Category Archives: Racism

2020 Medley #7

Poverty, COVID-19 and school, Testing,
Online instruction, Charters = risky business, Undermining religious liberty,
Talking to students about race

IT’S STILL POVERTY

We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids

We know that student achievement is based largely on out of school factors yet we continue to try to “fix” the schools. Changing curriculum, blaming schools or teachers, privatizing, or overtesting won’t solve the problem of low student achievement. The main link to low school achievement is poverty.

About a fifth of American students live in poverty (the same as child poverty in Indiana) and millions of those children live in food-insecure households.

As long as we, as a nation, refuse to address the growing inequality among our students, we’ll continue to have high child poverty levels. Since high poverty correlates with low school achievement, we’ll continue to have a large number of our students who fail to achieve.

World-class education nations don’t do what seems to be our main strategy: Insist schools compete against one another, use toxic accountability measures to control and measure what schools do, and hold teachers as scapegoats for plunged education rankings…

Half a century of systematic research has shown that teachers account for about 10 to 15 per cent of the variability in students’ test scores. A similar amount of variability is associated with other school factors, such as curriculum, resources and leadership. This means that most of the influence on students’ educational achievement lies outside school — in homes, communities, peer groups and students’ individual characteristics.

Make no mistake, teachers are the most influential part of school. We should stop thinking that teachers have the power to overcome all those inequalities that many children bring to school with them every day.

Schools Alone Cannot Save Children from Economic Inequality. Public Policy Must Assist Families in Deep Poverty

Public policy can ameliorate child poverty without being revolutionary. However, programs need to be redesigned and targeted to alleviate instability, privation and misery for the more than 2 million children living in America’s poorest families. Child poverty overall was reduced in the decade between 1995 and 2005, but during that same period, the number children living in the deepest poverty rose from 2.2 to 2.6 million children. These are the conclusions of a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) defines deep poverty as families living below half of the federal poverty level—below $14,000 per year for a family of four. Who are these children? “Children living in deep poverty are a diverse group…. In 2016, 37 percent were white, 30 percent were Latino, 23 percent were Black, and 6 percent were Asian; 45 percent lived in suburban areas, 32 percent in urban areas, and 11 percent in rural areas; 51 percent lived in a single-mother family, 37 percent in a married-couple family, and 6 percent in a single-father family; 16 percent lived in a family where someone had a work-limiting disability; and 89 percent were U.S. citizens and 31 percent lived in a family with a non-citizen.”

A TEACHABLE MOMENT?

Listen to Trusted Expert Advice: Coronavirus, Schools, Fear, and an Uncertain Future

Children all over the country are getting an unplanned vacation from school because of COVID-19. Their schools are moving to “virtual instruction” (more on that below). The virus seems to be the perfect “teachable moment” as explained by Ed in the Apple. Students who are still in school could also benefit.

I was speaking with a school supervisor yesterday: he was teaching a kindergarten class: how to wash their hands. The lessons should be replicated in all classrooms across the city.

Science lessons, by grade, should explain what a virus is; English classes should be reading non-fiction about viruses and epidemics.

When I mentioned this I was told, “We don’t want to unduly scare children.” Knowledge is power: the more we involve the children, teach children, we all know that the “teachable moment” is at the heart of impactful instruction.

STANDARDIZED TESTS — A LOW PRIORITY

Public Schools Can Recover from the COVID-19 Quarantine by Skipping High Stakes Tests

What should schools do when they come back from the forced COVID-19 layoff? Skip the test!

First, debrief your students. They will all have stories to tell about how their family survived, who got sick, who might still be sick, what they did to amuse themselves, and how they coped.

Then, get back to the curriculum. We should not waste time on tests. Remember that the greatest impact on a child’s standardized test is what happens outside of school (see also We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids, elsewhere in this Medley).

The question remains – what do we do when we get back to class?

We could extend the school year, but families have vacations planned and other obligations. This wouldn’t solve much and frankly I don’t think it will happen unless we’re out for longer than expected.

I anticipate being back in school by mid April or so. That would leave about a month and a half left in the year.

This really leaves us with only two options: (1) hold our end of the year standardized tests and then fit in whatever else we can, or (2) forgo the tests and teach the curriculum.

If we have the tests, we could hold them shortly after school is back in session. That at least would give us more time to teach, but it would reduce the quality of the test scores. Kids wouldn’t be as prepared and the results would be used to further dismantle the public school network.

Much better I think is option two: skip the tests altogether.

How Can K-12 Schools Make Up Time Lost To The Coronavirus? Scrap High Stakes Testing.

There will simply be no way to know how much of this year’s test data is the result of coronavirus disruption. They will be a waste of time.

So don’t give them.

Schools can not only recoup the time lost for giving the tests, but all the time spent preparing for the tests (plus, in some cases, all the time spent on zippy test pep rallies).

Cut the test. Reclaim the instructional time and use it to patch the holes that the coronavirus is going to blow in the school’s curriculum. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes far more sense than wasting a bunch of time and money on a meaningless standardized test.

ONLINE INSTRUCTION

Ohio’s Charter School War fails us when we could really use them.

If online charters are worthy of education dollars from the state, shouldn’t they be taking the lead in teaching students “laid-off” from school during the COVID-19 crisis? This article is specifically about Ohio but is appropriate for any state with public money going to online charter schools.

With all this COVID-19 talk, every Ohio Public School District is planning to move to online instruction through the end of the year. While that seems like a heavy lift, it really shouldn’t be. Why?

Because no state has more students already attending virtual schools than Ohio.

Yet in no instance has the Ohio Department of Education or any school district — despite this emergency crisis — said, “Hey, we have a lot of online schools already, why don’t we ask them for help?”

