Posted in Comprehension, DeVos, Facebook, Politicians, poverty, Privatization, reading, special education, Taxes, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #33

Republicans, Facebook, Testing, Poverty, Reading Comprehension, Vouchers, IDEA

DO REPUBLICANS HATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN?

The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools

Incentives for parents who send their children to private schools, but none for public school parents.

That means that the “school tuition” that parents of public school kids are paying, in the form of state and local taxes, isn’t deductible from their federal taxes, and public schools themselves will have less money to spend on kids. But rich families who can afford private school get a brand new tax break. That’s a win for the 10%.

The Republican War on Children

No health insurance for poor children…tax incentives for wealthy children.

Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.

TOSSED OFF FACEBOOK

The False Paradise of School Privatization

Why did Facebook suspend Steven Singer’s (Gadfly On The Wall Blog) Facebook account for the second time in two months?

The first time was when he published School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less. This time it’s for The False Paradise of School Privatization. Could it be there’s someone working for Facebook who doesn’t like the politics of public education?

If you haven’t had a chance to read Singer’s post, The False Paradise of School Privatization, be sure to do so. Then, when you’ve finished that, check out Two Theories Why Facebook Keeps Blocking Me When I Write About School Privatization.

One person’s paradise is another person’s Hell.

So the idea of designing one system that fits all is essentially bound to fail.

But doesn’t that support the charter and voucher school ideal? They are marketed, after all, as “school choice.” They allegedly give parents and children a choice about which schools to attend.

Unfortunately, this is just a marketing term.

Charter and voucher schools don’t actually provide more choice. They provide less.

Think about it.

Who gets to choose whether you attend one of these schools? Not you.

Certainly you have to apply, but it’s totally up to the charter or voucher school operators whether they want to accept you.

It is the public school system that gives you choice. You decide to live in a certain community – you get to go to that community’s schools. Period.

READING: TESTING

PIRLS: The effect of phonics, poverty, and pleasure reading.

The last half of my 35 year teaching career was spent working with students who had difficulties with reading. I worked in rural schools with small, but significant numbers of low-income students. We knew then, and we know now, that child poverty is the main factor in low school achievement. We also know that factors associated with poverty, like low birth weight, poor nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of health care, have an impact on a child’s learning. These out-of-school factors are rarely discussed when politicians and policy makers blame schools and teachers for low student achievement.

You may have read about the recent release of the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) scores along with much pearl-clutching because of the nation’s poor performance. Most reporters focus on comparing scores of American students with students in other countries (We fall somewhere in the middle). Rarely is the impact of poverty noted.

Stephen Krashen continues to educate.

Kevin Courtney is right about the negative influence of poverty on PIRLS tests; two of our studies confirm this. He is also right in rejecting phonics instruction as the force responsible for the recent improvement in PIRLS scores: Studies show that intensive phonics instruction only improves performance on tests in which children have to pronounce words presented in a list. Heavy phonics does not contribute to performance on tests of reading comprehension. In fact, several scholars have concluded that knowledge of phonics rules, beyond the simplest ones, is acquired from reading.

For Further Reading: 

Valerie Strauss has a guest post from James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable which gives the PIRLS tests a more nuanced analysis.

Also from Valerie Strauss – Ten things you need to know about international assessments

READING: POVERTY

The Reading Achievement Gap: Why Do Poor Students Lag Behind Rich Students in Reading Development?

This article was published in 2015 by Richard Allington. Here he reinforces the need for access to books for low-income children.

Students from lower-income families experience summer reading loss because they don’t read much, if at all, during the summer months. Students from middle-class families, on the other hand, are far more likely to read during this same summer period. Low-income students don’t read during the summer months because they don’t own any books, and they live in neighborhoods where there are few, if any, places to purchase books. Middle-class students have bedroom libraries and live in neighborhoods where children’s books are readily available, even in the grocery stores where their parents shop. Middle-class kids are more likely to live in a neighborhood where one can find a child-friendly public library than is the case with children living in low-income areas. These children live in neighborhoods best described as book deserts.

