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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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, Lead, Politics, reading, retention, SSR, TeacherShortage, Texas

2016 Medley #25

Retention of Children with Lead Poisoning, Charters, SSR, First Amendment,
Teacher Shortage, Textbooks, Politics

RETENTION: PUNISHING CHILDREN FOR ADULT FAILURE

If you are the state of Michigan, you damage the ability of children to learn by poisoning them with lead-tainted water which causes

  • decreased bone and muscle growth
  • poor muscle coordination
  • damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and/or hearing
  • speech and language problems
  • developmental delay
  • seizures and unconsciousness (in cases of extremely high lead levels)

Then you punish them for not being able to “pass the test.”

It’s not just Michigan, of course, although Flint, Michigan is the poster city for lead poisoning in children. Lead poisoning is still a serious problem for America’s children.

In addition, many more states besides Michigan require retaining students in third grade because of their failure to pass a test.

But Michigan is just the latest. Governor Snyder, who allowed the city of Flint to be poisoned by lead through mismanagement and not-so-benign neglect, just signed into law a bill which would require third grade students to pass a test, or be punished with in-grade retention.

Calling this sort of behavior “child abuse” isn’t nearly strong enough. When will policy makers and politicians take responsibility for their impact on student achievement?

Michigan to Retain Children with Lead Poisoning

Michigan has a lead problem with its children in Flint, and a governor who failed badly his own accountability test. Many wonder why he is still governor. Some wonder why he isn’t in jail. But yesterday he signed off on a bill to fail third graders. How many children in Flint will wind up failing third grade due to the leaded water they drank? I’m guessing many.

So children fail, through no fault of their own, while the governor gets a pass. Fancy that.

I know there are exemptions to failing in Michigan, but that doesn’t excuse a rotten bill that highlights retention as something good.

We know that the fear of failing a grade for a child is on the same level as losing a parent. Once a child is humiliated by this action, they will have a difficult time ever fully recovering.

And children who fail third grade don’t do any better than those who are socially promoted, especially if those promoted get extra help.

So children who the State of Michigan failed by not protecting them—permitting the poisoning of their water—will now get a double whammy and get blamed for their school problems.

Let’s not forget children who don’t have lead poisoning, but, who, also through no fault of their own, have dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

Retention is punishment to children and it doesn’t work. We can’t forget that.

Florida Update: Also see FL: Oh, Come On Now!

How lead poisoning affects children

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

U.S. Dept. of Education’s Own Inspector Again Condemns DOE’s Oversight of Charter School Grants

We need leaders who will stop the drain of public funds to corporate pockets. Elect state and local candidates who will direct public funds to public schools. Elect federal candidates not purchased by lobbyists for charter schools.

Letting the “marketplace rule” is inappropriate for public schools. When schools struggle – usually through insufficient resources – we need to help them improve, not close them.

  • “(W)e found that 22 of the 33 charter schools in our review had 36 examples of internal control weaknesses related to the charter schools’ relationships with their CMOs (concerning conflicts of interest, related-party transactions, and insufficient segregation of duties).”
  • (T)hese… internal control weaknesses represent the following significant risks to Department program objectives: (1) financial risk, which is the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse; (2) lack of accountability over Federal funds, which is the risk that, as a result of charter school boards ceding fiscal authority to CMOs, charter school stakeholders… may not have accountability over Federal funds sufficient to ensure compliance with Federal requirements; and (3) performance risk….”
  • “Further, the Department did not implement adequate monitoring procedures that would provide sufficient assurance that it could identify and mitigate the risks specific to charter school relationships with CMOs.”

How Charter Schools Bust Unions

“The initial idea of charter schools was that teachers and communities would have a say in how our schools function so we could better meet the needs of our students. They were supposed to be teacher-led and teacher-driven. But until we have a contract holding them accountable to their promises, they will not be held accountable.”

READING: SSR

Sustained Silent Reading: The effects are substantial, it works, and it leads to more reading. A response to Shanahan (2016).

Allowing students to choose what they read and giving them time to read every day really works.

…fourth grade children in Taiwan and Hong Kong who reported doing more independent reading in their first language in school scored higher on the PIRLS 2006 reading test, controlling for students’ reading attitude, parents’ reading attitude, home education resources, the amount of outside school informational reading done, and the amount of in-class reading aloud done by students.

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW…ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH

School board president in Texas defends students who refuse to stand during the national anthem

Here’s a principal who understands the first amendment. The constitutional protections of free speech allow us to say and do things that others disagree with. It also allows those who disagree with us to respond.

During an on air interview with WFFA, Carl Sherman, Jr., president of DeSoto Independent School District’s board, defended members of the girls volleyball team and cheerleading squad, who refused to stand during the national anthem at games in protest over recent shootings of African-American men by the police. “Yes there are possibly greater ways to get that message across, however, we are sitting here in 2016 and the messages that were brought forth in the 60’s were somehow lost in translation,” explained Sherman. “Yeah, we can criticize the method but we have to listen to the message.”

