Posted in poverty, reading, retention, Testing

Punishing Third Graders – Again, and Again, and Again

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second, he’s wrong.

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

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

TEACH READING, NOT TEST-TAKING…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…OR COMPUTER SKILLS

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

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

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

📊📝📓
Posted in Lead, Politics, poverty, Preschool, Privatization, Public Ed, retention, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #9 – I Have No Words

Poverty, Lead, Public Education, PreSchool, Funding, Food vs. Testing, Vouchers, Retention, Hate Crimes

Well…I have few words. Luckily, others have more…

YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY

Jennifer Garner urges Congress to fund early-childhood education: ‘A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you.’

Let’s start with poverty since it’s from poverty that nearly all the major problems with American education begin.

Actress, Jennifer Garner tells Congress what they should already know, that poverty affects a child’s life. Will they accept their share of the responsibility for the embarrassingly high rate of child poverty in the U.S.?

“A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you. A child who is not touched, who is not spoken to, who is not read to in the first five years of his or her life will not fully recover.

“Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse.

“When many of these children enter kindergarten, they don’t know their letters or numbers. They don’t know how to sit in a circle and listen to a story. They don’t know how to hold a book — they may have never even seen a book!

“That’s shocking, isn’t it? That 1 in 5 children in this country live in the kind of poverty that they could enter kindergarten never having seen a book.

“It’s easy to escape responsibility for disgrace like that by blaming the parents.

“Who doesn’t talk to a child or sing to a child?

“I’ll tell you who: parents who have lived their whole lives with the stresses that come with food scarcity, with lack of adequate shelter, with drug addiction and abuse. Parents who were left on the floor when they were children — ignored by their parents who had to choose — as one-third of mothers in this country do — between providing food or a clean diaper.

“Poverty dulls the senses, saps hope, destroys the will.

How lead poisoning affects children

HOW MUCH IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION WORTH

Lead Task Force Launches as Milwaukee Poisoning Levels are Higher than Flint

A year ago I might have said, “If a foreign power had poisoned the number of American children who currently live in lead infested environments we would consider it an act of war.” In today’s  political climate of antagonism towards anything which would benefit the “have-nots”, however, I don’t know if I can truthfully say that.

The most recent data shows over 25,000 children were tested in Milwaukee. More than 2,000 had lead poisoning.

“That’s 8.6 percent of the children tested. In Flint, Michigan, it was 4.9,” said Senator LaTonya Johnson, District 6 (D – Milwaukee).

THE FALSEHOOD OF “FAILING” SCHOOLS

Media Consensus on ‘Failing Schools’ Paved Way for DeVos

The delegitimization of public education began before Betsy DeVos…

…George W. Bush, Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, John King…

The language of “school choice” turns students into customers and schools into the marketplace. It turns public education into an oppressive, vaguely Soviet bureaucracy. In this framing, charters and vouchers represent freedom from oppression.

The papers that print these arguments don’t provide a definition of what they mean by “failing” schools—they don’t need to. Years of amplifying the pro-reform movements rhetoric has made “public schools” synonymous with “failing schools” when poor students of color are the subject. The words “failing schools” appeared in the New York Times 611 times between 2002 and 2014.

The rhetorical work of delegitimizing public education has already been done. While DeVos may be far to the right of the bipartisan vision of corporate education reform, the path towards privatization has already been paved.

PRESCHOOL PROBLEMS

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

What should the focus of preschool be?

Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.

…One major study of 700 preschool classrooms in 11 states found that only 15 percent showed evidence of effective interactions between teacher and child. Fifteen percent.

…It’s become almost a cliché to look to Finland’s educational system for inspiration. As has been widely reported, the country began to radically professionalize its workforce in the 1970s and abandoned most of the performance standards endemic to American schooling. Today, Finland’s schools are consistently ranked among the world’s very best. This “Finnish miracle” sounds almost too good to be true. Surely the country must have a few dud teachers and slacker kids!

