Posted in Article Medleys, Politics, Public Ed, SchoolFunding, Testing

2018 Medley #18

Neglecting our Children and our Future,
Budget Cuts, Testing,
Hiring Non-Educators for Education Positions,
Nominating a Pro-Privatization Judge

NEGLECTING OUR CHILDREN, AND OUR FUTURE

Share of Federal Spending on Children Projected to Shrink, New Report Says

Kids are 25% of our population, 100% of our future, and 9% of federal spending…for now. “Kids’ Share” thinks the federal spending number will drop to less than 7%. Yet politicians, especially those who control the pursestrings, don’t recognize that there’s a relationship between the amount of money we spend on kids and the results we get.

I understand that the budget is tight…and we need support for other public services, but a 27% cut isn’t going to improve the care and education our children get.

Meanwhile, “reformers” continue to (wrongly) claim that they can do better than “failing public schools” and drain more money from the public schools.

“Kids’ Share” projects that Washington’s budget for health, nutrition, tax provisions, and education spending on children will drop from 9.4 percent of the fiscal 2017 budget to 6.9 percent after 10 years, a decline of 27 percent from 2017 levels. The Urban Institute expects spending on elementary and secondary education to dip to $37 billion from $42 billion, and for early-childhood education to drop to $14 billion from $15 billion, after adjusting for inflation.

 

America is guilty of neglecting kids — our own

As the money set aside for educating America’s children lessens, the gap between those children who grow up with enough, and those who don’t, widens. Politicians like to claim that the US is “the greatest country in the world.” You wouldn’t know it by paying attention to how we treat our children.

We’re doing nothing less than squandering our future.

“A shockingly high number of children in the U.S. live in poverty,” the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, declared in a scathing report. Almost one-fifth of American children live in poverty, he noted, and they account for more than one-fifth of homeless people.

 

The High Cost of Education Budget Cuts

The big reason for school cuts from the state? Tax cuts for the wealthy. The poor and middle class are paying their fair share. A caring society – which I understand is not the US – would ask those who can, to pay more.

Most states still invest less in K-12 schools than they did in 2008, despite the fact that enrollment increased by over 1 million students nationwide between 2008 – 2016.

…It’s up to educators to call on their state’s elected leaders to:
1. Stop subsidizing corporations
2. Ask companies to pay their fair share in taxes
3. Raise income tax rates for top earners
4. Eliminate ALL voucher schemes

 

END TEST AND PUNISH!

Breaking News?: @NAACP Now Opposing High-Stakes Testing!

Two years ago the NAACP called for a moratorium on charter schools. Now they’re calling for an end to high-stakes tests. Cheers!

…one-time, [high-stakes] standardized tests may have a disparate impact on students of color, many of whom have not had the benefit of high quality teaching staff (urban school districts have the greatest challenge in attracting and keeping highly qualified teachers), adequate classroom resources, or instruction on the content and skills being tested by the standardized tests. Considering additional measures of student achievement, such as grades and teacher evaluations, adds not only to the fairness of a decision with major consequences for students but also increases the validity of such high stakes decisions.

 

The Problems of Outcomes-Based School Accountablity

The test and punish plan for public education has failed. The NAACP understands. State governments don’t. The average person believes that test scores indicate the quality of a school and that erroneous belief is perpetuated by politicians and pundits.

…underneath any conversation about “failing” schools are lots of realities about segregation—by class and also by race.

Research has documented growing economic inequality and segregation by family income. Sean Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist, used a massive data set to document the consequences of widening economic inequality for children’s outcomes at school. Reardon showed that while in 1970, only 15 percent of families lived in neighborhoods classified as affluent or poor, by 2007, 31 percent of families lived in such neighborhoods. By 2007, fewer families across America lived in mixed income communities. Reardon also demonstrated that along with growing residential inequality is a simultaneous jump in an income-inequality school achievement gap. The achievement gap between the children with income in the top ten percent and the children with income in the bottom ten percent, was 30-40 percent wider among children born in 2001 than those born in 1975, and twice as large as the black-white achievement gap.

