Posted in Gadflyonthewall, reform, SchoolShootings

Sabotage and Hypocrisy

We have two awards to present today. First, a positive one for language usage.

WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING AWARD

It’s NOT Education Reform – It’s School Sabotage

Steven Singer (Gadflyonthewall Blog) has found the perfect label to describe what’s happening to America’s public education system. So-called “reformers” aren’t reforming anything. They’re destroying public education through starvation. Singer’s title, “School Sabotage” is perfect.

Here’s an internet definition of sabotage. It reads,

n. Destruction of property or obstruction of normal operations, as by civilians or enemy agents in time of war.
n. Treacherous action to defeat or hinder a cause or an endeavor; deliberate subversion.
v. To commit sabotage against.

The second meaning is the one that’s most apropos for what’s happening to public education. It’s deliberate and treacherous. It’s aim is to destroy public education.

The saboteurs of public education

  • claim that public schools are failing and that teachers are at fault.
  • then, use the false narrative of failing public schools to pass laws which damage public education further and make the teaching profession less attractive.
  • then, because of the resulting teacher shortage, lower the qualifications for teachers in order to find enough bodies to fill classroom positions.
  • then, redirect tax dollars from public schools to private and privately run schools, further starving public schools.
  • then, support tax cuts which benefit the wealthy and reduce the amount of money available for public services, like public education.
  • then, blame the decimated and demoralized teaching force for not increasing student achievement in underfunded and under-resourced schools.

“…Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.”

From Steven Singer

Henceforth, “Education Reform” shall be Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.

It is about deliberately obstructing goods and services that otherwise would help kids learn and repurposing them for corporate benefit.

Likewise, I propose we stop using the term “School choice.” Instead, call it what it is – School Privatization.

HYPOCRISY AWARD

The second award goes to the NRA…for flagrant and unadulterated hypocrisy.

NRA Convention Bans Guns To Protect Mike Pence. Parkland Survivors’ Jaws Drop: Parkland teens are calling out the gun group for hypocrisy.

The NRA Convention, set to convene this week in Dallas, has gone along with the Secret Service requirement to ban weapons during Vice President Pence’s visit.

The teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have called them out for their hypocrisy.

Teens who survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed, are wondering why the NRA fiercely resists extending the same safety considerations to other areas to safeguard children. The NRA wants “guns everywhere” when it comes to kids, tweeted Matt Deitsch, a Parkland student who helped organize the March for Our Lives rally for stricter gun laws in Washington.

Arming teachers seems to be the most popular NRA-backed “solution” to mass school shootings. The Trump administration wants to “harden school security” with

“rigorous” firearms training for “specially qualified” school personnel

The NRA blames mass shootings on the media and thinks that armed school personnel is the answer to school shootings. As Wayne LaPierre has so famously said,

The only way to stop s bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

Did anyone in the NRA notice that they’re not allowed to take guns into their own convention? The children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School noticed.

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Posted in Article Medleys, CommonGood, Lead, reading, reform, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers, writing

2018 Medley #9

Lead, Trump’s Spelling Problem,
Vouchers, Testing, School Funding,
The Common Good, Bi-partisan Privatizers

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

Less than a month after tests show elevated lead levels in Flint, state stops distributing bottled water

The State of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over even though some elementary school water tests still show high lead limits.

Long term effects of childhood lead exposure include learning disabilities, speech disorders, lowered IQ, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity. The city of around 100,000 is more than 50% African-American. 41% of its residents live below the poverty line.

Nestlé, on the other hand, gets all the crystal clear Michigan water it wants.

“Recent water tests at elementary schools in Flint have found an increase in samples showing lead levels above the federal action limit.”

That’s the opening line in an article in The Detroit News less than one month ago. Despite this, the state of Michigan, just days after turning control over the city back to local elected officials, declared the Flint Water Crisis over and announced that it is discontinuing providing bottled water to the city’s residents.

…the decision was announced a mere three days after the Snyder administration announced that it was approving a permit for Nestlé Waters North America to increase its withdrawal of ground water to produce Ice Mountain bottle water from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — 576,000 gallons per day.

…as of April 11, 2018.

IMPROOV YUR SPELING

Trump would be better at spelling if he read

Stephen Krashen has some advice for our president. Less tweeting. More reading.

The March 26 letter “B-I-A-S” suggested that The Post has reached a “new low” in commenting on President Trump’s spelling errors. I don’t think The Post went deep enough. Mr. Trump’s poor spelling reflects problems far more serious than a failure to proofread. My research on language acquisition shows that poor spelling is often the result of not having a reading habit. Studies also show that those who read a lot know more about history and science. They also have greater empathy for others and understand that the world is complex. Mr. Trump is a perfect example of a nonreader, and his lack of a reading habit has hurt all of us.

VOUCHERS

Cumulative effect: Individual district budgets don’t fully reflect vouchers’ drain

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1780 letter to Richard Price, wrote

When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

The same is true of religious schools, which is why tax dollars should be reserved for public schools.

98% of schools receiving vouchers in Indiana are parochial schools. The other 2% are non-religious private schools.

The impact of the voucher program is not based on how many vouchers are used in your district. It is based on each year’s voucher program cost to the Tuition Support budget across the state, regardless of the number of vouchers used within the district. For example, Lebanon Schools lost more than $530,000, Plainfield Schools lost more than $770,000, and Carmel Schools lost more than $2,365,000 this year. Currently, there are 23 school districts where no vouchers are used. They are small districts and the voucher program costs them more than $4 million this year combined. Peru Schools is the largest of these districts and it lost more than $321,000.

