Posted in Choice, DeVos, Public Ed, reform

DeVos is Still Ignorant

Last week, when she unveiled her education plan and budget, Betsy DeVos said some things which only served to prove her ignorance of America’s public education system and reinforce the belief that she is completely unqualified for the job which she blatantly purchased from Senate Republicans.

OUR CURRENT SYSTEM

Betsy DeVos Compares School Choice Critics To ‘Flat-Earthers’

DeVos said,

The defenders of our current system have been regularly resistant to any meaningful change. In resisting, these flat Earthers have chilled creativity and stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.

For someone who has the job of overseeing the nation’s public schools DeVos has no understanding of what our current system is.

In fact, DeVos’s critics are very much against the “current system.” The current system is actually one based on an overuse and misuse of testing which is manipulated in order to damage public schools and divert tax dollars to private and parochial schools.

For decades we’ve been holding our public schools hostage to standardized tests which measure a student’s family income more accurately than their achievement. We’ve used the tests in invalid ways to judge school systems, schools, and teachers as well as children. The results have been used to close schools, force out experienced teachers, and demean public education as “failing.” On the contrary, our public schools are generally excellent and successful despite the roadblocks being thrown up by policy makers, billionaires, and legislators.

She claims that critics are the one who have “stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.” Instead, it’s a system that allows children from wealthy families to do just that – compete at the highest level. Our students who come from schools with poverty rates of less than ten percent achieve at levels higher than any other students in the world. The problem is that those who denounce public schools as failures have worked to segregate our children based on educational classification, economic status, and race. DeVos and the proposed federal budget only make the “current system” more inequitable

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL TESTING

Education Department Faces Deep Cuts; DeVos Faces Tough Questions

“The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions,” DeVos said. “Too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them. We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.”

The one-size-fits-all approach she claims her critics favor is actually what her critics oppose. The fight against so-called “education reform” has been a fight against the system that judges all children based on a single standardized test. It’s been a fight against a those who use tests to denounce public schools, and as an excuse to divert needed funds to privatization schemes like charter schools and vouchers.

If Secretary DeVos knew anything about public schools she would know that teachers work every day to differentiate programs for individual students. Most public school teachers understand that every child is different…that children need to learn based on where they are and how much they can accomplish, which is different for every child. But Betsy DeVos doesn’t know this about public schools. She never attended public schools. She never worked in public schools. She never sent her children to public schools. She is completely ignorant of the excellent work that public schools and their teachers do every day.

Those children who are “trapped in schools that don’t work for them” are mostly poor children of color, forced into underfunded schools in neighborhoods which have been economically abandoned by oligarchs like DeVos who work to cut taxes for the rich, and divert much needed resources from public schools to private and religious schools.

In addition, parents aren’t the ones who have choices once they leave the public school system. That option belongs to the charter school or voucher accepting school which, more often than not, rejects the hardest and most expensive to educate children. The people best equipped to make choices for children’s education are trained educational professionals with input from parents, working in well staffed and well resourced public schools.

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Posted in Booker, Charters, DeVos, Politics, Preschool, Public Ed, Quotes, reform, Tenure, Testing, theArts, Trump

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #5

BUILDING SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defeating the DeVos Agenda

Competing on an uneven playing field, public school corporations have taken to advertising in order to keep their students from going to charter schools or using vouchers to attend private schools. Instead, John Merrow offers additional advice on how to “advertise” by involving community members, especially those who have no current connections to the public schools.

Public schools belong to their communities, not to the school board members, or the parents of current students. Schools are investments in a community’s future, paid for by everyone, for the benefit of everyone. Closing schools and opening charters, or offering vouchers, is taking years of community investment and throwing it away.

From John Merrow

Only when ‘outsiders’ become convinced that what’s happening in our public schools is not just test-prep and rote learning pushed on sullen teenagers by demoralized instructors, only then will Betsy DeVos and her militant Christian army of ideologues and profiteers lose this war.

TEACHING THE ARTS

Piecemeal Privatization of Arts and Music in Public Schools

The latest Kappan (April, 2017) is focused on the Arts.

Many school systems in the U.S. have had to cut back on their arts programming due to budget cuts and the obsessive focus on reading and math. Music and art teachers are stretched thin trying to educate large numbers of children in areas that aren’t tested, and therefore, not considered important by “reformers.” Articles in the journal discuss the influx of public/private partnerships which are replacing in-house education specialists in places. Nancy Bailey acknowledges that these partnerships are beneficial where no arts programming exists, but the loss of the arts programming is the real problem.

From Nancy Bailey

This country needs to quit with the trickery. Pretending the arts are returning with partnerships, or through subject integration, or technology, is only a charade. Our tax dollars should go directly to public schools for these programs and to real arts and music teachers.

EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD

Truth in Edvertising

Are private and privately run schools better than traditional public schools, or do they just have better PR and better advertising? Traditional schools don’t usually spend money on advertising because money spent on advertising isn’t spent on instruction.

Are schools commodities like widgets, where money needs to be spent on advertising? If we, as a society, accept the marketplace version of education…if we accept that competition improves education…if we accept that it’s up to the parent to find the school with the best “fit” for their child…then public education will probably not be a priority.

On the other hand, if we accept that public education benefits the whole society…that public education is a public good, then we won’t waste money on advertising, and the “bottom line” will be educating our children, not turning a profit.