And yet, when I’ve visited Finland, 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. Having rejected many of the pseudo-academic benchmarks that can, and do, fit on a scorecard, preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.

SCHOOL FUNDING FOR HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

Just because Mike Pence moved to Washington D.C., doesn’t mean that Indiana isn’t fully complicit with the new administration’s goal of stripping funds from anything which would support low income families.

The state legislature is continuing previous years’ process of transferring funds from poor public schools to rich ones…all in the name of “equality.”

For over 20 years, Indiana has used a school funding device called the Complexity Index to direct more money to high-poverty schools, which face more complex challenges in educating students. The House budget reduces Complexity Index funding by 15 percent, or $136 million.

The result: High-poverty school districts, those that rely for extra funding on the Complexity Index, could face financial challenges in the two-year period covered by the budget. The legislation is now being considered by the Senate, which could make changes in the House-approved school funding formula.

According to data from Libby Cierzniak, an attorney who represents Indianapolis and Hammond schools at the Statehouse, average per-pupil funding would increase three times as much for the state’s 50 lowest-poverty school districts as for the 50 highest-poverty districts under the House budget.

FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDING

Trump’s Proposed 2018 Budget for K-12 Education: What It Means

Apparently “drain the swamp” means getting rid of anyone in the federal government who still tries to support anything or anyone other than wealthy nationalists.

Here are just some of the percentage losses reported by the NY Times for departments whose programs are likely directly to affect children and families: Education, -14 percent; Health and Human Services, -16 percent; and Housing and Urban Development, -12 percent. The cuts are likely to affect public housing and subsidies for housing vouchers, may affect support for homeless shelters, and will eliminate after-school programs. Being erased altogether are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps very poor people pay gas bills in the winter and the Legal Services Corporation. School lunch, school breakfast and summer feeding programs have been made into mandatory spending and are not covered by this budget. We’ll have to watch for a later, more detailed budget to observe these programs, and we can hope they will be spared. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is slightly reduced from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion in Trump’s proposed budget. There are also significant cuts to health programs and much debate currently about the future of the Affordable Care Act.

FUNDING

It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death.

It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death. Betsy DeVos is the tip of merely one crumbling iceberg. Dismantling America’s essential social services is highly profitable for an oligarchy of corporate billionaires and their political cronies. Shock and Awe methods assure that multiple targets are hit fast and hard to keep people divided, to avoid mass resistance for a single cause. Ask Naomi Klein how this works.

For 24 million American men, women and children, a death panel looks like President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – with the smiling approval of the majority of Congress. “Healthcare” that condemns 24 million Americans to slow and painful premature deaths is NOT healthcare. If a third world country’s leaders did this while dismantling public education, America would invade it and overthrow its corrupt governing officials.

FOOD OR TESTING? WHAT’S IMPORTANT?

Food Is Overrated

The first sentence in this post from Peter Greene hits the nail on the head. We still focus almost exclusively on test scores. Anything that doesn’t improve test scores – as if a raise in test scores was actually evidence of “improvement” – isn’t worth doing, apparently.

There is no evidence that food helps raise test scores.

Mind you, this is from the administration that wants us to believe that three million votes were cast illegally, that Obama wiretappppped Trump Towers, that microwaves can be used to spy on us– all this and more, without a shred of evidence. But children doing better in school because they have gotten food to eat– that is some wildass crazypants conspiracy nutbaggery. You think being able to eat food helps children do better in school?? Woah– just let me check you for your tin foil hat.

Reformsters, this is at least partly on you. This is the logical extension of the idea that only hard “evidence” matters, and only if it is evidence that test scores go up. We’ve dumped play, understanding of child development, and a whole bunch of not-reading-and-math classes because nobody can prove they help raise test scores to the satisfaction of various reformsters. It was only a matter of time until some literal-minded shallow-thinking functionary decided that there was no clear linkage between food and test scores.

FED’S VOUCHER PLAN

Here’s The Skinny: Trump’s Trying To Push A Voucher Plan On Us

This morning, President Donald J. Trump revealed his skinny budget, and it’s both skinny on details and in its support for public education. The Trump plan would cut the Department of Education’s budget by 13.5 percent, which according to The Washington Post, would be “a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.”