TEACHER SHORTAGE

The educator exodus: Indiana struggles to keep teachers in-state

Since 2005 the governors and legislators of Indiana have done everything they could to damage the reputation of teachers, remove incentives to become a teacher in Indiana, and make the profession of teaching less attractive.

“The stress that has come about due to high-stakes standardized testing is taking a toll on the retention rate of teachers in the state,” Tyner said. “The Indiana Department of Education needs to continue to work to find a solution to this problem.”

TEXTBOOK ADOPTIONS

Some Guy In Texas May Be Influencing The Content Of Public School Textbooks In Your State

In one review, which drove me nuts, ERA criticized a book for “political correctness (e.g., anti-white, anti-male, anti-Christian bias).” What do they mean by that? Well, they complain about books that supposedly highlight “Meanness Of Whites To People Of Color.”

Under that heading, they list “The People Could Fly,” an acclaimed short story that some Texas 8th graders read from a textbook titled Elements of Literature. ERA’s beef is that this story has an anti-white bias because it’s a “Folk tale about oppressive whites, mistreated slaves in Old South.”

So, this group was offended that this story was being “mean” by misrepresenting white slave owners! According to ERA, it’s “mean” to accurately portray history through literature. Can you imagine? People being “mean” to others because of the color of their skin? Slave owners knew nothing about that, right?

This is merely one example, but there are hundreds of awful reviews on that site that hold up conservative Christians, whites and men as superiors.

POLITICS

At This Point, if You’re Still a Donald Trump Supporter, Here’s What You Really Are

What would Republicans say if Hillary Clinton had been caught on video saying, “…when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the balls.”


“What if Barack Obama had five children by three different women?”

When did it become ok for candidates for the Presidency of the U.S. to act like this?

At this point, there’s not even a shred of sane or rational logic anyone can use to defend Donald Trump. While I don’t feel sorry for those who continue to do so, I do pity the fact that there are millions of people who are so deplorable that, even after Friday’s stunning story where he more or less said he believes he has the right to sexually assault women, they still think he should be president.

If these comments don’t drive away a good chunk of his support (which time will tell if it will), then almost nothing is going to.

As Trump said a few months ago, most of his supporters really are mindless sheep who’ll support him no matter what.

However, at this point, if you’re still a supporter of Donald Trump, here’s what you really are: You’re someone who’s cemented your place in history as an individual who we’re all going to look back upon with disgust and shame because you were ignorant enough to support one of the worst presidential candidates in United States history.

This is a man who’s:

  • Mocked a man with disabilities.
  • Attacked the parents of a fallen American hero.
  • Belittled POWs and the war record of Sen. John McCain.
  • Lied about how much money he raised for veterans.
  • Called a former Miss Universe “disgusting” and fat, telling his Twitter followers to find her non-existent sex tape.
  • Accused an American-born federal judge of being unfit to do his job because of his Mexican heritage…
  • …Re-tweeted anti-African American propaganda created by a white supremacy group.
  • Played dumb about knowing who former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke was…
  • …Feels he has the right to sexually assault women.
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Posted in Charters, Election, Equity, Gulen, Indiana, Politics, Privatization, read-alouds, reading, TeacherShortage, TFA

2016 Medley #24

Teacher Shortage, Teach for America,
Reading, Privatization, Politics, Read Aloud

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Understanding the Teacher Shortage Crisis and the Solutions to Fix it

Those of us who have watched the destruction of public education and the vilifying of teachers by legislators, state (and national) executives, and billionaire “reformers,” are not at all surprised by a teacher shortage.

The reasons for the decline in the number of teachers are correlated to teacher evaluation systems blended with high stakes standardized testing implemented over the past ten years, a shrinking student base in teacher education programs, a lack of respect for the teaching profession, and low salaries and benefits.

Candidates present their cases

Eric Holcomb, Republican Candidate for Governor of Indiana, says that the teacher shortage is “not just in Indiana,” which is true. However, the reasons are the same nationally and locally. Teachers in Indiana have lost collective bargaining rights, lost due process rights, lost classroom autonomy, and gained salary stagnation. The state legislature, the governor, and the State Board of Education all contributed just like similar politicians in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida…

In addition, Holcomb’s comment “lawmakers have increased K-12 funding” is misleading and disingenuous. A big chunk of that money is going for “reform” schemes like the overuse of standardized testing, private school vouchers, and charter schools…all pushed by the Republican governor and the Republican supermajority in the state legislature.

The issue of teacher shortages arose, and Holcomb pointed out it’s a national problem, not just one in Indiana.

He said lawmakers have increased K-12 funding, but “it’s about where that money ends up.” For instance, he said, too much is going to administrative costs instead of salaries.