Historically, low-income students relied primarily on schools as sources for the books they read. Ironically, too many high-poverty schools have small libraries, and there are too many classrooms that have no classroom library for kids to select books to read. Too many high-poverty schools ban library books (and textbooks) from leaving the building (fear of loss of the books, I’m usually told). However, even with fewer books in their schools and more restrictive book-lending policies, these kids do get most of the books they read from the schools they attend. But not during the summer months when school is not in session!

READING: COMPREHENSION

How To Get Your Mind To Read (Daniel Willingham)

Reading teachers understand that students’ comprehension improves when teachers activate prior knowledge before having students read a passage (or before they read aloud). What happens, however, when students don’t have the knowledge they need?

…students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.

VOUCHERS

Voucher Programs and the Constitutional Ethic

Acceptance of a voucher by a private school should be subject to that school’s compliance with certain basic requirements. At a minimum, school buildings should meet relevant code requirements and fire safety standards; teachers should be able to offer evidence that they are equipped to teach their subject matter; and the school should both teach and model foundational constitutional values and behaviors. Ideally, schools receiving public funds should not be permitted to discriminate on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation (religious schools have a constitutional right to discriminate on the basis of religion in certain situations, although they do not have a right to do so on the taxpayer’s dime) and should be required to afford both students and staff at least a minimum of due process. At present, we are unaware of any voucher program that requires these commitm

GIVING UP RIGHTS FOR PROFIT

DeVos Won’t Publicize a School Voucher Downside, But It’s Leaking Out Anyway

DeVos admits that students who attend private schools lose their rights under IDEA.

DeVos seems to forget that she’s the Secretary of Education for the entire United States, not just for private and privately owned schools.

There’s another key issue at stake in the conversation about vouchers for students with disabilities — one Jennifer and Joe asked DeVos about during their private conversation.

Do students with disabilities lose their rights to a fair and appropriate education — a guarantee under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — if they use vouchers to attend private schools?

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, dyslexia, OnlineLearning, Privatization, reading, special education, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #29

Teaching, Privatization: Vouchers, 
DeVos’s Attack on Special Education, Dyslexia, Screen Time as Textbooks

UNIQUE TO TEACHING?

Another Faux Teacher Memoir

Teachers are told how to teach by legislatures and are critiqued by pundits who apparently know everything about education because “they went to school.” Do we see this sort of behavior in other professions?

  • Are doctors told how to practice medicine by people who “know all about medicine” because they have been sick before?
  • Do you automatically know how to handle 150 high school math students just because you have a degree in math? Are you able to present content in a way that students can understand just because you know that content?
  • Would a chemistry major be allowed to dispense drugs at a pharmacy?
  • Would an anatomy major be allowed to practice medicine at a local hospital or clinic?
  • The majority of Americans know nearly 100% of the content taught by early childhood educators. Because you have internalized one-to-one correspondence or the concept of “story,” does that mean you can help preschoolers develop those skills and concepts? Since you know arithmetic are you automatically able to explain the process to 8 and 9 year olds in a way they will understand?

Teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. A teacher should understand learning theory, child development, and pedagogy. A college graduate with a degree in pre-law can’t hope to learn how to teach in a five week course as completely as someone who has had 3 and a half years of education training, plus a semester of student teaching.

It’s no surprise to Peter Greene, then, when a college grad with a pre-law degree, along with five weeks of TFA training found teaching difficult. I love his metaphor of Christopher Columbus…those who are lionized for “discovering” something that the professionals in the field already know.

…Is it the part where she puts in her two years and then leaves for her “real” profession (in this case, lawyer and memoirist)?

…I’ve seen all of these stories hundreds of times. The fact that Kuo tells a tale more nuanced than the infamous Onion TFA pieces doesn’t mean she isn’t working the same old territory. And while Kuo seems to be a decent writer, she doesn’t appear to have gleaned any insights that aren’t already possessed by millions of actual teachers (the majority of whom stuck around long enough to actually get good at the job).