CHARTERS — A BAD RISK

Credit Ratings Agency: U.S. charter school sector “inherently risky and volatile”

Will higher risk relieve us of the charter school scourge which diverts public funds from real public schools?

5) National: Standard & Poor’s has issued an assessment of the charter school sector’s creditworthiness as part of an overview of public finance. “The charter school sector is inherently risky and volatile, relative to other public finance sectors, as reflected in our ratings distribution, and charter nonrenewal or revocations can affect credit quality swiftly. However, despite these intrinsic risks, the majority—82%—of S&P Global Ratings’ ratings in the sector carried stable outlooks as of Dec. 31, 2019. While the sector is facing increasing political support for stricter charter laws or oversight in some states, federal government support for school choice remains strong, per-pupil funding is generally stable to growing, and demand for charter schools continues to grow. From a financing standpoint, charter schools’ opportunities and options have expanded and interest rates remain low…

“Our rated universe increasingly reflects more established charter schools, which generally have completed several successful charter renewals, maintain steady academics, and experience less credit volatility than newer schools. While there are inherent credit risks that can affect schools throughout the year, such as failure to meet authorizer standards, charter nonrenewal due to factors such as academics, or enrollment shortfalls, we believe the sector’s outlook for 2020 will continue being stable due to continued demand and growing per-pupil funding levels. However, should charter law and policy changes of significant impact occur in states where we hold a large number of ratings, or some of the broader risks (such as a slowing national economy or recession) transpire during this calendar year, charter schools could face more credit stress.” [Registration required]

VOUCHER PROGRAMS UNDERMINE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

School Voucher Programs Undermine Religious Liberty, Misuse Taxpayer Funds

The following is from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Vouchers aren’t good for anyone…

Yes, “choice” sounds like it is associated with “freedom,” but by funneling government funds to religious schools, vouchers actually undermine the religious freedom of both the taxpayer and the religious institution receiving the payment.

Not only do vouchers force taxpayers to support religious education they might disagree with, they also threaten religious autonomy by attaching government regulations that may compromise the religious mission of the school. Once dependent on voucher funds for its success, a church-based school can be even further pushed toward gaining favor with government regulators.

In other words, government neutrality toward religion is good for the state and good for religion.

TALK TO WHITE KIDS ABOUT RACE

White Fragility in Students

We should talk to all our students about race in America.

In our interviews with young people around the country for our Teaching While White podcast, we have seen firsthand an inability among white students to talk about race without exhibiting racial stress. We hear white children as young as nine years old express anxiety about being white and what they think that means. Often these white students, who mind you have volunteered to be interviewed, feel ill equipped and sometimes unable to engage in racial conversations. It seems that we are successfully raising the next generation of white people who, like too many in the current generation of adults, feel afraid and reluctant to talk about race.

There is a common cultural myth that racism is diminishing among youth today. In reality, not only are white students not talking about race, but incidents of blatant individual acts of racism are currently on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there has been a surge in reports of hate and bias in schools in the last three years. Racism appears to be the motivation behind a high percentage of these hate and bias incidents, accounting for 63% of incidents reported in the news and 33% of incidents reported by teachers in the SPLC survey. School responses to this uptick in racialized incidents has been disappointing. More than two-thirds of the educators SPLC surveyed had witnessed a hate or bias incident in their school. According to the report, “most of the hate and bias incidents witnessed by educators were not addressed by school leaders. No one was disciplined in 57% of them. Nine times out of 10, administrators failed to denounce the bias or to reaffirm school values.”

👧🏾🚌👦🏻

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Medicine, poverty, Racism, Testing, VirtualSchools, vouchers

2019 Medley #3

Third-Grade Flunk Laws, NCLB, School Libraries, Second Amendment, First Amendment, Segregation in Indiana, Losers in the White House

THIRD GRADE FLUNK LAWS

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

States (and schools…and teachers) continue to retain children in third grade (and in other grades) simply because they can’t read at an arbitrarily determined “level.”

Retention in grade doesn’t help children “catch up.” It doesn’t give kids “another year to grow.” It doesn’t help and often hurts

This post by Nancy Flanagan discusses the unintended consequences of using an “intervention” strategy that doesn’t work.

[For more information on Retention in Grade, click HERE.]

Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason, from learning in a second language, an identified disability or merely being a late-bloomer? Teachers, of course.

 

NCLB: DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE

How NCLB is Still Destroying Reading for Children 

NCLB gave us Reading First and testing, testing, testing. This was followed by Race to the Top which continued to punish schools for societal failures. Bill Gates jumped in with Common Core, a reverse programmed curriculum forcing developmentally inappropriate instruction on students in the early grades.

This hypervigilant push for children to read before first grade is not working.

Bring back kindergarten! Quit repetitively testing children! Get those play kitchens and sand tables out of the closet!

Don’t only say that kindergarten shouldn’t be the new first grade! Bring back kindergarten! Get rid of NCLB once and for all!

SCHOOL LIBRARIES SUFFER FROM UNDERFUNDING

U.S. Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% Of Their Librarians Since 2000

Here’s one more way that we’re shortchanging our future.

The shortage in public school librarian employment — which saw the most dramatic drop following the Great Recession of 2008 and hasn’t recovered since — has hit districts serving minorities the hardest. Among all the districts that have retained all their librarians since 2005, 75% are white, Education Week reports. On the other end of the scale, student populations in the 20 districts that lost the most librarians in the same time comprised 78% students of color.

In other words, while U.S. employment rates are back up in the wake of the Great Recession, the public school librarian sector has not rebounded, and the nation’s collective failure to rebuild its public information infrastructure is hitting minorities the hardest.

 

WE CANNOT AFFORD PARALLEL SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Breaking Point

When striking Los Angeles teachers won their demand to call for a halt to charter school expansions in California, they set off a domino effect, and now teachers in other large urban districts are making the same demand.