At the same time, the budget would funnel $250 million of taxpayer dollars into a private school voucher program and use an additional $1 billion to fund a reckless experiment called “portability” that could be a stepping stone to even more voucher plans.

There are so many reasons to oppose Trump’s $250 million voucher program. Vouchers divert desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students. They are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and threaten religious liberty, among other things.

SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY

Opinion: Georgia won’t improve its schools until it stops teacher blame game

Politicians and policy makers need to step up and accept their share of the responsibility for fixing the problems which beset America’s public schools. Closing schools, diverting funds, or punishing students and teachers, won’t help to relieve the high rate of poverty in the U.S. It’s time to face the facts. Poverty impacts a child’s ability to learn and numerous out-of-school-factors can’t be controlled by teachers no matter how good they are. The best teachers in the world can’t help children learn if they are hungry, sick, or lack access to books.

The rhetoric about “fixing” failing schools is only political posturing until the real discussion about what is happening in the communities and homes of those students is addressed. EVERY CHILD should have access to equitable education – that was the intent of the Education and Secondary Education Act originally authorized in the 1960’s (now called Every Student Succeed Acts), and that is the belief of EVERY TEACHER I ever met. However, there are many influences impacting schools that are not being considered by these tests. The teachers cannot fix all of the societal issues plaguing these schools.

RETENTION HASN’T AND DOESN’T WORK

Keep Flunking the Little Brats!

Invest in preschool and early intervention instead of wasting time and damaging children with the failed “intervention” of retention-in-grade.

Students who struggle with reading in third grade are more likely to get into issues down the road, like academic failure, discipline issues, poor attendance, drop-outs, etc. These problems might be connected to reading issues, or both the problems and the reading issues could be related to some other factor like – oh, let’s just go out on a limb and say … poverty.

…As Stanford researcher, Linda Darling Hammonds, has written:

“We have had dozens and dozens of studies on this topic. The findings are about as consistent as any findings are in education research: the use of testing is counterproductive, it does not improve achievement over the long run, but it does dramatically increase dropout rates. Almost every place that has put this kind of policy in place since the 1970s has eventually found it counterproductive and has eliminated the policy. Unfortunately policy makers often are not aware of the research and they come along years later and reintroduce the same policies that were done away with previously because of negative consequences and lack of success.”

THE STATE OF THE NATION

With hate crimes against Jews on the rise, one community grapples with how to respond

Hate crimes against Jews (and Muslims, Latinos, other immigrants of color, the LGBT community) continue to rise. Nationalism rears its ugly, bigoted head. Those who say, “It’s not me because I’m not [insert ethnicity],” do so at their own peril.

My grandparents came here to escape the Tzar’s pogroms in the early 20th century. This could be their cemetery.

“The thing that’s most painful, the thing I keep thinking… is, they came to America, they had so much hope,” she said. “And I just keep thinking about the shattered gravestones and the shattered hopes.”

✏️✏️✏️
Posted in A-F Grading, Evaluations, IREAD-3, ISTEP, retention, Testing, vouchers

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Test – 2017

ISTEP is still doing damage to Indiana students, teachers, and schools. The promise to end the mess that is the State of Indiana’s testing program was just political deception in order to assuage voters during the last election cycle. The election is over and we have elected the same folks who have been dumping education “reform” policies on the children of Indiana for the last dozen years. They have grown the importance of ISTEP into a bludgeon to punish low income children, their teachers, and their schools. The pretense of the test being a tool to analyze children’s progress has all but disappeared.

Public outcry against the test inspired former Governor Pence to form a team to find an alternative, but it was led by political appointees and some educators on the panel had their voices overruled by the sound of cash clinking into test-makers’ (aka political donors) wallets. Others gave up, apparently thinking, “This is the best we’ll get.”