 

NOW HIRING

He has quite the résumé — just not for the powerful schools job he has won

As a nation, we’re still hiring people to run school systems who don’t know anything about education…people like Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. Los Angeles is following suit, hiring a neo-liberal investment banker to run a K-12 school system with three-quarters of a million students.

When was the last time Beutner stepped into a K-12 classroom? When he was a student? For a photo op? That’s not good enough. It’s educational malpractice.

He’s got quite the résumé.

Austin Beutner, the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, has been, among other things:

— Clinton administration appointee assigned with helping Russia transform from a centralized to free-market economy
— Successful investment banker
— First deputy mayor of Los Angeles, overseeing 12 city agencies
— Publisher and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune
— Major philanthropist

Now he is chief of the second-largest school district in the country. Experience in the classroom? Zilch. Operational experience in education systems? Nada.

 

A dig through Kavanaugh’s record on education finds plenty of material

Speaking of hiring…the judge that the President wants to hire for the US Supreme Court is no friend of public education…

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said Kavanaugh will be a “rubber stamp” for the agenda of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, including on school choice issues like vouchers. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that a Supreme Court nominee “should be fair, independent and committed to protecting the rights, freedoms and legal safeguards that protect every one of us. Judge Kavanaugh does not meet this standard.”

 

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, retention, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #14

Testing Rules from Amateurs,
“Fixing” Brains, Public Education,
Teacher Shortage, Your Tax Dollars at Work,
Accountability Double Standards,
Retention in Grade

 LEAVE THE TESTING ANALYSIS TO THE EXPERTS

MI: When Legislators Don’t Understand Testing

When I was teaching, I administered individual diagnostic tests to students. The instructions for every one of the tests reminded me that the test was to be used for its intended purpose. No conclusions unrelated to that intended purpose were considered valid.

Standardized achievement tests, however, are frequently (at this point, more frequently than not, I would wager) used for making conclusions unrelated to their intended purpose.

The reason? Legislators and politicians have taken over the responsibility of choosing how to evaluate children…and, for the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing.

Tests should not be given for any purpose other than that for which it was intended. To do so, as most states are doing, is invalid, irresponsible, and a form of educational malpractice.

In this post we learn of Michigan legislators who consider a bill which requires teachers to “pass the SAT” before earning a teaching certificate. If that sounds odd to you, it’s because you cannot “pass” the SAT. Nor can you “fail” it. It’s not a spelling test, or a final exam.

Pass the SAT? What does that even mean? The SAT gives you a score, which as I told my students every year, is neither “good” nor “bad” until the college you’re applying to says so. I talk to someone on line with ties to the testing and data biz and she absolutely hates it when people talk about passing or failing test. And yet, here we are, demonstrating once again that civilians (even elected ones) don’t understand that tests are produced for very specific purposes and can’t just be swapped to whatever purpose you like as if all tests are fundamentally the same. And instead of seeing some rich source of nuanced data that can be carefully decoded for a wealth of information, these citizens just see a thing that you either pass or fail. No more nuance or richness than a light switch.

And these are the people who legislate how tests must be used and what rewards and punishments will be doled out because of them. Yes, one of the biggest problems with modern ed reform is that it’s amateur hour in education. Knowing what the heck you’re talking about– that’s the test that people in power keep failing.

 

BILLIONAIRES WANT TO “FIX” BRAINS RATHER THAN ADDRESS POVERTY

Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

Gates and his billionaire friends are determined to find the cause of low achievement anywhere but with poverty (just like DeVos, and other NRA shills, look for the answer to gun violence anywhere but with the actual guns). The billionaires are afraid that the solutions might cost money (see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve).

They want to fund research in executive functioning and why students who live in poverty have such trouble. How about if they start with these reports of actual research already done…

The U.S. does not have an education problem. It has a poverty problem.

…the billionaires reason that not only can executive malfunctioning cause substantial classroom learning problems and school failure, it also can adversely affect socio-economic status, physical health, drug problems, and criminal convictions in adulthood. Consequently, if teachers of poor students know how to improve executive function, their students will do well academically and reap future “real-world benefits.” For Gates, who is always looking for “the next big thing,” this can be it in education.