Unchecked charter school growth is also bleeding into 2020 election campaigns. Recently, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait berated Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for having opposed a ballot initiative in her home state in 2016 that would have raised a cap on the number of charter schools. “There may be no state in America that can more clearly showcase the clear success of charter schools than [Massachusetts],” declared Chait.

But while Chait and other charter school fans claim Massachusetts as a charter school model, the deeper reality is that charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.

As the Boston Globe recently reported, the city is experiencing an economic boom, but its schools resemble “an economically depressed industrial center.” The state’s unfair funding formula is part of the problem, but an ever-expanding charter school industry also imposes a huge financial drain.

WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY KILLS ITS OWN CHILDREN…

Since Parkland

It’s time for commonsense gun laws. The Second Amendment is no more important than the First Amendment. We freely accept accommodations and exceptions to the First in the form of libel and slander laws. It’s time we tweak the Second Amendment so that our children can grow to adulthood.

12 months
1,200 American kids killed by guns
1,200 stories about the lives they led, reported by teen journalists across the country

 

NON-CHRISTIANS DON’T MATTER TO JUSTICES

With Alabama Execution Case, Supreme Court Declares That Only Christianity Matters

…and speaking of the First Amendment, we have some educating to do. We need to teach certain members of the Supreme Court that religious accommodations are not only for Christians. Perhaps they believe that America is a Christian Nation (hint: it’s not). In any case, the five “conservative” justices ruled that a Muslim was not allowed access to his preferred spiritual leader before he was executed. You would think that the First Amendment mattered as much to “conservatives” as the Second…

I’m not asking you to feel sympathy for a man who raped and murdered a child. I’m asking you to be outraged by a Supreme Court blatantly and publicly stating that only Christianity matters. This decision spells disaster for minority religious believers and non-believers alike. Our heartfelt beliefs, our core values, are without value to the majority of this Court. Where exemptions are granted, it will be to Christians. Their beliefs are important enough to the right wing majority that they warrant protection. The equally strongly held moral values of Muslims, or Hindus, or Jews, or atheists are to be dismissed if they cause even the slightest inconvenience to the state.

We knew we were facing a tough battle with this Supreme Court. We had no clue just how hard it would become so quickly.

SEGREGATION IN INDIANA

1920s decisions shaped racial landscape

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld provides an excellent history lesson on segregation in Indiana.

But Indiana schools are still segregated by race, ethnicity and family income, according to a 2017 study and data visualization by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. The legacy of the 1920s lives on.

 

LOSERS ARE AS LOSERS DO

Finally, the President’s eldest son has about as much verbal self-control as his father. Speaking at a Presidential rally against black and brown immigration, the “first son” called teachers “losers” who indoctrinate their students in socialism.

My response to that are the following socialist benefits Americans enjoy: the U.S. Military, oil subsidies, farm subsidies, social security, Medicare, public roadways and waterways, municipal water systems, public libraries, police and fire departments, the postal service, public trash pickup and landfills, congressional health care, veterans’ health care, public parks, the court system, state and city-run beaches, unemployment insurance, the national weather service, and NASA. [For more see HERE.]

Here are two excellent responses to Junior’s idiocy.

Commentary: Trump Jr., losers are as losers do

We have a trust-fund baby like the president’s son, one not even smart enough to stay away from meetings where people planned lawbreaking, calling other hard-working Americans losers.

That by itself is enough to trigger a gag reflex.

Then there’s the gratuitous nonsense about socialism. Coming from a guy whose family members are soaking up millions of tax dollars as they vacation every third day at one Trump property after another and leave the nation’s citizenry with the bill, that’s so rich it’s gooey.

Finally, there’s the muddle-headed and mean-spirited goofiness of whining about indoctrination at a Donald Trump rally.

Young Trump complained about indoctrination at an event where a Trump supporter assaulted a BBC cameraman and where anyone who doesn’t chant agreement with everything the leader says or shouts is threatened, beat up or kicked out.

But that’s the way it is with folks like Trump Junior.

Diary Of A Socialist Indoctrinator

Principal McBossface held me over a minute after the meeting to let me know that he’s aware I’m running behind on my Socialist Indoctrination and to remind me that it’s super-critical that I get up to speed. I’m really feeling the pressure.

📝📚🚌

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, GunControl, library, NCLB, Politics, Racism, reading first, Religion, retention, SchoolShootings, Segregation

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

Listen to This #16

THE FUTURE

The United States seems to be going out of its way to damage public education and discourage public school teachers. We ignore the voices of educators and ignore current educational research (much of which is done in the U.S.) used by high achieving nations. Instead we listen to edupreneurs interested in profit, politicians looking for kickbacks, and policy makers who don’t know anything about teaching, public schools, or public education.

We create “failing schools” by defining success using narrow, standardized test-based results and force teachers to teach in ways they know are developmentally or academically inappropriate. In addition we ignore out of school factors that lead to lowered student standardized test-based achievement.

Finally, we create educational models which discourage young people from choosing education as a career and push out current career teachers. We use “failing schools” as an excuse to blame teachers, bust unions, and privatize. Meanwhile, the needs of our most vulnerable students are being neglected.

From Carl Sagan in 1989.

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.

DISCOURAGING TEACHERS

How America Is Breaking Public Education

From Ethan Siegel, Forbes

…despite knowing what a spectacular teacher looks like, the educational models we have in place actively discourage every one of these.