Nevertheless, the recommendations of the panel were for a shorter test with quicker turnaround. The recommendations also called for a two year window to plan for the changes…in the meantime, the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad test continues.

ISTEP will involve too many hours of student instructional time – twice during the school year (thrice for third graders who are also subject to being punished by IREAD-3 for not learning quickly enough). ISTEP will still be responsible for teacher evaluations and A-F school grades even though it was designed only to evaluate student knowledge. So much for any rules of testing which say that tests should only be used to evaluate what they were designed to evaluate – in this case student achievement.

Maybe we ought to try education policies which have actually been shown to be effective. Let’s do this instead…

  • End the A-F Grading system for schools. A letter grade does not reflect the climate or quality of a school.
  • Stop using tests to evaluate teachers. There are other, better professional evaluation tools out there (see this report, by Linda Darling-Hammond, et al.)
  • End IREAD-3 and any student evaluation process by which students are retained in grade. Retention doesn’t work. Intensive early intervention does. See here, here, and here.
  • If standardized tests must be used, use those tests which can return student achievement information in a timely manner so teachers can use the information in their instruction.
  • Better yet, don’t use standardized tests at all. With the millions of dollars saved by not purchasing standardized tests, provide early intervention funds to schools with significant numbers of at-risk students.
  • Your suggestion here: __________
✏️✏️✏️
Posted in Article Medleys, Curmudgucation, DeVos, Edushyster, Lead, music, poverty, read-alouds, retention, Testing

2017 Medley #2

Retention in Grade, Poverty, Lead Poisoning, Testing, DeVos, Read Aloud, Musical Interlude

END RETENTION IN GRADE LAWS

Time to Eliminate 3rd Grade Retention

States continue to adopt third grade retention laws. They do it based on the erroneous reasoning that since kids who don’t learn to read by third grade have the most trouble in school, it makes sense to retain the ones who can’t read by third grade. This is another case of confusing correlation with causation. Promoting third graders with reading problems to fourth grade is not the cause of poor reading skills. The problem begins much earlier than third grade.

The answer to the “reading problem” is twofold First, we need to spend enough money to catch children with problems early in their school career, pre-school, if possible. Intensive intervention, when started early enough, can help most children. Second, many school failures are caused by the conditions of poverty…emotional or physical trauma, lead poisoning (see Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores, below), etc. Dealing with the high rate of childhood poverty in the U.S. will go a long way to solving our low achievement problems.

Rob Miller discusses the issue on his blog…

Please don’t tell me that “third grade retention is working” because state reading scores in 3rd or 4th grade have increased slightly. One or two years of data based on a multiple choice test with constantly changing standards is not convincing.

As I’ve shared before, recent short-term increases in fourth grade state or national reading scores are thoroughly predictable, given the fact that most of the lower scoring readers have been removed from the sample, or are tested a full year later than normal.

Who will be around eight to ten years from now to talk with these same students about the long-term effects of grade retention? Will they come back to share with us the number of dropouts in the class of 2025 who were subjected to retention in third grade?

Long term studies show that short term gains drop away after three or four years, and by the time a child is four years past his “retention year” he is just as far behind – or further – than before.

Miller says that he has misgivings about social promotion, but in my experience, there are very few cases where retaining a child is the best option. The best option is usually intensive intervention.

Retaining students is a shortcut answer to a problem that actually works against our goals as educators. We would do better to attend to struggling students with programmatic changes than with this mean-spirited “hold them back” approach.

Don’t misread what I am saying. I also have misgivings relative to blanket practices of social promotion. There are children for whom grade retention is the best option to address the unique social and academic needs of a child.

This issue simply illustrates the problems associated with bureaucrats at the state and national level establishing mandates that strip local teachers and administrators from making the best decisions for individual children.

POVERTY MATTERS

The Long Shadow of Poverty and School Segregation by Income

Teachers struggle daily to help children learn. We could help them by focusing on the high level of child poverty in America.

