Posted in Accountability, class size, Gadflyonthewall, Legislatures, NancyBailey, poverty, research, retention, Walsh

Who is Accountable?

RESEARCH-BASED EDUCATION

In the 1990s my school system demanded that our teaching be research-based. This was pre-NCLB, so the purpose had nothing to do with “the test.” Rather the goal was to make sure all teachers were using “best practices” for their teaching. I was reminded of this recently when I read this post by Russ Walsh…

Knowledge, Belief, and the Professional Educator

…as I have talked to teachers over the years about instructional practice, I have heard a lot of faith-based language.

  • “I don’t believe in homework.”
  • “I believe in phonics.”
  • “I don’t believe in teaching to the test.”
  • “I believe in independent reading.”
  • “I believe in using round robin and popcorn reading.”

For about 2,000 years doctors “believed” that blood-letting was an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments. Today, I would bet if you encountered a doctor who recommended blood-letting for your flu symptoms, you would run, not walk, out the office door screaming. Science, and mounting numbers of dead patients, caught up with blood-letting. So, as professionals, we need to hold ourselves to the same standards. We need to follow the science and stop talking about our beliefs and start talking about the scientific research behind our instructional decision making.

Scientists understand that science isn’t static. It changes as knowledge increases. We know now that the Earth revolves around the Sun…that germs, rather than demons, cause disease… and that we had better find alternatives to our current energy sources before we choke the breath out of life on Earth. Our understanding grows. Our knowledge grows.

The same is true with learning. As teachers, our understanding of child development, pedagogy, and the impact of the outside world on our students must grow and change as our understanding of those concepts changes based on new research. We need to alter our presentation and adapt our instruction to incorporate new information and techniques as they become available.

A teacher who thinks she knows everything there is to know about teaching and learning will not be effective for long, because what she needs to know will likely change throughout her career. Teachers must be the life-long learners we wish our students to become…we must continue to be students…if we want to grow in our knowledge and ability.

There are, however, times when a teacher’s attempts to use “best practices” and a well-researched basis for teaching is thwarted by outside forces. For example, the out-of-school factors associated with child poverty interfere with learning and achievement. Even the most well-trained, up-to-date, and knowledgable teacher will have difficulty reaching students who come to school traumatized, hungry, or sick.

In addition to social factors interfering with teaching and learning, the government can be a hindrance to good, research-based education. Two ways government interference prevents schools from doing what is best for students are 1) inadequate funding, resulting in large class sizes, and 2) the requirement that students either pass a test or repeat a grade.

LEGISLATIVE INTERFERENCE: CLASS SIZE

We know that class size has an impact on student achievement and learning, especially with young, poor, and minority students. Smaller class sizes work because students are more engaged, they spend more time on task, and instruction can be customized to better meet their needs.

So why don’t we reduce class sizes?

It costs too much.

Legislators don’t want to spend the money to reduce class sizes. State legislatures around the country are generally filled with adults who have never taught and don’t know anything about education or education research. Instead of learning about the research into class size, (or listening to teachers) they simply look at the cost. Smaller class sizes means higher costs…and with the obsessive, anti-tax atmosphere in most states, legislators don’t want to increase funding for public schools just to make classes smaller.

Small Class Size – A Reform We’re Just Too Cheap To Try

Steven Singer makes the case for small class sizes…

The benefits go far beyond the classroom. Numerous studies concluded that reducing class size has long lasting effects on students throughout their lives. It increases earning potential, and citizenship while decreasing the likelihood students will need welfare assistance as adults or enter the criminal justice system. In short, cutting class size puts a stop to the school-to-prison pipeline.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that those students who benefit the most from this reform are the young, the poor and minorities.

See also Class Size Matters.Org

LEGISLATIVE INTERFERENCE: RETENTION IN GRADE

Studies going back over 100 years are consistent in their conclusion that retention in grade does not result in higher achievement.

This is a subject where legislators, parents, and even many educators, don’t know, or refuse to accept the research. If a child doesn’t learn the material required for a certain grade, then the impulse is to “give him another chance” by retaining him. I’ve heard parents and teachers claim that retention in grade gives a child “the chance to grow another year,” or “catch up.” None of those statements are based on research. Retention does not help students, and often causes harm.

Legislatures in many states, including Indiana, have chosen third grade as the year in which students must either “be average” in reading or repeat the grade. The legislature, in other words, has decided that, if students cannot reach an arbitrary cut-score on an arbitrary reading test in third grade, they will not be allowed to move on to fourth grade. The cause of the failure is often not taken into consideration. Students have trouble learning to read for a variety of reasons, yet legislatures apply the single intervention of retention in grade to reading difficulties no matter what the cause. Unfortunately, this has no basis in educational research.

Students are punished by legislative decree for not learning to read soon enough or well enough.