TEACHING IS MORE THAN FACT TRANSFER

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Still Cannot Really Be Measured

This is true for teachers everywhere…

From Stu Egan

How schools and students are measured rarely takes into account that so much more defines the academic and social terrain of a school culture than a standardized test can measure. Why? Because there really is not anything like a standardized student. Experienced teachers understand that because they look at students as individuals who are the sum of their experiences, backgrounds, work ethic, and self-worth. Yet, our General Assembly measures them with the very same criteria across the board with an impersonal test.

WALK A MILE IN OUR SHOES

The Educational Malpractice of Ms. Moskowitz

tl;dr: Before you tell teachers what and how to teach, do it yourself. Then, after you’ve taught for a lifetime, let us know how you feel about someone who has never spent a day in a classroom calling you “stupid” and “lazy.”

This is a long quote, but well worth it…and click the link above to read the whole article.

From Mitchell Robinson on Eclectablog

I am beyond tired—beyond exhausted, really—of persons who have never taught anyone anything lecturing the rest of us who have about what we are doing wrong, how stupid we are, how lazy we are, and how they know better than we do when it comes to everything about teaching and learning. How about this, Eva and Elizabeth?–instead of pontificating about things you are equally arrogant and ignorant of, why don’t you each go back to school, get an education degree, or two, or three, get certified, do an internship (for free–in fact, pay a bunch of money to do so), or two, or three, then see if you can find a job in a school. Then, teach.I don’t care what you teach; what grade level; what subject. But stick it out for at least a school year. Write your lesson plans. Grade your papers and projects. Go to all of those grade level meetings, and IEP meetings, and school board meetings, and budget negotiation meetings, and union meetings, and curriculum revision meetings, and curriculum re-revision meetings, and teacher evaluation meetings, and “special area” meetings, and state department of education meetings, and professional development in-services, and parent-teacher conferences, and open houses, and attend all those concerts, and football games, and dance recitals, and basketball games, and soccer matches, and lacrosse games, and honor band concerts, and school musicals, and tennis matches, and plays, and debates, and quiz bowl competitions, and marching band shows, and cheerleading competitions, and swim meets.

Then do it all 10, or 20, or 30 more times, and let me know how you feel about someone who never did ANY of these things, even for a “few lessons“, telling you how stupid, and lazy you are, and how you’re being a “defender of the status quo” if you’re not really excited to immediately implement their “radical, disruptive” ideas about how to “save public education.”

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF EDUCATION?

IN: Diminishing Education

The Indiana State Board of Education ignored the input of dozens of teachers and administrators. They didn’t ignore the input from the Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association by a vote of 7-4. All four of the “no” votes came from experienced educators.

Who do you think knows more about public education, educators or business people?

From Peter Greene

But to say that you cannot graduate until you prove that you can be a useful meat widget for a future employer– that idea represents a hollowing out of educational goals. Be a good citizen? Become a fine parent? Lifelong learning? Developing a deeper, better more well-rounded picture of who you can become as a person, while better understanding what it means to be human in the world? Screw that stuff, kid. Your future employer has the only question that matters– “What can you do for me, kid?”

Earning an Indiana high school diploma just became a lot more complicated

From NWI.com

The new requirements are strongly supported by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Manufacturers Association…

Teachers, principals and superintendents from across Indiana told the state school board during six hours of public testimony Wednesday that the rush to adopt graduation pathways before finalizing how they’ll work inevitably will result in another Indiana education fiasco, akin to extra-long standardized testing and the repeatedly revised school accountability grades.

WHY DON’T WE USE OUR OWN RESEARCH?

FreshEd #97 – Should we copy Finland’s education system? (Pasi Sahlberg)

This run-on quote by Finnish educator Past Sahlberg asks why high performing nations are using the newest research on education, much of it coming out of the United States…but we, in the U.S. are ignoring it and continuing our test and punish ways?

From Pasi Sahlberg

…why people are not really taking their own research seriously? How can it be that in the United States, day in and day out, people come across great books and research reports and others and they say, no, this is not how it goes, but when you cross the border, just north of the US, go to Canada, and you see how differently policy makers, politicians, and everybody takes the global international research nowadays, and they consider their findings and look at the findings of the research compared to their own practice and policies and their finding inconsistencies there just like in Finland, they are willing and able to change the course. But not in the US.

BUDGET CONSTRAINTS

Billionaires get handouts. My students don’t even get toilet paper.

Would you work at a place where the budget was so tight that you were allotted one roll of toilet paper a year?

Could you run your classroom on one roll of toilet paper per school year? How can a “civilized” society treat any of its citizens in this manner? How can we treat our children like this?

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela.

From Katherine Brezler, a second-grade teacher in The Bronx and a candidate for New York State Senate in the 37th District.

While billionaires get a handout, my students — and students across the country — get one roll of toilet paper. Every year that I’ve been a teacher, that roll is gone well before the year is over. Simple hygienic necessities should not be subject to budget constraints. Our teachers and students deserve dignity and respect.

FACING RACISM

Looking Back: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I’ve been saving this quote. It contains material which has been difficult for me to confront. The Looking Back article, from the blog, Reading While White, deals with the children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, its racist content, and the racism of its author, Roald Dahl.

There is no denying that Roald Dahl was a racist and anti-semite and those prejudices leaked into his work. [See here, here, and here.] I accept that.

I accept the fact that Dahl and his agents attempted to purge the book of its more blatant expressions of racism by rewriting the Oompa Loompas as non-black and non-African pygmies in the second and later editions, as well as the movies based on the book. I also accept that those rewrites did not completely remove all offensive elements from the book.

The quote below deals with how to come to terms with a beloved book, and I do love this book, which is so obviously flawed. The author wonders if her love of the book was not based on the actual book, but on the circumstances of her exposure: a favorite teacher and a highly motivating environment and study of the book.

What if, she asks, we had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory critically?

[Full disclosure: My son, a children’s librarian in the Midwest, is one of the authors of the Reading While White blog, though he did not write this particular post.]