Here are this year’s losses in Allen County: East Allen County Schools, $1.38 million; Fort Wayne Community Schools, $4.47 million; Northwest Allen County Schools, $1.13 million; and Southwest Allen County Schools, $1.08 million.

To make this complicated issue much simpler, and in honor of Fiona and Pi Day (March 14), think of a loganberry pie. Indiana has baked a smaller pie and expects it to feed a larger number of people. More kids, fewer dollars.

TESTING

The Testing Thermostat

A standardized test is like a home thermostat. A thermostat measures one thing – the temperature in one room. It doesn’t measure the quality of the roof construction, though that may have an impact on the temperature. It doesn’t measure the quality of the kitchen appliances, though that, too, might have an impact on the temperature.

Standardized tests should be used, like thermostats, to measure that for which they were designed. Using tests for measuring other things is a misuse of the test, and, if done for an entire school or state, educational malpractice.

Likewise, we will fail if we try to use the thermostat read-out to evaluate the efficiency of the power generating and delivery capabilities of our electric company, or evaluate the contractor who built the house (in my case, almost a hundred years ago), or evaluate the health and well-being of the people who live in the house– or to jump from there to judging the effectiveness of the doctor who treats the people who live in the house, or the medical school that trained that doctor.

At the end of the day, the thermostat really only measures one thing– the temperature right there, in the place where the thermostat is mounted. To use it to measure any other part of the house, or any other aspect of any other part of the house, or any aspect of the people who live in the other parts of the house– well, that just means we’re moving further and further out on a shaky limb of the Huge Inaccuracy Tree.

In this way, the thermostat is much like the Big Standardized Test– really only good at measuring one small thing, and not a reliable proxy for anything else.

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn argues against tests…any tests.

Even allowing for variation in the design of the tests and the motives of the testers, however, the bottom line is that these instruments are typically more about measuring the number of facts that have been crammed into students’ short-term memories than they are about assessing understanding. Tests, including those that involve essays, are part of a traditional model of instruction in which information is transmitted to students (by means of lectures and textbooks) so that it can be disgorged later on command. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to find teachers who are proud of their student-centered approach to instruction, who embrace active and interactive forms of learning, yet continue to rely on tests as the primary, or even sole, form of assessment in their classrooms. (Some conflate the two ideas to the point that when they refer to “an assessment,” they never mean anything more than a test.)

SCHOOL FUNDING

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

Some students cost more to educate than others. That’s why charter schools and private voucher receiving schools work the system to avoid enrolling them.

Even among public schools however, there are some students who need more resources, specialized teachers, or specialized equipment. Those students will cost more to educate.

Students who grow up in high-poverty schools are often among those who are more expensive to educate. They need wraparound services not usually found in wealthier suburban schools. Their schools will need more teaching assistants, transportation options, nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. States which fund schools equally are short-changing their students who grow up in poverty. Equality does not necessarily mean equity.

The majority of states have unfair funding systems with “flat” or “regressive” funding
distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional funding in high-poverty
districts. In 2015, only eleven states had progressive funding systems, down from a high
of twenty-two in 2008.

THE COMMON GOOD

If Not Now, When?

The common good stems from “promote the general welfare.” Government has a responsibility to take care of all the people, not just the wealthy. Public water systems, government maintained roads, highways and bridges, public parks, public libraries, and public schools are benefits for all. Even if you don’t drive the roads provide a way for goods and services to reach your home. Even if you don’t have children the public schools support the growth of the next generation of citizens. The common good, by definition, is good for everyone.

Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

CORPORATE ED REFORM IS BIPARTISAN

Would Democrats Really Do Better Than Betsy DeVos on Education?

Are the Democrats in Indiana against the Republican privatization agenda because they believe in public schools, or just because they’re the opposition party? If the Democrats ever become the majority will they be able to resist the lure of corporate/privatization campaign dollars?

So THAT’S their game!

CAP is playing the long con here. They are putting forward a bunch of puppy dog and teddy bear proposals to contrast with Trump and DeVos.

These aren’t policies as much as they are advertisements for the Democratic party. It’s the equivalent of saying, “We promise we’ll do good things like THESE if you elect Democrats – despite the fact that we mainly focused on standardization and privatization when we were in power.”

Look. Maybe I’m being too cynical.

Maybe the Democrats really, really are going to do a better job this time, cross their hearts and hope to die, if we give them just one more chance.

But words aren’t nearly enough.

I like many of these policy suggestions. But I just don’t trust the Democrats.

The brand has been tainted for me by the Clinton and Obama administrations – by leadership from the same people who are making these suggestions.

In short – I’ll believe it when I see it.

Former Secretaries of Education Duncan (Obama) and Spellings (G.W.Bush)
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Posted in Article Medleys, reform, SchoolShootings, Teaching Career, vouchers

2018 Medley #6

‘Ed-Reform’ is Bipartisan, Teacher Pay,
School Shootings, Vouchers 

ED REFORM – A BIPARTISAN AFFAIR

Betsy DeVos Didn’t Say Anything in Her Viral 60 Minutes Clip That Democrats Haven’t Supported for Years

Education reform, which, in Indiana has resulted in the loss of public revenue to parochial, private, and charter schools, is not a Republican-only phenomenon. Democrats have participated in the slow, steady, dismantling of public education in the U.S.