From Sarah Butler Jessen on Have You Heard Blog and Podcast

There’s been a lot of talk about how much money they [Success Academy] spend. We were able to look at some of their budgets from the 2012 and 2013 year, along with a bunch of other charter management and charter organizations in New York City authorized by SUNY. Again, as we raised in recent earlier article about the 2010 data, in Williamsburg and Cobble Hill in particular in that year, they’re spending more than $1,000 per entered student on marketing alone.

LACK OF SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IS BIPARTISAN

Democrats link party rivals to DeVos as 2018 fights emerge

In Indiana it’s the Republicans who support so-called “education reforms” which have the effect of damaging public education, deprofessionalizing public school teachers, and re-segregating our schools. But it’s not just a Republican movement. It’s bipartisan. There are Democrats across the nation who are apparently hell-bent on replacing public education with privatized, corporate, charter schools.

Cory Booker (and here)…Andrew CuomoRahm Emanuel

From Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association

“What’s happened over time is that we have seen the Legislature has changed very significantly, and we’ve really seen that among Democrats, we have just many more folks that are supportive of charter schools,” he said. “Do these national winds, do they affect things here? Absolutely, absolutely. But it’s not like we’re just going to be blown across the map.”

Still, Wallace suspected charter school opponents would view DeVos’ appointment as a political opportunity to cut into charter schools’ gains.

“Yeah, that’s going to happen, and we have to be aware of that,” he said.

POLITICS

Trump Restocks the Swamp

President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” telling the American people that the government wouldn’t be made up of special interests and their lobbyists.

From Ed Brayton

[Trump] criticized Obama for his lack of transparency, yet just reversed the policy of releasing visitor logs so the public could know if the president or his close advisers were meeting with lobbyists and others with a clear stake in public policy. And a man whose big selling point was that he was rich so he would not be beholden to big corporations and the wealthy. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to name a single thing he’s done since taking office that wasn’t what moneyed interests would want him to to in order to make him more money.

Update for Trump Voters

From Robert Reich

He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.

…He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

PRE-SCHOOL IN INDIANA

IN: Welcome UPSTART Pre-K Cyberschool

Putting a three- or four-year-old in front of a computer screen and calling it “pre-school” is the most insane thing to come out of the education “reform” cesspool.

From Peter Greene

…we’re assured that UPSTART will provide “program sponsors” with data. Because, you know, it’s never too early to start building your tiny human’s data file, so that the trouble she had picking out vowel sounds when she was four flippin’ years old can follow her around for the rest of her life.

In Indiana, the legislature wants to make UPSTART part of the Pre-K expansion bill.

TESTING AND MANDATES

Standardized Testing Creates Captive Markets

The Republicans have railed for years against the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and it’s forced health insurance mandates. Yet, forced testing mandates, which every state must waste tax dollars on, is supported.

A must read

From Steven Singer

The reason public schools give these tests is because the government forces them. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school take certain approved standardized assessments. Parents are allowed to refuse the tests for their children, but otherwise they have to take them.

TENURE AGAIN STILL

Teacher Tenure and Seniority Lawsuits: A Failure of Logic

They’re not giving up. Even after the Vergara Decision was overturned anti-teacher forces are still fighting against tenure and seniority. Their goal – the complete destruction of teachers unions at any cost, even if it means also destroying the teaching profession.

From Jersey Jazzman

The backers of these lawsuits will make occasional concessions to the idea that schools need adequate and equitable funding to attract qualified people into teaching. But they never seem to be interested in underwriting lawsuits that would get districts like Newark the funds they need to improve both the compensation and the working conditions of teachers.

THE FEDERAL ROLE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

The War on Public Schools

The Federal government has helped public education by requiring equal access to educational opportunities for all children regardless of race, sex, or disabilities. They have provided funds for disadvantaged students, for teacher preparation and continuing education, and materials.

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core, the Federal government increased it’s influence on public education, but evoked a backlash. It’s true that some Federal intrusion into public education is necessary and important…

From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights quoted in the American Prospect

The hard-learned lesson of the civil rights community over decades has shown that a strong federal role is crucial to protecting the interests of educationally underserved students

‘REFORM’

Closing schools is not an educational option

No school was ever improved by closing it.

From Mitchell Robinson in Eclectablog

Whenever I hear public officials and education policy decision makers suggest that closing schools is a legitimate strategy, I know that person is not serious about actually improving educational outcomes.

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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, DeVos, Public Ed, reform, Teaching Career

2017 Medley #7

Side Effects, Doing Things Right, 
Teachers as Scapegoats, The Founding Fathers, DeVos Watch, ALEC’s Tool in Indiana

SIDE EFFECT WARNING

What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education

Teachers have been encouraged to individualize instruction…to differentiate. Teachers have been encouraged to group by achievement through Guided Reading, yet an Indiana standardized test requires all third graders be able to read at third grade level or remain in third grade. Another Indiana standardized test is used to rank schools and teachers. Either we accept that not all students will be at the same place at the same time…or we don’t. Either all students are to be standardized, or they’re not.

Those same standardized tests focus almost exclusively on reading and math, and schools have been pressured to follow suit – focus on reading and math. What has happened to science, health, civics and the arts?

The state of Indiana spends a large part of its budget on education. But how much of that isn’t spent on public education? How much of it is being ‘nickel and dimed’ away on charter schools, vouchers, and more, more, and more tests?

Yong Zhao reminds us of the “unintended consequences” of bandwagon-based education.