From Elisa Gall in Reading While White

…every time that critical voice or bubble of discomfort arose, I chose not to pay attention to it. It was selective memory, because I did not want to let this book go. I have to call that what it really is: White fragility (and other kinds of fragility, considering the myriad ways this book is problematic). I can’t help but wonder now if my love for this book wasn’t caused by Dahl’s craft at all, but by the joy of remembering reading the book all by myself, or the kickass teacher who made her class immersive and fun (let’s not forget the bathtub). Still, it’s worth noting that criticisms of this book are not new. As long as there have been children’s books, there have been people working against racism in children’s books. My teacher was awesome in a lot of ways, but she did put time and effort into a celebration of THAT title. What if we had read something else? Or what if we had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory critically?

🎧🎤🎧

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2017 Medley #31

Teachers Unions, U.S. ED,
Poisoning Our Children, Teacher Shortage, Early Childhood Education, Hate in America, Creeps

Sometimes there’s just too much going on in the U.S. to even try to keep up with everything. The constant Trumpian attack on things like schools and health care…the blatant attempts at diverting more money from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy and oligarchy…the depth of sexual sickness on our entertainment and politics…the nationalism (not patriotism) that has emerged as a force for evil and hatred…

I could have included another dozen articles in this medley…

GUILTY OF POISONING OUR CHILDREN

New testimony alleges Gov. Snyder lied under oath about lead in Flint water

Why are the politicians who poisoned the children (and families) of Flint, Michigan (and elsewhere) still in office and still getting paid? Why haven’t they been fired and prosecuted? Shouldn’t they at least be on House Arrest like Paul Manafort? Shouldn’t they lose all their power like Harvey Weinstein? Shouldn’t they be publicly humiliated like Roy Moore?

Harvey Hollins, the man Gov. Snyder appointed to handle the Flint Water Crisis, testified Wednesday that he told the governor about increasing lead in Flint water months before Snyder told Congress he learned about it.

TEACHERS UNIONS

Union talk. Protecting and defending the good teachers.

How about if we blame teachers and their unions for low student achievement due to the highest rate of childhood poverty in the advanced industrialized world?

(I’m going to have to stop including the U.S. when I talk about “advanced” nations.)

Over the course of my career teachers have been turned into scapegoats by political opportunists of all stripes and by both political parties. Urban schools in particular were declared failing and the teachers were the reason. Teaching was among the few careers open to professionals of color and women, easy targets for racism and gender bias. And teaching became viewed as a technocratic exercise. No longer was it understood as a complex combination of science, artistry, subject matter knowledge along with a concern for the well-being of children.

As private sector unions represented a smaller and smaller percentage of the population, public sector unions – like teacher unions – became the last ones standing.

TEACHERS UNIONS: WISCONSIN

Gutting Wisconsin teachers unions hurt students, study finds

Governor Walker, how is your anti-union plan working out…kids doing better?

The law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for veteran teachers and especially in health insurance and retirement benefits, according to one paper. There was also a spike in teacher retirement immediately following the law’s passage.

As compensation drops, it may become harder for district and teachers to recruit and keep teachers. An increase in retirement also reduces teacher experience, which has been linked to effectiveness.

PRIVATIZATION: U.S. ED

Trump’s Latest Department Of Education Nominees Are School Voucher Advocates

The amazing thing is that they don’t even try to hide it any more. George W’s first Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, touted his Houston Miracle (that turned out to be a hoax). Margaret Spellings tried, weakly, to claim competence because she was a mom. Arne Duncan learned everything he knew about public education from watching his mother teach.

But Betsy DeVos doesn’t even pretend to care about public schools…she doesn’t even pretend to know anything about public schools, and neither do new appointments to high ranking positions in the U.S. Education Department. They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

Zais was questioned about whether he was familiar with recent research into the impact of vouchers on student achievement. He responded: “To the best of my knowledge, whenever we give parents an opportunity to choose a school that’s a good fit for their child, the result is improved outcomes.”

This answer is surprising considering that voucher programs show the exact opposite. When faced with the truth – that recent studies in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., found not only do vouchers not improve student achievement, but in many cases they harm it – he admitted he was unaware of these studies and that he had based his answer on anecdotes, not on facts.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

FL: What?! A teacher shortage??!!

Please go to the link above and read this article by Peter Greene. I included all the links to every single bullet point below…follow them.

He lists 16 items for Florida. How many of these are happening in your state? I count at least 10 for Indiana.

Okay, not shocking. Utterly predictable, given Florida’s unending efforts to create the worst atmosphere for public education in the country. Here are some of the things they’ve done, in no particular order:

* They have tried to make it possible for parents to stamp out the teaching of science.
* They have given charters the unchecked ability to steal local tax dollars.
* They have made an absolute disastrous amateur-hour hash out of their Big Standardized Test.
* They have made successful students repeat third grade for failing to love the BST
* They have declared– in court– that teacher-prepared report cards are meaningless
* They have demonstrated how badly teacher merit pay can fail
* They made a dying child take the Big Standardized Test 
* They turned recess into a political football.
* They based a strategic plan based on bad retail management.
* They abolished tenure, and fired teachers for advocating for students.
* They’ve allowed racist underfunding of schools to flourish.
* They have provided ample proof that an A-F school rating system doesn’t work.
* They host experiments in computerized avatar classrooms.
* They have charter legislation hustled through the capital by lawmakers who profit from it.
* They allow more charter misbehavior than you can shake a stick at.
* They have created a charter money grab law so onerous and obnoxious they have actually moved public schools to sue the state government.

All of this over and above the continued drip, drip, drip of starving public schools of resources and finding new ways to treat public school teachers with disrespect. And the pay stinks.