…only in teaching do we get this. Students who drop out of their medical internship don’t get to write memoirs hailed for genius insights into health care. Guys who once wrote an article for the local paper don’t draw plaudits for their book of wisdom about journalism and the media. But somehow education must be repeatedly Columbusized, as some new tourist is lionized for “discovering” a land where millions of folks all live rich and fully realized lives. [emphasis added]

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Fla. Newspaper Exposes Host Of Problems In State’s Voucher Scheme

The problems with vouchers are similar nationwide. In Florida, for example, they have a problem with the lack of public oversight. Go figure…

…private schools in the state are accepting $1 billion a year in taxpayer funds with virtually no oversight. The result has been what you’d expect: a raft of fly-by-night schools, some of which use questionable curriculum, hire unqualified staff and place children in dangerous facilities.

Indiana school voucher debate continues

The Indiana State Supreme Court rule that vouchers don’t violate the state’s constitutional restriction on giving tax dollars to religious groups because the money goes to the parent. No matter how you look at it, however, tax dollars are going to churches which teach sectarian religion.

And, by the way, students in public schools are allowed to “speak about God,” too.

“I wanted an environment where my children were allowed to speak about God,” she said. Her daughter recently brought home artwork with a pumpkin that also included a picture of a cross.

…traditional public schools are subject to state Board of Accounts audits, while board meetings and budgets are public. Teachers must meet licensing requirements credentials. Also, private schools receiving vouchers also can be more exclusionary in who they admit.

DEVOS: ATTACK ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The Pharisaical DeVastation of Betsy DeVos

Remember, during her confirmation hearing, when DeVos was asked whether she supported the “federal requirement” protecting students with disabilities and it was clear that she had no clue what IDEA was?

Remember, during her confirmation hearing, when DeVos refused to say that all schools getting federal funds should be subject to the same accountability standards.

Why are we not protecting the lives of those who are already born? I feel that being “pro-life” is not a matter reserved for the issue of abortion and the unborn, but should include those who are living and need help.

Hubert Humphrey once said in 1977, “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

DYSLEXIA

Scientists May Have Found Out What Causes Dyslexia

I tend to be skeptical when someone says (or writes) that “the cause” has been found for something. People have a tendency to latch on to a “reason” and not let go. My guess is that the information in this study will be helpful for some students (and adults) with reading difficulties, but not all.

In my experience, the causes of reading difficulties – often labeled dyslexia, even when it’s not – are varied. As a layman (I’m a teacher, not a neuroscientist), I discovered early in my career that what works for one child, might not work for another, even though their symptoms might be similar.

I’m not suggesting that this line of research be abandoned. On the contrary, we need to continue to find ways to help children learn. We just need to be aware that there might not be one, single, identifiable, cause or remedy for reading problems.

It’s worth pointing out that this is just one study, and that plenty of other researchers view dyslexia as a neurological trait. Perhaps these visual differences are a consequence, rather than a trigger, of dyslexia. Additionally, people with dyslexia sometimes see it as not something that needs to be “fixed,” but a type of creative advantage.

Do We Need a New Definition of Dyslexia?

Some background information about Dyslexia…

1. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability…

2. …that is neurobiological in origin…

3. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities…

4. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language…

5. …that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities…

6. …and the provision of effective classroom instruction…

7. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

SCREEN TIME AS TEXTBOOKS

A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens

Special note to schools and teachers who have students read textbooks online…

…from our review of research done since 1992, we found that students were able to better comprehend information in print for texts that were more than a page in length. This appears to be related to the disruptive effect that scrolling has on comprehension. We were also surprised to learn that few researchers tested different levels of comprehension or documented reading time in their studies of printed and digital texts.

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Posted in Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

A Father’s Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father’s Day post…with changes.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from my very first day as an elementary school teacher beginning in 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors. I had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I’ve referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.

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

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

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

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to 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.

Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains…it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains…and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What’s the score?

In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.

  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.

(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads….Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America’s “male” culture has been dominated by politics, sports and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It’s more important than ever that fathers exert role-model influence over their sons.

The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.

“Is there a connection,” he asks, between the “decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?”

Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.

The question is…do they? Do fathers take part in their children’s, and specifically their sons’, intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.

Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father’s Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.