But Gregg said, “we created this teacher shortage in the last few years by the way we have demeaned those in the education profession.” He promised to bring teachers back to the table on policy and testing decisions – one thing he said will help attract and retain teachers.

DESTROYING THE TEACHING PROFESSION WITH TEACH FOR AMERICA

Do Americans Hate Teachers, Or are they Duped by Teach for America?

Teach for America gives its “corps members” – students from the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities – only five weeks of training to prepare them to teach poor, urban students.

Is there any other profession which would let recent graduates take on professional responsibilities without serious preparation? I have a masters degree in Elementary Education, a Reading Specialization, and nearly four decades of experience in elementary school classrooms. Would I be prepared to practice corporate law with five weeks of “training?”

Yet school systems (and states) around the country regularly allow these untrained novices into classrooms with the neediest students.

“But there is no one else who will take this job!” the school systems respond. Aside from the fact that that’s not always true the problem then becomes one of recruitment. Maybe teachers ought to be given salaries commensurate with their training. Maybe they ought to have more autonomy, prep time, and time for collaboration with other teachers. Maybe states should stop bashing teachers and do what’s needed to make the profession more attractive.

Do Americans understand that by contributing to a turnaround group of young novices to be teachers, they are destroying the American teaching profession? Do they know that sooner or later there will be no more real, qualified teachers to instruct their students?

Are they not aware that fast-track trained beginners, who focus on data, digital instruction, and classroom control, and who are never intent on becoming teachers until they recruited, are not the best individuals to lead a classroom?

Are they confused and think they are doing something nice, or are they hell-bent on destroying public education?

TEACHING READING

Teaching Struggling Readers: Focus on Meaning

Thanks to Russ Walsh for his thoughtful discussion of how to improve literacy instruction. Educators must take back instruction from statehouses and billionaire board rooms.

The key thing to understand in designing a support program for readers is that reading is communication. If we begin our search for the best way to help a struggling reader with the idea that language is meaningful and reading is about making sense of written language, then we have a better chance to help struggling readers.

What does this mean for instruction? One thing it means is we need to provide interventions early, before children experience too much failure and adopt too many “confusions” about how reading works. Secondly, it means that rather than doubling down on phonics instruction, we need to double down on meaning making. If a student struggles to make meaning from text, we must scaffold the meaning sufficiently to assist the student in decoding the words.

Most instruction for struggling readers, in other words, has it backward.

PRIVATIZATION: GULEN CHARTERS

Who Is Watching? Turkish Cleric, Accused of Motivating Military Coup, Controls Large Network of Charter Schools in the U.S.

Did you know that the reclusive Turkish primary school graduate preacher, former imam, writer, and political figure who failed in a coup attempt in Turkey is running one of the largest networks of charter schools in the US?

The lack of transparency of the Gulen charter network and the failure of federal and state oversight are warning signs of the dangers involved in turning over taxpayer dollars for public education to private charter operators. In the case of the Gulen network, the amount of money involved is enormous—hundreds of millions of dollars. Shouldn’t there be government investigations? A moratorium on adding more schools to these networks? Where is the voice of the charter industry for due diligence in schools where we send our children? Our children deserve better.

PRIVATIZATION: INCREASES INEQUITY

Report: How privatization increases inequality and here (full report)

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

Section 5: Privatization perpetuates socioeconomic and racial segregation

… implications of this increasing segregation can especially be felt in districts with rapid charter growth. In Durham County, North Carolina, the fast growth of charters has increased racial segregation at the financial expense of the public school district. Neighborhood schools have lost middle class children to charter schools and have been left with a higher concentration of poor students and students of color. Charter schools are exempt from providing student transportation or free and reduced price lunch, making it less likely that poor students can attend charter schools that don’t provide these critical services.

Charter school expansion has been destabilizing for the school district. One recent study estimates that the net cost to the Durham Public Schools could be as high as $2,000 per charter school student. The school district estimated in 2014 that charter schools take $14.9 million each year from neighborhood schools. This means that the traditional public schools in the district, which contain higher proportions of lower-income students, students of color, and more expensive-to-educate children (such as those with disabilities) are financially strained, as the district is unable to reduce its spending proportionally with the loss of charter students due to unavoidable fixed costs.286 Unfortunately, this financial loss hurts the public school district’s ability to provide quality education to its remaining students, who lose out even more as schools become more racially isolated and segregated.

POLITICS

10 Emotional Abuse Tactics That Trump Blatantly Used in the First Debate

A lot of people are saying that this guy is abusive. Is he? I don’t know. Maybe he is.

His speeches are filled with language such as “it’s a disaster,” “this is tremendous,” “we are in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” “it’s unbelievable,” and “it’s the greatest.” He also loves to use language of “everyone” and “always.” He cushions many of his egregious claims with statements like “everyone tells me” – a claim that is very difficult to prove or disprove or fact-check.