Starting with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (which is not necessarily the start of the privatization movement), the Democrats have thrown their weight behind privatization. 92% of Democrats in the U.S. House voted “Aye” for the bill, as did 94% of Democrats in the Senate.

In keeping with that tradition, when it came time to replace the damaging law, the Obama administration replace the bill, with Race to the Top (RttT), which continued many of the damaging effects of NCLB.

In the last presidential election, there was little or no discussion at all of K-12 education because the two parties weren’t that far apart on the issue. The Republicans came out in favor of “choice” in their platform (p.32)

We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children. To protect religious liberty we will ensure that faith-based institutions, especially those that are vital parts of underserved neighborhoods, do not face discrimination by government.

I assume by their behavior that to Indiana Republicans, “discrimination by government” means refusing to give private religious schools public tax dollars. So, to rectify that, nearly a half billion dollars of public tax revenue has been spent on Indiana vouchers since 2011, and more than $150 million in the current 2017-2018 school year.

Democrats weren’t quite as “free-market” oriented, opting for “public” charter schools and saying nothing about school vouchers.

Democrats are committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools, and we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.

K-12 education was rarely if ever mentioned during any of the candidate debates.

Perhaps Democrats haven’t been quite as bad as Republicans, but in this article for Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley, explains how Democrats have also done their best to damage public education…

The bad news for Democrats who found DeVos’ performance appalling is that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years. Broadly speaking, the regime of compelling competition between schools by creating charter-school or school-choice programs and by rewarding those whose students do well on standardized tests was launched at a federal level by the No Child Left Behind Act; the NCLB was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in 2001 with 87 votes. When Barack Obama became president, he created the Race to the Top program, which the Washington Post described at the time as a “competition for $4.35 billion in grants” that would “ease limits on charter schools” and “tie teacher pay to student achievement,” i.e. direct extra funds to already-successful schools.

TEACHER PAY

Indiana teacher pay shrinking

Isn’t it time for teachers in Indiana to speak up?

Average teacher salaries in Indiana have declined by over 15 percent in the past 15 years after adjusting for inflation. That’s according to an interactive analysis produced last week by Alvin Chang of Vox, drawing on data from the National Education Association.

Indiana’s pay cuts, Chang writes, are “worse than the nation as a whole, where teachers have had their pay cut by an average of 3 percent when we adjust for inflation. And since 2010, teachers in Indiana had their pay cut by 9.7 percent.”

They’re also worse than in West Virginia, where low pay and a lack of raises touched off a two-week teacher strike that pushed state officials to approve a 5-percent raise for educators. Clearly, lagging teacher pay is an issue across the country. The West Virginia strike could be a harbinger of things to come. Kentucky or Oklahoma could be next.

GUNS IN SCHOOL

Justice Department’s School Safety Plan Puts Black, Brown Students In Danger, Critics Say

This is what happens when you focus on symptoms rather than causes. We need better policing of who can get and who owns guns in our society…better limitations on the kind of guns, sizes of magazines, and quantities of ammunition that people are allowed to buy…and better support services for people in need.

“The decision to funnel more money into the militarization of our schools and policing of young people is really problematic,” Kaitlin Banner, deputy project director at the liberal nonprofit Advancement Project, told HuffPost. When states or the federal government encourage school districts to increase the presence of police in the schools, the officers end up mostly in schools that serve children of color, who bear the brunt of the tougher security policies, she said.

“We’re similarly concerned about bringing more guns and weapons into the school environment,” Banner said.

White House vows to arm teachers

The POTUS realized that we ought to raise the age for gun purchases (we already have a higher age for handguns, why not for rifles?). Then – NRA – and he changed his mind. The NRA is a tool of the gun manufacturing industry interested only in the number of guns sold, not the safety of American citizens.

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but backed off President Donald Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out a series of policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups.

Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include any substantial changes to gun laws.

Schools Should Use Walkouts in Protest of Gun Violence as a Teaching Moment

Today’s walkout is an example of informed citizenry. Learn from it…

School administrators owe it to their students to examine their reaction to young peoples’ self-expression and to ask how they can help build on this moment of protest as an educational experience. As the Supreme Court observed in Brown v. Board of Education, education is “the very foundation of good citizenship.” Public school is the place where students experience and interact with government, learn through discussion and debate with other students from differing backgrounds, and build the foundation for participation in a democratic society. Rather than seeking to silence students’ political engagement and quashing their desire for conversation, schools can approach this moment as an opportunity for learning about civic action.

VOUCHERS

School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

In case you missed this…vouchers don’t work to improve education and are simply a way to transfer public funds into private and religious hands. This report is from 2017.

School “failure” is almost always the result of high poverty, lack of opportunities, and out-of-school factors. Vouchers can’t solve those issues.

The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear.

Here are two excellent editorials about Indiana’s ever-expanding, wide-ranging voucher plan.

Cost-benefit stats show failures of voucher plan

Our state gives money to private schools which do not have to follow the same rules as public schools giving them an advantage. Yet, when they still “fail” the state “waives” their responsibility.

Nearly $13 million in voucher money flowed to schools receiving a D or F on state report cards. The Indiana State Board of Education just last week granted a waiver to Ambassador Christian Academy, a “D” school. The state board agreed a majority of students showed academic growth over the last school year, even though the same board proposed new accountability rules for public schools that will not give credit for academic growth.

