Category Archives: reform

Let the Children Play

Pasi Sahlberg came to the U.S. as a visiting professor at Harvard to help American educators learn how the Finnish school system became the world’s best. William Doyle won a Fulbright scholarship to move to Finland to study the Finnish system. Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is the result of the collaboration they formed.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

Let the Children Play begins with a discussion of the research into play and its benefit for children. Groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control agree that play and physical activity are of critical importance to growing children, and are beneficial to their academics, and future skills.

Despite the science, however, play is disappearing from school due to so-called “education reform.”

Despite this strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.

Why is play dying in our schools? There are many social and cultural factors, and one major political reason is “GERM,” or the “Global Education Reform Movement,” a term that co-author Pasi Sahlberg has coined to describe an intellectual school reform paradigm that places academic performance as measured by standardized tests before children’s engagement, well-being, and play in schools.

The authors discuss and analyze Finnish schools. What makes them so successful? How can we learn from them? How have they used play to help their children achieve?

FINLAND

The Finnish philosphy of education, which is based on American educational research (see Finnish Lessons, by Pasi Sahlberg), is child-centered, something we in the U.S. have learned, but rarely practice.

In Finland, the main question isn’t “Is the child ready for the school?” but “Is the school ready for every child, and ready to accommodate each child’s differences?”

The child-centered school adapts to the child, not the other way around…and play is important. The seat-work style of American education is rejected. Children aren’t required to start formal instruction until they’re seven years old, and there are no standardized tests until the end of high school. What assessment there is, is also child-centered. During her visit to Finnish schools, Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups, said,

I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it.

For several years, even without regular standardized tests, Finland led the world in student achievement as measured by the PISA tests. In recent years, however, their rankings have started to slip. Since they understand the limitations of tests, they didn’t panic. They didn’t start teaching to the test. They didn’t label and retain students as “failing.” They didn’t fire or punish teachers. They didn’t close schools or shame them with “F” ratings. Instead, they doubled-down on child-centered education.

In many other countries, politicians and bureaucrats would have pushed the panic button and declared a state of emergency. Common remedies would most likely have included teachers being penalized more for inferior standardized test data, and more academic pressure on children. But Finland didn’t do this. Instead, educators and government officials did something almost unheard of in the world of education reform. They talked to children. They then realized that one of the big overall problems was a lack of student engagement in schools and the fact that children feel their voices are not heard when it comes to their own learning and lives in school.

Throughout it all, there is play. Children in Finland aren’t sitting at desks all day listening to their teacher or doing seat-work. Recess has all but disappeared in the United States, but the successful Finns, on the other hand, give their children fifteen minutes of unstructured free play time every hour because…

…learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.

Academic kindergartens and virtual preschools aren’t the best way to build academic success for our children. Current research supports previous research. Play is children’s work. Children learn through play. Worksheets in preschool and kindergarten, whether they’re made of paper or on a computer screen, are inappropriate. Cooking stations, dress-up boxes, and building toys are what we need for our littlest learners. Bring back recess, blocks, and doll buggies. Teach young children through read-aloud, finger play, and singing. Give our youngest children time to play without adult interference.

Older children also benefit from unstructured free time.

In play, children gradually develop concepts of casual relationships, the power to discriminate, to make judgments, to analyze and synthesize, to imagine and to formulate. Children become absorbed in their play, and the satisfaction of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion fixes habits of concentration which can be transferred to other learning.

OTHER IDEAS

Other good ideas from Let the Children Play

On preparation for school

The lesson: If you want to get your young child ready for school, read to them—and play with them!

On ed-tech in the classroom

On data

School policy should be “data informed,” not “data driven.”

On standardized tests

…standardized tests alone don’t provide the correct, complete information needed to judge school quality—because they don’t fully account for income, family background, learning history, peer effects, access to proper out-of-school nutrition and intellectual enrichment, emotional life, conditions in the home, and a host of other factors that affect a child’s learning, development, and growth.

FIVE STARS

Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is not just for teachers of primary grades. Parents, upper grade teachers, secondary teachers, administrators, and everyone else interested in American education, will benefit from the information it contains.

