Category Archives: Public Ed

Winning the War for Science Education

With about a dozen Democrats running for president (and a few more still “undecided”), there’s no doubt that the race for the 2020 presidency has begun. What are their goals for public education? What are their goals for returning us to science-based policies? Before we look to the future, however, let’s take a quick look at the past…

THE CAMPAIGN: 2016

During the last presidential election campaign, the candidates rarely discussed science and education beyond, a few topics; The Republican candidates were in favor of school choice and didn’t “believe in” climate change; The Democratic candidates were in favor of expanded early childhood education, ending the student debt crisis, and gave lip service to “doing something” about climate change. Once the candidates were chosen, however, this discussion effectively stopped, and we were treated to a daily media deluge of insults and invective.

SCIENCE AND EDUCATION: NO CHANGE

Just like in 2016, the positions of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on America’s public schools and climate change are vague, though supportive. The Republican incumbent, along with his party-mates, is continuing to call for school privatization and to take an anti-science position on nearly everything except the “space force.”

In his 2019 State of the Union Speech, the President was too concerned with investigations and with ignoring U.S. intelligence organizations to even mention climate change.

More Trump fantasyland as the world fries

Just as scientists are raising alarms about the disintegration of Antarctica’s massive ice shelves and ice sheets, Trump said nothing about global warming. Maybe that’s for the better: Whenever he addresses the issue, it is usually to mock those who care about the planet’s already well-documented, rapid environmental changes. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dying before the world’s eyes, and the leader of the Earth’s most powerful nation has nothing helpful to say about modern society’s complicity in the catastrophes to come, let alone how to lower climate risks.

He did, however, discuss education — for all of about 10 seconds. He spoke a mere 15 words about education, and used those words to call for school “choice.” He said, 

To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.

[For an excellent discussion of how the “reformers” have co-opted the word “choice” see Curmudgucation’s Reclaiming Choice]

THE WAR ON SCIENCE EDUCATION

The current administration’s anti-science policies are nothing new and have emboldened and strengthened the decades-old attack on science education.

Florida, for example, is just one of several states where an attack on science education is strong. [See also IndianaArizona, and elsewhere.] The Florida Citizens’ Alliance is working to bring “conservative values” to public schools. It is interesting that among those “conservative values” is the denial of anthropogenic climate change. One would think that “conservation” of our planet would be a value that “conservatives” support.

Florida Citizens’ Alliance Is Brainwashing Kids to Think Climate Science Is Fake

Prominent on the group’s expanded menu of concerns was climate change, and humanity’s presumed role in driving it. The Alliance’s members began line-reading school textbooks for violations of their beliefs, creating carefully detailed reports on how many times, and in what context, elementary and high school students were learning about rising seas, or melting ice in Antarctica. “Unfortunately, what it’s become is indoctrination and not education. That’s our major problem,” Vernon said, echoing a prevailing concern among members of the Alliance and like-minded conservatives everywhere: the unchecked power and control over social institutions by perceived liberal elites. “We’re really concerned,” he added, “that our kids are not being educated, [but] simply indoctrinated in the philosophy of the academic aristocracy.”

With the ascension of the Alliance, the Sunshine State has become ground zero for an intensifying ideological battle taking place across the nation—one that has conservative groups wrestling for control over how climate science will be taught to American students. The science classroom, after all, remains the dominant venue in which those students first encounter the topic, and it greatly informs how students eventually square-up to the veracity of climate change—either as something they believe to be happening and worth responding to politically, or as a phenomenon of nature, undeserving of public funds and political action.

Two members of the Alliance have been chosen by Florida’s new governor to serve on his education advisory team.

[Take a look at the above video’s YouTube page for additional links.]

The video above makes passing reference to the idea that humans used to believe that the Earth is flat. Sadly, the belief in a flat Earth has been growing lately…

Science Behind the Fiction: the Flat Earth Movement is Growing. It’s Very Scary.

It might be tempting to dismiss globe skeptics as a lunatic fringe, supporters of an idea as antiquated as ancient Mesopotamia, where belief in a disk Earth covered in a dome was common. But the documentary makes a compelling case — not for their ideas, but for compassion and calm discussion. The subjects on screen are painted, not as charlatans or kooks, but as genuinely inquisitive folks who have been misled either by themselves or others. And, according to a recent study, they may not be as fringe as you might think.

Published on April 2, 2018, the study asked more than 8,000 adults in the United States whether or not they believed in a flat or globular Earth. A surprising 16 percent expressed some degree of skepticism. If these results are representative of the U.S. population as a whole, then nearly one in six adults are, at the very least, unsure about the nature of our world.

It’s clear that science education based on actual science has a challenging future.