Recently Michigan joined the “punish third graders” club.

County public schools brace for implementation of third-grade retention law

In an effort to boost reading achievement in the early stages of elementary school education, public schools across the state of Michigan are conducting universal screening and diagnostic testing of kindergarten through third grade students.

The testing is in response to Public Act 306, passed in October 2016 by Michigan lawmakers, called the Third Grade Retention Law. The law was passed to ensure that students exiting third grade are reading at or above grade level requirements. All students in grades K-3 will be assessed three times per year, fall winter and spring. The assessments will identify students who need intensive reading instruction and provide useful information to help teachers tailor instruction to meet individual student needs. The law also states that a child may be retained in third grade if he or she is one of more grade levels behind in reading at the end of the third grade.

FORCE and FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

Florida is another one of the states which punishes children for not reading well enough. In this article Nancy Bailey takes the state to task.

If they aren’t reading well enough, they will have to remain in third grade–so they will do more reading remediation! They will watch as their classmates leave them behind.

At this point, how much do you think children like to read?

The Florida plague, the undeniably ugly and stupid practice of flunking children if they are not reading well by third grade, is now a reform across the country.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Legislatures force teachers and schools to accept practices which we know through research are detrimental to student learning. We’re forced to accept responsibility for working conditions which interfere with achievement, and then we are held accountable when the practices fail.

Teachers (and schools) should be accountable for understanding the

scientific research behind our instructional decision making.

But policy makers should also be held accountable for the instructional restrictions they place on public schools.

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Posted in Baseball, Play Kid's Work, poverty, reform, retention, SAT, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, Tenure, Testing

Blogoversary #11: A Review

Today this blog begins its twelfth year (See NOTE, here). It would have been nice to be able to write a post on how American public school advocates have overcome the forces of so-called “education reform.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. The privatizers are still doing damage and spending their billions to turn public schools into charters. They’re still working to divert funds for public education into vouchers.

So instead, of a victory post, here is a short clip from each September that this blog has been in existence from September 2006 through September 2016.

On beyond thirty…

September 14, 2006

From my first post. Now, after 40 years, I am still fascinated by how humans learn…still volunteering in a local elementary school.

So here I am, now a part time pull-out reading specialist in a suburban/rural school in the midwest, still trying to figure out a better way to teach even after 30 years. I still find learning fascinating. It’s still hard for some children…easy for others…and I still want to know why.

“That” time of year…

September 10, 2007

It’s ten years since this post. Economic stratification and inequity is worse than ever. Test scores still reflect the income of the family.

Poverty, as the media is fond of saying, is no excuse. Gerald Bracey, educational researcher, replies that, true, poverty is not an excuse…it is a condition, just like gravity. “Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

All the Way with Pearl Jam

September 27, 2008

Sometimes I post non-education content. This song was for the Cubs. Last year they went “all the way.” #bucketlist

Duncan’s Background and Duncan’s Plans

September 6, 2009

*This quote is by Stephen Krashen…containing a quote by Susan Ohanian…

In her book, “Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids Caught in a Killing Curriculum,” published in 2001, Susan Ohanian, an experienced and award-winning educator who has actually taught in public schools, pointed out that:

“The pattern of reform … has spread across the nation: Bring in someone who has never been involved in public education; proclaim that local administrators and teachers are lazy and stupid; use massive testing to force schools into curriculum compliance” (page x).

Since this passage was written, this pattern of reform has clearly spread to the highest levels.

Tenure and Unions

September 22, 2010

Indiana teachers no longer have due process as a job protection. Before 2011 tenure in Indiana guaranteed a teacher a hearing in front of an impartial party. No longer.

Tenure, they say, protects bad teachers. Unions support and protect the tenure system which, they say, gives teachers in K-12 a “job for life.” The only problem with that statement is that it’s wrong.

Tenure, as defined by these reformers and in turn, the general public who listens to them, does not exist. K-12 teachers who achieve tenure — or permanent status — do not have a job for life. According to Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University’s School of Education,

Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.

Tenure’s primary purpose is economic job security, tied to the otherwise uncompetitive pay in comparison to other professions; however, tenure is not a lifetime guarantee.

Why Are SAT Scores So Low?

September 23, 2011

Here’s something which the corporate “reformers” don’t like to talk about. The higher the family income, the better the children do on SAT tests. Take a look at this…

Which Future Awaits our Grandchildren?

September 7, 2012

The shame of the nation, as Jonathan Kozol put it, is still the number of American children who live in poverty.

We don’t have to write off nearly a quarter of our children to poverty. I wrote a few days ago,

What other nation would accept a poverty rate of almost a quarter of its children?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine any other of the world’s wealthy nations allowing that to continue. The United States is among the world leaders in child poverty — We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Play is More Important Than Tests

September 9, 2013

Sadly, kindergarten is the new first grade.