Apophasis

…a rhetorical device wherein the speaker or writer brings up a subject by either denying it, or denying that it should be brought up.

Trump’s Definition of the “High Ground”

Donald Trump claimed the high ground after the September 26th Presidential Debate.

“I’m very happy that I was able to hold back on the indiscretions with respect to Bill Clinton, because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton and I just didn’t want to say what I was going to say.”

He Would Never Say It, But This Is Donald Trump’s Favorite Rhetorical Device

“I was going to say ‘dummy’ Bush; I won’t say it. I won’t say it,” Trump said in January.

Trump referenced then-GOP hopeful Carly Fiorina’s rocky tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in a similar way.

“I promised I would not say that she ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground, that she laid off tens of thousands of people and she got viciously fired,” he said. “I said I will not say it, so I will not say it.”

…“I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct,” he wrote on Twitter. “Instead, I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

And of the former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Trump stated that, “unlike others, I never attacked dopey Jon Stewart for his phony last name. Would never do that!”

READ ALOUD

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Posted in Charters, Chicago, Election, JohnOliver, NEIFPE, poverty, Quotes, reading, Stephen Krashen, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, vouchers

Random Quotes – August 2016

POVERTY

Teachers are not the problem, poverty is

Stephen Krashen reminds America to quit scapegoating teachers and public schools for low achievement due to poverty. We have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the industrialized world – nearly one-fourth of our children. Where are the policy makers who take their share of the responsibility for our failure as a nation to take care of our children?

by Stephen Krashen

Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases, and the other Gates ideas that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

John Oliver on Charter Schools

John Oliver takes on the abuse and corruption in the charter school industry. (NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by John Oliver

The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market. And by the time it’s obvious a school is failing, futures may have been ruined.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Select Group is Served by Vouchers

Terry Springer is a former high school English teacher from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She’s one of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, a public education advocacy group (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the same group).

In the linked article she discusses Indiana’s voucher program.

by Terry Springer

…[Executive director of Indiana Non-Public Education Association, John] Elcesser’s argument that voucher parents are taxpayers and their tax dollars should go to the school of their choice is rather like the argument that my tax dollar should only go to repair the roads and bridges I travel on or to pave my driveway. Public education benefits the whole community; private education does not. The arguments for the money following the child fly in the face of that perspective…

TEACHERS

Out with the old. In with the new.

Here’s a cartoon by Fred Klonsky. Earlier this month Chicago Public Schools laid off 1000 employees, half of whom were teachers. Two weeks later they announced they were hiring 1000 new teachers.

A teacher: Why I am not going to keep my bonus

Are teachers “in it for the money?” Are teachers holding back, instead of teaching well in order to get more money?

by Stuart Egan

I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

Reasons for mass resignations: 28 Dodgeville teachers leave over money and student behavioral issues

This article discusses the teacher shortage facing Dodgeville, Wisconsin. In the comments below the article, Tim Slekar, Dean at nearby Edgewood College, explains why there’s a teacher shortage.

by Tim Slekar, Dean at Edgewood College’s School of Education, Madison, WI

Dodgeville is just ONE example of the exodus. Teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves all across the state and enrollment in teacher education programs is plumetting. We have a teacher exodus problem.

Our elected officials will use this as evidence of a “teacher shortage” and then bitch to lower standards to let any jackass teach.

There is no “shortage.” Those that have been waging the war on teachers are winning.

FIX PUBLIC EDUCATION

Who profits from a “broken public school” narrative?

Shouldn’t the goal of public education be to have good public schools for all children, in all areas? Why do we have cities where children have to “apply” to public schools instead of just having excellent public schools in every neighborhood? Why aren’t we working towards a system where every public school is excellent?

by Ali Collins

If you want to help a district function effectively, you work with leaders to fix underlying problems, you don’t create workarounds or do the work. In this way, non-profits enable failure. They become complicit in creating and maintaining problems they then profit by fixing. [emphasis added]

READING

Making Joy a Reading Standard

Wouldn’t it be nice if at least one reading “standard” focused on creating readers who loved to read?

by Mary Anne Buckley

Joy is in listening to and being moved by words and joy is in crafting words that move others. Joy is in recognizing ourselves in characters as well as challenging ourselves to see things from a different perspective. Joy is connecting and reflecting with one another.  I wrote that I answered the last question from the interview panel without thinking but in all actuality I’ve been thinking about that answer for years. When we remember our own personal joy of reading and infuse that into our instruction the lessons themselves become joyful.

DEMONS

AMERICA, DAMMIT! – Thoughts from Glacier National Park (starting at about 2:00)

(NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by Hank Green

…We work so hard to demonize each other that everyone comes out looking like demons…

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