Voucher use rises to record high

Indiana’s voucher plan was originally sold as a way to help poor children “escape from failing schools.” No longer. More and more middle income parents are using vouchers without trying public schools. It has become an entitlement program for religion.

Indiana’s school voucher system continues to grow, with the state spending $153 million for the 2017-18 academic year – a record for the program – to help more than 35,000 students attend private schools.

A report on the 7-year-old voucher program – also known as school choice – shows a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year in the number of students taking part. It also shows the cost to Indiana public schools continues to rise.

State numbers mirror data from Allen County, where voucher numbers are up in three of the county’s four public school districts.

Allen County has 6,215 voucher students, up from 6,209 last year. The estimated cost to public school districts in the county rose by more than $500,000 to $25.8 million in 2017, according to the report.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, IN Gen.Assembly, poverty, Public Ed, reform, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage

2018 Medley #5

Unqualified Teachers and the Teacher Shortage,
DPE for Dummies, School as a Business,
Closing Schools, Poverty,
School Shootings, Arming Teachers,
Legislators in the pay of the NRA

HIRING UNDER QUALIFIED PERSONNEL

Indiana lawmakers resurrect proposal to let districts hire more unlicensed teachers

[Not law as of this writing…]

In Indiana you can teach a high school subject if you have a degree in the subject you want to teach, a B average in your degree program, pass a test on the subject content, and have worked in the subject area field for 6000 hours. For example, if you have a college degree in English, in which you carried a B average, and worked in an English related field – let’s say journalism – and you can pass the state’s English test, you can teach high school English. You don’t have to know anything about child development or learning theory to start, though you do have to eventually learn something about pedagogy. In other words, you can walk into a high school classroom on the first day of a school year with no experience other than content knowledge.

Now, the Indiana legislature, in order to counteract the teacher shortage caused by its own punitive attack on public education and educators, is suggesting we expand that plan to all schools.

Now, we have such a shortage of teachers, that we need to relax the rules so that anyone can teach. Because, as I wrote in Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

…nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.

The same people who made becoming and remaining a teacher so onerous and unattractive, and thereby created the current teacher shortage, are now telling us we need to make it easier for unqualified adults to teach our children…

Behning said he brought back the proposal because he thought it was a simpler fix to the bill’s original goal of addressing teacher licensure exams. The tests have been criticized recently for being too difficult and keeping potentially qualified teachers out of the classroom at a time when schools have struggled to hire in certain subjects such as math and special education.

DPE FOR DUMMIES

Destroy Public Education (DPE) for Dummies

Do you know what “education reformers” are trying to do? Do you know when the “ed reform” movement got started and what drives it?

Thomas Ultican, a retired teacher (in California, I think), gives a succinct history of DPE – Destroy Public Education – beginning in the early 80s with the publication of A Nation At Risk.

His DPE Movement False Taking Points are excellent, as is his list of billionaires working together to privatize public education.

It is unlikely that government spending on education will end any time soon. However, as schools are increasingly privatized, public spending on education will decrease.

Today, we have come to expect high quality public education. We expect trained certificated teachers and administrators to staff our schools. We expect reasonable class sizes and current well-resourced curriculum. It is those expectations that are being shattered.

Many forces are attacking public education for diverse reasons, but the fundamental reason is still rich people do not like paying taxes. Choice and the attack on public education, at its root, is about decreasing government spending and lowering taxes.

TRY RUNNING A BUSINESS AS A PUBLIC SCHOOL

Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

Stu Egan, a NC teacher, explains to business types why their ideas about “running a school as a business” is just so much B.S. As a thought experiment, he suggests that we consider what it would be like if we tried to run a business like a school, thereby showing how foolish it is to conflate the two. His main points underscore the fact that, since public schools are required to follow certain laws, they cannot, and should not, be run like businesses.

Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited…
Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM…
You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share…
Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business…
You will not get to choose your raw materials…
Be prepared to have everything open to the press…
You will not get to advertise or market yourself…
Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded…
Your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business… You will have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.

The Blueberry Story

CLOSING SCHOOLS

What research really says about closing schools — and why it’s a bad idea for kids

Nationally so-called “failing” public schools are being closed rather than improved. In places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis, school boards and mayors are deciding that helping schools with low test scores isn’t worth the time and the effort. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the “low-performing” closed public schools are replaced by equally “low-performing” charter or private schools. In other words, the only thing that changes is that privatization gets a boost from those policy makers charged with the success of public schools.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, low test scores are not usually the fault of the school. Years of economic neglect leaves schools in high poverty areas with fewer resources, fewer opportunities, and deteriorating facilities. Poor students need more resources to help them achieve, yet the United States is one of only a handful of advanced nations where more money is spent on wealthy students than poor students. This is especially important because the United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty among developed nations and poverty correlates with lowered achievement.

Policy makers who close schools because they are “failing” are themselves at fault for the high rate of poverty in their district or state. The school…the teachers…and the students get punished because of economic circumstances.

Closing schools doesn’t help.

In 2017, three of my colleagues at the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) examined the research on school closings. Many studies, they found, confirm that closing schools in the name of improving student achievement is a “high-risk/low-gain strategy” that fails to increase students’ achievement or their overall well-being.