Family background is of great importance for school achievement; the influence of the family does not appear to diminish over the child’s school years. Neither the impact of one school or another nor the impact of facilities nor the impact of curriculum is as great as the impact of the student’s family background. Of in-school factors that matter to children, the teacher is the most important. Finally, “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student’s own social background, than is any school factor.”

Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores

If we were serious about helping our children learn, we would be dealing with the causes of low achievement, child poverty and its concomitant problems.

One major issue facing children who live in poverty is environmental toxins in general, and lead poisoning in particular. It’s expensive to clean up, but which of our children aren’t worth some expense to ensure healthy brain development?

We find that since 1997, when the state of RI instituted measures to reduce lead hazards in the homes of RI families, lead levels fell across the state, but significantly more so for African American children. This is likely because their lead levels were considerably higher than other children in the state in 1997, including other low income children, and African American families were disproportionately located in high concentration poverty areas where outreach efforts were focused. We find that this translated into reductions in the black-white test score gap in RI witnessed over this period.

“REFORM”

7 Educational Reforms Needed in 2017

“Standardized tests shold only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability.” Exactly.

1. Decrease the Number of Standardized Tests
Notice I suggest fewer standardized tests as opposed to no standardized tests. Standardized tests do have their place in education, but like with anything else, too much is overkill. Perhaps student progress can be tracked every 3 years as opposed to every year. This would save many states a great deal of money and students a great deal of stress. Furthermore, standardized tests should only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability. There are other, more effective means to measure a teacher’s worth, such as observations, lesson plan reviews, and student surveys.

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt

“Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality,” Deming wrote. “Routine inspection becomes unreliable through boredom and fatigue.” That recommendation should be applied to the annual testing of students in reading and math mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Instead of “routine inspection,” Deming urged detailed analysis of small samples. Bucking widespread practice, the Finns do exactly that, with high-quality exams administered to small groups of students. Teachers consequently feel no pressure to “teach to the test,” students get a well-rounded education and administrators gain superior understanding of student progress. Finnish teens score at or near the top of international educational assessments.

MORE ON DEVOS

The Red Queen

One of the most complete exposés of the oligarchy in Michigan led by the DeVos’s. This is a long article…worth spending the time it takes to read!

By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

More Baloney in Support of DeVos

The Finnish philosophy of education is that you may choose whatever public school you want for your child, but because they are all excellent you can be assured that choosing your local school will be a good choice.

Instead of closing schools, wasting money on vouchers and charters, and disrupting children’s education, we need to invest in all our public schools. If children are struggling to achieve, then we need to give their school more resources, not strip it of funding.

All children should NOT have “access” to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had “access” to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, “We think this school si failing, and that’s unfair to the students in it, so we’re going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we’re leaving them in.” How is that a solution??!!

READING ALOUD

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

For your encouragement.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are a Changin'” in 1963.  I think that after fifty-three years we need it again…

“This song was written at a moment in our country’s history when people’s yearning for a more open and just society exploded. Bob Dylan had the courage to stand in that fire and he caught the sound of that explosion. This song remains as a beautiful call to arms…” – Bruce Springsteen, 1997

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

2016 Medley #25

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

RETENTION: PUNISHING CHILDREN FOR ADULT FAILURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan to Retain Children with Lead Poisoning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How lead poisoning affects children

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

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

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

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

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

How Charter Schools Bust Unions

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

READING: SSR

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

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

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

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW…ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH

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

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

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

TEACHER SHORTAGE

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

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

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

TEXTBOOK ADOPTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICS

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a man who’s:

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

Random Thoughts on the Occasion of My 10th Blogoversary

…which is tomorrow.

[NOTE: This is not my “main blog.” You’ll find that at http://bloom-at.blogspot.com. I began this “mirror” blog in January of 2013, a full 7 years after I started blogging at Blogger.]

