Arming Teachers, Privatization, Jim Trelease
SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Here’s a good summary of the reasons we shouldn’t rely on test scores to compare education in the United States with other countries. Simply put, if the U.S. didn’t have one of the highest rates of child poverty among advanced countries, our test scores would be higher because test scores reflect family income.
- “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
- “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
- “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
- “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
- “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”
Peter Greene reminds us that public schools are expected to be everything for everyone. We aren’t always successful, but there are very few places where public schools try to help every child achieve to his or her highest potential.
10) The promise of public education
…Our dream is to provide every single child with the support and knowledge and skills and education that will allow each to pursue the life they dream of, to become more fully themselves, to understand what it means to be human in the world. We do not always live up to that dream, but US public schools have lifted up millions upon millions of students, elevated communities, raised up a country.
For years I felt like the lone voice against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing in my school, and school district…in fact, I started this blog in 2006 because I wanted a place to vent about that very topic. Perhaps other teachers in our district felt the same way, but were afraid to speak out. Most of the teachers in my building just sat quietly while I ranted about wasting all the time with tests that didn’t help anyone. No one ever thanked me, but no one ever objected. Our principal would sometimes say, “Now is not the time,” or “Just do it.” I understand that he was under pressure from the central office, who, in turn were under pressure from the state, to administer tests. Still, it would have been nice to have some support from other educators (perhaps there was, and I just didn’t see it). It would have been nice to hear from an administrator, “I agree, but we have no choice.” Something would have been better than nothing.
And it’s still going on. American teachers and students are being forced to administer and take tests which are being misused…to rank schools, to determine teacher pay, to rank students. It’s unprofessional, educational malpractice, and child abuse.
I’ve seen some of these people reduced to tears by administrators unfairly manipulating them based on their students’ test scores.
Yet none of them have the guts to stand up and be counted when the moment comes.
I say again – everyone wants to fight. But no one wants to do the fighting.
They want someone else to do it for them.
Does that make you angry?
It makes me furious.
But if you feel that way, you’ve got to do something about it.
You think teachers are too cowardly? What have YOU done to fight corporate education reform today?
Almost every major education reform of the past 20 years at both the state and national level has rested on a common assumption: Standardized test scores are an accurate and appropriate measure of success and failure. It has followed that programs or policies that increase student scores on standardized tests are “good” and programs that fail to do so are “bad.”
TEACHERS DON’T WANT TO CARRY GUNS
The last thing on my mind when I was a pre-service teacher was where I would keep my gun to protect my students from killers shooting up schools with assault-style rifles. My goal as a classroom teacher was to help children achieve as much as they could, academically and personally, while they were in my class. My goal as a reading specialist was to help children who were struggling to overcome the obstacles standing in their way.
It’s time to change our rules about guns. There’s no need for us to be the one country in the world where mass murders are frequent events. We need to require universal background checks, close gun acquisition loop-holes, and remove assault weapons from the catalog of civilian weapons. If trained soldiers at a military base could not prevent a soldier armed with two handguns from killing a dozen people how do we expect a teacher with a handgun to survive against a shooter with an assault rifle?
There are reasonable restrictions to the First Amendment. It’s time to adopt reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.
As I put the finishing touches on this post, I read the following two articles on the Guardian. Must Reads:
The Parkland teachers provide graphic and convincing reasons for keeping guns out of classrooms. The students provide the reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.
Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in school, and they overwhelmingly favor gun control measures over security steps meant to “harden” schools, according to a new Gallup poll.
PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE AND COMPETITION DON’T WORK
Charter schools and parochial/private schools that accept vouchers do not provide a better education than public schools.
…I didn’t find charter schools to be, on balance, more innovative than public schools. Some of the most remarkable innovations I observed were in the very public schools that choice advocates dismiss — in places such as Charlotte, Newark, Coachella and Waipahu. And while some charter schools are deeply innovative, many grind away on test scores, with innovation limited to cute test-prep jingles. Free of regulation, you might think private schools would lead the way in innovation, but most are focused on the college application process, a serious impediment to innovation.
People don’t want vouchers because private schools are better than public schools. People want vouchers because they want to use tax money to pay for religious education. They want to use tax money to shelter their children from those who are “different.”
The voucher debate, therefore, is a question not just of values but also of effectiveness, and research should play a significant role. So how should we interpret the available evidence? At most, only one of the more than two dozen states that have tried statewide vouchers and tuition tax credits has yet to demonstrate convincing, measurable success with them, Given this reality, it is hard to make a case for substantially replacing our system of public schooling on a national scale. The American workforce continues to be the most productive and creative in the world. This does not mean we cannot do better, but it does indicate that we should proceed with caution and care.
Not all charter schools are as bad as the one described in this post, but before we continue the charter school experiment we need to put in place safeguards to insure that charter schools are held to the same accountability standards (including financial) under which public schools are required to operate.
…I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM
Today, March 23 (actually, yesterday, by the time I get this finished and posted) is Jim Trelease’s birthday. My last post, Carved in Stone, was about reading aloud to children…Jim Trelease’s life work.
In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet from the Weekly Reader Book Club titled The Read-Aloud Handbook. Three decades later, the 30-page pamphlet had grown, in the seventh edition, to a 350 page book complete with a bibliography of several hundred read aloud book suggestions spanning a third of the book.
I read to all my classes…kindergarten through 6th grade…Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can’t remember ever missing a day. It was my belief — and it still is — that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.
The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.
If there is one person who influenced my teaching more than any others, it’s Jim Trelease.
And how exactly does a person become proficient at reading? It’s a simple, two- part formula:
The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.