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Posted in poverty, reading, retention, Testing

Punishing Third Graders – Again, and Again, and Again

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nick Chiles has an article in the Hechinger Report on Mississippi’s third grade punishment law, which, like a similar law in Indiana, makes third graders repeat the grade if they fail a standardized reading test in third grade.

The article focuses on schools in extreme high-poverty counties, in a state where nearly a third of children younger than 18 live in poverty.

What makes Mississippi’s third grade punishment law particularly pernicious is the fact that it doesn’t end once a child is retained. Repeated retentions are allowed (the article notes that four other states, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, and Oklahoma, have the same allowances for multiple retentions – aka child abuse).

Is repeating third grade — again and again — good for kids?

…those youngsters who were held back last year can be held back a second time if they can’t pass the test this go-round. That shouldn’t happen if there is any value to Bryant’s idea that holding students back for a year and giving them extra help will improve their literacy…

The “Bryant” in this article is Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant, a self-proclaimed third grade repeater who claims that he “benefited greatly” by repeating third grade.

It’s possible that Governor Bryant survived undamaged his third grade retention, and even thrived as an elementary school student, but his personal experience doesn’t negate years of research into grade retention. Neither should his experience at one elementary school in Sunflower County Mississippi be used to justify retaining thousands of Mississippi children who struggle to learn to read.

Bryant thinks that “holding students back for a year and giving them extra help” is all that’s needed to improve achievement. First of all, this former deputy sheriff, turned insurance investigator, turned politician, has no background in education and has apparently done no research into the dangers of grade retention.

Second, he’s wrong.

…said Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (also known as FairTest), the advocacy group that has long fought against the widespread use of standardized tests. “In Florida, they found higher test scores in the beginning for the kids who were held back, but the gains dissipated over a few years.”

It’s not just in Florida. Research has shown that retained students often show short term improvement, but the long term effects of retention are generally negative, including continued low achievement and higher than average drop-out rate (which increases to more than 90% for children retained more than once).

TEACH READING, NOT TEST-TAKING…

Neill says the fact that fewer kids were held back last year may be a result of improved reading skills, but could also be “because teachers are prepping them better for the test.”

Standardized tests measure household income, so it’s no wonder that schools with high rates of child poverty have plenty of low scorers. One of the schools discussed in the article by Chiles, had a 100% free and reduced lunch population.

This doesn’t mean that schools shouldn’t try to do all they can to help high-poverty students learn. It does mean, however, that, until the economic playing field has been leveled, the academic playing field will remain uneven. It means that it’s unreasonable to expect schools to carry the entire burden of responsibility for the effects of poverty. It means that it’s unreasonable to punish students for failure to pass a single, arbitrary, achievement test.

Students ought not to be labeled “failures” based on a questionable assessment, and then punished by an outmoded and damaging “intervention” because they are taking longer than a bureaucratically assigned time to learn to read. Higher test scores do not necessarily indicate more or better learning. Standardized achievement test scores are not the only measures of a child’s success. There’s more to education than test scores.

High-poverty students often come into school with fewer academic skills than their wealthier peers.

Robinson said too many of her young students are missing valuable phonemic skills — being able to identify the sound each letter makes — when they first come to Finch in kindergarten. She said the school staff is now concentrating on building a stronger reading foundation before students reach third grade.

Schools ought to concentrate on building a strong foundation for reading in pre-school and kindergarten. Frequent, appropriate assessment is also necessary to monitor a child’s progress and guide instruction. But not all children learn at the same rate. Not all children will learn to read in first grade. Not all children will read at “grade-level”. There is no pedagogical reason for placing high stakes on reading instruction.

There is no pedagogical reason for placing high stakes on reading instruction.

There is no pedagogical reason for placing high stakes on reading instruction.

…OR COMPUTER SKILLS

What worries Magee is the difficulty too many of her current third graders have taking a test on the computer. Few students have computers at home, so they aren’t used to manipulating the mouse.

Are we testing reading skills, test-taking skills, or computer skills?

Instead of lining corporate (Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson) pockets with millions of tax dollars spent on unnecessary, high stakes, and often inappropriate testing, we should spend our money on appropriate assessments, early intervention, and developmentally appropriate instruction. High stakes testing should be eliminated. Forever.