Here are some random thoughts about learning, education, and other things…with a few quotes sprinkled throughout. FWIW…

  • “Lazy” students are most likely students who have given up. If there’s one argument in favor of investing more in early-child education and early intervention, then this is it. It’s much easier to keep a child going with successful experiences than to get a child to “restart” after they have failed and given up.
  • Misbehavior is often a cover up for academic difficulties. It’s much easier to choose to be a behavior problem than it is to accept that learning is difficult and risk being labeled as “stupid.”
  • Despite the chronological gap between the students I taught in 1975-1976 and the students I taught in 2015-2016, the needs of the children were the same. They wanted – and want – to learn, to be accepted for who they are, and to be loved.
  • Reflective teachers never stop learning. I have never considered myself a “master teacher” because I recognize my own inabilities and weaknesses. I don’t believe that I ever “mastered” teaching. Each day there were things I could have done better.
  • “…it is the struggle itself that is most important…It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards…” – Data in The Offspring
  • Criticism is worthwhile. Ask trusted colleagues for it, then accept it and use it to improve.
  • “For years we’ve been told from Wall Street entrepreneurs that we don’t need more money for these inner-city schools, we just need the same management techniques that they use on Wall Street. They say, “You can’t throw money at this problem.” But they are the ones who pull their kids out of the public school system and put them in Exeter and Andover, which now costs about $50,000 a year, or the people who live in the rich suburbs who spend $24,000 on their public schools, almost twice as much as children in New York. They say you can’t throw money at the problem, but I say it seems to work for their kids.” – Jonathan Kozol An Interview with Educator and Activist Jonathan Kozol
  • Every student can learn. However, expecting that every student will learn the same thing, at the same time, and in the same way, is unreasonable. Human beings don’t grow on a set schedule. We all didn’t learn to walk on the 3,000 day of life and not everyone will learn to read in First Grade Kindergarten. Those who expect uniformity in child development should stay out of the classroom. Those who demand uniformity in student achievement should keep their policies out of public education. Students are not widgets. Education is not a business.
  • Every student is different. The strength of a classroom is in the diversity of its students. One way for humans to outgrow the damaging tribalism which has been responsible for most of the wars in human history is to bring together our children to play and learn.  We should celebrate and encourage infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
  • “When people have said ‘poverty is no excuse,’ my response has been, ‘Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'” – Gerald Bracey, Parents, Poverty and Achieving in School
  • It’s well established that children need a safe place in order to learn. No one can learn if they’re afraid. The same goes for the adults in school. Teachers need a safe place to teach. Bullies don’t belong in the classroom, the school office, or the central office.
  • Things I miss in today’s schools: cursive writing, typewriters, card catalogues, and paper based reference materials (aka World Book Encyclopedia).
  • “Cub fans will take winning in stride. With enthusiasm, with tears of joy, perhaps, but in stride…When it happens you will find us, like our ancestors in 1908, sensitive enough to know how to be humble in the face of a miracle.” – Jim Langford in The Cub Fan’s Guide to Life, 1984
  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” – 1983 Commission on Reading. Reading aloud is more important than standardized tests, test-prep, work sheets, homework, book reports, flash cards…
  • Teachers, you won’t be able to “finally get caught up” until the end of the school year. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Until a better way comes to American education, teachers will have to accept that fact and prioritize.
  • Teachers, there won’t be enough money for public education until the American people, through their leaders, give it a higher priority. It’s the future of the nation. Public school students are the future leaders of the country. We’re a nation of selfish, shortsighted people only thinking about “mine” and “now.” We need to invest in our future…in public education.
  • If you retain a student in grade you’re increasing to 60% the chance that he will drop out. Obviously no teacher can force a student to learn, but we need to reach students before they fail. Students need early intervention, wraparound services, and attention to the causes of their learning problems, rather than the reaction of retention. Policy makers can help by funding Pre-K education, early intervention programs, and support services. Which child isn’t worth the money?
  • “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” – Isaac Asimov
  • My first students are now adults in their late 40s. I can see how they impact the community. Teachers, quite literally, have the future of the nation in their classrooms. Today’s difficult student might one day make a contribution to national defense, the national economy, or an advancement in medicine.
  • “History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less-developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference might be, the results are invariably disastrous.” – Picard in Symbiosis
  • One’s skill as a teacher, while important, is secondary to one’s ability to understand and relate to children. My greatest successes as a teacher were with those students whose hearts I was able to touch. My greatest failure – and one stands out more than all the rest – was with the student I couldn’t reach because I couldn’t relate to him.
  • Technology is not “the answer.” It’s a tool. The same goes for educational trends like…brain training, phonics vs. whole language, multi-graded classrooms, project-based learning, and new math. Those techniques and concepts, and others like them, might be helpful for some students some times, but they are just tools. I’m more and more convinced that the “answer” is found in the relationship between teacher and student.
###
Posted in Florida, retention, Testing