WHAT OUR CHILDREN NEED INSTEAD OF TEST AND PUNISH

A 19-Year Study Reveals Kindergarten Students With These 2 Skills Are Twice as Likely to Obtain a College Degree (And They Have Nothing to Do With Reading)

Indiana and other states are currently increasing early childhood education opportunities (for some). What kind of preschools and kindergartens are we going to have, though? Will they be developmentally appropriate, or are we just going to push test and punish down to younger and younger children?

Here’s an idea…

For every one-point increase in children’s social competency scores in kindergarten, they were twice as likely to obtain college degrees. They were also more likely to have full-time jobs by age 25.

But the kids who had trouble cooperating, listening, and resolving conflict were less likely to finish high school–let alone college. They were more likely to have legal problems and substance abuse issues.

For every one-point decrease in social competency at age 5, a child had a 67 percent higher chance of being arrested in early adulthood. A one-point decrease also meant a child had a 52 percent higher rate of binge drinking and an 82 percent higher chance of living in public housing (or at least being on the waitlist).

HATE IN AMERICA

Communities hit by rising hate crimes say Trump’s rhetoric is having a devastating impact

The hatred of “the other” has been a part of America since its founding. It started in Europe and came here under the guise of “bringing Christ to the natives.” Instead, the Christians who came here from Europe used their power to steal the treasures of the Central and South American natives, overrun the land of the North American natives, set up theocracies in New England, and import slaves from Africa as chattel labor.

That is the basis of the European Culture that the nationalists, nazis, and white supremacists claim to be protecting from black and brown people who live here or have come here from other lands. Has Euro-America ever done anything good? Of course. We’ve been an innovative and (mostly) welcome place for the world’s refuse. Underneath the innovation and open arms, however, has lurked hatred for anyone different…and the election of Donald Trump has empowered that hatred to ooze out from under its rock and pronounce itself ready to do battle against “the other.”

It doesn’t matter that nearly every white nationalist, nazi, and racist lives here with an immigrant past.

Other nations will now have to take over the mantle of moral leadership. We have lost it.

“We think that there is a clear connection between the rise in visible [anti-Semitism], virulent Islamophobia and xenophobia, and racism and the policies and rhetoric of the political right,” wrote Leo Ferguson, who works with the organization Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, in an email to ThinkProgress. “State violence against Black people, Muslims, undocumented people and others sets the stage and gives permission for hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination.”

Advocates emphasized that the violence facing minority communities is nothing new. As rising hate crimes indicate, however, it is becoming more prevalent — something many say is clearly linked to the president.

CREEPS COMING OUT

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part VI

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station gives us some instruction in morality.

Sexual assault isn’t relative.

Franken’s shitty behavior isn’t made less by Donald Trump’s shitty behavior.

There may be degrees of heinousness, but sexual assault isn’t a game of comparison.

But that is exactly what happens when politics are involved.

It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to diminish the failings of our own by pointing out the egregious actions of those we don’t like. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing.

…Democrats should be held to high standards.

In fact, they should be held to higher standards than they are right now.

AND. SO. SHOULD. REPUBLICANS.

So should the president. So should the Judges. So should every Congressman and Senator. So should every office holder. So should every cop and Priest and dog catcher.

So should we all.

You want a better nation? A better world? Then you have to be better citizens.

It starts right here.

🚌🚌🚌

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From NPE 2017 – Wrap Up

The NPE conference ended on Sunday, October 15. Below are some quotes made, or referred to on the last day, some books I heard about at the conference and now have on my to-read list, and some articles about the conference, or referred to on the last day. My comments, included.

QUOTES

From Garrison Keillor

When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.

From President John Adams

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll note the following quote is at the top of this page.

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.

From Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director Pastors for Texas Children

Pastors for Texas Children were instrumental in preventing the passage of a voucher bill in the recent Texas legislature.

Vouchers divert money from the public schools to religious schools (98% of voucher accepting schools in Indiana are parochial schools). We don’t do that with any other public good. We don’t divert money from the public library for vouchers to privately owned book stores. We don’t divert money from public parks for private country club vouchers. Why is public education different?

If you don’t believe in the public trust, leave your car in the parking lot and don’t drive home on the roads paid for by the citizens of the community.

From Nikole Hannah-Jones, Investigative Journalism, New York Times.

The last time the black/white achievement gap lowered nationally was when cities and states were required, under Brown v. Board of Education, to integrate schools. The current voucher/charter “reform” movement has resulted in the resegregation of public schools.

The fight for public schools must be a fight for integration. Period.

and

The longer a black child stays in a segregated school, the wider her achievement gap grows and the further she falls behind her white peers.

Nikole Hannah-Jones speaking at the NPE Conference, 2017

BOOKS

Here is a list of books I’ve added to my to-read list…publisher’s descriptions are included.

United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Education Agenda

Quite a few familiar names in this book. This collection of essays includes as authors some folks who I have been reading for years, including Steven Singer, Russ Walsh, P. L. Thomas and George Lakoff. It also includes a selection by NPE Conference Keynote speaker, Yohuru Williams.

In United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Agenda – Essays on Protest and Resistance Garn Press has gathered together essays by great scholars and renowned teachers who oppose the direction in which President Trump is leading the country. These are essays, to quote George Lakoff, which frame American values accurately and systemically day after day, telling truths by American majority moral values.

These are essays of protest against and resistance to Trump’s presidency, to his billionaire cabinet, to the privileging in the White House of white supremacists, the promulgation of “alternate facts”, the denigration of media sources, the purges of State Department personnel, the gag orders at the EPA and scientists placed on “watch lists”, the travel bans on people from wide swaths of U.S. society and on refugees … the list is long.