I remember when the “abuse of testing craze” started a couple of decades ago…that was when we were required to use “research-based instruction.” A group of us got together and found a research basis for everything we did. Every teacher in our school system needed to be ready to justify what they did based on research.

Later, (2002) the US Department of Education started the What Works Clearinghouse so teachers could find teaching techniques and methods which were (supposedly) supported by research.

But now the truth has come out…when research goes against what the “reformers” want it’s ignored…or denied.

Retention Wars: Blaming Children

September 25, 2014

More than a dozen states, including Indiana punish third grade children — 8 and 9 year olds — for low reading achievement by forcing them to repeat third grade. Retention in grade doesn’t work…and we have known it for decades.

In the past, parents, teachers, and administrators used to make the decision to retain a student in his current grade. Now it’s state legislatures, governors, and departments of education. We have allowed the wrong people — politicians and policy makers — to determine the academic placement of our children using the wrong kinds of tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

Teacher Shortage? When All Else Fails Blame the Union

September 18, 2015

…”Reform” is the status quo in Indiana. Indiana is a state where public schools are closed so charters can open, where bankrupt charters are forgiven their taxpayer-funded loans, where an A-F school ranking system is manipulated for the benefit of political donors, where vouchers are available with only minor restrictions, where teachers are evaluated based on student test scores because testing is overused and misused, where teachers no longer have due process rights, where untrained or poorly trained non-educators can walk into a classroom and start teaching with minimal oversight, where the Governor and members of the State Board of Education blatantly prefer privatization over public schools

#%@! Adults Should Quit Punishing Children

September 7, 2016

Retention in grade doesn’t help children. It merely shows how adults have failed children.

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.

*All quotes are my words unless otherwise noted.

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Posted in A-F Grading, Choice, DeVos, ESSA, Public Ed, Quotes, retention, special education, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage

Listen to This #9

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Sometimes They’re Right

America’s public schools are not “failing.” However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve. After reminding us how the nation’s public schools are the best in the world, Rob Miller goes on to remind us that many criticisms of public education are true. It’s up to us to make public education the “unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children.

From Rob Miller

…public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.

CHOICE

I got to choose private schools, but will vouchers really help other kids make it?

Indiana’s voucher program began as a way to “save poor children from ‘failing’ schools.” It was restricted by income, and parents had to try the public schools before they could get a voucher to send their child to a private school. It didn’t matter that it was the state, not the schools that was “failing” the students. All that mattered was that privatizers rationalize a way to give tax money to private schools and churches.

Once it was clear that private and parochial education didn’t provide better services for poor children, the argument changed.

The voucher program has been expanded to include middle class students, and students who have never set foot in public schools. Public dollars are being used to pay for religious instruction.

The call is now for “choice.” There’s no attempt to claim that private and parochial schools are better. The entire reason for the voucher program is now “choice.”

From Emmanuel Felton in The Hechinger Report

School choice by its very nature uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.

GRADING SCHOOLS IN INDIANA

Board members favor counting test scores more than growth

From Christopher Tienken quoted by Steve Hinnefeld

Whether you’re trying to measure proficiency or growth, standardized tests are not the answer…

ESSA INDIANA

Diploma rule a setback for Indiana schools, students

Federal law requires that students with special needs have an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. It’s required that the IEP describe a modified program appropriate to the student. Yet, now we find that the same Federal laws which require those accommodations for special needs students, requires that they, along with their teachers and schools, be punished for those accommodations.

Since charter schools and schools accepting vouchers enroll fewer special needs students than public schools, it is the “grade” of the public schools which will suffer because of this loathsome and abusive practice. It is the students who were told what they needed to do, and who did it, who will be told, “your diploma doesn’t really count.”

From Steve Hinnefeld

…students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.

TRUMP-DEVOS

After Six Months, What Has Trump-DeVos Department of Education Accomplished?

The sooner this administration is history, the better.

From Jan Resseger

To summarize—Betsy DeVos has said she intends to “neutralize” the Office of Civil Rights, which can only be interpreted as weakening its role. DeVos is delaying rules to protect borrowers who have been defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit colleges. While DeVos promotes school accountability through parental school choice, her staff are busy demanding continued test-and-punish accountability from the states. And finally, the D.C. voucher program remains the only federally funded tuition voucher program, despite that DeVos has declared the expansion of several kinds of school vouchers to be her priority.

DEVOS ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education

From Valerie Strauss, in the Answer Sheet

We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes.

The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

The attack on public education, and on eight year old children in particular, continues. Florida uses a “third grade reading test” that students must pass, else they face retention in grade. Just like Indiana…
Just like Ohio…
Just like Mississippi…
and Oklahoma…
and Arizona…
and Connecticut…
California…
Michigan…

Another abusive “learn or be punished” policy.

From Peter Greene in Curmudgucation

What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida’s power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

…the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn’t believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.