Most people looking at this reasoning would likely think, “If executive functioning is poorer in poor children, why not eliminate the apparent cause of the deficiency, i.e., poverty?” Not so for the billionaires.

 

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATORS

Our Schools Are Not Failing; Our Policy Makers Are : Raleigh’s Amorphous Way of Measuring Schools

With the exception of “class size caps” the words “North Carolina” in the following quote (and its source blog post) can be replaced with “Indiana” (or any number of other states).

And when you are the North Carolina General Assembly that is trying to privatize the public school system, you undertake a series of actions that weaken public schools such as school performance grades aligned with achievement, intentionally not fully fund schools, create class size caps with no funding of new classrooms, and throw millions of dollars into vouchers.

You try and disenchant the teaching profession by removing due-process rights and graduate degree pay from new teachers to a point where state education programs have experienced a significant drop in candidates.

And yet public schools are still doing the job.

 

PAYING FOR EDUCATION: THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

Fact Sheet: Yes, Increase the Salaries of All Teachers

Indiana and other states need to do something to reverse the growing teacher shortage. The number of students enrolled in teacher education programs in Indiana in 2015-16 has dropped by half since 2010-11. In 2010-11 there were 13,493 students enrolled in teacher training programs. That number was 6,813 in 2015-16.

For the last few decades public school teachers have been made the scapegoat for the failure of students to achieve.

The state government under Mitch Daniels began the punishment of teachers in 2011. Since then

  • collective bargaining rights for teachers have been restricted.
  • the state began what is now the largest private/parochial school voucher program in the nation, and increased funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.
  • the state passed a property tax cap amendment to the constitution, and shifted state funding of public education to the state legislature.
  • teachers have lost tenure (due process) and seniority protections.
  • the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries has been reduced.
  • accountability measures requiring teacher evaluations to be based on student test scores despite lack of validity have been instituted.

A raise in teacher pay is only the first step towards restoring the teaching profession.

Note that the legislature, policy makers, and politicians are not held accountable for societal issues leading to lowered achievement such as funding, class size, and the effects of poverty.

The annual pay for teachers fell sharply from 1995 to 2015 in relation to the annual pay of similar workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, public school teachers are paid less than other comparable workers in every state, and they earn 11 percent less on average, when accounting for nonwage benefits. This calculation is based on comparable weekly wages [emphasis added].

 

MONEY LAUNDERING FOR SCHOOL “CHOICE”

FL Schools Using Taxpayer Money to Teach Ridiculous Lies

Should tax dollars be used to fund schools which teach that “dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not.”

This report from Florida discusses what’s taught in private schools using textbooks from Abeka, BJE Press, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Some of Indiana’s parochial schools use the same books.

Where is your educational tax dollar going?

The constitutional issues here are rather complex. There are two arguments that can be made here on either side. On the one hand, giving taxpayer money to religious entities seems like a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, especially when it’s used to teach things that advocate very sectarian ideas, something the government is clearly forbidden from doing.

On the other hand, the voucher is not aimed specifically at religious schools. Parents get a voucher and can use it to send their kids to any kind of school, religious or secular. The fact that the money is “laundered” through parental choice does make a difference constitutionally because it’s akin to someone getting public assistance and then using a portion of it to tithe at church, or buy some religious product or service. The government is not funding the religious activity directly, so that does mitigate, at least to some degree, the Establishment Clause problem.

Either way, we can be appalled by the fact that our tax dollars are used to promote vile and dishonest ideas like this.

 

THE DOUBLE STANDARD IN SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

‘Wild West of education’

Where is the accountability for all non-public schools which receive state tax dollars? You know that if a public school was avoiding accountability the “reformers” in the state would be all over them. Yet accountability somehow doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to F rated charter or voucher schools.

Indiana grades schools with an A-F system, and according to the state grades, IVS is a failing school. In fact, all virtual charter schools in Indiana received F grades from the state in both 2016 and 2017, according to the State Board of Education’s recent report. Any one of them could be closed by its authorizer, only to be replaced by yet another virtual school.

As Cavazos’ recent explorations of the peculiar origins of the new Indiana Agriculture and Technology School show, Indiana is the Wild West of education. There are few rules for virtual schools to follow, but lots of money to be made.