Chicago Sticks to Portfolio School Reform Despite All the Evidence that It Isn’t Working

Chicago is one of the places where school closings/replacement with charters is a way of life. The mayor and his hand-picked school board have failed the most vulnerable children of the city. Now, instead of admitting that the process has been a failure, the city has doubled down and continues to do the same thing…perhaps expecting different results.

First, as Chicago has continued to launch new charter schools and specialty schools and selective schools, parents have been enticed by the advertising along with the idea that at least at the selective schools, their children will study with a more elite peer group. Parents have been willing to try out the choice schools and have their children travel long distances to elite schools and thereby abandon the neighborhood schools, whose funding drops as children leave. This process has hollowed out the comprehensive neighborhood high schools, which have been left serving a very vulnerable population with a higher percentage of students in special education. Last week’s Chicago Sun-Times reported that there has even been cheating on the lotteries, cheating in which school leaders have been able to find space for their children or relatives’ children in more elite schools, leaving behind students without powerful connections. This is a lifeboat strategy gone bad—a system that saves the privileged and leaves behind on the sinking ship the children who lack means or power or extreme talent.

SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

Much has been written about the Valentine’s Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in which 17 students and teachers were killed. Here are three articles which focus on the insane recent proposal to arm teachers because increasing the number of guns in a school will somehow make schools safer.

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

A radiologist explains why a bullet from an AR-15 is worse than a bullet from a handgun.

[Note: While both are unacceptable and both are horrible. One makes it much more difficult to survive.]

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

Have I Got This Straight?

Peter Greene describes the irony of giving “failing” teachers the responsibility of carrying guns and using them to protect students.

Teachers cannot be trusted with fragile young minds, because we will try to inculcate them with Very Naughty Ideas, like socialism…

But we can be trusted to use guns around those young minds.

…Teachers in public school are so terrible and have failed so badly that an entire new system of schools should be opened up so that students can escape those terrible public school teachers…

But we terrible teachers should be allowed to use guns in our schools. 

Despite Parkland’s opposition, Florida House panel votes to arm teachers

Follow the money. The NRA gets most of its money from “contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” It keeps the money flowing by buying legislators who do their bidding.

…just one more shameful aspect of American society…

The mother of slain geography teacher Scott Beigel, who gave his life to save his students, pleaded with lawmakers not to put loaded guns in the hands of teachers, even after a rigorous training and screening program.

“It could easily cause additional chaos and fatalities,” Linda Beigel Schulman told legislators. If another shooter attacks a school, she said, “with the ongoing chaos, law enforcement could unintentionally shoot at a teacher.”

Her voice breaking, Beigel Schulman said her son became a teacher to teach, “not to be a law enforcement officer.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Privatization, reform, Religion, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, vouchers

2018 Medley #3

School Shootings, Religion in School, Teacher Shortage, Reform, Charters, Vouchers

GUN VIOLENCE

Wake Up, America! You Have a School Shooting Problem!

Since this blog post of Steven Singer’s was posted less than a week ago, we’ve had yet another school shooting…this one in Los Angeles. And we have heard talk of a Trump/Russia/NRA connection

What has been done to curb gun violence in the US since Newtown (2012)? Columbine (1999)?

“Thoughts and prayers…” Absolutely nothing.

According to an FBI study that looked at incidents from 2000-2013, nearly one quarter of all U.S. shootings took place at schools. And they’re on the rise.

Yet this latest incident barely raised an eyebrow in the collective consciousness.

Hardly anyone even attempted to offer a solution.

The reason?

Since Sandy Hook, we’ve effectively given up.

In December of 2012 a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and we did nothing.

We stood by after the murder of elementary kids and couldn’t get up the collective energy to do one damn thing to stop things like this from happening again.

No new regulations.

No assault weapons ban.

No gun buyback programs.

NOTHING.

CHURCH AND STATE

Local School to Train Teachers After Church/State Violations

Last Monday (1/29/2018), I posted Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana which dealt with a lawsuit against a school for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This case from Michigan, deals with the same sort of thing. Here, however, school authorities have made a commitment to teach their teachers about the law.

Here are three more publications, each endorsed by a variety of religious and civic groups, which will give you a good background on how to handle religion in public schools.

Once teachers, administrators, and other school employees know what the law requires, there should be no excuse for mixing education and proselytization in public schools. This information ought to be mandatory at the beginning of every school year.

A suit may still be filed over the Bible study before school starts, but this is a good development overall. And it needs to be replicated nationwide. These problems are so pervasive all over the country that the Department of Education should force all public schools to have a mandatory in-service day to train teachers and administrators on what the law says they can and cannot do within the parameters of the First Amendment.

REFORM/TEACHER SHORTAGE

Cycle of frustration

The constant drumbeat of so-called “education reform” has been that public schools are “failing.” “School failure” really means societal failure. It’s odd, isn’t it, that America’s “failing” public schools are located in high poverty areas…and all the “bad teachers” are teaching at those schools while America’s schools for the middle class and wealthy are excelling. It’s odd because out of school factors contribute to school achievement much more than teachers do…yet policy makers don’t accept responsibility for societal failure which leads to “school failure.”

The national attack on public education which began in earnest in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind (though school privatization has long been a right-wing/libertarian dream) has done nothing but disrupt and damage public schools around the country. Part of the attack, especially here in Indiana, has been against public school teachers and their unions.

The current attempt to improve educational achievement by lowering standards for becoming a teacher, is a direct result of the attacks on teachers.

