Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, CTU, Ravitch, Sagan, Science

The Charlatans Are Here

[Part 2 of 2: A followup post on the recent increase of anti-science and anti-intellectualism in America. Click HERE here to read Part 1, Standing in Denial, Rising to Power.]


What can we, as actual educators (not the Betsy DeVos kind), do to change the country’s direction when it comes to science, and to learning in general?

1. When students don’t learn the first time, good teachers reteach. As teachers, we can take it upon ourselves to reteach history, including scientific innovations and developments, to the American people. Even the know-nothings like Pruitt and Perry use science every day with their cell phones, their cable and satellite TVs, and their kitchens. It’s important to remember how those advancements came about. This, of course, won’t deter those who deny science or are “reforming” schools in order to enrich themselves. However, it might help support regular citizens who are interested in planning for the nation’s future.

As teachers, we must become active lobbyists. We should lobby parents, local, state and federal legislators and policy-makers to do what needs to be done to Make America Smart Again.

Teachers need to speak out, write to legislators, support public education advocacy groups like the Indiana Coalition for Public Education or the Network for Public Education, and educate their friends, neighbors, and relatives.


Specifically teachers should lobby for the following.

2. End the waste of our time and money on standardized tests and use the savings to pay for professional development for teachers teaching science, and for equipment and supplies to help them. Use the savings to pay for professional development and supplies for all teachers.

3. Make sure children come to school ready to learn. To that end, we need to spend dollars on countering the effects of poverty beginning with good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in the country. The U.S.A. is 57th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Slovakia, Cuba, Singapore, Canada, and the U.K. Science has taught us what to do…we need to see to it that there is carry-over of scientific knowledge into the real world.

4. The next step in countering the effects of poverty is to invest in early childhood education in which children can explore themselves and the world. Our enrollment rates and expenditures on Early Childhood programs lag well below the OECD average.

5. Provide every child with a full and balanced curriculum,

…including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.

6. Support students by lowering class sizes.

7. End the diversion of tax dollars to unaccountable and unregulated charter schools, and vouchers for private and parochial schools.

8. The relationship between poverty and achievement is well established, but instructional innovations, improvements, and support can’t overcome the effects of poverty alone. Students need support services to help ameliorate the effects of poverty. Services such as nurses, social workers, counselors, after-school programs, and transportation, should be available. See .

9. End the scourge of high-stakes testing. See #2.

10. Ensure that every school is staffed with fully-trained, professional educators and support staff.

Research-based strategies and proven models for improving the teaching profession should guide the maintenance and growth of a dedicated, experienced, and multi-racial teaching staff…In Finland, a country known for high-performing students, teaching is a respected, top career choice; teachers have autonomy in their classrooms, work collectively to develop the school curriculum, and participate in shared governance of the school…They receive strong professional support throughout their careers and ample time for collaboration with colleagues built into their workday. They are not rated; they are trusted.

11. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option. See #7.

12. The privatization of public education has increased school segregation. We know from research that desegregated schools narrowed racial and economic achievement gaps. It’s time to fulfill the requirement of Brown vs. Board of Education.

More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, federal education policies still implicitly accept the myth of “separate but equal,” by attempting to improve student outcomes without integrating schools. Policymakers have tried creating national standards, encouraging charter schools, implementing high-stakes teacher evaluations and tying testing to school sanctions and funding. These efforts sought to make separate schools better but not less segregated. Ending achievement and opportunity gaps requires implementing a variety of desegregation methods – busing, magnet schools, or merging school districts, for instance – to create a more just public education system that successfully educates all children.

[Editorial aside: I disagree with one part of the above quote. It’s clear to me that federal education policies explicitly accept, and in fact, encourage, “separate but equal” schools in America.]

13. Acknowledge “that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.“✩

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the expense of the people themselves.John Adams

These suggestions will cost money, and you might ask, “How can we afford that?” Ending the overuse and misuse of standardized testing will provide one source of income for schools to use. Ending the diversion of tax dollars for privatization will provide more, but that won’t cover everything.

A better question might be: how can we afford not to have these schools? Where else is public money being spent? We must invest in our children.