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, GERM, NorthCarolina, Politics, poverty, Privatization, reading, Teaching Career, Trump

2016 Medley #33

Privatization, “Good” Teachers, Learning, Happiness–Love–Kindness, Politics

PRIVATIZATION

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

The NC legislature is worse than most when it comes to lack of support for public education. Even so, blogger Stu Egan’s comments in this article can be universally appreciated just by inserting “Indiana” (or “Ohio,” or “Pennsylvania,” or “Florida,” etc) instead of “North Carolina.” GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, is everywhere.

The first sentence below is what separates us from the “reformers.”

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

…“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities”

…It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

Privatization or Public Investment in Education?

For the nerdier among us…here’s the study to which Egan (see above) refers to.

Finnish educators attribute a modest dip in 2012 (although their scores remained) as potentially resulting from distractions caused by their popular international status. As a result, the country has refocused on the principles of equity, creativity, and the “joy of learning” that produced their high-quality system in the first place. Furthermore, Finland maintained its position as the top European performer in 2012 (well above the OECD mean), demonstrating the value of the public investment approach in developing and supporting high-quality teachers.

TEACHER QUALITY

Do Poor Students Get the Worst Teachers?

How does one define a “good” teacher? For too long the “reformist” definition has been based on test scores, a misuse of assessment since it’s been long established that test scores are a function of family income more than teacher quality. Students who live in poverty come to school with problems not seen in low poverty environments. David C. Berliner, in Poverty and Potential, notes six areas that

…significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

It takes more than test scores to define “good” teaching. I know this to be absolutely true. I’ve experienced it in my own classrooms. There have been children who have thrived in my classrooms…for whom I have had a major life impact. There are others for whom I was the wrong teacher at the wrong time. Some students had an outstanding teacher when they were in my classroom. Others not so much. What was the difference? I was the same person. I used the same teaching styles in most of my rooms. I read the same books, worked with the same intensity, and spoke with the same voice.

The difference was that, like all teachers, I’m a human being with inconsistencies, good days and bad days, emotional ups and downs. A teacher makes thousands of decisions over the course of a school year. Sometimes those decisions don’t yield the best result. No matter how “good” a teacher is, there will be days when the interactions between the teacher and students don’t go as planned.

In the current article, Peter Greene reminds us of this…

…teacher quality is not a solid state. Over time, we all have better days and not so better days. And how “good” we are is also a matter of which students you put us together with. One student’s terrible teacher is another students life-altering agent of positive change.

LEARNING

Got to remember them all, Pokémon: New study of human memory for Pokémon finds that it is possible to boost memory capacity

One of the most important concepts for a teacher to keep in mind when teaching reading is to “activate prior knowledge.”

Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience, when students make connections to the text they are reading, their comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. When we help students make those connections before, during, and after they read, we are teaching them a critical comprehension strategy that the best readers use almost unconsciously.

A new study has shown that when people are familiar with content they can remember information related to it. Activating prior knowledge does this.

When I was working in my classroom I introduced students to study techniques to help them activate prior knowledge…helping to improve comprehension.

It works with Pokémon, too.

People can learn and remember more of a subject when they are already familiar with it, new research concludes. And the more familiar they are with the subject, the better they remember new information related to it, add the researchers.

HAPPINESS, LOVE, AND KINDNESS

In school relationships, just like in close personal relationships, positive connections are beneficial. A happy classroom is more conducive to learning. Students feel safe and are willing to take learning risks.

Below are three articles exploring personal relationships…

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement

A positive climate, most education stakeholders agree, is on most schools’ wish-list. Schools do not aspire, after all, to create environments that are detrimental to students and educators. But the No Child Left Behind era – a decade plus of “test and punish,” a stripped down curriculum, and narrow accountability measures – decoupled school climate from student achievement, in effect imposing a “nice schools finish last” credo. Sure, a “happy” school would be nice, but … about those test scores.