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⛹🏻‍♀️🌎🤸🏽‍♂️

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Filed under Finland, Play Kid's Work, Preschool, reform, Sahlberg

2019 Medley #16: Back to school 2019, Part 1

Special Ed. and Lead, Testing,
Teacher Evaluations,
Commission on Teacher Pay,
Reading and Phonics, Teachers’ Spending, Supporting Your Local School, DPE

SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS AND LEAD POISONING

In Flint, Schools Overwhelmed by Special Ed. Needs in Aftermath of Lead Crisis

In nearly all my previous posts having to do with the lead poisoning of America’s poor children, I have commented that we would likely see increased numbers of students needing special services in areas where lead is an identified problem.

Flint, Michigan is facing that situation. There aren’t enough special education teachers to handle the increased case load in Flint’s schools. The author of the article (and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit) don’t blame the lead in the water for the increased need for speical ed services in Flint. It seems likely, however, that the near doubling of the number of children identified for special education over the last 8 years has something to do with the damage done to Flint’s children by the lead in the water.

Who should pay for the permanent damage done to an entire community of lead poisoned children? Who should be held accountable? Will teachers’ evaluations reflect the lower test scores of their students damaged by policy makers’ neglect?

By the way, the title of this article refers to the “Aftermath of [Flint’s] Lead Crisis.” Is Flint’s water safe yet? What about Newark? What about the lead in the ground in East Chicago, IN?

In a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Education Law Center, and the New York-based firm of White & Case, lawyers representing Flint families have sued the school system, the Michigan education department, and the Genesee County Intermediate school district, alleging systematic failure to meet the needs of special education students. The Genesee district helps oversee special education services in Flint and other county districts.

While the lawsuit does not pin the increased need for special education services solely on the prolonged lead exposure, research has linked lead toxicity to learning disabilities, poor classroom performance, and increased aggression.

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT TESTS AREN’T VALID FOR TEACHER EVALUATIONS

As low ILEARN scores loom, McCormick wants to change how Indiana evaluates schools, teachers

What McCormick should have included in her comments…

We shouldn’t use student achievement tests to evaluate teachers. Student achievement tests are developed to assess student achievement, not teacher effectiveness…not school effectiveness…and not school system effectiveness. This misuse of standardized tests invalidates the results.

McCormick also said it is “past time” for the state to take students’ standardized test scores out of teachers’ evaluations. The argument is that scores should be used to inform educators on what concepts students have mastered and where they need help, rather than a way of evaluating how well teachers are doing their jobs.

“ILEARN was a snapshot in time, it was a one-day assessment,” McCormick said. “It gave us information on where students are performing, but there are a lot of pieces to student performance beyond one assessment.”

As for why the first year of scores were low, McCormick said the new test was “much more rigorous” and weighed skills differently, prioritizing “college and career readiness” skills.

McCormick: It’s time to change school grading system

“It’s past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations.”

• Hold schools harmless for test results for accountability purposes. In other words, schools would receive the higher of the grade they earned in 2018 or 2019.
• Pause the intervention timeline that allows the state to close or take over schools that are rated F for multiple consecutive years.
• Give emergency rule-making authority to the State Board of Education to enable it to reconfigure the accountability system to align with the new assessment.

McCormick also said it’s past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations, which can determine whether teachers get raises. Current law says teacher evaluations must be “significantly informed” by objective measures, like students’ test scores.

TEACHERS REPEAT WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS: LISTEN TO US!

Local educators tell commission to ‘support Hoosier teachers’ during input session focused on competitive wages

Once more teachers tell policy makers (this time “business and education leaders”) how the state of Indiana (and the nation) has damaged public education and the teaching profession. Apparently, the only people who don’t know why there’s a teacher shortage are those who have caused it…

One by one, teachers and community members took to the mic to give their input of what they believe needs to be done to increase teacher pay as well as revenues available to school corporations.

Recommendations included — but were not limited to — looking into low-enrollment schools, increasing state taxes, dropping standardized testing and examining charter schools’ “harmful impact” on public education.

THERE IS NO MAGIC ELIXIR

Is NCLB’s Reading First Making a Comeback?

There’s more to reading instruction than phonics.

[emphasis in original]

Teachers need a broad understanding about reading instruction and how to assess the reading needs of each student, especially when students are young and learning to read.

This includes decoding for children who have reading disabilities. But a variety of teaching tools and methods help children learn to read. The conditions in their schools and classrooms should be conducive for this to happen.

It would be helpful to read more about lowering class sizes, a way to better teach children in earlier grades.