First, time is a constant. When you spend time on one task, you cannot spend the same amount on another. When a child is given extra instruction in reading, he/she cannot spend the same time on arts or music. When a school focuses only on two or three subjects, its students would not have the time to learn something else. When a school system only focuses on a few subjects such as reading and math, students won’t have time to do other and perhaps more important things.

Second, recourses are limited. When it is put into one activity, it cannot be spent on other. When school resources are devoted to the common core, other subjects become peripheral. When schools are forced to only focus on raising test scores, activities that may promote students’ long-term growth are sidelined.

Third, some educational outcomes are inherently contradictory. It is difficult for an educational system that wishes to cultivate a homogenous workforce to also expect a diverse population of individuals who are creative and entrepreneurial. Research has also shown that test scores and knowledge acquisition can come at the expense of curiosity and confidence.

Fourth, the same products may work differently for different individuals, in different contexts. Some people are allergic to penicillin. Some drugs have negative consequences when taken with alcohol. Likewise, some practices, such as direct instruction may work better for knowledge transmission, but not for long term exploration. Charter schools may favor those who have a choice (can make a choice) at the costs of those who are not able to take advantage of it.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE DOING THINGS RIGHT

Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right

One of my goals for this year is to help dispel the myth that public schools are failing. One of the biggest tools in the pocket of the public school deniers are international test scores. Ours are skewed by the high poverty rate in the U.S., but there’s more. We also educate everyone, and test everyone, even students with special needs.

The latest international PISA … showed that the United States is below average of 65 countries but this is not even an apple-to-apple comparison:

• The key correlation for academic success is family income.
• The USA is one of the only countries that educates EVERYONE. Most countries only educate their most affluent class.
• We do well on the PISA math comparison [and other PISA subjects] if you control for free-and reduced-price lunch, making it a better apple-to-apple comparison.

BLAMING TEACHERS FOR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOCIETY

Stop Humiliating Teachers

Here is another teacher who is tired of being the scapegoat for all the ills of society.

There’s an element of this rage at bad teachers that’s hard to talk about, and so it’s often avoided: the dismaying truth that we don’t know how to educate poor inner-city and rural kids in this country. In particular, we don’t know how to educate African-American boys, who, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, graduate high school at rates no better than fifty-nine per cent. Yet if students from poor families persistently fail to score well, if they fail to finish high school in sufficient numbers, and if those who graduate are unable, in many cases, to finish college, teachers alone can hardly be at fault. Neither the schools nor the teachers created the children or the society around them: the schools and the teachers must do their best with the kids they are given.

…We also have to face the real problem, which, again, is persistent poverty. If we really want to improve scores and high-school-graduation rates and college readiness and the rest, we have to commit resources to helping poor parents raise their children by providing nutrition and health services, parenting support, a supply of books, and so on. We have to commit to universal pre-K and much more. And we have to stop blaming teachers for all of the ills and injustices of American society.

THE FOUNDERS SUPPORTED PUBLIC SCHOOLS

America’s Founding Fathers Were Against School Choice

The right-wing in the US has trouble with the constitution. More than half of the voters who voted for the current president would agree to give him power to overrule judges whose rulings he didn’t like. A similar number of the President’s voters don’t think that California’s tally in the last election should count. The president himself has said things which indicate he doesn’t really understand or agree with the constitutional separation of powers or the first amendment. They praise the constitution, but don’t really know what it says – with the obvious exception of the second amendment.

Many of the founders, who are routinely praised, along with their constitution, by the American “ignoranti”, were supporters of universal education.

That’s why we have public schools – so that an educated citizenry will lead to a good government.

Our founders didn’t want a system of private schools each teaching students various things about the world coloring their minds with religious dogma. They didn’t want a system of schools run like businesses that were only concerned with pumping out students to be good cogs in the machinery of the marketplace.

No. They wanted one public system created for the good of all, paid for at public expense, and democratically governed by the taxpayers, themselves.

DEVOS WATCH

Secretary Betsy DeVos on first school visit: ‘Teachers are waiting to be told what they have to do’

Forgive Betsy DeVos her foolish comment that teachers are waiting to “be told what to do.” She doesn’t understand that public school teachers actually have some training in their field, unlike her.

I do have a question for her, however. How would you define “facilitate great teaching”?

I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success[ful] from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.

New era of education passion, protest and politics will follow DeVos confirmation

Vouchers don’t work and drain public education systems of needed funds for services which are available to all children for the benefit of everyone.

During her contentious hearing, DeVos made clear her preference for an education system that favors choice – including virtual charter schools with dismal track records. The Obama administration also invested federal dollars in charter schools, but the $20 billion level Trump has proposed for promoting school choice is unprecedented.

Much of that money would go toward the private sector, and DeVos has also been challenged repeatedly for supporting vouchers that allow parents to use government dollars to pay for private, for-profit and religious schools, a cornerstone of Trump’s stated plan. Results for voucher programs have been questionable, according to several studies.

DeVos confirmation triggered outpouring of support for public education system

Are we better off now that DeVos has unleashed the support of the American people for real public education?

On both sides of the aisle, he said, “there has been a commitment to improvement of public education. It is only on the extreme fringes that you have had a push for whole hog privatization.”

The public outpouring of support for the nation’s public school system, if not for individual public schools, may have been one of the silver linings to emerge from the DeVos nomination.

But it is far too soon to know whether her confirmation ordeal will have any impact on DeVos’ views, and more importantly, the policies she promotes during the next four years.

