Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, CTU, Ravitch, Sagan, Science

The Charlatans Are Here

[Part 2 of 2: A followup post on the recent increase of anti-science and anti-intellectualism in America. Click HERE here to read Part 1, Standing in Denial, Rising to Power.]

GOOD TEACHERS RETEACH

What can we, as actual educators (not the Betsy DeVos kind), do to change the country’s direction when it comes to science, and to learning in general?

1. When students don’t learn the first time, good teachers reteach. As teachers, we can take it upon ourselves to reteach history, including scientific innovations and developments, to the American people. Even the know-nothings like Pruitt and Perry use science every day with their cell phones, their cable and satellite TVs, and their kitchens. It’s important to remember how those advancements came about. This, of course, won’t deter those who deny science or are “reforming” schools in order to enrich themselves. However, it might help support regular citizens who are interested in planning for the nation’s future.

As teachers, we must become active lobbyists. We should lobby parents, local, state and federal legislators and policy-makers to do what needs to be done to Make America Smart Again.

Teachers need to speak out, write to legislators, support public education advocacy groups like the Indiana Coalition for Public Education or the Network for Public Education, and educate their friends, neighbors, and relatives.

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

Specifically teachers should lobby for the following.

2. 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.

3. 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 57th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Slovakia, Cuba, Singapore, Canada, 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.

4. The next step in countering the effects of poverty is to invest 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.

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

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

6. Support students by lowering class sizes.

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

8. 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. See .

9. End the scourge of high-stakes testing. See #2.

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

Research-based strategies and proven models for improving the teaching profession should guide the maintenance and growth of a dedicated, experienced, and multi-racial teaching staff…In Finland, a country known for high-performing students, teaching is a respected, top career choice; teachers have autonomy in their classrooms, work collectively to develop the school curriculum, and participate in shared governance of the school…They receive strong professional support throughout their careers and ample time for collaboration with colleagues built into their workday. They are not rated; they are trusted.

11. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option. See #7.

12. 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.

More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, federal education policies still implicitly accept the myth of “separate but equal,” by attempting to improve student outcomes without integrating schools. Policymakers have tried creating national standards, encouraging charter schools, implementing high-stakes teacher evaluations and tying testing to school sanctions and funding. These efforts sought to make separate schools better but not less segregated. Ending achievement and opportunity gaps requires implementing a variety of desegregation methods – busing, magnet schools, or merging school districts, for instance – to create a more just public education system that successfully educates all children.

[Editorial aside: I disagree with one part of the above quote. It’s clear to me that federal education policies explicitly accept, and in fact, encourage, “separate but equal” schools in America.]

13. Acknowledge “that 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

These 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.

A better question might be: how can we afford not to have these schools? Where else is public money being spent? We must invest in our children.

SCIENCE TEACHERS (AT ALL GRADE LEVELS)…

  • 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 your 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 the today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

[The numbered list, above, is taken from ✩Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch and ✪The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools from the Chicago Teachers Union. Quotes from those sources are noted either ✩ or ✪. Other quotes are linked.]

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Posted in Charters, Curmudgucation, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Ravitch, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage, Testing

Random Quotes – August 2015

A PLAYGROUND BULLY

Hey, Governor Christie, Punch My Face!

It’s all over the web…New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to punch the “national teachers union” in the face. Christie apparently doesn’t understand — or perhaps he just doesn’t care — that the “national teachers union” is made up of millions of teachers, not to mention that there is more than one national teachers union.

On the other hand, Trump’s numbers soared after he badmouthed immigrants. Perhaps Christie’s numbers will increase when Republicans see how much he hates unions and teachers.

Was Chris Christie bullied as a child…and his teacher failed to protect him? Is that why he hates teachers so much?

In any case, the best response to the New Jersey Bully has been…

from Russ on Reading

“I regret that I have only one face to give for my profession.”

TEACHERS KNOW MORE THAN ARNE DUNCAN

CHARTERS

Indiana: Charter Advocate Says It is Time to Close Down Low-Performing Charters

People are starting to see that Charters are no better than real public schools. Thirty percent of Detroit’s charters have closed because they “failed.”

In Indiana, someone has noticed that charter schools are not doing any better than our real public schools — and, in many cases, a lot worse.

From Diane Ravitch

The hype, spin, and empty promises of the charter movement have run their course. Teach for America’s claims that its inexperienced kids could close the achievement gap are obviously hollow. Chris Barbic’s Achievement School District in Tennessee is a failure. The chickens are coming home to roost. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

TESTING

Test and Punish and Civil Rights

Has any teacher ever said, “I won’t have any idea if my students are learning without standardized test scores.”