LONG TERM GOALS

With the help of Mitch McConnell and the current White House, the right-wing has successfully reshaped America’s federal courts. This has been a long term goal of conservatives and the Religious Right. They have framed elections in terms of America’s judicial system while liberals have generally been oblivious to the takeover. This tranformed judicial system will shape our national policies for decades to come.

Meanwhile, some of the same members of the right-wing have set their sights on the future of America…our school-aged children…and their knowledge of science.

Voucher programs in dozens of states allow public funds to go to schools teaching fake science. Legislatures are adopting anti-science curricula (often without the help of education professionals). Informational articles such as Revamped ‘anti-science’ education bills in United States find success, New wave of anti-evolution bills hit states, and What the latest assaults on science education look like, have documented the attack on science education. [See also A Baker’s-Dozen-Plus-One of Half-Baked Measures.]

The long term goal of anti-science supporters is to raise up a citizenry ignorant about how our world works. Instead, some of them want voters who won’t question the appointment of cabinet members in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. Others want to train a generation of taxpayers who are so ignorant they won’t complain when entire ecosystems are destroyed in the search for more gas…more coal…more oil. And still others fear that the truth of science will destroy their religious world view and postpone their dreams of theocracy.

To ensure our future, our children need real science instead of misinformation. To do otherwise is to risk the economic, cultural, and environmental losses such ignorance will bring.

Humanity Needs Science To Survive And Thrive

Science is what’s led our society to the present day, where food is plentiful, abundant and safe. Where diseases can be treated, cured or even prevented outright before you ever get sick. Where we can quantify the threat that dirty air, contaminated water or a hole in the ozone layer has on humanity. And where new advances lead to new technologies, enhancing our quality of life to levels that humans, even just a hundred years ago, couldn’t possibly have foreseen. If we want this to continue, we absolutely need to listen to, accept, and value what science has to offer in all of these regards.

Those of us who understand the importance of science must focus our attention on a long term goal as well. We have to teach science truth to the next generation of Americans.

🔬⚗️🔭

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Challenging the myths about teachers

It’s always dangerous to read comments on the internet. The anonymity afforded users makes it easy for them to rant, bitch, and promote myths and lies. The last week of 2018 was no different.

 

The Wall Street Journal posted the following article on Dec. 28th…

Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record by Michelle Hackman and Eric Morath.  (Note: This article is behind a paywall. You can read a review of the article at The Hill, Teachers in America quitting jobs at record rate)

The authors discussed the teacher shortage, last year’s state-wide teacher strikes, and the lack of support that teachers get. You can read about all that on your own…today I’m going to focus on the comments the article generated.

Now, I know that the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is very conservative so it’s not surprising that many of the people who comment are similarly inclined. For one reason or another, some of those conservatives, seem to hate public education, public school teachers, and public sector unions (surprise, surprise!). Many left angry and ignorant comments about teachers and public schools (comments on The Hill report are similar). Not all, of course. There were people who were defending public schools, teachers, and unions, but they were in the minority and fought a losing battle against ignorance and envy.

The anti-public education comments fell into three general categories focusing on teachers, teachers unions, and failing schools.

  • Teachers are the cause of school failure: Teachers aren’t very smart, make a lot of money, only work part-time, and get plenty of benefits.
  • Unions are the cause of school failure: Unions have destroyed the teaching profession, the union bosses make huge salaries, and unions protect bad teachers.
  • Other causes of school failure: Parents, students, administrators.

Most of the comments were based on myths and popular media images of public schools and teachers. Every public school teacher/parent should be ready to challenge those myths.

MYTH: AMERICA’S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The basic assumption for nearly every anti-teacher/public education comment is that America’s public schools are failing.

Wrong.

They’re not.

Over the last couple of years, I have written, read, and reported on posts that explained that America’s public schools are generally successful. Please read one or more of those before proceeding. I’ll wait…

Now that we understand that America’s public schools are among the best in the world and that poverty along with the neglect, ignorance, or avoidance of the effects of poverty are the cause of low student achievement, let’s address the first set of comments, those about teachers.

 

MYTH: TEACHERS’ SALARIES AND BENEFITS MEAN HIGHER TOTAL COMPENSATION

Teachers are not paid too much compared to other college graduates when you factor in their benefits. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high

The teacher pay gap is growing. From 1996 to 2017 weekly wages for teachers dropped by $27. For other workers, weekly wages grew more than $130. The weekly wage penalty (not including benefits) for teachers reached more than 18% in 2017. The weekly wage gap varies by state, but in no state does the teachers’ weekly wage equal other college graduates. In Indiana, the difference in 2017, was -21%!