Feuer, for one, is skeptical that expressions of support for public schools, expressed in such a highly politicized context, will have much positive impact. “Education in America has been subjected to so much gloom and doom rhetoric, followed by irrational exuberance,” he said. “What we need is a sustained and rational debate about what is working and what is not.”

How to Protest Against Betsy DeVos

Earlier this month I had lunch with three former colleagues, two of whom are social conservatives and probably vote that way. My guess is that they vote for the conservative option at least 90% of the time – in federal, state, and local elections. The third is an enigma who has rarely expressed a political opinion to me, unless it was specifically tied to education.

We talked about politics, since it is on everyone’s mind, and their big takeaway, to which they all agreed, was that they are against public demonstrations because of “violence.”

It’s true that some demonstrations after the election and the day of the inauguration were marred by violence, but for the most part, the demonstrations for or against (mostly the latter) the current administration have been peaceful. The consuming public has a tendency to remember violence and rioting, while forgetting the “no news” of a peaceful march. Therefore, people can remember the dozens of people who were violent during the inauguration, but quickly forget the half million women, men, and children who marched peacefully the next day, accompanied by other millions around the country…and around the world.

But don’t blame the protest for the violence. Protest, peaceable assembly, is protected in the first amendment. It’s human misbehavior that causes violence. That is not to say that violence and riots are never justified. Indeed, Martin Luther King Jr., who preached non-violence throughout the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, said, “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Is violence called for right now? I don’t think so, but there are obviously some people who disagree with me. But the right of the people peaceably to assemble must not be prohibited.

I have protested in the past and I will not shrink away from protesting in the future. I see my writing as protesting.

I applaud those who rally at the local, state and national levels on the issues that matter most to their schools and to America.

A silver-lining to the DeVos appointment is that more people than ever before are paying attention to the possible loss of public education.

I also know that protesting isn’t always pretty. But I think we need to better plan how to be strategically tough without giving the other side the moral high ground that can be used against us.

In addition, as drowning professionals, trying to come up for air, it might help to grab onto each other to form a buoy that takes us to the top.

Organizing and pulling together in large numbers to peacefully protest can be very effective.

ALEC’S TOOL IN INDIANA

Who’s who in Indiana education: Rep. Bob Behning

Bob Behning, the chair of the Indiana General Assembly’s House Committee on Education has been at the forefront of the war against public schools. His actions show that he hates public education, hates public school teachers, hates teachers unions, and will stop at nothing to privatize public education.

Behning came in to the House as a florist from an area near Indianapolis. His ties to education privatizers has given him more career opportunities, however. He became a lobbyist for a testing company, and now works for his privatizer friends at Marion University…in the “educators college” no less. Qualifications anyone?

Vitals: Republican representing District 91, covering parts of Marion and Hendricks counties. So far, has served 25 years in the legislature. Formerly the owner of a local florist, Behning now is the director of external affairs for the educators college at the private Marian University.

…Behning has held leadership positions with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative not-for-profit lobby group that pairs legislators and business owners together to write model legislation. ALEC’s education legislation tends to advocate for vouchers, charter schools and other methods of school choice. Because Behning has worked closely with ALEC, as well as other school reform groups, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Behning an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Behning has supported the new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, particularly because of her advocacy for increasing access to charter schools and vouchers.

Who supports him: Over the course of the past few elections, Behning has received campaign contributions from Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; Stand for Children, a national organization that supports education reform and helps parents to organize; Students First, another pro-reform lobbying group created by former head of D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee; Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Bennett’s campaign.

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Posted in Choice, DeVos, Privatization, Public Ed, Quotes, reform, Science, US DOE, vouchers

Random Quotes – February 2017

ON DEVOS

A More Qualified Secretary of Education

DeVos is just the latest, most extreme example at the end of a long line of woefully ignorant Secretaries of Education.

From me at Live Long and Prosper

…knowing anything about K-12 public education has rarely, if ever, been a requirement for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education.

Why then, is it a surprise that President-elect Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, knows nothing about K-12 public education?

Don’t Confirm Betsy DeVos

From John Merrow at The Merrow Report

I have concluded that Ms. DeVos is stunningly unqualified to serve as United States Secretary of Education. In her testimony and her subsequent letter, she demonstrated her unfamiliarity with IDEA and the federal commitment to special needs children. Moreover, both her testimony and her track record demonstrate an ideologue’s zeal for a single-minded approach to education. Neither her words nor her deeds show a commitment to the concept of public education for all children or any understanding of the importance of well-educated citizenry to our economic security and our democratic society.

Two former Secretaries of Education. They didn’t know anything either.

THE STATUS QUO

Don’t Fall For The “Status Quo” Fallacy Concerning Public Education

“Reformers” have been denouncing the “status quo” for years, but at least since NCLB, and probably earlier, the “status quo” has been the reformist strategy of test and punish.

From Stu Egan at Caffeinated Rage

What I would consider the “status quo” is the commitment to flux and change to the variables that measure student achievement and school success by people outside of the actual education process. And in that regard, I do agree that the status quo should change.

“FAILING” SCHOOLS

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

American public schools are not failing.

From Steven Singer at GadflyonthewallBlog

As ever, far right politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether they be Democratic Neoliberals or Republican Tea Partiers, are using falsehoods about our public schools to sell an alternative. They say our public schools are beyond saving and that we need to privatize. They call it school choice but it’s really just an attempt to destroy the system that has so much going for it.