From Peter Greene

Actually, test scores don’t tell us much of anything, because the Big Standardized Tests are narrowly focused, poorly designed, and extremely limited in their scope. Furthermore, we can predict test score results pretty well just using demographic information. So to claim that we would be fumbling in the dark without these tests, with no idea of how to find schools that were in trouble, is simply ridiculous.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

The Substitute Shortage

Schools around the nation are facing a teacher shortage and many will have to rely on substitutes. Just one problem…there’s a shortage of substitutes, too.

From Peter Greene

Substitute shortage is yet another problem to which we know the solution. It’s just that the solution costs money, and we don’t wanna. A good substitute teacher is worth her weight in gold, but we prefer to offer only peanuts.

Missouri school district billboard in Kansas

We Won’t Get Great Teachers By Treating Them Badly

How can you get more people to invest their time and energy in the quest to become a teacher?

From The Education Opportunity Network

…it just stands to reason that when you make a job more stressful and negative, you’re going to get fewer qualified people who want to do it.

DOES AMERICA REALLY HATE ITS CHILDREN?

How To Train Teachers

We live in a nation that hates education…and doesn’t really care much for our children. We’re a nation that lives only in the present. We aren’t willing to invest in our future — our children — because that would mean sacrificing a little money now.

From Peter Greene

And so we arrive at the same old problem that badgers education around every turn– we know how to do it right, but that would be expensive, and we don’t want to spend a bunch of money on education.

More children are in poverty today than before the Great Recession

How can we justify tax breaks for rich people when so many of our children live in poverty? Why isn’t this a national embarrassment?

From PBS

One out of five American children live in poverty…

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in AFT, Corp Interest, JimHorn, NEA, Privatization, Ravitch

Under the Ravitch Umbrella

Diane Ravitch posted information about the AFT and NEA move to unionize teachers at charter schools.

What Happens When Charter Teachers Join a Union?

The NEA and AFT are actively trying to organize charter teachers. This is challenging because of high teacher turnover and often hostile charter management. As the numbers show, they have had limited success, but Cohen says that the unions have softened their opposition to charters in hopes of establishing unions in more charters.

Her post references an article at the American Prospect discussing labor’s push to unionize charters…a distinctly non-union part of the education world.

When Charters Go Union

In 2014, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University released a report that documented a host of charter school problems, ranging from uneven academic performance to funding schemes that destabilized neighboring schools. The report laid out national policy recommendations designed to promote increased accountability, transparency, and equity.

The AFT and NEA came out strongly in support of the Annenberg standards, and have been working to promote them to state legislatures and school boards around the country. Leaders in the charter world, however, were less than pleased. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), an organization that seeks to influence the policies and practices of state authorizers, called the standards “incomplete, judgmental, and not based on research or data.” Michael Brickman, then the national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think tank, said the Annenberg standards would stifle charters’ innovation by “bludgeoning them with regulation.” He accused the authors of “standing in the way of progress” with their “overzealous statutory recommendations.” (The president and CEO of NAPCS, Nina Rees, told me she actually likes the Annenberg standards, but doesn’t know if they should be adopted across the board.)

In response, Jim Horn, at Schools Matter, took time off from fighting the privatization of public education to update his attack on Diane Ravitch, the Network for Public Education, and Anthony Cody, claiming that they’re pro-charter. [This is not the first time he’s gone after the Ravitch branch of the pro-public education movement. See HERE and HERE, or just search his blog for Ravitch.]

Ravitch Rationalizes NEA/AFT/NPE Pro-Charter Position

The anti-reformy groups and self-promoting individuals that crouch under the Ravitch umbrella, along with the bloggers who are kept in line by NPE’s censorious Anthony Cody and Jon Pelto, go about their business pretending that the corporate unions are allies of corporate education resistance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, I agree with Horn that the NEA and AFT are not as anti-reformy as I would like them to be. I’ve written against Dennis Van Roekel’s support of CCSS and “reform” in order to get a “seat at the table,” Lily’s misguided support of the CCSS, how NEA endorsed President Obama in 2012 completely separating him from the work of his Education Department, and the fact that neither Randi nor Lily seems serious about rejecting corporate funding from “reformist” foundations.