This past session, our legislators killed three bills regarding accountability for charter school authorizing, even though Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick called for improved accountability in virtual charter schools.

 

LA FINALLY ACCEPTS YEARS OF RESEARCH INTO RETENTION

Louisiana ends policy that held thousands of students back a grade or more

Being forced to choose Social Promotion or Retention is a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other. Investing in education and providing students the help they need (not just what they can afford), is the answer. Not every child will succeed…but many, many more children won’t fail.

“But then when I got the numbers for New Orleans and for Louisiana – and you know a lot of Louisiana was not affected by Katrina – New Orleans was a little bit worse but Louisiana was still really bad on retention,” she says. “And as I talked to more people it was clear that it was an effect of standardized testing.”

Reckdahl recently wrote about overage students in Louisiana and investigated the impacts of retention for The Hechinger Report. So many students have been held back due to mandatory retention that in 2017 the Louisiana State Legislature decided to end it. Now, schools offer summer classes, online classes and help from specialized teachers as alternatives for students who don’t pass the LEAP test.

Reckdahl says there’s one big takeaway from the state’s “experiment” with retention.

“It’s not enough to scare a kid into performing,” she says. “You can’t just say I’m going to hold you back.”

 

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Posted in Charters, Privatization, Public Ed, vouchers

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Alas, there’s nothing new in this post, because, privatization still does not help America’s student achievement improve. It does, however, transfer public funds to private and corporate “schools.”

VOUCHERS FAIL AGAIN…

According to its proponents, the voucher program in Indiana began (by legislative fiat, not by popular demand) as a way to provide poor children in “failing” schools the chance to go to “good private schools.”

Back in 2011, former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels saw the passage of the voucher program as a huge victory.

“Social justice has come to Indiana education,” Daniels said at the closing of the 2011 session.

Once reformers realized (but would never admit) that private schools are no better than public schools, the argument changed to “choice” for “choice’s” sake.

Once Gov. Mike Pence took office in 2013, the program experienced a dramatic change, putting enrollment in the tens of thousands. In his first State of the State address after being elected, Pence praised the program and encouraged the legislature to expand it.

“Indiana has given parents who previously had few choices the ability to choose the public or private school that best meets the needs of their family,” Pence said.

Yet, other “choices” don’t receive public tax support. We don’t get vouchers for the “choice” of shopping at Barnes and Noble instead of using the public library. We don’t get vouchers for the “choice” of joining a country club instead of visiting public parks. We don’t get vouchers to hire our own fire departments and police departments. What is it about school “choice” that makes it different?

“CHOICE” IS AN EXCUSE

➤ School “choice” is an excuse to subsidize religion and give their schools (99% of the vouchers in Indiana go to religious schools) public money. Is it the public’s job to support religion? Ben Franklin implied that it is not. The Civil Power should not be responsible to fund a religious school.

When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

➤ School “choice” is an excuse to preserve both economic and racial segregation. That was the excuse for “choice” after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

After Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered segregation of public schools, many Southern states established voucher schemes to allow white students to leave the education system and take taxpayer dollars with them, decimating the budgets of the public school districts. Today’s voucher schemes can be just as harmful to public school district budgets, because they often leave school districts with less funding to teach the most disadvantaged students, while funneling private dollars to unaccountable private schools that are not held to the same academic or civil rights standards as public schools.

Privatization increases segregation. See also

➤ School “choice” is an excuse to line private pockets with taxpayer money. For examples (these are a few of the most recent, published from May 21 to June 1)…

Vouchers for private religious schools do not improve student learning. It’s the public’s responsibility to provide schools for all children using public tax dollars. Public money should be reserved for public schools.

…AND AGAIN

Yet Another Study Shows Federally Funded D.C. Voucher Program Is Failing Students

The current administration loves vouchers despite the evidence.

…At an event last year hosted by the White House, Vice President Mike Pence called the D.C. voucher program “a case study in school choice success.” But how can the administration deem the program successful when it has been shown time and again to fail students?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education released a study on the effects of the D.C. voucher program. The study looked at the voucher program’s impact on students and parents two years after students applied to the program. The department found that, once again, students in the D.C. voucher program are performing worse academically than their peers not in the program. And what’s more, students’ negative scores were worse this year than they were last year.

