our leaders say teachers are not good, we need to point out to them how well some of our students are doing, and that a recent Mathematica report for the U.S. Department of Education states that the quality of teachers working in low-income schools is about the same as the quality of teachers working in high income schools. So blaming teachers won’t fix schools that need fixing!

A PLACE TO VENT

Angry (tl;dr)

During the second half of my teaching career one of my roles was that of (co-) test coordinator for my school. It didn’t take long for me to realize that classroom teachers were being forced to spend more and more time “teaching to the test,” a practice which had previously been avoided.

Each year more tests were added, taking up more and more instructional time, with less and less diagnostic information returned to the teachers. Each year it took longer and longer for the information to be returned to the classroom so that, by the time the results came back, the students had moved on.

I complained loudly…bitterly…obnoxiously. Other teachers agreed with me…even the principal agreed with me, but there was nothing to be done. I complained to the administration, who passed the buck to the State Department of Education…who passed the buck to the State Legislature…who passed the buck to No Child Left Behind.

In 2006 I decided that I needed a place to vent, so I started this blog.

If I were a better writer I could have written this post by Peter Greene.

From Peter Greene

My colleagues at school were, by and large, not interested. They complained when we were gored by the tip of the iceberg that passed by us, but they had no particular interest in finding out what the tip was attached to, or how big and wide the iceberg really was. And I was turning into the staff crank. So I turned to the outlet that has always served me in the past– writing– and for a number of reasons (mostly admiration of the bloggers already out there) I turned to blogging.

It did not occur to me that anybody would read my stuff. My goal was to vent, to rail about policies and articles that struck me as foolish, destructive, blind, ignorant.

POLITICS

Trump dumps Paris climate deal: reaction

The first two quotes need no comment…

From Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh

“The United States will come to rue this day,” said Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. “President Trump has argued that his decision puts economic interests first, that it will cut out interference from foreign bureaucrats and help U.S. business. In fact this move puts all business and economic interests at much greater risk. Climate change knows no borders, its impacts are blind to national flags. If global efforts to limit warming fail then we are all in trouble. From climate change, Mr. President, you can run but you can’t hide.”

We Aren’t Number One…Not Even Close

From Sheila Kennedy

It’s enough to make you think American policymakers put a higher priority on the bottom lines of Big Pharma and Big Insurance than they do on the health of average citizens.

But then, what do we expect when we elect people so corrupt and self-serving they don’t even care about the health of the planet their children and grandchildren will inherit?

MIKE PENCE – OBTUSE AND IGNORANT

Mike Pence: ‘For Some Reason’ Liberals Care About Climate Change

Is Vice President Pence really this obtuse?

From Mike Pence

“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.”

It seems that Vice President Pence hasn’t heard anything about climate change. He doesn’t seem to know why it’s an issue for “the left,” which in this case means anyone who wants to prevent the catastrophic destruction of the earth’s ecosystem by global warming. He hasn’t heard that, with the rise of greenhouse gasses,

  • the earth gets warmer,
  • the oceans get warmer,
  • the ice at the poles melts,
  • the life in the ocean is at-risk,
  • the sea-level rises threatening coastal cities,
  • more moisture is in the air making storms wetter and stronger,
  • causing flooding and more…

The Vice President has apparently not talked to the Secretary of Defense who believes global warming is a threat to national security…or the former Secretary of the Navy…or the U.S. Army…See also, the planet Venus.

Yet we really shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same person who said

…”2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer.”

and

“The truth is, [evolution] always was a theory, Mr. Speaker.”

A few years ago, when he was in the House of Representatives, Pence was scientifically ignorant about smoking…or maybe he was getting money from the tobacco companies.

His ignorance also showed in his use of the word theory when talking about Evolution. In science, a theory is an explanation of a natural process which encompasses facts, laws, inferences, and hypotheses. Pence, like so many other ignorant creationists, confuses the popular meaning of the word theory with its scientific meaning. For an explanation of why theory is not “just a guess” see, Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work.

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Posted in Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Public Ed

Your School in a Market Economy

DISRUPTION

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

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

Southfield charter school closes shocking students, staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STABILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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