#%@! Adults Should Quit Punishing Children

Florida has me riled up again. A few days ago Peter Greene reported about the continuing mess in Florida about retention in grade of third graders who don’t pass the #%@! standardized reading test.

Before I comment on that let’s look at retention in grade…

RETENTION IN GRADE DOESN’T WORK

Position Statement On Student Grade Retention And Social Promotion

Initial achievement gains may occur during the year the student is retained. However, the consistent trend across many research studies is that achievement gains decline within 2-3 years of retention, such that retained children either do no better or perform more poorly than similar groups of promoted children. This is true whether children are compared to same-grade peers or comparable students who were promoted.

What Research Says About… / Grade Retention

Jackson (1975) reviewed 44 studies that met a minimal set of methodological criteria. Finding few with significant results or even compelling patterns, he concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support the claim that grade retention is more beneficial than grade promotion. About 10 years later, Holmes and Matthews (1984) reviewed an additional 44 studies that all included some type of comparison group of students. These researchers concluded that promoted students had higher academic achievement, better personal adjustment, and more positive attitudes toward school than retained students did.

Moving ahead another 17 years, Jimerson (2001) summarized the historical research and added a carefully culled set of studies conducted between 1990 and 1999, all of which included comparison groups of promoted students. Most of the comparisons showed no significant differences between promoted and retained students on measures of achievement or personal and social adjustment. In those studies that did show a difference, the results favored the promoted students, especially on measures of achievement.

RETENTION IN GRADE IS A BIG WASTE OF MONEY

In their 2014 book, 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools, David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass asked, “Does flunking students waste money?”

They answered,

Yes. Retention in grade is not optional in about 13 states and in many school districts. Many jurisdictions have mandated retention for children not reading at grade level, usually based on a test given at 3rd grade. States and districts with this policy, therefore, have agreed to spend an extra year’s cost of schooling on a child not performing well on standardized tests. This currently averages out to about $11,000 per child annually in our nation’s public schools. With at least 5 million children in the system who have been left back at least once, and the commitment of American schools to an average of $11,000 per child per extra year of schooling, the United States could be spending $55 billion annually on a policy that doesn’t work well for most children.

RETENTION IN GRADE CAN BE HARMFUL TO STUDENTS

Grade Retention and Promotion: Information for Parents

• In adolescence, retained students are more likely to experience problems such as poor interactions with peers, disliking school, behavior problems, and lower self-esteem.
• Students who were retained are 5–11 times more likely to drop out of school. The probability is even higher for students who are retained more than once. Actually, grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of high school drop out.
• For most students, grade retention had a negative impact on all areas of achievement (e.g., reading, math, and oral and written language) and social and emotional adjustment (e.g., peer relationships, self-esteem, problem behaviors, and attendance).
• A study of sixth graders’ perceptions indicated that they consider retention as one of the most stressful life events.

New research suggests repeating elementary school grades — even kindergarten — is harmful

A new study ,“The Scarring Effects of Primary-Grade Retention? A Study of Cumulative Advantage in the Educational Career,” by Notre Dame sociologist Megan Andrew, published Sept. 26, 2014, in the journal Social Forces is an empirically solid analysis that adds more weight to those who say retention — what education wonks call repeating a grade — is ultimately harmful.