However, I disagree with his description above about those who agree with Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. I’m a member of both the Education Bloggers Network run by Jonathan Pelto and the NPE that he references above. Neither Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Pelto nor Anthony Cody dictate what gets written on this blog, nor do I hesitate to disagree with Ravitch, Pelto, Cody, or anyone else if I choose to.

I also don’t agree that the Education Bloggers Network or the NPE “pretend” that there is nothing wrong with the AFT and NEA positions on education reform. However, instead of lashing out angrily at them, those of us who are sometimes “under the Ravitch umbrella” understand that the unions are made up of teachers…and it’s in our best interest to try to get them to change rather than just berating them because we disagree. That’s why Diane Ravitch put both Randi and Lily on the spot earlier this year by asking them if they would refuse “reformy” foundation money. That’s why the crowd cheered when they answered in the affirmative (even though Lily walked back on that position later). That’s why thousands of us across the nation are working hard to influence voters, legislators, teachers, and parents to join us in the fight against privatization and “reform.”

Furthermore, I don’t think Horn’s “my way or the highway” attitude is productive. Even if I do agree with his positions on school reform, I find his attitude towards the rest of us to be condescending and his language bordering on abusive. His attacks sound more like the anonymous trolls who populate the comments sections of political web sites rather than an educated, pro-public education advocate. If he doesn’t like what you stand for he does indeed argue against you, often with good reason…but he paints with a wide brush and tells you to go to hell in the process. This is, of course, his right…it is his blog after all, and I’m sure he really doesn’t care what I think, but it’s counterproductive.

His attitude plays right into the corporate “divide and conquer attitude” so popular with “reformers.” If we are busy blasting each other for not being “pure enough” in our pro-public education policy making, then we are that much weaker when we need to work together to end the misuse and overuse of testing, the destruction of the teaching profession and the privatization of public education.

Horn needs to quit playing the equivalent of the education “Hunger Games” by fighting those would should be allies instead of focusing his energy on Gates, Duncan, the Waltons, and the rest. It’s helpful…and even important to speak our disagreement when we differ on particular issues, but we need to stand together against the real enemy.

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Curmudgucation, Daily Show, FairTest, NPE, poverty, Ravitch, Test Cheating, Testing, Valerie Strauss

Random Quotes – April 2015

NPE 2015 NATIONAL CONFERENCE

 

Three quotes from the Network for Public Education 2015 National Conference. See the videos at www.networkforpubliceducation.org.

From Jitu Brown, one of the directors of the Network for Public Education and the national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance.

“They look at our students as instruments of profit” — Jitu Brown

From Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon, where he is also a Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership.

We are in the U.S. one of the very, very few systems that allow everyone to “play in the system” for twelve years. That’s something amazing. We do not select. We do not judge, and that preserves the diversity of talents. Once we privatize…once we allow people to select…you exclude people, normally too early. You don’t know who they might become…any privatized entity has the right to reject. We are not running a country club. We’re running a public education system…that is for the prosperity of the nation and the community and the individuals. — Yong Zhao

From Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of the National Education Association.

“What is wrong with the world where testing has become so absurd and so harmful to children that parents are protecting their children from a test [by opting out]…The solution has to be changing the world so we do not have toxic testing…” — Lily Eskelsen Garcia

The Resistance Meets on Weekends

Peter Greene covered the Network for Public Education 2015 National Conference (as did many other bloggers…see here, here, here, here and here, for example) in an article about how many who support public education are busy with the actual work of education, while “reformers” are full time, anti-public education, privatizers.

At the close of the NPE conference, Diane Ravitch called on pubic education supporters to engage parents and grandparents, students (especially high school students) and retired educators…in other words, folks who can’t be fired for standing up for public education.

From Peter Greene, Curmudgucation.

…the irony here is that while [educators] are amateurs in the field of shaping, twisting, and spinning policy, [“reformers”] are the amateurs in the actual field of education. They may have the tools, the money, the hired manpower, and the paths of power on their side, but we are the one who know the territory.

ATLANTA CHEATING SCANDAL

Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

More about the Atlanta trial which sent public educators to jail.

From Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report

The one-percenters need us to believe public education in our communities is some new kind of sewer infested with incompetent teachers who are cheating children and the public every week they draw paychecks. The long, long crisis of public education has been designed, engineered and provoked by powerful bipartisan forces to justify their long game, which is the privatization of public education. That’s the Big Plan.

Jon Stewart: Cheating teachers go to jail. Cheating Wall Streeters don’t. What’s up with that?