[Note: the amendment discussed in this editorial has not yet been passed into law (as of Feb 2, 2018).]

The pattern in Indiana education policy has become all too familiar:

1. Pass a law to disrupt public education in the pursuit of “reform.”

2. Express dismay over the repercussions of the new law without acknowledging what caused them.

3. Pass another law to “fix” the problems created, doing additional harm to public schools.

The most recent example surfaced Wednesday when a last-minute amendment was added to a bill to allow public schools to fill up to 10 percent of staff with unlicensed teachers. Why is this necessary? Because some school districts are struggling to hire faculty in the face of teacher shortages. Why are there shortages? Because laws regarding teacher evaluations, tenure and collective bargaining have made the field less attractive.

REFORM

The Sad Impact of Corporate School Reform on Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities

Thanks to Nancy Bailey for her continuing attention to the damage that so-called education “reform” causes students with disabilities.

School choice is not going to do anything to fix these problems.

  • Charters and most private schools have a record of pushing kids with emotional/behavioral difficulties out.
  • As taxpayers we don’t know what takes place with children who are home schooled.
  • How does one address the mental health needs of students who sit in front of screens for school? Too much tech exacerbates mental health problems!

We need strong public schools, schools with resources that will address the needs of children and teens.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

Some reasons for the slow-down of charter school expansion…

1. Charter teachers have begun to unionize. One reason for developing charter schools was to “bust the teachers unions.”

2. “Failing” charter schools are simply converting to voucher accepting private schools to continue to receive public tax dollars.

3. Charter schools have suffered from an excessive number of scandals resulting in bad publicity.

Diverting public tax dollars to charters (and vouchers) has been a waste of money. Instead we should be working to increase resources and achievement at real public schools.

Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.

And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.

We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.

Largest Charter School Fail Ever Doesn’t Faze ‘School Choice’ Fans

The failure of this “school choice” was mostly ignored during “school choice” week.

In the run up to what was billed as “record breaking celebrations” of charter schools and other forms of “school choice,” there was a serious bump in the road when news outlets in Ohio reported the largest charter school closure ever in that state, and perhaps the nation, had suddenly sent over 12,000 students and their families scrambling to find new schools midyear.

…“My kids went to bed last night crying,” said a Cincinnati mom whose children attended the school.

“To just rip them out of the environment they are most used to,” complained another mom whose children had attended the school for eight years. “They have relationships with their teachers,” she said in a news video posted on the ECOT Facebook page.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

How Mike Pence expanded Indiana’s controversial voucher program when he was governor

More and more money for private schools coming out of public tax dollars…which eats into money for the public schools.

Where does the money go? To whom are the private schools accountable? Where is the public oversight? Answers – No one knows…no one…and there is none.

Pence, who describes his religious beliefs as evangelical, removed the cap on the number of students who could qualify for a voucher to a private school, increased the limits on qualifying family income, and removed Daniel’s stipulation that the student had to try the public school first.

No longer was money being saved as a small number of students transferred from public to private schools. Now middle-income families already using private schools were having their tuition paid for, at least partially, by the state.

A QUICK PEEK

There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

Study Finds Recession-Era Education Cuts Significantly Impacted Student Outcomes: How Many Constitutional Rights Were Violated?

…a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

‘Distressed’ schools lost funding

No wonder Gary and Muncie community schools are distressed. Both Indiana school districts have had their budgets cut dramatically over the past decade. It’s not surprising they’ve struggled to pay the bills.

Trump’s Judges: The GOP’s Slow Poison for Democracy, and the Planet

Lawyer Richard Ayres has been fighting for the environment in federal courts for nearly five decades, but he says he’s never seen an onslaught on basic environmental protections like the one coming out of the Trump White House. Still, something scares Ayres even more than the determination of the Trump team to dismantle President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives, shrink federally protected lands, weaken smog standards, scale back habitat for rare species, and expand drilling into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

What most unnerves Ayres and other veteran environmental lawyers and legal experts is the unprecedented opportunity President Trump has to fill the federal judiciary with anti-regulatory, pro-business appointees.

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Posted in Article Medleys, ChildhoodMortality, reading, reform, retention, Science, STEM, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #1

Shortchanging Our Children and our Future,
Retention-in-Grade, Struggling Readers,
Why Teachers Quit, Chalkbeat

SHORTCHANGING OUR CHILDREN…AND OUR FUTURE

Missing an S for Science in the STEM Frenzy

Like other aspects of America’s infrastructure, our public education system is being systematically dismantled. We’re shortchanging the future of the nation by not providing a full curriculum for all our students.

Two in 5 schools don’t offer physics! In both Alaska and Oklahoma, about 70 percent of high schools don’t offer the course. Florida and Utah are close behind, with nearly 60 percent of high schools lacking physics. Iowa, New Hampshire, and Maine do much better, with only about 15 percent of schools not offering the subject.

Small schools are hurt worse, raising questions about the quality of science instruction in charter schools.

Ninety percent of America’s kids attend public schools, so dwindling science instruction is troubling. But it’s not surprising. Defunding public education is intentional, meant to transform schools into technology hubs—charters for the poor.

What message are we sending to the future?

RETENTION-IN-GRADE

Held back, but not helped

Yet another state discovers that retention-in-grade doesn’t help students.