We should strengthen public education not undermine it. We should roll up our sleeves and fix the real problems we have, not invent fake ones.

IGNORANCE IS DANGEROUS

Are the Ignorant too Ignorant to know they’re Ignorant?

“True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know” – Confucius

From Rob Miller at View from the Edge

…Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to us. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can all be confidently ignorant about a wide range of topics. Yet, it is often difficult to fathom just how close and how pervasive these unknowns are, precisely because they are invisible to us.

As Dunning writes:”People are destined not to know where the solid land of their knowledge ends and the slippery shores of their ignorance begins.”

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice Week’s Alternative Facts

Millions of public dollars are diverted from public schools to corporate and religious schools using vouchers creating a two-tiered education system.  Taxes are meant to be used for the public good…parks, libraries, roads, first-responder services, and public schools.

From Jersey Jazzman

…I’m willing to have a conversation about school vouchers. There might be some positive effects from private school enrollment that aren’t found in test scores. But we have to weigh those against the harm vouchers programs might do to public schools, particularly since there’s at least some evidence that voucher students would have attended private schools even without taxpayer funds — which means vouchers create an extra financial burden on the system. And that money’s got to come from somewhere…

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Nevada’s Voucher Fail

The same is true for Indiana. The legislature and governor need to quit draining money from public education for corporate profit and religious advantage and return it to the system of “Common Schools” – public schools.

ARTICLE 8. Education Section 1. Common school system: 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.” – Indiana Constitution

From Peter Greene at Curmudgucation

In the meantime, if Nevada really wants to get out of 51st place, their leaders might consider focusing on how to actually help schools be better instead of trying to figure out ways that education tax dollars can be used to enrich businesses and absolve the state of any responsibility for its school system.

THE GOOD THING ABOUT SCIENCE IS…

The Week in Quotes (Jan. 29 – Feb. 4)

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Kathy Miller, President of Texas Freedom Network

Teachers are practically begging the board to stop forcing them to waste classroom time on junk science standards that are based mostly on the personal agendas of board members themselves, not sound science. But these politicians just can’t seem to stop themselves from making teachers’ jobs harder.

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Posted in David Berliner, Evaluations, ISTEP, Lead, poverty, reform, Testing, Uncategorized

Where Toxins Meet Testing

ISTEP

Indiana’s state test, the ISTEP, is misused in the same way many states misuse standardized tests. It’s used to grade schools on an A to F scale and it’s used to determine which teachers get bonuses, which are deemed unsatisfactory, and which are to be fired. (I suppose that it’s also possible that in some places it’s used to see how well students have learned the state standards, but I doubt the state really cares about that.) In addition, another test, the IREAD-3, is misused to retain third grade students who are struggling with reading.

Currently the state is struggling over the ISTEP. A committee looked into problems with the test and made recommendations. Last year’s tests were so screwed up that the legislature agreed to not hold schools and teachers accountable for the results. For the results to be so bad that even Indiana’s “reformist” legislature “pauses accountability,” you know it must be bad.

The committee was charged with coming up with something that didn’t have as many problems as the ISTEP. That task was not accomplished.

‘ISTEP’ Name May Change, But Test Itself May Not For 2 More Years

“We need about two-and-a-half to three years to get a new test that is sound, based on our standards, thought out and vetted clearly through the education system,” says Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate committee on education. “That’ll [be] a better test at the end of that time.”

…Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House committee on education, wants the board to extend that contract. If extended, it would leave ISTEP+ in place through the 2018-19 school year.

The test is a failure, yet it has high stakes consequences for schools, teachers, and students. So, according to the chairs of both the Senate (Kruse) and House (Behning) education committees, we should keep using it.

TEACHER BONUS PAY BASED ON SCHOOL’S FAMILY INCOME

In the area of teacher bonus pay, the results of the state testing shows exactly what one would expect. Those teachers who work in wealthy districts have students who score higher on the ISTEP, and therefore get larger bonuses. In an earlier post, I wrote that

…standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

And that’s just what happened here.

Indiana’s wealthiest districts get most teacher bonus pay

Data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education shows Carmel Clay Schools leading the state in the most performance money per teacher at more than $2,400. Zionsville Community Schools came in second at more than $2,200, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Comparatively, Indianapolis Public Schools will receive nearly $130 per teacher. Wayne Township Schools will see among the lowest payments, at just more than $40 per teacher.

The amount of the “bonus” doesn’t prove that teachers in high-poverty schools aren’t as good as teachers in low-poverty schools. It is just more proof that family income determines school success.*

TOXIC ENVIRONMENTS

One (of many) out-of-school factors which contributes to lowered academic achievement of children in poverty is an environment filled with toxins. Pollutants such as mercury, PCBs, toxic pesticides, and air pollution are all factors contributing to the health and brain function of children living in high-poverty areas. The most prevalent problem is, of course, lead.

In 2009, David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, wrote in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ.

The Centers for Disease Control sets the “safe lead exposure” levels and recently has suggested that the “safe” level should be lowered.

CDC considers lowering threshold level for lead exposure

The CDC adjusts its threshold periodically as nationwide average levels drop. The threshold value is meant to identify children whose blood lead levels put them among the 2.5 percent of those with the heaviest exposure.

“Lead has no biological function in the body, and so the less there is of it in the body the better,” Bernard M Y Cheung, a University of Hong Kong professor who studies lead data, told Reuters. “The revision in the blood lead reference level is to push local governments to tighten the regulations on lead in the environment.”