Jon Stewart, who is leaving The Daily Show late this summer, will be missed. Valerie Strauss analyzed his review of the Atlanta cheating scandal. The entire segment of The Daily Show follows.

From Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet

Jon Stewart on Wednesday night made the inevitable comparison between the former teachers and administrators in Atlanta who were sentenced for cheating on standardized tests — a few for as much as seven years — with Wall Street denizens who in 2008 connived in a way that nearly brought down the country’s financial system. Only one was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

POVERTY

Indiana superintendents rail against proposed school funding changes

Under the guise of “equalizing school funding” the Indiana legislature is threatening to reduce funding for large, high poverty urban areas and increase funding for low poverty suburban areas.

From Wendy Robinson, Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, quoted in Chalkbeat.

“The state is trying to act as if I don’t need different resources for that high school in the high-poverty area,” Robinson said. “The standards I set for the students I receive is the same. We treat our kids in poverty like it’s their fault. … That’s the fallacy of the (state funding) formula.”

TESTING

The One about Bullying, Threats and Arne Duncan…

The justification for annual testing is “parents need to know how their students are doing.” Most teachers could provide the same information during any week of the school year, more quickly, and with more accuracy.

The real justification for annual testing, and test prep, and every other expense accompanying annual testing, is money…plain and simple.

From Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education at Michigan State University, quoted in Badass Teachers Association.

…no teacher needs yearly standardized tests to know if their students are “making progress or growth.” Just as parents don’t need these tests to know if their children are growing. The people that teach and love these children are well aware of what they are learning, what challenges and successes they are encountering, and what strategies will work best to help them continue to grow and learn. Let’s not pretend that a once-per-year multiple choice test will somehow magically provide some special sauce that will reveal what kids know and are able to do.

Report: Big education firms spend millions lobbying for pro-testing policies

How much of our national treasure, some of which used to go to helping students, is now going to testing companies? Imagine how much they’re making in profits if they can afford to spend in excess of $20 million in lobbying…

From Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet

..four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.

Computerized Testing Problems: 2013 -2015

When you give a test before students are ready they often do poorly on it. The same is true when you give a test before the test is ready. The technical failures of the “new” computer based tests has added to the failure of the tests themselves. The testing companies still get their billions, though. FairTest has a list…

From FairTest.org.

The ongoing litany of computer exam administration failures reinforces the conclusion that the technologies rushed into the marketplace by political mandates and the companies paid to implement them are not ready for prime time. It makes no sense to attach high-stakes consequences to such deeply flawed tools

PRIVATIZATION

At the Network for Public Education 2015 National Conference, one of the speakers commented that privatization is more than just an “education problem.” It’s occurring in various places in America’s economy. The most recent post of Privatization Watch covers much more than just education. It includes articles about a Senate cafeteria worker, a growing movement to transfer federal land to state control in Western states, the military pension system, the privatization of the state-run charity hospital system in Louisiana, and various toll road privatizations (because toll road privatization worked so well in Indiana).

Today’s Privatization Watch post includes a link to an Atlanta blog article about privatization of public education…

GA: Opinion: Why competitive model fails schools. No one should lose in education

From Maureen Downey, Atlanta-Journal Consititution (AJC.com)

The Texas Miracle used to design No Child Left Behind was a case of cooking the books; the Atlanta Miracle included systemic cheating to save jobs and schools from being closed and educators are now sentenced to serve time behind bars; the New Orleans Miracle continues to be an embarrassment with the retraction of research reports indicating success and criticisms about bad data; and in 2013 there was confirmed test cheating in 37 states and Washington D.C., but surely it is more widespread than that given the high-stakes of the very tests that have been criticized for their bias, invalidity, very high cost, and damaging effects on what schooling has become. Not everything is a competition, not everything should be designed as a competition, and education – especially – should not be treated as a competition where there are guaranteed winners and losers. No one should lose in education. [emphasis added]

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Curmudgucation, Duncan, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Ravitch, Stephen Krashen, Teaching Career, vouchers

2014 in Quotes

This is the 102nd and last post of 2014 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it’s pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.

JANUARY

From the Bottom of Duncan’s Barrel

“If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations [sic] educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America’s students.” — Peter Greene

FEBRUARY

2014 Medley #5

“Your editorial sends the message that our public schools are failing. They aren’t. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American schools rank near the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular because the child poverty rate in the U.S. is very high, 23%, second-highest among all economically advanced countries. Children of poverty suffer from hunger, malnutrition, inferior health care and lack of access to books. All of these have a powerful impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world won’t help when children are hungry, ill and have little or nothing to read.