Problems relating to the loss of librarians and libraries is also currently of grave concern. And with so many alternative education programs like Teach for America it’s important to determine who is teaching children reading in their classrooms.

The Reading First scandal was noxious, and I have not done justice describing it in this post. Today, most understand that NCLB was not about improving public education but about demeaning educators and closing public schools. Reading First fit into this privatization plan. It was about making a profit on reading programs. It turned out not to be a magic elixir to help students learn how to read better.

TEACHERS OPEN THEIR WALLETS

It’s the beginning of the school year and teachers are once again opening up their wallets to buy school supplies

While the governor and his commission on teacher pay argue about the best way to increase teacher salaries across the state, Indiana’s teachers are opening their classrooms and their wallets. The average amount of money a teacher spends on his/her students in Indiana is $462, which is more than the national average.

The nation’s K–12 public school teachers shell out, on average, $459 on school supplies for which they are not reimbursed (adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars), according to the NCES 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). This figure does not include the dollars teachers spend but are reimbursed for by their school districts. The $459-per-teacher average is for all teachers, including the small (4.9%) share who do not spend any of their own money on school supplies.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL – END VOUCHERS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

What can you do to help support your local school?

As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.

Second, arm yourself with facts about the threat vouchers pose to public education and oppose these schemes. To learn more, visit the website of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), a coalition co-chaired by Americans United that includes more than 50 education, civic, civil rights and religious organizations devoted to the support of public schools. NCPE has pulled together a lot of research showing that voucher plans don’t work and that they harm public education by siphoning off needed funds.

GUIDE TO THE DPE MOVEMENT

A Layperson’s Guide to the ‘Destroy Public Education’ Movement

This excellent summary post by Thomas Ultican was originally published on Sept. 21, 2018.

The destroy public education (DPE) movement is the fruit of a relatively small group of billionaires. The movement is financed by several large non-profit organizations. Nearly all of the money spent is free of taxation. Without this spending, there would be no wide-spread public school privatization.

It is generally recognized that the big three foundations driving DPE activities are The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $41 billion), The Walton Family Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $3.8 billion), and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $1.8 billion).

Last week, the Network for Public Education published “Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools.” This interactive report lists the top ten billionaires spending to drive their DPE agenda with links to case studies for their spending.

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Filed under A-F Grading, Article Medleys, Charters, Evaluations, Lead, McCormick, reading, reading first, reform, TeacherSalary, Testing, vouchers

The Miseducation of the American Voter

John Merrow, the retired education journalist for PBS, recently wrote,

…public education is an efficient sorting machine that is undemocratic to its core. Schools sort young children in two basic groups: A minority is designated as ‘winners’ who are placed on a track leading to elite colleges, prominence and financial success. While the rest aren’t labeled ‘losers’ per se, they are largely left to struggle on their own. That experience leaves many angry, frustrated and resentful, not to mention largely unprepared for life in a complex, rapidly changing society…

The “losers” who aren’t really labeled “losers,” Merrow said, are the ones who find no reason to vote, and Merrow placed at least part of the blame on public education.

This practice [focusing on test scores] went into high gear with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. “Regurgitation education” became the order of the day. This approach rewards parroting back answers, while devaluing intellectual curiosity, cooperative learning, projects, field trips, the arts, physical education, and citizenship.

Education which focuses on test scores devalues critical thinking. Citizens who do not think critically cannot fully participate in our democracy…

…the end result is millions of graduates who were rewarded with diplomas but have never participated in the give-and-take of ordinary citizenship—like voting. Did they graduate from school prepared for life in a democracy, or are they likely to follow blindly the siren song of authoritarians? Can they weigh claims and counterclaims and make decisions based on facts and their family’s best interests, or will they give their support to those who play on their emotions?

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump welcomed support from those he called ‘the poorly educated,’ but that’s the incorrect term. These men and women are not ‘poorly educated,’ ‘undereducated,’ or ‘uneducated.’ They have been miseducated, an important distinction. Schools have treated them as objects, as empty vessels to pour information into so it can be regurgitated back on tests.

[To be fair, however, I must note here that teachers, those tasked with fulfilling the mandates of No Child Left Behind (and Race to the Top, which followed) have not been happy with those mandates. Many teachers have stood up against the test and punish policies. Many have left the profession. Many have fought back and been either beaten down or forced out. Spend some time reading the early posts from this blog to get an idea about how teachers have spoken out against what most of us would consider poor and inappropriate educational practices (see here and here, for example).]