Benefits do not make up the difference, either. The total compensation penalty for teachers reached 11% by 2017. In other words, teachers, on average, make 11% less than other equally-educated workers even when you include benefits.

What about pensions? Don’t teachers get fabulous pensions which suck taxpayers dry?

Different states have different rules regarding teacher pensions, and those rules change frequently. Some states, like Illinois, have been fighting over teacher pensions for years. Other states have good pension plans…some have terrible plans. You can check out this article for an overview. If you’d like to see what the average monthly pension is for teachers in your state, read What Is the Average Teacher Pension in My State?

 

MYTH: TEACHING IS JUST PART-TIME WORK

How about the teaching year…do teachers work only 6 hours a day, for only 8 or 9 months? Do “summers off” and vacation days mean that teachers work only a fraction of what the average American worker does?

In Indiana, teachers teach at least 180 days a year. In most school systems teachers are required to be in school between seven and eight hours each of those days. Before I retired, my school system’s contract required that we work 7 3/4 hours a day. We also had an additional 5 days each year that we had to work…classroom preparation, in-service days, etc. Our contracted days and hours each year were 185 days at 7 3/4 hours a day which (when divided over the entire year) comes to about 27.6 hours a week ((185 x 7.75)/52=27.572).

The average American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 2018), works 34.5 hours a week. So, is it true that teachers work an average of seven hours a week less than the average American worker?

Actually, no.

Most teachers work more than the required daily hours. Some come in early to prepare for the day’s lessons or tutor students, some stay late grading or, again, tutoring. Some do both. The actual number of hours the average teacher spends working each day varies, but it’s almost always more what’s written in the contract. When I was a classroom teacher, I averaged about nine hours a day, plus another hour or two at home grading and planning…and sometimes on weekends…

Furthermore, many of the “vacation days” during spring break, summers, winter break, etc., are work days for teachers, who spend several weeks each year in continuing education (required in Indiana), curriculum planning, and classroom preparation.

So, do teachers work fewer hours than other college graduates? No. If you want more information on this topic, read this…

Teachers work more overtime than any other professionals, analysis shows

 

MYTH: THOSE WHO CAN, DO. THOSE WHO CAN’T, TEACH

It’s true that in past years the average SAT/ACT test scores for teachers has been higher. There was once a time where teaching was one of the only careers open to bright, young women. Now that other occupations are open to those women who achieve higher test scores, the average test score of teachers in the U.S. is…well…average, at about the 48th percentile. Teachers are not the top test takers in the nation, but they well within the average range. The old canard about teachers coming from the bottom third of their graduating classes is not true. Some do, of course, but that’s true in every profession. Did you ever stop to think that your family physician might have finished in the bottom third of her graduating class? What if the pharmacist who fills your prescription scored the minimum on his licensing test?

What about the course of study for teachers? Is the teacher preparation program at state and local universities easier than other courses of study?

Peter Greene, who blogs at Curmudgucation, wrote that asking whether the classes are hard or easy is the wrong question (emphasis added).

I agree that college teacher training programs are, at best, a mixed bag, and at the bottom of that bag are some truly useless programs. Talking about “hard” or “easy” is really beside the point; we’d be better off talking about useful or useless, and some teacher prep programs really are useless. Some programs involved a lot of hoop jumping and elaborate lesson planning techniques that will never, ever be used in the field; this kind of thing is arguably rigorous and challenging, but it’s of no earthly use to actual teachers.

Some classes are very difficult but useless. Other classes may seem easy, but have a lot of practical use for pre-service teachers.

When I look back at what was useful in my own preparation I can acknowledge that The History of Education wasn’t that difficult. Neither were some of the other courses I took like Math for Elementary Teachers or Children’s Literature. On the other hand, when I was a student I learned something that served me well as a pre-service teacher.

I got out of my courses what I put into them.

So, while The History of Education wasn’t all that useful when I started teaching, Educational Psychology and Child Development were…Math for Elementary Teachers was…Curriculum Development was (at least it was back in the day, when teachers actually had an impact on curriculum)…as were my “methods classes” and many of the other courses I took.

The most useful courses, however, were the ones in which I spent time with children, learning to relate to them and learning how to explain things to them. And, like most teachers, once I started teaching, I understood that being an educator is not easy.

Since I put some work into my courses, my college teaching preparation was useful even if some of the classes weren’t very difficult. Other teachers often talk about what a waste of time some of the classes were. Perhaps for them, they were. Maybe I was just lucky.

Those young people who go into education because the preparation is easy, or go into education after they graduate in order to pad their resume, find out quickly that teaching is not as simple as your third-grade teacher, your middle school math teacher, or your high school English teacher made it look. That’s why so many beginning teachers leave the field within their first five years. That’s why the ones who make a career in education are the ones who are willing to work…the ones who love what they do enough to invest their time, energy, and passion.