“Our focus should be on protecting children from the impact of poverty.” — Stephen Krashen

MARCH

Public Education: For the Public Good

How do you respond to voucher supporters who claim that they should be allowed to take “their tax money” out of the public school system and use it to send their children to private schools? What good are public schools to people who don’t have any children or whose children have grown?

Consider:

  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for public libraries because they wanted to buy their own books instead?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for fire departments because they had purchased a fire suppressant system?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for roads because they didn’t drive a car?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for parks because they never used them?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for police departments because they hired their own, private security force?

The government — local, state and national — is responsible for various aspects of our lives, from safety to clean air to public parks. Public money is spent for these “public goods” because everyone benefits — even those who never use the services.

JUNE

Billionaires Win in California

Professional educators provide students with high quality education — we know this because wealthy “reformers” make sure that schools for their children are filled with highly qualified, well-trained professionals. In high poverty schools, however, educators alone can’t overcome the effects of societal neglect. Nearly one-fourth of America’s children live in poverty which has the single, largest affect on student achievement, yet the billionaires’ battle is against teachers…not politicians.

When will politicians and their billionaire handlers accept responsibility for their part in the education of our children?

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

Jack Schneider, LA Times quoted in Making it easier to fire teachers won’t get you better ones.

Instead of imagining a world in which teachers are easier to fire, we should work to imagine one in which firing is rarely necessary. Because you don’t put an effective teacher in every classroom by holding a sword over their heads. You do it by putting tools in their hands.

JULY

The Case Against “reformers”

“Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It’s about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It’s about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It’s about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can’t imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring.” — Susan Zimmerman, in Comprehension Going Forward

OCTOBER

2014 Medley #22

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

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

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

DECEMBER

Random Quotes – December 2014

“Public education is a promise we make to the children of our society, and to their children, and to their children.” — John Kuhn

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Election, Gates, Pence, Privatization, Ravitch, Ritz, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2014 Medley #27

Educate the Public, Pence vs. Ritz,
On Being a Teacher, Privatization, Charters,
The Gates Paradox, Elections

WHAT DO WE DO?

Diane Ravitch on the Uses and Abuses of Data in Education Reform

Diane Ravitch discusses education “reform” in New York at CUNY. At the end of the video (at about 1:01:30) she tells us what we must do…educate the public.

How do you make education better by having people as teachers who have no credentials as teachers, and have no experience? How does that improve education? How do you improve education when there are governors in this country that have cut the budget by billions of dollars?

…People must be informed. The public must understand what’s going on and that’s the job of education. Most of us are educators. We should educate the public. [emphasis added]

INDIANA: PENCE VS. RITZ

When Barack Obama was elected president Mitch McConnell announced that his goal would be the failure of the Obama presidency. When Mike Pence took the governor’s seat in 2012 he didn’t announce that he wanted Glenda Ritz to fail, but he has done everything in his power to assure that it happened…from starting his own, personal, shadow Department of Education, to directing the members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to block everything she wanted to do, to finally, calling on the supermajority in the legislature to undermine her authority as chair of the SBOE.

EDITORIAL: Effort to diminish Ritz nearly complete

Pence’s proposal injects a new twist. Instead of ousting Ritz, the change drains a huge amount of her remaining power. The other 10 members of the Board of Education — all appointed by Republican governors — would select their chairperson to set the agenda for education policy in Indiana. Ritz would be reduced to just another member, because the others would certainly not choose her.

Pence’s education plan isn’t an olive branch

Claiming this was “in the interest of restoring trust and harmony,” he then announced his intention to allow his appointed state board members to elect their own chairman, unseating Ritz. If the governor were truly concerned with trust and harmony, he would trust Ritz to represent the people of Indiana. He should remember why Indiana voters chose her.

Ritz ran on a platform of keeping public funds in public schools. Now the governor wants to bleed more of that funding into private schools through unlimited vouchers and charter schools that have no democratically elected, accountable boards.

RETAINING TEACHERS

America’s educators teach America’s children and at the same time are forced to defend themselves from the latest attacks on their profession. Politicians, pundits and policy makers continue to give lip service to the elimination of “bad teachers” in every school and the support of “great teachers” in every classroom, but their actions speak louder than words.