Recent news about two topics have emphasized Merrow’a point.

CIVICS

The Pew Research Center issued a report titled, What Americans Know About Religion. The report indicated that many Americans don’t know enough about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

…when asked what the U.S. Constitution says about religion as it relates to federal officeholders, just one-quarter (27%) correctly answer that it says “no religious test” shall be a qualification for holding office; 15% incorrectly believe the Constitution requires federal officeholders to affirm that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, 12% think the Constitution requires elected officials to be sworn in using the Bible, 13% think the Constitution is silent on this issue, and 31% say they are not sure.

Has our obsessive focus on reading and math resulted in a majority of our citizens being ignorant (or at best, forgetting) about the content of Article VI of the Constitution?

…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Americans are also apparently ignorant (or forgetful) about other parts of the Constitution. The most recent Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, for example, showed that a third of Americans could not name a single branch of the federal government. A year ago the same survey showed that a quarter of Americans couldn’t name any of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

As a result of the general lack of civics knowledge among the populace, the 2019 Indiana General Assembly passed a bill, which the governor signed, requiring students to pass a civics test in order to graduate high school.

A better understanding of how our government works is a great idea. Unfortunately, the legislature’s knee jerk reaction was to assign schools yet another multiple-choice test based on memorization of information — an example of what Merrow calls “regurgitation education.” There’s no guarantee that much real learning will occur in preparation for such a test.

Is this civics information already being taught in America’s public schools? The answer, I’m sure, is “yes.” Sadly, however, our fellow citizens haven’t really learned it and carried it into adulthood. We have political leaders who spout allegiance to the Constitution, yet don’t understand the separation of powers with its system of checks and balances or the freedom of the press. And we have millions of citizens who can’t seem to remember enough about how our government works to identify the ignorance of our leaders.

If it’s taught, why don’t our students internalize and remember it? Is it because it’s not repeated enough times during the years of schooling? Is it because we focus on reading and math in our assessments of students and that becomes all that matters? Is it because reading and math have squeezed other items out of the curriculum?

SCIENCE

Science, in addition to civics, is an area where Americans have shown ignorance/lack of memory. The fossil fuel industry has done a better job of teaching Americans that climate change is unproven science than schools have been in teaching children that it’s real. Nearly 90% of Americans are unaware of the consensus within the scientific community that climate change is real and a threat to our civilization.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans are unaware that there is a consensus within the scientific community that human-caused climate change is real and threatens the planet, a new report says.

According to the report published last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, only 13 percent of Americans were able to correctly identify that more than 90 percent of all climate scientists have concluded that climate change is real.

The annual survey of 1,266 adults compiled in May and June failed to note that it is actually 97 percent of climate scientists that concur that human-caused global warming is happening…

Why is there only one nation in the world where climate change is a controversial topic? Why do we have a fossil fuel lobbyist in charge of the EPA?

CHANGES NEEDED

How can we teach our students so they finish school ready for citizenship? How can we provide our citizens with the skills needed to recognize propaganda and demagoguery? How can we increase the critical thinking skills of Americans?

How can we change the national dynamic where, in 2016, only 64% of Americans eligible to vote were actually registered…and only 55% of those who were eligible actually voted?

It’s obvious that our obsessive focus on “reading and math test prep” hasn’t worked to create an informed citizenry. And to make matters worse (but not surprisingly) there are certain groups of students who are damaged more by test-and-punish policies than others. One guess who it is

On the civics portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly called the “Nation’s Report Card,” students of color and low-income students have consistently scored lower than their white, wealthier counterparts. “If there are students who are not receiving adequate instruction in civics education, and if those students are among the disadvantaged groups, then that’s going to perpetuate some of the barriers to political participation and representation that we’ve seen in the past,” says Elizabeth Levesque, an education research fellow at the Brookings Institution.

That distance between marginalized communities and government has a disenfranchising effect.

INSTEAD…

In her recent book, After the Education Wars, Andrea Gabor explains that there are educational behaviors and characteristics which work better than a reliance on “test and punish” and “reform-based” education.