Love and Kindness

The older I get, the more certain I am that kindness is hugely important (though I don’t think kindness always looks like a warm, fuzzy Care Bear). There is science on my side; mean people really do suck, and they really do have a hard time building good relationships. We seem to have entered a pronounced mean streak as a country; the challenge will be to remember that unkind, ungenerous meanness is not beaten by more of the same.

Masters of Love

They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

DUELING ECHO CHAMBERS

Paul Simon sang,

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…

The political climate in the US is a perfect example of that. For the most part we stay in our own echo chambers hearing the “news” that supports our point of view. “Tell me what I want to hear, don’t confuse me with facts” is the attitude, and anyone else’s sources are “lies” and “fake news.”

One might have hoped that a new administration in Washington would have come in with the ability to ease the polarization of the nation. If so, one would have been disappointed.

Working in the Irony Mines

In the last eight years the Republicans have done everything they could to stop President Obama from governing…from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner saying they would obstruct everything Obama favored, to Ted Cruz forcing a shut down of the government rather than allow Obama’s policies to work. It’s ironic then – and by ironic, I mean amazingly, monumentally, ironic – that President-elect Trump’s campaign chair is blasting Democrats for establishing a “permanent opposition” to his administration. Was she not in the US in the last eight years? Was she hiding in a cave? Or perhaps she’s complimenting the opposition for adopting the policies of her party.

“The professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election,” [Kellyanne Conway] said. Liberals cannot, she added, “wave magic pixie dust and make this go away.”

Trump Opponents and Supporters Have Divergent Racial Attitudes

File this under, “so what else is new.” We all knew that there is an underlying racism in America and that the Trump campaign tapped it and benefited from it.

When economic times are tough there is a tendency to revert to scapegoating. It’s happened before. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

These findings aren’t particularly surprising. Others have also found that priming respondents to think of black people tends to make them tougher on crime and advocate for less generous social programs, like in this study on attitudes toward CA’s three-strikes law. What’s new here is the difference between Trump supporters and opponents. For opponents of Trump, priming made them more sympathetic toward mortgage holders; for supporters, priming made them less. This speaks to a real divide among Americans. Some of us feel real hostility toward African Americans. Others definitely do not.

Donald Trump’s Conflict-Of-Interest Network (COIN) – Otherwise Known As His Cabinet

President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos is just the tip of the unqualified iceberg in a collection of unqualifieds. Virtually every nominee and appointee has a history of working against the department for which they have been chosen. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but instead turned over a rock.

2. A Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) who opposes public education and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting private charter schools.

For more information about Betsy DeVos and her anti-public education policies see here.

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Posted in DeVos, DollyParton, reading

What DeVos Could Learn from ‘The Book Lady’

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, the President-elect’s nominee for US Secretary of Education, has a lot to learn about education, and she could learn some of it from another rich woman who has donated some of her millions to actually helping children.

DeVos, whose family is worth more than $5 billion, is a product of private schools and the advantages of money. She went to a private high school in Holland, Michigan, and attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science.

Betsy DeVos and her family have donated millions to the arts and have a family foundation which is

motivated by faith, and “is centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas”, namely education, community, arts, justice, and leadership.

It’s in the area of education that her activities have been damaging and reflect her privileged background. She has funded and worked steadily for the privatization of public education.

What should she have done differently as a philanthropist…what should she have done differently to have a positive impact on children’s learning?

‘THE BOOK LADY’

‘The Book Lady’ grew up “dirt poor,” never went to college, and made her millions in the entertainment industry. Unlike DeVos, she has invested her money, time, and energy into improving the literacy of America’s (and other) children one book at a time.

‘The Book Lady’ grew up in a one room cabin in eastern Tennessee. Her father, a farmer and construction worker, paid the doctor who delivered her for his services with a bag of oatmeal. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar…and by the time she was twenty-five, she had begun her successful and award-winning career. Since then she has accumulated more than two dozen gold and platinum singles and albums in the US, Canada, and the UK, as well as

  • eleven Academy of Country Music Awards
  • three American Music Awards
  • eight Grammy Awards and nearly four dozen Grammy nominations
  • two Academy Award nominations
  • two Tony nominations
  • five Golden Globe nominations
  • a Living Legend Medal from the US Library of Congress
  • a National Medal of Arts awarded by President George W. Bush
  • and other awards which you can read about HERE.