In Indiana, for example, teachers have been stripped of their professionalism by

  • loss of collective bargaining
  • lack of voice in education policy
  • loss of due process
  • evaluations based on student test scores
  • merit pay based on student test scores
  • the disparaging of teaching credentials through REPA III

The empty words praising “great teachers” is followed up by increasing class sizes, fewer resources for needy schools, more money spent on privately run charters and private schools.

The latest attack against teachers is on their schools of education. Secretary Duncan is leading the charge for judging schools of education based on the test scores of their graduates’ students, and the ability of their graduates to get hired. There is no research which indicates that this is an accurate measure of the success for a school of education. There are other factors which come into play…most notably, the socio-economic status of the children teachers teach. Poverty is the number one factor in student test scores…and once again, these same policy makers ignore the fact that our nation leads all other advanced nations in childhood poverty.

During her discussion of the Uses and Abuses of Data in Education Reform at CUNY, Diane Ravitch told us that the U.S. is ranked

  • 34th out of 45 in providing high quality early childhood education
  • 131 out of 184 in providing good prenatal care

Policy makers don’t want to assume their share of the responsibility for raising our children. It’s easier to blame public schools, and public school teachers.

The Problem Isn’t Getting Rid of Teachers, It’s Keeping Them

…there is another factor that contributes towards teacher disillusion, and that is the constant denigration of the profession, including through emphasizing the need to get rid of the “bad apples”.

This incessant sniping will inevitably have an effect on teachers who already feel they are at the sharp-end. Who would want to stay in a profession that is constantly being reminded of its own shortcomings?

As one reader emailed after my article on removing poor teachers was published: “I am constantly trying to improve my practice, and the anti-bad teacher witch-hunt is not helpful. It demoralizes all teachers.”

TEACHERS’ FAULT

First They Came for the Teachers, and I Didn’t Speak Up

Active and retired teachers are being told about the local problems that are making it necessary to steal their wages* and raid their earned compensation (pensions**).

What we are being told are lies, distortions, untruths, spun data, etc. meant to shame teachers and distract every citizen who believes the propaganda.

WHO WILL WANT TO TEACH?

Where will the next generation of teachers come from?

BSU student interest in school teaching nosedives

Fewer students are going into education…

“The story is more than just Ball State,” [dean of Ball State University’s Teachers College] Jacobson said. “At Ball State and in Indiana and in the nation, there is a decline in individuals coming into teacher preparation and initial licensing.”

The reasons are fairly obvious…

The causes might include the negative portrayal of education by politicians and the media; teacher compensation; teacher evaluations; lack of respect; “the joy of teaching is gone”; morale problems; higher standards (starting in fall 2013, an overall grade point average of 3.0, instead of 2.5, was required for admission to the teaching curriculum at Ball State); and more opportunities for female undergraduates besides traditional careers like teaching and nursing, according to Jacobson.

In late October, Ray Scheele, a political science professor, told The Star Press that teachers “have really felt like they’ve been under attack for several years now, starting in the (Republican Gov. Mitch) Daniels administration.”

He said the issues included charter schools, vouchers, pensions, school funding, test scores and teacher assessments.

WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW, BLAME TEACHERS

Giuliani erroneously claims that merit pay for teachers, charter schools, and vouchers improve education. None of those “reform” methods have been shown to improve education, yet somehow, since the teachers unions are against them, they (the unions) are somehow responsible for the death of Eric Garner by choke-hold.

What did Giuliani do to decrease poverty in NYC?

Did Rudy Giuliani just link Eric Garner’s death to teachers’ unions?

“Maybe all these left-wing politicians who want to blame police, maybe there’s some blame here that has to go to the teachers union, for refusing to have, uh, for refusing to have schools where teachers are paid for performance, for fighting charter schools, for fighting vouchers, so that we can drastically and dramatically improve education.”

PRIVATIZATION

Stanford CREDO Director: Free Market Doesn’t Work in Education

Education is a collaborative enterprise…policy makers, community leaders, teachers, students, and parents all have to work together to help students learn. Ripping communities apart by closing schools, setting up competitive privately run schools to steal students from the public schools, and closing public schools rather than providing resources, doesn’t improve education.

Here’s a “free market fan” who agrees…

I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed… 

CHARTERS

Record number of traditional public schools earn an ‘A’; Vastly outperform charter schools

The accountability grades clearly show that silver bullet solutions to ‘reform’ public education through the establishment of charter schools is not working. Six in 10 charter schools have earned a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’. Also today, an ISTA member pointed out to us that traditional public schools averaged 3.3 points, while charter schools averaged only 1.9 points.