TEACHER SHORTAGE: PAY

Teacher Pay Penalty Driving Educators Away From Profession

8 steps to destroy public education…

  1. Schools are labeled “failing.”
  2. Teachers are demonized for not raising test scores.
  3. Tax money is diverted to private and charter schools creating a public school funding crisis.
  4. Funding crises yields a drop in teacher salaries.
  5. Fewer young people choose a career in education creating a teacher shortage.
  6. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes.
  7. Larger class sizes means lowered achievement, especially for poor students.
  8. Lowered achievement means more schools will be labeled “failing.”

This quote deals with step 5 in the process.

From Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“We are moving into a world where fewer people are trying to enter teaching, in part because the profession has been degraded by misguided accountability measures and also because of the erosion of pay,” says Mishel.

TEACHERS UNION

Blaming Unions for Bad Schools

From Walt Gardner

It’s so easy to scapegoat teachers’ unions for all the ills afflicting public schools (“State of the Teachers Union,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). The charge is that they are more interested in protecting teachers than in teaching students (“This is what teachers unions really protect,” New York Post, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.

But what these critics don’t admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong? (Correlation is not causation.) Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means.

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Posted in Indiana, Indiana DOE, ISTEP, retention, Testing

Society’s Commitment is Reflected in Tests

We continue to punish students, teachers, and schools with punitive standardized testing. One could argue that all this testing is worth it if it actually made a difference, but the truth is, testing only makes things worse.

A valid purpose for standardized testing might be for determining what students have learned. Yet despite the arguments against it such as the limitations of its content (reading and math, and not much else) and the cultural limitations putting some children at a disadvantage, we judge students, teachers, and schools, by this inadequate and often inappropriate measure.

For the most part, standardized tests are an excellent tool for determining students’ economic backgrounds.

As for invalid purposes…we have those as well.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate schools and to give them grades A through F and call it “accountability.” Yet there’s rarely “accountability” for the adults in legislatures and policy groups around the country who don’t seem to understand that public schools don’t choose their students. A school which is filled with poor children will have lower test scores. That doesn’t mean they’re not learning. It means that there’s likely neglect on the part of the governing body (the city or state) to adequately fund and maintain the school. It means that standardized tests don’t measure the arts, physical education, emotional development, and strength of character. It means that standardized tests don’t take into account trauma, hunger, lack of medical care, environmental toxins, and housing insecurity. It means that one size does not fit all.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate teachers calling them “effective” or “ineffective” based on a child’s score. Schools filled with wealthy students have “effective” teachers. Schools filled with poor students have “ineffective” teachers. Why? If a school doesn’t use test scores to evaluate teachers, then ignorant politicians will question how “failing schools” could have “effective” teachers without the slightest understanding that the “failure” is as much their fault as anyone else’s. Instead, we continue to punish the teachers who work with the children who are the most difficult to teach.

Invalid: We use tests to punish students for not learning at the speed we want them to learn. How many eight and nine year olds around the country are retained in grade because they haven’t mastered reading? How many policy makers have ever read the research on retention and its damaging effect on children? This is institutional child abuse based on faulty data.

ISTEP+ tossed for hundreds

Now comes the incompetent testing industry draining billions of tax dollars from public schools every year…using the wrong kinds of tests…in the wrong kinds of ways.

The company charged with administering Indiana’s standardized tests, and sucking millions of dollars from already minimal budgets, has failed in its task…putting the burden on schools to beg the state not to hold them “accountable.”

“It’s so discouraging for the children. It’s discouraging for everyone,” said Lori Vaughn, assistant superintendent at DeKalb Central United School District. “It is what it is. I hate that expression, but we’re going to move on. It’s a black eye when DOE puts (scores) out.”

She said 34 students in third grade at Waterloo Elementary and 19 students in fourth grade at the school will receive “undetermined” scores. This results in passing rates of less than 1 percent for third grade and 17 percent for fourth.

“It’s horrific,” Vaughn said. “And that’s what’s going to be put out with no explanation. It will impact our participation rate and our accountability grade.”

Test scores are a large factor in the A-to-F accountability grades that schools will receive later this year.

Department of Education officials told Vaughn there is nothing that can be done now but schools can appeal those A-to-F grades when they are issued.

Discouraging? It’s discouraging that after all this time we’re still using these tests to punish students, teachers, and schools.

Politicians and policy makers will denounce public schools as “failures” blaming parents and teachers for low test scores. They don’t realize that what standardized tests truly measure is a society’s commitment to its children.

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Posted in poverty, reading, retention, Testing

Punishing Third Graders – Again, and Again, and Again

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second, he’s wrong.

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

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

TEACH READING, NOT TEST-TAKING…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…OR COMPUTER SKILLS

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

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

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

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Posted in 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.”

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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: __________
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