…[successful schools] share a number of traits in common…

  • They are nurtured through a process of democratic collaboration and iterative improvement, in which grassroots participation is key.
  • They are embraced by savvy leaders who have used participative management to foster deep wells of trust.
  • They have often been protected from bureaucratic meddling by winning exemptions from specific regulations, often including union rules, and sometimes with the help of enlightened policymakers.
  • They value data but understand its limits, knowing that the most important factors are often immeasurable.

So how do we make civics and science education stick?

Start early.

Start with qualified teachers.

Give experts (teachers, for example) input into the curricula.

And, of course, fully fund public schools…stop diverting public tax dollars to private and privately run schools…and end the obsessive overuse and misuse of testing.

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Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

THE WAR ON TEACHERS IS WINNING

Local superintendents in Indiana had the chance to speak out against “Indiana’s war on teachers” and it’s just in time.

 

I understand that there’s turnover in superintendent positions, but are any of these school leaders the same ones who, in the early to mid-2000s told legislators and State Board of Education members to – and I’m paraphrasing here – “do something about the damn teachers union”?

It was just too big a hassle, apparently, to negotiate with local teachers. The ISTA backed locals asked for crazy things like due process in firing, a decent wage, time to prepare for classes, and a manageable number of students. Negotiating was just too hard to do.

So now we come to 2018. The dismantling of Indiana’s teaching profession by the General Assembly and State Board of Ed continues without pause. ISTA is so decimated that they’re joining with anti-public education groups who have targeted teachers and unions to try to get a few more dollars for public schools out of the stingy, anti-tax, pro-reform General Assembly.

It’s nice to see that superintendents are finally with us.

‘Indiana’s war on teachers is winning’: Here’s what superintendents say is causing teacher shortages

In a survey this year, Indiana State University researchers asked Indiana school superintendents if they faced a teacher shortage — and how bad the problem was.

“It’s killing us,” one respondent wrote.

“This situation is getting worse each year,” another said. “Scares me!”

“Indiana’s war on teachers is winning,” a superintendent commented.

 

TEACHERS KNEW

Teachers already knew what was happening in the early 2000s when the “ed-reformers” were working their hurt on public schools in the form of privatization of public education.

We knew that one of the goals of the “reformers” was to damage the teaching profession and their union…to hurt those people who were on the front lines of advocating for the children of Indiana. Weaken the advocates and you weaken the schools. Weaken the schools and you open the door to privatization…vouchers, charter schools, loss of local control (see Gary and Muncie). Privatization would make all that tax money available for corporate profits.

Teachers knew in 2011 when the Indiana General Assembly stripped teachers of most of their collective bargaining rights, eliminated teacher pay scales, and ended incentives for advanced degrees.

We knew when teachers in Indiana went through years and years of stagnant salaries, loss of seniority rights, and lack of public support.

We knew when money earmarked for public schools was diverted to private and privately run schools.

We knew when test scores, which reflect economics more than academics, were used to bully and guilt teachers. We knew when the legislature decided to slap a label on schools and blame schools (and teachers) as “failing” when their test scores reflected the economic condition of the community.

We knew when teacher preparation programs were denounced yet REPA III said that you didn’t need any education training to teach high school.

 

Now, thankfully, local superintendents have acknowledged that they know, too.

• “There is absolutely no incentive to stay in teaching or for that matter to pursue a degree in education. The pay is ridiculous. The demands are excessive. Teachers don’t really teach anymore, just test and retest. All the data-driven requirements are not successful in helping a student learn. Yes, we should have some testing but the sheer amount is ridiculous. I think we should go back to letting teachers teach. Let them be the professionals they were hired to be.”

• “We are teachers because we care about our students, but many of the laws being made are not done by those who have been educators themselves. An idea can look good in theory, but not fit in the classroom as you may think. Educating our children is our future, and our state needs to take a hard look at how we can take a new approach, starting with Kindergarten.”

• “I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”

I’m glad that superintendents are speaking out…I hope they get a bit louder!

Superintendents, if the war on teachers is winning, then your students are losing.

Join with your teachers as the political voice for your students.

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Filed under Administrators, Politics, reform, Teaching Career

ISTA: “We’ll be Careful”

My last two posts dealt with ISTA and their collaborations with Stand for Children.

I’m happy to report that I have heard from ISTA’s leadership. They are well-aware of the dangers of working with Stand for Children and have assured me that they are entering in the discussions with “eyes wide open.” They promise to be very careful.

There was no response to my suggestion that the appearance of collaboration with “reformers” might be bad.