The poor performance of charter schools leads us to believe that further siphoning of resources from our community traditional public schools should be stopped. Since charter schools do not fall under the same accountability consequences as traditional public schools, a moratorium should be considered on approving additional charter schools.

Charter Schools Not Making the Grade

The chance you take at a charter school…

Charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently. Forty-nine charter schools have shut down in South Florida in the last five years, more than 40% owing school districts millions of dollars in tax money–and leaving parents like John and Mariya Wai scrambling to find a new school.

Profitship! Cashing In On Public Schools

THE GATES PARADOX

The Answer to the Great Question of Education Reform? The Number 42

Teachers don’t get paid much, so their voices are ignored. Bill Gates and other billionaires are worth billions, so, despite their lack of credentials, their voices are heard in the halls of education policy.

I call it the Gates Paradox – the power of your voice in the “education reform” debate is proportional to the distance from the classroom (and your proximity to Silicon Valley) multiplied by the amount of money you earn. Of course, each additional media outlet owned increases the influence by a factor of ten.

…The Gates Paradox explains not only why educators have been roundly ignored in the education debate but why The Answer is now enshrined as federal law. President Obama’s Department of Education has complete faith in the technocratic, market-based reforms forwarded by the Tech Titans. According to recent speeches, Obama has argued that our schools need a software update, so that students can be downloaded with the “21st century skills” they need to “win the future.”

MORE THAN VOTING

Commentary: If Voting Were Only The Answer

Those who didn’t vote made a choice…and it was the wrong one.

So, what shall we conclude? That you missed an opportunity and skipped an obligation last month by not going to the polls and earning one of those “I Count, I Voted” stickers? Or that you did your duty in 2012 by handing Glenda Ritz one of the widest victory margins of any state office-holder, and the guys in the Statehouse decided your vote didn’t count after all?

Either way, the lesson is clear: Politicians are perfectly happy to claim a mandate when 85 percent of the voting public did not choose them, and politicians will do what their elite supporters dictate regardless of what the people “decide” at the polls…

…So citizens, like the coal companies and the anti-Ritz forces that wish to privatize our schools for profit, must lobby. And picket. And write letters to the editor. And raise hell. And perhaps vote.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Alfie Kohn, Charters, JimHorn, KarenLewis, poverty, Privatization, Quotes, Ravitch, SusanOhanian, Teaching Career, Tenure, Testing, Walt Gardner

Random Quotes – November 2014

INEQUITY

Public Education Advocates Rally For Change

Competition doesn’t work in education. We’re not manufacturing ice cream, or playing professional baseball. We’re trying to educate students and all students come to school with different needs. You can’t call for competition when some students take 2 years to learn what other students come to school already knowing. You can’t call for competition and still depend on teaching practices to improve through collaboration. You can’t call for competition where some schools have fewer resources than others.

A high quality public education system is fully funded through a progressive tax system and is open to all students. It must provide the services each individual student needs.

“What’s at stake here is whether or not we’re going to have a robust, well-funded, high-quality system where people can just cross the threshold and receive the service for free and have the schools deploy whatever resources are necessary to meet the needs of that student as opposed to a selective, competitive system which will inevitably reproduce dramatic inequality we’re already seeing in our system.” — Brian Jones

TENURE

The learning atmosphere in our public schools has deteriorated into one of constant drill, test, and punish. Developmentally inappropriate curricula, abusive testing regimes, and a lack of balance in education has taken over our schools. The people who do the work are blamed and blasted as incompetent and even more unbelievably, uncaring…as if people become professional teachers in order to hurt children. In Indiana, due process (often mislabeled “tenure”) has been taken away from teachers. Depending on the actual contract language, teachers can be fired at the whim of an administrator. Is it any wonder that there are teachers who are afraid to speak out? And if teachers don’t speak up for the abuses that the legislature and policy makers are foisting upon our schools, who will?

Legislators and policy makers are telling teachers how to teach, what to teach, and when to teach it and then blaming teachers when it doesn’t work.

Where will the “great teachers” come from when the teaching profession is made less desirable? If teachers are punished based on the achievement of their students who is going to want to work with the hard-to-teach students? Who is going to want to work with students who come to school hungry, traumatized, or with untreated health problems if their livelihood depends on their students’ achievement?