Louisiana is one of the states where you have to pass a test to move on to the next grade (in fourth and ninth grades). After a retention rate of around 25%, they’ve found that the process doesn’t really help.

Retention is a problem that even educators contribute to…not just legislatures, school boards, or politicians. It’s true that the legislatures and politicians are the ones who pass the “third grade punishment” laws (fourth grade in Louisiana), but rarely do teachers or administrators object beyond the “we need to make those decisions” stage. Those voices shouting “retention-in-grade doesn’t work” are drowned out by the crowd shouting “we have to do something” followed by “what else can we do?” And therein lies the problem.

Teachers can’t solve the problem of retention-in-grade on their own. Retention is ineffective as a method of remediation, as is passing a child to the next grade without any intervention. Intervention takes time and costs money.

States should stop wasting millions on testing, and, instead, spend that money on remediation. Struggling students need extra help, not another year doing the same thing over again. Research has repeatedly shown that intensive intervention works…but it costs money.

Only when we decide that our children are worth the cost will we be able to provide the education that each child needs.

Students who fell short were assigned mandatory summer-school classes, after which they took the test again. If that second attempt wasn’t successful, students couldn’t move on to fifth or ninth grade. The practice of retention in Louisiana also extended beyond the high-stakes grades. In 2015-16, more than one-third of all retained students were from grades K-3. In that same year, 10 percent of all ninth graders were held back. In a presentation a few years ago, a top education-department administrator, Chief of Literacy Kerry Laster, wrote, “We retain students despite overwhelming research and practical evidence that retention fails to lead to improved student outcomes.” Laster’s presentation, based on 2010 data, reported that 28 percent of Louisiana students did not make it to fourth grade on time.

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Why Good Teachers Quit Teaching

Teachers are leaving the profession faster than they’re entering. The non-educators in statehouses and legislatures are forcing teachers to do things that are not educationally sound. This has been going on for too long.

In what other profession do outsiders dictate practice? Who tells your attorney how to practice law? Who tells your plumber how to fix a leak? Who tells your doctor how to diagnose an illness?

Let teachers teach.

Bonnie D. left after 30 years of teaching because she felt the system was no longer acting in the best interest of all students. “Everything became all about passing the ‘almighty test,’” she says. “Decisions were made by the administrators to concentrate only on those students who could perform well. Call me old fashioned, but I always did my best to reach and teach every student in my room, not simply the ones who had the best chance of passing a test.”

In addition, many teachers worry about the effect high-stakes testing has on kids. “Sometimes tests coincide with a bad day,” Michelle S. tells us, “or a day when a student is just not feeling it. That is an incredible amount of stress on kids—especially those classified as ‘bubble kids.’”

Why It’s So Hard to Be a Teacher Right Now

Many legislatures are still relying on test scores to tell them which schools are “good” and which are “failing.” That continued stress, added to the attitude out of the U.S. Education Department that public schools are a “dead end” means that being a teacher is not getting easier.

…test-prep stressors haven’t gone away, Weingarten says they started to abate late in 2015 when President Obama signed into law an act that gave states more power to determine public school curricula without the threat of federal penalties tied to standardized test scores. “There was hope things would get better,” she says.

But then a new source of stress emerged: the 2016 election, and President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to the post of Education Secretary. DeVos is a prominent charter-school advocate, and at times has been highly critical of America’s public schools. (She once said America’s public schools are “a dead end.”)

CHALKBEAT’S GREAT AMERICAN TEACH-OFF

Watch Out Padma, Here Comes Chalkbeat!

Chalkbeat accepts money from the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) such as the Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Anschutz Foundation, EdChoice, and the Walton Family Foundation. They claim that their supporters (complete list here) don’t impact their editorial decisions.

Here’s what I do know–teaching is not a competition. It’s not a reality show. If it were a reality show, it would be judged by experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris. The thing is neither of them would deign to participate in an exercise like this one by reformy Chalkbeat. More likely it will be an exercise in determining who can best read the Moskowitz Academy Scripted Lesson Plan, or who can make the Most Kids Pass the Test, or some other reformy nonsense.

I’m personally offended that Chalkbeat deems itself worthy of judging teachers. I’ve been reading Chalkbeat since it started. I rate it biased, reformy, ineffective, and totally unqualified to understand our jobs, let alone judge our work. We do not cook meals. We do not just do test prep. We deal with real people, and they have many more layers than the artichokes they prepared three ways on Top Chef last week.

A QUICK PEEK

There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

When Readers Struggle: Background Knowledge

This is the first in a series on struggling readers by Russ Walsh. As of Jan 7, there is a second post, When Readers Struggle: Oral Language

Whenever I ask a group of teachers to identify areas that seem to cause difficulty for struggling readers, lack of background knowledge is sure to be near the top of the list.

Liking Those We Don’t Like: The Dissonance Involved with Supporting Public Schools

It’s one of the most exasperating issues for parents and educators, but education goes relatively unmentioned in each campaign.

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?

American kids are 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other rich countries

A new study ranks 20 wealthy countries on childhood deaths. The US comes in last.

Lawmakers want more research before they spend big on preschool. When it comes to vouchers, there’s no such hesitation.

Lawmakers have demanded lots of proof to determine whether preschool helps kids…

Yet they’ve requested no long-term study of another similarly designed, tuition support program — vouchers for private schools…

The Lasting Payoff of Early Ed

The benefits of early education are found to persist for years, bolstering graduation, reducing retention, and reducing special education placements.