CHARTERS – PUBLIC, YET PRIVATE

Listen, not all charters are bad. Some charters are not-for-profit. Charters are ostensibly public schools. But for-profit or not-for-profit…good or bad…all charters have one thing in common; they drain resources from real public schools.

➤ Some charters have perfected the skill of student skimming. They have learned to manipulate their clientele so that they get more high achievers, fewer students with special needs or behavior issues, and more students with supportive parents.

Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.

➤ For some charters, the main goal is the profit.

As a result of this change to the tax code, banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit. They are permitted to combine this tax credit with other tax breaks while they also collect interest on any money they lend out. According to one analyst, the credit allows them to double the money they invested in seven years.

➤ Charters claim to be public schools when it comes to taking public funds, but whine that they are private institutions when they’re confronted with the threat of teacher organizing.

…in 2013 the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of a Chicago charter school and deemed it a private institution. Therefore, teachers at the school must organize under laws governing private-sector rather than public-sector employees.

➤ Charter schools often choose the students they want.

Charter schools take resources away from the public schools, harming public schools and their students. All charter schools do this – whether they’re opportunistic and for-profit or presenting themselves as public, progressive and enlightened.

Charter schools are free to pick and choose and exclude or kick out any student they want. They’re not supposed to, but in real life there’s no enforcement. Many impose demanding application processes, or use mandatory “intake counseling,” or require work hours or financial donations from families – so that only the children of motivated, supportive, compliant families get in. Charter schools publicly deny this, but within many charter schools, the selectivity is well known and viewed as a benefit. Admittedly, families in those schools like that feature – with the more challenging students kept out of the charter – but it’s not fair or honest, and it harms public schools and their students.

END THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.

What about “failing” public schools?

What “privatizers” call a “failing” public school is, in fact, a “failing” municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.

Even so, America’s public schools perform well. We don’t have a “failing” school problem. We have a child poverty problem.

Public funds should be reserved for public schools.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, Early Childhood, Indiana, Lead, Michigan, poverty, Public Ed, retention

2018 Medley #13: Investing in Children

Retention-in-grade, Early Childhood Education,
Poverty in America,
Poisoning our Children

The anti-tax atmosphere in the U.S. is taking its toll. Every one of the articles listed below deals with a problem that the U.S. refuses, or is unable to pay for…fully funding schools based on the needs of children, lack of investment in early childhood education, the high rate of child poverty, and most disturbing, the lack of funding, ability, or will, to keep our children safe from lead poisoning.

The recent tax plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy, will make it even more difficult for states, especially poor states, to fund their public schools.

PUNISHING CHILDREN WHO NEED HELP

Don’t punish schools because Johnny can’t read. Invest in them instead.

Instead of throwing money at vouchers and charter schools we need to fully fund public schools and give kids the support services that they need. When children struggle with learning to read the tendency is to blame the child and make him or her repeat a grade. This. does. not. work.

Some children need additional help beyond their classroom. Instead of closing their schools because of low achievement test scores, their schools should receive the funds to hire specialists and support staff so students can get the extra help they need. Retention doesn’t help, and the research shows it.

Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We’re not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:
“It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental.”

See also
Thoughts on Michigan’s New Mandatory Retention Law

Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back

INVEST IN OUR FUTURE. INVEST IN OUR CHILDREN

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

We know that investment in early childhood education pays off, but we’re still lagging behind the rest of the world.

The US is a global laggard in investing in early childhood programs. Even though more parents are working, enrollment in early schooling (before kindergarten) at the age of 3 in the US is 30 percentage points below the OECD average. The gap is just as stark for 4-year-olds: 87% are enrolled in pre-primary and primary education, on average, across OECD countries. In the US that figure is 66%.

THE U.N. IS TAKING NOTE OF AMERICA’S POVERTY PROBLEM

America’s poor becoming more destitute under Trump: U.N. expert

If you’ve had the feeling that America’s poor aren’t getting the help they need, you’re not alone. A report from a U.N. investigator brings to light the fact that the U.S., with the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world, is working hard to increase economic inequity.