In any case…we’ll just have to see what happens next.

 

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ISTA and Stand for Children. For or Against?

WAITING FOR AN ANSWER

In my last post I wrote that ISTA was “joining” with Stand for Children (SFC) to work for more state funding for education. At least that’s what I think they meant when they said,

ISTA is reaching out to a broad number of groups to help achieve increased school funding and teacher compensation – Stand is just one of these organizations.

I don’t know any more details than that.

ISTA’s President told a colleague that we should talk to her directly instead of posting on social media. I admit…the first thing I did when I heard that ISTA was “reaching out” to SFC was to tweet a “say it isn’t so” tweet. Since then, however, I have emailed the leadership twice – once on October 21, and again on October 23.

[I understand that they are busy. I’m retired. The leadership of ISTA is not. I have noticed that they have been having a variety of meetings lately. So, I’m not complaining that I haven’t heard from them. I appreciate the work they do for the teachers of Indiana. That’s why I was a member every year that I taught, and have remained a member even into retirement. So…I’ll wait.]

 

TALKING WITH THE ENEMY

I agree that it can be beneficial to talk to those with whom we disagree. It’s my hunch, however, that “reaching out” is more than talking. If it is not, then I hope that ISTA publicly announces that it is not. If it is more than just talking, then I object.

If I had heard that ISTA was talking to SFC in order to convince them to support public schools rather than continue their “reformy” ways I would have been skeptical of their chances of success but it would not have been a problem. The fact that the plan is to “reach out to SFC” in a drive for more funds seems like something different.

I’m all in for fully funding Indiana’s public schools, but I have a feeling that I’m not going to like how SFC wants to use extra education funding in Indiana…more charter schools perhaps?

The money SFC has invested in Indy has gone for school board members, who in turn have joined with the Mind Trust, the Innovation Network, and privatization. This, from Nov. 2016…

How Much Money Has Stand For Children Spent On IPS Board Elections And Indiana Lobbying?

…a WFYI News review of Stand For Children’s Form 990 federal tax returns gives some insight into how much and where campaign and lobbying dollars are spent. Five years of filings show the Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit continues to make Indiana — one of its 11 state affiliates — a focal point for school reform efforts.

At least $1 million was spent in Indiana during the past five years. The bulk of that money appears to go toward lobbying state legislators to pass laws, including the controversial bill that led to “innovation network schools” supported by IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office.

 

APPEARANCES MATTER

At the very least this looks terrible and ISTA ought to publicly renounce any affiliation with groups that work towards closing public schools to open privately run charters. That’s my opinion.

SFC doesn’t really work for teachers, either.

For example, here’s an blog post about SFC’s take on teacher evaluation from a few years ago (2014). Ironically, the post was written by ISTA.

ISTA: Stand for Children’s Teacher Evaluation Study Flawed and Misguided

Stand and other education “reform” groups need to quit trying to draw a direct line from a student’s single set of test scores to a teacher’s comprehensive evaluation. It makes no sense. It is overly simplistic. It is not defensible. It is unfair.

Stand for Children and Rep. Behning should focus on TRYING TO HELP HOOSIER CHILDREN instead of trying to HURT TEACHERS. The public has had their fill of this nonsense.

SFC hasn’t improved since that post was written. My post from October 22 included information from an Answer Sheet article, written last July, discussing what SFC, in concert with The Mind Trust, has done to Indianapolis public schools. Here’s yet another exerpt. As you read it, keep in mind that SFC has spent a substantial amount of money buying seats on the Indianapolis school board.

What’s really going on in Indiana’s public schools

When schools reopen in Indianapolis, Indiana in July, the doors of three legacy high schools will remain shuttered. The Indianapolis Public School (IPS) board voted last fall to close them after six months of raucous meetings where community members accused the board and superintendent of ignoring community concerns. Like many school closures, the recent shuttering of what were once three great high schools would disproportionately impact low-income children of color.

DOES THE RIGHT HAND KNOW WHAT THE LEFT IS DOING?

It seems that ISTA is also against ISTA’s plan to “reach out” to SFC. The upcoming election includes new school board members in Indianapolis. ISTA is working hard to defeat SFC-backed candidates. And with good reason…

Indiana teachers union spends big on Indianapolis Public Schools in election

Stand for Children, which supports innovation schools, typically sends mailers and hires campaign workers to support the candidates it endorses. But it is not required to disclose all of its political activity because it is an independent expenditure committee, also known as a 501(c)(4), for the tax code section that covers it. The group did not immediately respond to a request for information on how much it is spending on this race.