The federal agency is talking with state health officials, laboratory operators, medical device makers and public housing authorities about how and when to implement a new threshold.

…Any change in the threshold level carries financial implications. The CDC budget for assisting states with lead safety programs this year was just $17 million, and many state or local health departments are understaffed to treat children who test high.

In other words, according to the CDC, the “safe” level is whatever level the bottom 2.5% of American children exhibit. The actual “safe” level is much lower (in fact, the only “safe” level of lead in a child’s system is 0.00), but the cost of reducing lead levels in every child in America is too high.

Children attending schools in high poverty areas are exposed to lead at a much higher rate than in low poverty areas.

Children suffer from lead poisoning in 3,000 U.S. neighborhoods

A new study of public health records has discovered 3,000 neighborhoods in America where children suffer from lead poisoning. The study, by the Reuters news agency, found lead poisoning twice and even four times higher than what was seen in the recent contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

That exposure has an impact on school success. Again, Berliner…

The neurological damage caused by lead pollution has been common knowledge for about a century, but even over recent decades, tragic effects such as this have been documented in families and communities around the world. Even after some obvious sources of lead in the environment were finally banned, reducing the numbers of children showing effects, too many children in the United States are still affected.

MAKING A CONNECTION

Our overuse and misuse of testing during the last few decades has led to over identifying schools in high poverty areas as “failing” without any regard for environmental toxins. Take the case of East Chicago schools…

Turnaround Meetings for Gary and East Chicago Schools

“If the school does receive a sixth F, and we expect those grades to come out this winter, then the board can begin looking at what options it wants to if any, take,” said [State Board of Education chief of staff, Brian] Murphy.

At the same time, the schools being labeled as “failing” exist in an area where lead poisoning is ubiquitous.

East Chicago Lead Contamination Forces Nearly 1,200 from Homes

Both the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are trying to deal with the contamination and moving residents, but the two agencies aren’t exactly working together well. The mayor of East Chicago and the residents are also concerned about how the EPA handled the situation and worried about the long-term ramifications of lead exposure as well as the costs of moving.

Do legislators read newspapers? Are they aware that 1) lead poisoning causes learning problems and 2) the so called “failing” schools are in areas with a high lead exposure? Why hasn’t there been an outcry blaming the low test scores on the lead poisoning of East Chicago children? Can you guess how big a “bonus” teachers in East Chicago schools got this year?*

A Strange Ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in failing schools

“The education community has not really understood the dimensions of this because we don’t see kids falling over and dying of lead poisoning in the classroom. But there’s a very large number of kids who find it difficult to do analytical work or [even] line up in the cafeteria because their brains are laden with lead.”

As a consequence, teachers and school systems get blamed for what is beyond their control. The legislature can’t (or won’t) see the connection between the two situations, and children’s futures, and their future contributions to the state, are damaged by their environment.

Legislators and “reformers” should quit placing the blame on schools, teachers, and children through punitive legislation aimed at “fixing” low achievement. It’s the state’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all citizens…including those who don’t have enough money to buy lobbyists.

When the legislature assumes its share of responsibility for “failing” to provide safe environmental conditions in our communities, and for “failing” to address the state’s child poverty rate, then…maybe…we can start to talk about “failing” schools.

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East Chicago ANOTHER Race-Based Lead Poisoning

…with lead pipes it’s like a recall on a product, but nobody wants to go back to the manufacturer and say, “Hey, you’ve made a mistake. You’re poisoning people.” We’ll recall a vehicle, but we won’t recall a pipe that is lead…a lead pipe that people are consuming water through. It’s part of their daily consumption.

…We’ll also recall leaded paint. But we’re not recalling leaded pipes.

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*Data on the Teacher Performance Grants can be found on the Indiana Department of Education site. Click here to download a spreadsheet for each school district in Indiana. Pay special attention to the number of special education districts at the $0 end of the spreadsheet.

For demographic data on each school district see Indiana School District Demographic Characteristics. Note the family poverty rates for the school districts mentioned above: Carmel Clay=3.5%, Zionsville=3.1%, Indianapolis Public Schools=26.8%, and Wayne Township=14.7%.

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Posted in CTU, Public Ed, reform, Walsh

The Schools All Children Deserve

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “REFORM” ADVOCATE

There’s a battle going on in Chicago for the future of the Chicago Public Schools. It mirrors the national education story in at least one way…it’s a battle between vocal parents and teachers against a “reform” movement led by the rich and powerful at the expense of public education.

The Chicago Tribune, owned by the same company that owns other “reformist”-leaning media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, has been a strident voice against the teachers and for the mayor and his hand picked “school board” (which includes a member with ties to Teach for America, a charter school co-founder, a CEO of one of Chicago’s largest banks, a supporter of parochial schools, as well as a couple of former CPS principals).

Wednesday, for example, the Tribune came out against the CTU because they didn’t approve of the way in which the union was conducting their open strike vote – a second strike vote this year because the anti-union forces are working to negate the secret-ballot strike vote taken earlier this year. Of course, the Tribune, which compares what they claim is an undemocratic CTU to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, operates in a city which refuses to hold elections for school board members – Irony alert!

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Earlier in the week the Tribune published their “Schoolchildren’s Bill of Rights,” a list that Chicago teacher and blogger Mike Klonsky said,

…has little to do with schoolchildren or their rights–except, that is, for their right to have their schools closed or privatized and their teachers debased.