Poverty in the United States is extensive and deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor people, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

…the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship…

A COUNTRY THAT POISONS ITS CHILDREN

Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Michigan…every one of those states, as per the articles below, have problems with their children being exposed to lead. Every one of those states ought to make sure that public schools are fully staffed to handle children with the special needs caused by lead exposure.

Unfortunately, this is just a small sampling of lead exposure in the United States. A large number of our children are being poisoned and are going untreated. Public schools are tasked with having to deal with children who are living with the effects of lead poisoning…and need to be funded accordingly.

Indiana

EPA Finds More Lead Contamination in Northwestern Indiana

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered more lead contamination in northwestern Indiana.

Soil samples collected since October have revealed more than two dozen contaminated yards in Hammond and Whiting, The Chicago Tribune reported .

Tests found 25 yards with soil lead levels exceeding the federal cleanup standard of 400 parts per million. One home’s soil tested as high as 2,760 parts per million of lead.

Illinois, Chicago

Chicago Residents Use Kits to Test for Lead Contamination

…lead was detected in nearly 70 percent of the almost 2,800 homes tested over the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

New Jersey

Lead in NJ’s children: Fixing it is a billion-dollar problem

No safe level of lead in a child’s blood has been identified, but county health departments generally take action when testing shows 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. About 4,800 children in New Jersey surpass that threshold, according to the latest figures.

Michigan, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids parent fighting lead poisoning wins environmental award

Tests for lead levels in young children living in the 49507 ZIP code, which includes much of southeast Grand Rapids, revealed the area had the most children in the state with elevated lead levels, according to a 2016 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible damage to many organs and is also linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike Flint, where the water supply was to blame for increased lead exposure, Grand Rapids’ problem is primarily tied to the lead paint found in many older homes. Four out of five homes in Grand Rapids – and nearly three out of five countywide – were built prior to 1978, the year lead was banned in paint.

Michigan, Flint

Sh-h-h. Snyder state update left out 75% drop in reading proficiency in Flint

Snyder and his administration didn’t cut it either, apparently ignoring the reading mission the same way they ignored the Flint water crisis: Third-grade reading proficiency in Flint, where Snyder allowed the water — and children — to be poisoned by lead, dropped from 41.8% in 2014 to 10.7% last year.

That’s a nearly three-quarters drop.

Read it again: That’s nearly a three-quarters drop in third-grade reading proficiency among children whose lives were affected by lead poisoned water during the Flint water crisis.

A Slow Death for Our Children.
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Posted in Choice, DeVos, Public Ed

DeVos Gets it Wrong – Again

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

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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

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

THE FALSE CHOICE OF SCHOOL CHOICE

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

President (John) Adams wrote [emphasis added],

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Medley #8: Teachers Finally Stand Up

Teachers Stand Up, Speak Out

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

Oklahoma teachers on strike.

WHO ARE THE TEACHERS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogger Jan Resseger has a similar response…

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

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

TEACHER’S MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD

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

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

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

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

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

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

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

Arizona teachers rally at the statehouse.

No Wonder Teachers Are Saying Enough Is Enough

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

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

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

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

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

That made teachers even angrier.

Kentucky teachers.

And We Will Rise: Day 3 of the Oklahoma Walkout

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

Go ahead, try to reduce us to ashes.

The Phoenix will continue to rise.

TEACHERS ARE QUITTING

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

Others are walking away from the profession completely.

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

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

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

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

PAYING FOR THE COMMON GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1749

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Medley #7

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

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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

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

This isn’t news…(see here and here).

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

10 Reasons To Support Public School

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

10) The promise of public education

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

TESTING

The Lone Voice of Dissent Against Standardized Testing

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

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

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

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

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

They want someone else to do it for them.

Does that make you angry?

It makes me furious.

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

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

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

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

TEACHERS DON’T WANT TO CARRY GUNS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE AND COMPETITION DON’T WORK

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

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

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

Still Waiting for Convincing Evidence

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

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

The Truth About Charter Schools

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

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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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