Cindi Pastore of The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) wrote,

[Educators’] hands are tied by administrators whose hands are tied by legislators whose hands are filling up with money from special interest and profit driven groups. Time to stop this chain with your votes!!!

Moral Distress in Teachers by Walt Gardner

When teachers know that something is ethically wrong but don’t speak out because of fear of retaliation by their principal, they suffer from the condition [of moral distress].

Although teachers don’t take the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath, they nonetheless are professionally responsible for acting ethically at all times. If it were not for the existence of tenure, teachers might be intimidated in remaining silent about anything they deemed inimical to the students.

Tenure Is a Civil Rights Issue by Peter Greene

…the types of due process derailing being promoted will (by design or not) directly attack the quality of the teaching staffs in the schools that can least withstand these attacks. Linking teacher job security and pay to student test scores makes it harder to recruit and retain teachers for the urban schools already socked in by poverty and suffering from the instability that comes from steady staff churn.

Massachusetts Proposes Plan to Chase Teachers Out by Diane Ravitch

How is it possible to improve education by ruining the lives of teachers? How is it possible to improve education by making test scores the measure of everything? Good business for Pearson, not so good for the children.

See the follow up…The Massachusetts Teachers Association Blasts State Plan re Evaluations

PRIVATIZATION

“Reformers” continue to point to test scores as the only way to prove that students are achieving as well as the only way to evaluate (blame) teachers, administrators, and school systems. Yet, when it comes to blaming teachers unions for all the problems in America’s schools they calmly ignore test scores which show that states with high test scores have high union membership and states with low test scores have low union membership.

Likewise, “reformers” love to label schools as “failing” and ignore the well documented relationship between poverty and low achievement.

The labels and teacher bashing are important to “reformers.” By continuing to label schools, teachers, and students as “failing” and blaming unions and teachers for that “failure” they deflect attention away from the corporate takeover of America and the inability of policy makers to eliminate or even reduce poverty.

Instead, “reformers” continue to erode the public confidence in public education in order to press for increased privatization.

Where is the accountability of the politicians and the policy makers for the high level of poverty in America? Where is the accountability of corporate America for the inequity running rampant through the nation?

“When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Health Care and No Child Left Homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind.” — Susan Ohanian

Blame It All on Teachers’ Unions By Walt Gardner

In what has become a mantra, corporate reformers argue that powerful teachers’ unions are the primary cause of the failure of students to perform (“Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools, The Wall Street Journal,” Nov. 20, 2013). But the reality is quite different….

Lest I be accused of selective perception, I pose the following question: If teachers’ unions are the villains, as charged, why do states, such as Arkansas and Mississippi, where they are weakest, persist in posting appalling results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress? Conversely, why do states, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, where they are strongest, continue to post the highest scores? Clearly something else explains the disparity, but it is given short shrift by the media.

“Stop using the word “failing schools” — no longer. The word is “abandoned schools,” or come up with something else, but stop labeling our children. Stop labeling the buildings, and stop labeling the people who do the work.” — Karen Lewis

CHARTERS

On Education, Barack Obama is the President of Privatization. Can We Stop Him? Will We? by Bruce A. Dixon

Charter schools are private schools as long as they are not accountable to publicly elected school boards. They take public money, but they claim to be private entities when pressed to be accountable.

On every level, the advocates of educational privatization strive to avoid using the p-word [privatization]. They deliberately mislabel charter schools, just as unaccountable as every other private business in the land as “public charter schools,” because after all, they use public money. So do Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, but nobody calls these “public aerospace companies,” “public military contractors,” or “public banks.” For the same reason, corporate media refuse to cover the extent of the school closing epidemic, or local opposition to it, for fear of feeding the development of a popular movement against privatization, and Race To The Top, the Obama administration’s signature public education initiative, and the sharp edge of the privatizers, literally driving the wave of school closings, teacher firings, and the adoption of “run-the-school-like-a-business” methods everywhere.

TESTING

Does Arne Duncan think ‘suburban moms’ are a gullible bunch? by Carol Burris (in Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet)

And that really sums up the thinking of Duncan and his cheerleading Chiefs. Their distrust of public schools and the democratic control of schooling run deep. It colors every solution that they propose. They have no idea how to effect school improvement other than by making tests harder and making sticks bigger. When punishing the school did not work, it morphed into punish the teacher through evaluations based on test scores. The reality that no country has ever improved student learning using test and punish strategies is lost on those who refuse to address the greater social issues that we who do the work confront every day.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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