WHY WE RETAIN STUDENTS – A FALSE DICHOTOMY

Let’s summarize. Retention…

  1. …doesn’t work
  2. …wastes money
  3. …harms students

    So why do we continue to do it?

    Reason number one for teachers favoring retention in grade: “The student needs a year to ‘catch up.'” It may seem like it works in the year immediately following retention, but it doesn’t last.

    Reason number two for teachers: “We don’t have any other options. Lack of money means that there aren’t enough specialists to help the kids who really need it. Special education is not indicated for every child who has difficulty reading. We didn’t have money for anything which could have helped three years ago when these kids were in kindergarten (or earlier in Pre-K programs), and now we’re stuck without anything else to do.”

    Reason number three, the false dichotomy favored by legislators, pundits, and others who don’t know squat about developmentally appropriate instruction and education: “Social promotion doesn’t work and we have to do something!”

    And reason number four for the same population, “We’re using the tests (which I support because I get campaign contributions from testing companies) for ‘accountability.’ ‘Accountability’ needs consequences.”

    WHAT DOES WORK? – EARLY INTERVENTION

    An argument against early intervention is that it’s too expensive. In fact, early intervention is poorly funded in most states because we’re a nation that doesn’t look forward. We only react to things when they happen. In addition, we’re not willing to pay for our future. The middle class is tired of being taxed to pay for everything which benefits society while the top 1% avoids its tax responsibility.

    However, when compared to retention, early intervention is a bargain. Russ Walsh explains in his blog entry, Attention, Not Retention

    It costs, on average, about 11,000 dollars to retain a child (the cost of an extra year of school). By not retaining children, schools will save thousands of dollars in costs, not to mention all the human costs related to high drop-out rates and behavior issues related to retention. With this money schools need to give students the attention they need, in the form of programs that Berliner and Glass, among others, have found to be effective. Individual tutoring, summer programs and early intervention programs, such as Reading Recovery, have been shown to be effective ways to provide struggling students with the attention needed to “catch-up.” For high-poverty areas, the money could also be better spent on early childhood programs, wrap around health programs and smaller class sizes.

    FLORIDA STILL REQUIRES THE PUNISHMENT OF 8 AND 9 YEAR OLDS

    …as does Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington. Other states – Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia – encourage it, though it’s not required. Different hoops are needed to avoid it in various states. See K-3 Quality: Is there a third grade retention policy?

    These states and Florida, demand retention in grade of third graders for not learning quickly enough, or not being able to pass a standardized reading test. Retention in grade isn’t remediation. Retention in grade punishes children for the failures of adults.

    Some school systems in Florida are telling parents who choose to opt their children out of the third grade reading test, that their children will not be allowed in fourth grade no matter what proof they can give of their child’s ability to read. Portfolios won’t work. Report Cards don’t matter.

    Some of these same people – legislators, politicians, edupreneurs – will insist that all parents be given “choice” when it comes to funding for charter schools and vouchers. “Choice” for privatization means more tax money for private corporations. No “Choice” for testing means more tax money for testing companies. Follow the money.

    On Labor Day, 2016, Peter Greene, wrote,

    FL: Still Stupidly Punishing Children

    This is the kind of spectacle you get when you insist on enforcing a stupid law, and the law that says students must pass the Big Standardized Test in order to move on to fourth grade is a deeply stupid law, without a shred of science to back it up. But this is the hill on which the state has decided to fight the opt out battle, hoping that a battery of nuisance motions and legions of taxpayer-financed lawyers will somehow beat these children and their families down so that finally the Supreme Test Gods can receive their proper homage. [emphasis added]

    Legislators and politicians in Florida and other states have decided that children…8 and 9 year old children…must be punished because adults…

    • don’t understand the developmental aspects of reading
    • have failed to put in place sufficient interventions for students who struggle
    • are so tied to testing – either through misinformation, or monetary connections – that they allow this child abuse

    We ought to spend money on things that will actually help children instead of wasting money lining the pockets of testing companies.

    Unfortunately, children who struggle with reading don’t make campaign contributions.

    ###