The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time by Gordon Lafer

In an era of growing economic insecurity, it turns out that one of the main reasons life is becoming harder for American workers is a relentless—and concerted—offensive by the country’s best-funded and most powerful political forces: corporate lobbies empowered by the Supreme Court to influence legislative outcomes with an endless supply of cash. These actors have successfully championed hundreds of new laws that lower wages, eliminate paid sick leave, undo the right to sue over job discrimination, and cut essential public services.

Lafer shows how corporate strategies have been shaped by twenty-first-century conditions—including globalization, economic decline, and the populism reflected in both the Trump and Sanders campaigns of 2016. Perhaps most important, Lafer shows that the corporate legislative agenda has come to endanger the scope of democracy itself.

For anyone who wants to know what to expect from corporate-backed Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., there is no better guide than this record of what the same set of actors has been doing in the state legislatures under its control.

Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education by John Merrow

I first heard about this book in a podcast interview of John Merrow by Will Brehm on FreshEd. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to get the book at the NPE conference last weekend. You can listen to the podcast here.

This insightful book looks at how to turn digital natives into digital citizens and why it should be harder to become a teacher but easier to be one. Merrow offers smart, essential chapters—including “Measure What Matters,” and “Embrace Teachers”—that reflect his countless hours spent covering classrooms as well as corridors of power. His signature candid style of reportage comes to life as he shares lively anecdotes, schoolyard tales, and memories that are at once instructive and endearing.

Addicted to Reform is written with the kind of passionate concern that could come only from a lifetime devoted to the people and places that constitute the foundation of our nation. It is a “big book” that forms an astute and urgent blueprint for providing a quality education to every American child.

Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean

Gordon Lafer, author of the One Percent Solution (above), recommended this book during his conference session.

Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan’s work in teaching others how to divide America into “makers” and “takers.” And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy.

ARTICLES/BLOG POSTS

A Brief Overview of the NPE Conference in Oakland

Diane Ravitch gives her overview of last week’s conference. She refers to posting the videos of some of the sessions as well as the keynote addresses. I urge you, if you weren’t at the conference, to watch however much you can once they’re published…especially the two keynote addresses by NPE Board Member, Yohuru Williams, and by Nikole Hannah-Jones, investigative reporter for the New York Times, and 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award.”

The most important things that happened at the conference were not on stage, but in the hallways, where people from across the country met others they had only heard of. We had parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, local school board members, state school board members, journalists, students. The conversations were buoyant.

No one was paid to attend. Almost everyone paid their own way. The speakers were not paid. This was truly a grassroots effort, run on a shoestring, but a very beautiful, unencumbered shoestring. Nearly 500 people came together to find comfort, fellowship, solidarity, and hope.

Michelle Gunderson on Teaching in the Time of Trump

…One of our students who has been struggling to learn was sitting with his reading partner sharing a book when his partner came running over to us. “He read it! He really read it! All by himself.” In the field, this is sometimes referred to as “breaking the code,” or the time a child launches as a reader. When young students begin to read at first they break down each sound and word. Then, suddenly, the walls collapse, and reading becomes smooth.

I am here to tell you that it is one of our miracles, and the reason I teach first grade.

So, how do we teach in the time of Trump? We wake up and be our best selves, and everything we do has meaning and importance. There are no small things right now…

Yohuru Williams at the NPE Conference, 2017

An Interview With Yohuru Williams about Betsy DeVos

This is a must-read blog post by Mercedes Schneider. She interviewed Yohuru Williams and included a link to his powerpoint presentation which accompanied his keynote address to the NPE Conference. I hope to post the video of his presentation at a later date.

Schneider: What do you consider the major threat of the placement of B DeVos as US ed sec?

Williams: There are essentially two major problems with Betsy DeVos. The first is her overall lack of qualification for the position. The second is her open hostility to public schools. We have never had an Education Secretary in the history of the United States History who has exhibited such hostility toward public schools.

Schneider: What do you perceive to be DeVos’ “Achilles heel”?

Williams: Secretary DeVos’ Achilles heel might very well be her singular focus on school choice as the panacea for what she and other Education Reformers have problematically labeled as a “failing system of education” in America. Her arrogance may very well prove her undoing.

Schneider: Arrogance?

Williams: By arrogance I mean her deep sense of entitlement and privilege and her inability to see beyond her own experience.

🎤📚📝

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2017 Medley #27

Accountability, School Funding,
Students’ Rights, Charters and Segregation, Closing Schools, Racism, Testing

ACCOUNTABILITY

Unqualified billionaires gaining too much influence on public education

Have you ever noticed how important accountability-for-public-schools is to politicians and “reformers?” But where is the accountability for others?

  • for religious and private schools taking public money through vouchers?
  • for corporate run charter schools?
  • for state and local school boards when certain schools are neglected over others?
  • for state governments to provide full and adequate funding for public education (see FUNDING, below)?

Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.

Over the past 20 years, education policy has increasingly been enacted not to satisfy the needs of the students and their families, but the wants of the wealthy and powerful who are converting public education from a civic enterprise to a marketplace for edu-vendors: the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has paid to expand charters and lobby for the use of Common Core standards in all 50 states; real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad now leads a group of corporate funders pushing a plan to move half of all K-12 students in Los Angeles into charter schools; the Walton family has initiated a new $1 billion campaign to promote charters nationwide; Trump financier Carl Icahn has established a chain of charters in New York City.

No one elected these billionaires, and they are accountable to no one.

FUNDING

While the rest of the world invests more in education, the U.S. spends less

The current federal administration…the administrations of more than a few “Red” states…and a substantial number of American citizens…hate government and assume that everything the government does is bad. With the rise of Trump and his “hate-government-cabinet, we see a vacuum in governmental services (except for the military).