‘The Book Lady’ is famed singer, actress, and philanthropist, Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Dolly Parton, whose net worth, about $500 million, is about 1/10th that of the DeVos family, has given some of her millions to help the American Red Cross, HIV/AIDS-related charities, efforts to preserve the bald eagle, and a proposed $90-million hospital and cancer center to be constructed in Sevierville in her home county of Sevier in Tennessee.

But she earned the title ‘The Book Lady’ when she started the Imagination Library.

In 1995, Parton began her involvement with literacy by sending an “age-appropriate” book every month of their first five years to every child born in Sevier County, Tennessee. The Imagination Library has grown since then…

Today, children across the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Belize have received tens of millions of books, and the program continues to expand. By November, Imagination Library will be distributing more than 1 million books each month to children. And next year, Parton’s Imagination Library will have distributed a total of more than 100 million books.

She founded the Imagination Library, raising money for the program through her companies and charity concerts, to fulfill a promise to her father.

Literacy is a very personal issue for Parton: her father, Robert, never learned to read, and he implored her to use her star power and resources to help ensure his fate was not repeated in others. “I started my Imagination Library in honor of my dad,” she says. “He didn’t get to live long enough to see it do well, but it’s a wonderful program that I take a lot of pride in.”

She should take pride in it…

The Imagination Library was a quick success, and pre-school teachers in Tennessee cited its impact on young children’s love of books…Repeated studies by the foundation have shown that Parton’s efforts are helping to improve children’s vocabularies and early-school readiness.

Instead of using her money to support the destruction of public schools, Parton has developed a program which directly benefits every child who participates. Instead of working to prevent accountability measures for private and charter schools, Parton has worked to help students learn to read, and learn to love reading.

DeVos could learn a lot about education from ‘The Book Lady.”

For Further Reading:

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, Politics, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, Stephen Krashen, US DOE

2016 Medley #31

Support Public Education, Poverty, Politics, Privatization, US Secretary of Education,
Imagination Library

SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION

The Mis-Measure of Schools and School Children

Russ Walsh explains in clear language why A-F grading scales are an insufficient way to judge schools.

Currently, at least 14 states grade their public schools on an A-F scale. Educators are correct to point out that this is a stupid way to hold schools accountable. Three reasons pop out right away when we think about the idiocy of giving schools a letter grade and then publicizing this grade through the media.

Don’t Let The Government Take Away Your Public School

Over the past three decades, both Democrats and Republicans have worked to privatize America’s public school system.

America’s public schools ought to be repaired and improved, not abandoned. If your local public schools are successful then protect them. If they need repair, fix them. You don’t throw away your car when a tire goes flat. You fix it.

With his selection of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, Donald Trump has made it clear. He wants to take away your public school. Tell him, “Keep the government’s hands off our public schools!”

…it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.

Open Letter to Rep. Jason Saine -You’re a State Representative; Fight For All Public Schools, Not A New Charter School

Too many legislators make decisions based on campaign contributions. Here’s a letter to a legislator in North Carolina reminding him where his responsibility lies.

When you as a lawmaker were elected to office in North Carolina, you took a vow to uphold the state constitution no matter what area you represented. While the interests of any lawmaker’s constituents are of vital importance, it could be argued that the entire state is actually the represented area of any lawmaker. Any policy, law, or act passed will have an effect on all North Carolinians.

One of the most sacred components of the NC state constitution is the edict that the state will provide a quality public education for all students and will fully fund the schools that educate those students. If a lawmaker is beholden to supporting the state constitution and helping make public schools viable for all students, then it is almost as if each lawmaker is a de facto board member for each public school in the state.

Dennis Kruse, Bob Behning, Brian Bosma, and other Indiana legislators, the same is true in our state. Your responsibility is to provide a “general and uniform system of Common Schools” for the benefit of all…not just your campaign donors.

Indiana Constitution ARTICLE 8. Education, Section 1. Common school system

Section 1. Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.