Klonsky’s article described the editorial…

The Tribune’s so-called ‘Schoolchildren’s Bill of Rights’

The Trib’s Bill of Rights includes not a single right for students, but instead includes things like:

  • Merit Pay for teachers, a oft-tried initiative which, according to researchers, produced no gains in measurable learning outcomes.
  • Using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Already the law in IL.
  • Widespread school “choice,” the Trib’s code word for school vouchers and privately-run charters. Trib editors write: “The public education industry should view ethnic, parochial or other private schools not as threats but as alternatives that enrich and diversify a community’s educational offerings.”
  • An end to collective bargaining, including the right to strike.
  • Parent Trigger Laws which enable a small and temporary group of parents to take over a school and hand it over to a private, for-profit company to operate. As you might expect, there’s nothing about parents’ right to opt-out of the plague of standardized testing.
  • Mass closing of black and Latino neighborhood schools and leaving boarded-up buildings to further blight communities or sell them off to condo developers. Again, too late. They’re already doing it.

With high sounding vocabulary in the genre of “think of the children!” the Tribune succinctly gathers every “reform” practice and rolls it into one “reformy” editorial. We’re supposed to have “high quality teachers” which really means teachers who teach to “the test” because “the test” is everything. We’re supposed to support “choice” for parents, which really means “choice” for private schools to reject your non-standardized child. And, if that’s not good enough, they want “Even more choice than that” which really means, privatize, privatize, privatize.

EDUCATORS: STUDENT ADVOCATES

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Here’s a “Student Bill of Rights” which would actually help students and improve education in Chicago…and the rest of the country.

It was published during the last CTU strike (2013) and is called The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. It includes actual “proven educational reforms,” not just “reformist” talking points.

  • smaller class sizes
  • education aimed at the whole child which includes recess, libraries, PE, the arts, and world languages in every school
  • wraparound services such as nurses, counselors, and social workers where needed
  • equitable funding and services
  • age-appropriate education including pre-K services and full day kindergartens
  • teachers treated as professionals with comparable salaries, adequate planning time, and professional autonomy
  • fully supported programs for students with special needs
  • well maintained and safe school buildings
  • partnerships with parents
  • full funding

Note that it assumes that others have a responsibility for public education in addition to teachers – parents, policy makers, legislators, administration.

Every student in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) deserves to have the same quality education as the children of the wealthy. This can happen, but only if decision-makers commit to providing research-based education that is fully-funded and staffed in an equitable fashion throughout the city. [emphasis added]

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A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, by Russ Walsh

Finally, here’s a Bill of Rights for children from Russ Walsh’s book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century (also available on his blog, here).

1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public education
2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe neighborhood school.
3. Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person.
4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.
5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.
6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well planned, engaging, and collaborative.
7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.
8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.
9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.
10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses.

Note that Walsh’s Bill of Rights, as well as the CTU’s, focus on the rights of children – on what children need. There’s nothing about busting unions, closing schools, or transferring tax money from public schools, which operate under public oversight, to private corporations or parochial schools. Why? It’s simple.

Members of the CTU and Russ Walsh are educators. The editors of the Chicago Tribune are not. Educators know about education.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, IREAD-3, reading, reform, retention, Teaching Career, Testing

2016 Medley #21

Labels, Charters, Reform, Testing, Grades, Teacher Quality, Chalkbeat

LABELING STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND SCHOOLS

This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.

I should begin the introduction to this article by saying that I have never seen the data walls described. I retired in 2010 and the school I worked at, and the schools I have volunteered in since then, do not list student names and test scores in public. I would agree with the author of this piece that listing students’ names and test scores publicly violates the privacy of the students.

Apparently, however, this disgusting practice of humiliation and shaming is “a thing” and does happen. Those who use this practice should not be allowed in a classroom or public school.

Similarly, politicians and policy makers frequently shame public schools with letter grades and labels. “Failure” is slapped on public schools filled with students who live in poverty while there is no label “for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods.” Teachers who work with the neediest students are labeled “bad teachers” while those who divert funds from public schools to corporate tax breaks, vouchers, and charter operators, receive no such condemnation.

Those who use this practice should not be allowed to make laws governing public education. We can fire them in November.

By Launa Hall, a third grade teacher in northern Virginia.

When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. They see populations and sweeping strategies. From up there, it seems reasonable enough to write a list of 32 discrete standards and mandate that every 8-year-old in the state meet them. How else will we know for sure that teaching and learning are happening down there?

But if we zoom in, we see that education actually happens every weekday, amid pencils and notebooks, between an adult and a small group of youngsters she personally knows and is deeply motivated to teach. Public education has always been — and needs to be still — a patchwork of ordinary human relationships. Data walls, and the high-stakes tests that engender them, aren’t merely ineffective, they break the system at its most fundamental level. They break the connection between a teacher who cares and a kid who really needs her to care.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS


Op Ed: There’s No Such Thing as a “Public Charter School”

Public education advocate Ann Berlak explains why charters are really just private schools taking public tax dollars. They are not public schools.

If public schools have not always lived up to their promise then it is necessary to redouble our efforts to have them do so, not to abandon them.

An extra in this article is found in the comments.