So, do people become teachers because it’s an easy course of study? Possibly. But those who do, usually don’t last in the field of education. Perhaps some of them even become state legislators

 

🙋🏽‍♂️👨‍🏫🙋🏻

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2018 Top Ten: Medley #25

We’re coming to the end of another calendar year so it’s time for resolutions and “best of” lists. Here’s the list of this blog’s Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.

#10, MARCH 29

What’s Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance – RTFM

The Children’s Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America’s eighth-graders were reading “below grade level” which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America’s eighth graders are reading at or above “grade level.”

This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th-grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”

 

#9, MARCH 4

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.

Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests — the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation — is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional, your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that was important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn’t be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that’s not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.

 

#8, SEPTEMBER 14

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

After nearly 13 years of ranting against the corporate-led destruction of public education, I lament that not much has really changed.

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

#7, JUNE 16

Fathers Day 2018: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

My annual Fathers Day post with the same message each year: 1) read aloud is important and 2) dads should do it!

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

 

#6, OCTOBER 10

Education is NOT an Expense

Corporate reform is slowly changing public education into a consumer good. It’s not and shouldn’t be. It’s a public good. An investment in public education is an investment in our future.

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

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

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

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

 

#5, JUNE 9

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Privatizing public schools doesn’t help children. Learning doesn’t improve. The impact of poverty isn’t eliminated.

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.

 

#4, NOVEMBER 30

Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

Who would have thought that demoralizing teachers, cutting their salaries, eliminating benefits, and reducing job security would have a detrimental impact on the profession of teaching?

“I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”

#3, AUGUST 3

LeBron James and the Promise of Public Schools

If we cared about the future, we would provide the same services to all schools that LeBron James is providing. These are the schools all children deserve.

LeBron James is a millionaire…but unlike others among the super-rich who stick their wallets into America’s education infrastructure, The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with community partners, is helping to fund a public school run by a public school system, and staffed with unionized public school teachers. The taxpayers are paying for the school, teachers, and the usual expenses just like they do for all public schools, while the Foundation and its partners are providing funds for building renovations, wraparound services, and other extras.

This kind of investment is what all our children need and deserve

 

#2, AUGUST 15

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

Underpaid. Overworked. Is it any wonder that there’s a serious teacher shortage in Indiana (and the rest of the U.S.)?

A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new…

THE #1 POST OF 2018, SEPTEMBER 27

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

The turnout for the last election was higher than in previous midterm elections. Too many teachers, however, still voted for the Republican legislators for the Indiana legislature who have done their best to damage public education.

Many teachers from Indiana are one-issue voters. Unfortunately, the one-issue is not education. It’s time teachers stood up for their own profession and voted for the interests of their students.

Teachers must become the political voice for their students.

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

 

🎉🍾🎉

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A Vaccine Against Charlatans

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

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

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

 

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Support students by lowering class sizes.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

A PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

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

 

FOR SCIENCE TEACHERS

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

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

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

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

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

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

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

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

🔭🔬⚗️

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Education is NOT an Expense

INVESTMENTS

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS SAY ISTEP IS WORTHLESS

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

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

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

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

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

And this…

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

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

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION – WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

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

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

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

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

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

We can change those percentages on November 6.

 

🏛🏫📝

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Filed under Accountability, Charters, Election, IN Gen.Assembly, ISTEP, Privatization, Public Ed, SBOE, Testing, vouchers

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

A DAY IN THE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did this happen to American public school teachers?

 

TEACHERS AND THEIR SCHOOLS UNDER ATTACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education is political. Can teachers not be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Democracy continues, with or without you.”

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

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

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

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

REGISTER THEN VOTE

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

Then vote on November 6, 2018.

The public schools of Indiana need you

🇺🇸🗽🇺🇸

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Filed under Election, Politics, Public Ed, Teaching Career

2018 Medley #23: Seven Disturbing Reads

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

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

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

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

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

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

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

 

THE PAY GAP

Teacher Pay Gap Reaches a Record High

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

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

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

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

 

VOUCHERS DIVERT PUBLIC MONEY TO RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

The False Promise Of School Vouchers

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHARTER SCHOOLS: PRIVATE SCHOOLS DIVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO PRIVATE WALLETS

Charter School Corruption Is Changing Education Policy And Politics

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

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

 

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

Let’s fund education like we value it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

VOTE YOUR INTEREST

Why Politics Matters

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

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

 

LABELS AND ETHNICITY

Disowning the Lie of Whiteness

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

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

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

Because the Holocaust is not over.

American slavery is not over.

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

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

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

 

♻️☀️🌎

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