POVERTY

The reason for “lousy” performance on international tests: Poverty.

Public school parents, students, teachers, and advocates owe Stephen Krashen continued thanks for his nearly single-handed effort to educate Americans (through frequent letters to editors) about the role of poverty in low achievement, and the benefits of libraries for student reading achievement.

Here is his most recent letter (to the Miami Herald) in response to an article decrying the low scores of American students.

Until we eliminate poverty, let’s invest in food programs, school nurses, and libraries and at least protect children from some of the effects of poverty.

POLITICS

DeVos says media is spreading ‘false news’ about her

…and by false news she means

  • she has no experience in public education, as a professional, a student, or a parent
  • she has worked to divert public funds into private hands through charters and vouchers

Betsy DeVos is even less qualified to be the US Secretary of Education than was Margaret Spellings or Arne Duncan. At least they had the experience of being a public school parent.

It’s true that you don’t have to actually work in a field to learn a little bit about it, but shouldn’t you at least have some knowledge of a system before you take over the federal reins?

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, pushed back against criticism of her selection today — accusing the media of spreading false stories about her.

“There’s a lot of false news out there,” DeVos said on stage with Trump at a rally in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. “All I ask for is an open mind and the opportunity to share my heart.”

DeVos doesn’t have a conventional background in education, such as working as a teacher or schools superintendent. But the billionaire philanthropist has long donated to “school choice” advocacy groups and politicians who are supportive of school vouchers and charter schools.

Undermining Public Education Has Been A Bipartisan Affair

Betsy DeVos might be the worst nominee for US Secretary of Education we’ve ever had, but most of the others in recent memory haven’t been a whole lot better. Both Democrats and Republicans have worked to push the “market” solution for what ails public schools in America. Not one presidential candidate, of either major party (in my memory, I think only the Green Party, has acknowledged that privatization is bad for public schools, and that child poverty is the cause of low achievement), in the last 16 years has understood that the major challenge facing public schools in America is child poverty.

Most members of congress are the same. They talk about how important public schools are, how much they respect teachers, how much we need to empower parents to have “choice” in their children’s education, but few, if any, understand that our child poverty rate is the basis for our low international test standing.

If there is one thing Democrats and Republicans agreed on during the last two decades, maybe the only thing, it is how to undermine public support for public education. Misguided education policy is a bipartisan endeavor in the United States and set the stage for the Trump anti-education agenda.

PRIVATIZATION

Rural America in the Crosshairs: A New Frontier for Profiteers

Most public school advocates acknowledge that many urban schools are being decimated by charterism and public school starving voucher programs. But how many understand that rural, and small town, public schools are also suffering from the intrusion of the “market” into public education?

In this article, public school advocate Victoria Young, directs her attention to the privatization taking place in small towns and rural areas.

So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.

The fabric of the community was shredded.

Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.

SECRETARIES OF EDUCATION

The U.S. Secretaries of Education, A History: Part I

My own page about the US Secretaries of Education simply lists the Secretaries and their qualifications (or lack thereof) for the job.

History teacher Jake Miller, at the Educator’s Room, goes further and provides us with (part 1 of) a complete history of the US Education Department and it’s frequently unqualified leaders.

The Department of Education is one of the newer offices in the Cabinet. After three years of debate within the legislature in creating the department, a bill was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 17, 1979. Prior to that, educational issues were overseen by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

READING

In a 2010 blog post, Building a Nation of Readers, I referenced Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and said,

Dolly Parton put her money where her mouth was.

She began her program of giving books to children in Sevier County, TN, her home county, where she provided every child with a new book each month of their lives for their first 5 years. When a child entered kindergarten, then, they would have a home library of 5 dozen books. The program has exploded now to where more than 10 million free books are distributed annually in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

An Open Apology To Dolly Parton

A new fan gives Dolly her due…

Now the Dolly Parton Imagination Library just surpassed gifting one million books to participating children around the world each month. To celebrate, your Dollywood Foundation randomly selected one of those children to receive a $30,000 college scholarship. Two-year-old Evey, from Conway, Arkansas, has no idea yet how fortunate she is, but her parents surely do.

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