The comments are filled with the usual ignorance claiming that American schools are failing, teachers unions are the problem, and a variety of comments reflecting sour grapes. Among the trolls, however, there are some good, thoughtful comments (on both sides), including one by Robert D. Skeels, who blogs at Schools Matter. He wrote an informative comment presenting “the legal arguments on how privately managed charter schools are not at all ‘public.'”

THE FAILURE OF “REFORM”

“Eat Your Dinner…Or Else”

The data are staring them in the face: low attendance rates among students and teachers; higher percentages of students “opting out” of state-mandated standardized tests; more teachers leaving the profession; and more parents saying they’d like the option of sending their children to charter schools.

Instead, educators from Secretary John King on down seem to be doubling down, searching for ways to penalize students who choose not to take standardized tests, their schools, and their school districts.

The ‘meal’ that School Reformers have been serving up for the past nearly 12 years of the Bush and Obama Administrations is neither delicious nor nutritious.

TEST AND PUNISH

I call it “Learn or be punished.” It’s the mistaken plan by state after state to make eight and nine year olds who have difficulty meeting arbitrary reading standards repeat the third grade…as if repeating a grade helps students learn. HINT: It doesn’t.

Indiana makes third graders take IREAD-3. If they don’t pass they don’t go to fourth grade. Florida also punishes third graders who have difficulty learning to read. So does Ohio. So does Michigan. And Iowa…and Arizona…

And in Oklahoma it’s called the Reading Sufficiency Act.

Claudia Swisher is a retired teacher who lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Her article, Unfinished Business, from which this excerpt is taken, appeared in the August 2016 print edition of the The Oklahoma Observer. Claudia blogs at Fourth Generation Teacher.

Unfinished Business

This is my pet project. I’m a reading specialist. I know how students learn as youngsters, and how they learn as adolescents. Reading Sufficiency Act, or “Test and Flunk Third Graders” is a monumentally bad idea.

It seems to have been born in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Education Excellence. His state school superintendents, Chiefs for Change, unquestioningly accepted his theories and hunches. Our former superintendent was a Chief for Change, and enthusiastically promoted test-and-flunk.

I have been active with this issue for years. I have two granddaughters who are living through this policy. I exchanged emails with the original author, Rep. Sally Kern; and I advocated for Rep. Katie Henke’s bill that allowed teachers and parents some say-so in the promotion or retention decision. The test being used was awed, not a reading test at all, and scores do not give a reading level.

There is no research to support retaining nine-year- olds because they don’t reach an arbitrary score one day in April. Fans of RSA say all kids must read by third grade.

IF they ever walked into a third grade class, they would see every child DOES read … at his or her level. They’ve only been reading for, perhaps, four years. There are vast differences in their abilities. But they all read.

RSA must be changed: no high stakes, tests that measure reading levels, funding for remediation, support for students and families and classrooms. I am all in.

FL: Test Fetish on Trial

Parents in Florida have joined together to fight the law requiring the third grade test. Peter Greene reports.

Because that’s where we are now, folks– parent groups have to take up a collection to go to court so that third graders who passed all their classes can be promoted to fourth grade.

GRADES

Do Away with Grades for Reading

Russ Walsh has a great idea. Instead of punishing children for not learning to read why don’t we remove reading from the report card altogether. Instead, he suggests a better way of reporting on a student’s progress in reading.

That better way would report to the parent on what the child knows and is able to do in reading. Simple brief answers to a few questions on a report card would do it.

  • Is the student below, at, or above expected reading level for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate fluency for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate comprehension for grade/age?
  • Does the student choose to read independently?
  • What are the student’s reading goals for the next marking period?

Notice the item on “choosing to read.” I think that it is important to communicate to parents that successful readers have both the skill and the will to read.

TEACHER QUALITY

Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers

So, it turns out that strong teachers unions actually encourage better teachers!

I find that higher teacher pay gives school districts a strong incentive to be more selective in granting tenure to teachers. Districts paying high teacher salaries utilize the tenure system more efficiently as they dismiss more low-quality teachers, raising average teacher quality by setting higher standards.

Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year

Teacher evaluations in Indiana are required by law to reflect student test scores, yet we know that out of school factors have a much larger impact on student achievement than teachers. Nevertheless, legislators can’t understand why the percentage of teachers who get poor evaluations doesn’t equal the number of students who get low test scores.

One reason there are so many “good” teachers is because many beginning teachers don’t stay long in the classroom. A large number of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (and many don’t even start their careers). The ones who leave are usually the ones who discover that they don’t like to teach, the ones who are fired early in their career, and the ones who are asked to resign because they can’t make it in the classroom.

This means that the teachers who are left are either skilled in the classroom, or are strong enough to improve when they struggle.

Unfortunately, legislators don’t understand, or don’t care, that evaluating teachers, just like evaluating student achievement, cannot be limited to a number on a standardized exam. Numbers make judgments about people so much easier – even when their inadequate or inappropriate.

For the third year in a row, barely any Indiana teachers, principals and superintendents were rated “ineffective” under the state’s fledgling evaluation system.

“REFORMIST” SUPPORTERS

Chalkbeat: Our Supporters

I was struck by the disrespectful tone of the title of the article above…”Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year.” I did some exploring on the Chalkbeat website and found that, among their supporters (funders) are the “reformers” listed below. Most of the time the articles are fairly unbiased, but I’ve noticed a “reformist” bent now and then, such as in the above title.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Inc….
Gates Family Foundation…
The Anschutz Foundation…
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice…
The Joyce Foundation…
The Walton Family Foundation…

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