Chances are SFC is spending heavily on the school board election in order to keep the majority that has pushed for privatization in Indianapolis. The Chalkbeat article, quoted above, also said,

…one particular bone of contention is the district’s embrace of innovation schools, independent campuses that are run by charter or nonprofit operators but remain under the district’s umbrella. Teachers at those schools are employed by the school operators, so they cannot join the union.

The trio was also endorsed by the IPS Community Coalition, a local group that has received funding from a national teachers union.

[According to Chalkbeat, it seems the main concern here is the teachers union as bogeyman. Keep in mind, however, that Chalkbeat is funded by a variety of billionaires and other privatizers such as the Walton and the Gates Foundations.]

 

What is indisputable is SFC continued desire to privatize Indianapolis’s public school system by electing pro-privatization school board members. ISTA is spending thousands in opposition.

Now that action by ISTA is something I can agree with.

SFC: IN A NUTSHELL

Again, I’m all for fully funding public schools, but I don’t believe that joining with SFC will result in what ISTA is hoping for. A few years ago, Diane Ravitch explained SFC’s purpose…

Stand for Children Does Not Stand for Public Education

Let’s be clear: Stand for Children and its kind want to put an end not only to teachers’ unions but to the teaching profession. They want teachers to be evaluated by test scores, despite the overwhelming evidence that doing so will promote teaching to standardized tests and narrowing the curriculum, as well as cheating and gaming the system.

ISTA shouldn’t reach out to Stand For Children. Ever.

A PERSONAL NOTE

A comment on my post from Oct 22 asked me if I am now ready to rip up my ISTA card.

My answer: No. I didn’t join ISTA for trivial reasons…and I won’t quit because the leadership has decided to do something I disagree with.

Instead, I’ll express my dissatisfaction with this particular action (like I have done with other actions in the past) to local and state level leadership. If I don’t agree with their answers I will continue to speak up and try to change their minds.

 

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ISTA: Lying Down With Dogs

LYING DOWN WITH DOGS

The Indiana State Teachers Association is joining with Stand for Children. Why would ISTA join with an ed-reform group?

 

In case you don’t know, Stand for Children is a pro-ed-reform group deeply involved with the privatization of Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).

With the arrival of Oregon-based Stand For Children, Indianapolis school board elections started to take on a decidedly different tenor. Until 2010, a few thousand dollars was all that was needed to win a seat. That all changed when Stand For Children, an education reform 501(c)(4), started pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the 2012 elections. Stand’s tax return that year reported that the election of three Indianapolis school board members was a top accomplishment for the organization.

The result of this is that Indianapolis has seen school closures and disruptions led by the district superintendent…appointed by the school board purchased by Stand for Children.

DISRUPTED? HOW?

Stand for Children also spent $473,172 lobbying Indiana lawmakers on Public Law 1321, which was passed in 2014. Public Law 1321 was based on a 2013 model policy drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch-funded member organization of corporate lobbyists and conservative state legislators who craft “model legislation” on issues important to them and then help shepherd it through legislatures. Public Law 1321 allows Indianapolis and other districts across the state to create Innovation Network Schools — schools that are overseen by the school district but managed by private operators. These include privately operated charter schools that gain instant access to existing public buildings and resources.

IPS opened the first Innovation Network school in 2015. Fast-forward to 2018, and the district website lists 20 Innovation Schools in total. The Mind Trust has “incubated” and helped IPS open many of those Innovation Schools, including Daniels’s Purdue Polytechnic High School, with seven more schools in the pipeline.

GERM

Groups like Stand for Children are part of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) which has caused much of the academic and economic turmoil in our public schools for the last several decades. Why does ISTA, representing Indiana’s public school teachers, want to join with them?

My guess is that any increase in education funding supported by groups like Stand for Children will be tossed down the voucher/charter sinkhole!

IPS is being privatized. Stand for Children is helping.

Read the entire article by Darcie Cimarusti on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet.

Then, contact your ISTA officers and representatives for a more complete explanation, and a change in policy.

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been a member of ISTA and NEA since the day I started teaching…42 years ago. I’m now a member of ISTA- and NEA-Retired.

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