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Evaluations, Florida, John Kuhn, Michigan, poverty, reform, special education, TeacherShortage

2017 Medley #32: The Teacher Shortage

The Teacher Shortage: Poverty,
Special Education, Evaluations,
Untrained teachers, and Accountability

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

The poverty problem

Why it’s a big problem that so many teachers quit — and what to do about it

As with most other results of the corporate “reform” movement in education, the most damage is done to students, teachers, and schools in areas that can least afford it: low-income areas and special education.

Linda Darling-Hammond and researchers from the Learning Policy Institute report on research detailing the effects of the current teacher shortage, and how it damages the education of low-income students in particular. The shortage is advanced by anti-teacher and anti-public education legislation and a bipartisan, public campaign against teachers that is ubiquitous. There no longer needs to be any discussion about which state is “the worst” for public education – Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan – it’s everywhere.

Our research on teacher shortages and the turnover that contributes to them emphasizes how much these conditions vary across teaching fields, types of schools, and locations. We document how they are much more problematic in some regions, states, and districts than others; more widespread in particular subjects; and most pronounced in schools that serve students of color and those from low-income families.

Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement for all the students in a school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom. These rates are highest in schools serving low-income students and students of color. [emphasis added]

Caring for ‘the least of these’

Funding cuts spell trouble for special education in Indiana

Indiana’s particular brand of “reform” has resulted in an education funding shortfall. Budget cuts would, of course, hurt the students most, who need the most help. The shortage of special education teachers, who are the strongest advocates for their students, makes this especially troubling.

Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: “Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding.”

Evaluations

There will never be enough bad teachers to satisfy some people (The Chicago Tribune).

Illinois “reformers” wonder how there can be so many highly-rated teachers when there are so many “failing” schools?

The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune is still unhappy with the way teachers in Illinois are evaluated because the current system still has too many teachers rated in the top two tiers of the ranking categories.

We had the same problem here in Indiana a few years ago.

Study finds 87 percent of Indiana teachers “effective”

Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 97 percent of those teachers who were rated have been classified in the top two categories of effectiveness? Today’s data simply does not correlate with the student results we’re seeing in the classroom.

The data does, indeed, correlate, because student test scores are not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. The “failing schools” narrative is more complicated than “reformers” will admit. Schools can’t be judged by test scores alone and the quality of teachers isn’t the only variable that has an impact on student achievement.

“Reformers,” however, are interested in damaging the teaching profession in order to lower salaries and increase profits. Blaming teachers is good for the privatization business.

Once the profession is damaged, and fewer young people seek a career in education, the lowering of standards (and consequent increase in profits) can continue. Florida, for example…

Damaging the profession

Florida’s Teacher Gap Is No Mystery

Florida is “solving” the problem by opening up alternative paths, because the way to get better teachers and fill teaching jobs is by making it possible to slap any warm body into a classroom. My favorite bar-lowering idea― Florida Atlantic University will give Palm Beach Schools a list of students who flunked out of medical and science programs so that those students can be recruited to teach. And meanwhile the remaining dedicated, qualified teachers of Florida wonder how much longer they can hold on.

…and Michigan…

We don’t need no education

The Michigan legislators and governor are a match for Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and the rest of the nation by showing how easy it is to cause a teacher shortage.

Snyder seems to show few actual emotions of any kind. But his fellow Republicans in the legislature are vindictive and nasty. They seem to hate teachers, even more than they hate most in the public sector, and especially hate teachers’ unions.

Five years ago, they passed a law preventing local districts from paying more than a certain percentage of health care coverage for their teachers.

Republican lawmakers also rammed through right-to-work in a lame duck session at the end of 2012, gloating as they did it that this was bound to weaken the MEA and other unions who traditionally give money to try and defeat them.

If that weren’t enough, they also promptly passed a law that would make it so public school districts are no longer required to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks, as had been common practice for decades.

Nor were they done humiliating educators:

New teachers traditionally started at a low salary, then advanced year by year on a negotiated schedule till they reached something like a middle-class life style. But the benevolent legislators also pulled the rug out from under teachers in that way too, passing another law in 2012 that allowed school districts to not move teachers up on the salary schedule.

“As a result, we have teachers across the state in many districts who haven’t seen a raise in five years,” the MEA’s Crim says. Couple that with inflation and the rising cost of benefits, and it’s no wonder that a lot of students have had second thoughts about going into the profession.

How do you think the state of Michigan will deal with the lack of teacher? Again, like Indiana and Wisconsin…

Others have suggested we just drop the requirement for a teaching certificate and let retired professionals take a crack at the classroom.

That might make some sense at the university level, though being able to do a job doesn’t automatically mean you can teach others the subject matter. But it doesn’t work at high school and especially for elementary school.

Who will accept responsibility?

Label the Lawmakers

Accountability measures for public school achievement are universally aimed at teachers, students, and school systems. Sometimes parents are part of the mix, but rarely are one of the most important stakeholders in public school achievement included in accountability legislation and provisions.

Those unaccountable stakeholders? They are the legislators and policy makers who control the funding for education and the out of school conditions in which children live.

John Kuhn, superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, wrote this letter several years ago. Nothing has changed. 100% of the blame for low achievement is still being heaped on teachers and schools. Legislators and policy makers are still doing their best to damage the teaching profession and avoid their own responsibility.

It’s time to revive this post…

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

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