Republicans are still arguing that lower taxes for the wealthy will trickle down and improve the economy even though that “voodoo economics” hasn’t worked for the last 40 years, but the truth is, many Republicans are attempting to defund the government.

The U.S. has one of the lowest tax rates as a portion of our GDP in the developed world (32nd out of 35 OECD nations). If we don’t have tax revenue, then we can’t support necessary government services. I’m not a hater of government, and I believe that government services are important. Taxes are necessary to pay for those services. The government needs an income to keep things running…infrastructure, health care, defense, social services, and education. When we don’t invest in ourselves we sacrifice our future.

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

STUDENT’S RIGHTS

MI Teacher Suspended for Assaulting Student Refusing the Pledge

September 17th was Constitution Day in the U.S. The Constitution guarantees free speech and a teacher, as the agent of the local government, does not have the right to manhandle a student who, for whatever reason, chooses not to recite the pledge to the flag.

Students do not give up their first amendment rights when they enter the classroom.

A teacher here in Michigan is suspended pending an investigation for allegedly physically assaulting a 6th grade student by violently yanking him out of his chair for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, something that is the student’s absolutely protected right to do.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation

Race and ethnic relations in the United States is at a dangerous point. The recent reemergence of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and ultra-nationalists, along with a general willingness of many in white America to admit to their bigoted beliefs, has left those who hope for peaceful relations among racial groups, ethnic groups, and immigrants feeling disappointed.

As a reflection of our society, it’s probably no surprise that American schools are now more segregated than ever as tribal impulses cause people to separate. The American “melting pot,” if it ever actually existed, is fading.

Thus, one of the big problems with school choice is the peer-reviewed research demonstrating the finding that “Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools.” Peer-reviewed research has also demonstrated that the choice of African American and white families for schools with homogenous racial compositions “helps to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.”

The same study found that choice was also bad for achievement on average as, “the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of African America students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left.”

In contravention of Brown, charters are influencing and intensifying racial segregation across the nation. After several decades, the promise of charter schools to foster integration and a less balkanized society is clearly not being realized.

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS

Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

[Note: Just after I wrote this I read that Indianapolis has decided to close three high schools…ostensibly for enrollment reasons. I’m curious if we’ll see the addition of charter high schools soon. See It’s final: Indianapolis Public Schools Board approves plan to close high schools]

In 2013 Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced the closure of 50 public schools. Later that same year, the Chicago Public Schools posted a document requesting that charter schools open in the city during the following two years.

Recently, CREDO, a research group supportive of “reform” strategies, presented the results of a new study which showed that simply closing schools was ineffective. Furthermore, the students who needed school improvements the most, poor students and students of color, were the ones who were most negatively impacted by school closings.

The results of the CREDO study confirm that the most common cause of “low performing schools” is poverty and its impact on student achievement. Without addressing the out-of-school-factors which affect student performance or the general lack of support for public schools serving poor students and students of color, closing a school will do nothing but shuffle the problems around to other schools – or to the streets.

It doesn’t matter where a student attends school if he has been damaged by lead poisoning, traumatized by neighborhood violence, weakened by lack of health care, or disadvantaged by food and shelter insecurity. Out-of-school-factors which lower achievement will follow a student to whatever school he or she attends.

Instead of closing schools and hoping for a miracle, school systems ought to improve achievement through wraparound services for students who come to school exhibiting the effects of poverty. Support for services like social workers, instructional specialists, and increased teacher training should be included. Schools should provide whatever services are needed to support students. States and municipalities should support schools systems with funding necessary to deliver the services as well as support for the communities. Closing schools – essentially blaming them for the failures of society to deal with the problems of poverty – is unfair and counterproductive.

…a new study found that closing schools where students achieve low test scores doesn’t end up helping them learn. Moreover, such closures disproportionately affect students of color.

What’s surprising, however, is who conducted the study – corporate education reform cheerleaders, the Center for Research on EDucation Outcomes (CREDO).

Like their 2013 study that found little evidence charter schools outperform traditional public schools, this year’s research found little evidence for another key plank in the school privatization platform.

SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT

…on Racism

I swore never to be silent…

Todd Garza, Superintendent of Ludlow (MA) schools has a blog in which he speaks out on current education topics. This post discusses his personal obligation to speak out against bigotry and racism. It’s important, he believes, for educators to be role models for their students as well as teaching academics.

However, it is the duty and responsibility of every educator to loudly and with one unified voice state unequivocally that racism, hatred, and bigotry cannot be tolerated and have no place in our national dialogue. Failure to denounce such speech and actions every time we are confronted amounts to tacit approval and that is unacceptable.

…We have very little control over the battles being played out on the national stage. However, we can control what happens in our communities, our schools and our classrooms. As adults we can model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit. If we start small it will spread. There will always be a diversity of opinions in our communities and that is the beauty of our system. However, we must never give in to the fear that opens the door for hate, racism and bigotry to intrude. We are not perfect, but we are Americans with all that that stands for and we can be better than we have been in recent times. Remember, our children are watching.

…on Testing

NACS outlines for parents irrelevance of ISTEP

Superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Indiana, Chris Himsel, has written an op-ed letting parents know how useless and wasteful the Indiana ISTEP test is.

Yesterday, ISTEP scores were released to the public across the state. Compared to other districts, Northwest Allen County Schools performed well. However, the information is not relevant to us. Why? Because (1) the events that yielded these scores took place over four months ago and (2) the results provide zero information about why students passed or why students did not pass. Therefore, the recently released data do not offer useful information designed to help us meet the individual learning needs of our students. Why is it important to receive information designed to meet the individual learning needs of students? Because the test results themselves are not an indicator of school or teacher quality; school and teacher quality is a result of how learning data, including test results, are used to improve learning among individual students.

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