  • Do your part to help students (and their parents) understand the scientific method, to see science in everyday life, and to dispel myths and misconceptions about science (e.g. “evolution is just a ‘theory'”).
  • Work with your colleagues to develop multi-disciplinary projects. Science can be found in history, geography, philosophy, physical education, the arts and other subject areas.
  • Invite scientists from local industry and academia into your classroom to explore ideas with your students.
  • Be an advocate for science. Teach so that your students become as excited about science as your are. At a minimum, ensure that they are scientifically literate when they leave your class.
  • Join scientific organizations to advocate for science education and to keep up with the latest news in your field…groups like

○ The National Science Teachers Association
○ The American Association for the Advancement of Science
○ The National Science Foundation
○ The Association for Science Teacher Education
○ The Association for Science Education

  • Read about ways to improve science education in the U.S.

○ The Improving science education in America
○ The Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.
○ The How can we reform science education?


Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won’t be easy. We can do it if we focus on the today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

[The numbered list, above, is taken from ✩Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch and ✪The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools from the Chicago Teachers Union. Quotes from those sources are noted either ✩ or ✪. Other quotes are linked.]

Posted in environment, Sagan, Science

Sagan Day, 2016

Carl Sagan Day is a celebration of the life and teachings of Carl Sagan…”

Sagan Day isn’t until Wednesday…but with the current focus on the poison that is American politics, I thought it would be nice to share this early. Here, then, is a little perspective from Carl Sagan.

To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

On Human Humility

The Milky Way galaxy is, in fact, one of billions, perhaps hundreds of billions of galaxies, notable neither in mass, nor in brightness, nor in how its stars are configured and arrayed. Some modern deep-sky photographs show more galaxies beyond the Milky Way, than stars within the Milky Way. Every one of the is an island universe containing perhaps, a hundred billion suns. Such an image is a profound sermon on humility.

The Pale Blue Dot

“Consider again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Posted in Accountability, Charters, David Berliner, ESSA, Evaluations, ICPE-MCSCI, JohnOliver, NCLB, Ritz, Sagan, Testing

Videos 2015

Teaching, Testing, and Acountability: Poverty and Charters

Every now and then I’ll embed a video in my blog. Here I have chosen six – informative and inspiring – from 2015, comprising about 2 hours of video. I’ve added emphasis with boldface and italics.

February 1

What would happen if state and federal legislators actually listened to educators? Notice how many of the legislators in this video talk about “accountability.” The assumption is that before “reformist” type accountability (aka standardized tests used to rank students, teachers, and schools) we never knew how our children were doing in school.

So long as public education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children we will resist these unjust testing laws.

Jia Lee…the only woman at the hearings, from a female dominated profession…tries to teach legislators about the damage done by runaway testing.

Watch her testimony in the video below and read more about the hearings in…Teachers Rally Against Standardized Testing At No Child Left Behind Hearing.

The sad thing is that, despite the fact that NCLB has been replaced, annual, high-stakes testing is still with us.

Jia Lee, a New York special education teacher, said the tests “can only measure right or wrong,” not complex questions. “I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave.”

Jia Lee – Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015 from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

February 22

In February several hundred pro-public education supporters went to Indianapolis to “Rally for Ritz”…a rally in support of Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Superintendent Ritz was continually at odds with the appointed members of the pro-charter, pro-voucher, “reformist,” school board.

Bloomington mom, and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County and South Central Indiana, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech to the assembled crowd was memorable, calling for, and defining legislative accountability, not just school accountability. Click here for the complete text of the speech.

My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD

…Accountability is representing your constituents, not your donors

…Accountability is research driven education policy. Standards don’t educate kids, teachers do.

Accountability is seeing to it that every child has a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym, art, and music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, and band. Every. Single. Indiana. Child.

…no six year old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity

Legislators and “reformers” are all for accountability…for others.

May 4

John Oliver shows us just how inane and stupid our obsessive focus on standardized testing really is – test-pep rallies, school cheers – trying to convince children that high-stakes tests are “fun.”

Yet, we all know that high-stakes tests are inappropriate for our most vulnerable students…and they make the pain of the also inappropriate test-prep-standards-based education even more painful.

Official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student vomits on his or her test booklet…and something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit. Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills…

[NOTE: NSFW Some images and language might be offensive…just like Pearson’s tests.]

October 24


Success Academy procedures hurt children. They are used by charter school chains to get rid of “undesirables” (aka, students who are difficult and/or expensive to educate or whose test scores don’t measure up) despite what Moskowitz says in this report.

The fact that the two schools highlighted at the beginning of this report – one public, one charter – share the same building, is part of the problem. “Dual occupancy” – two or more schools sharing one building – is a problem. Public schools and their buildings belong to the community which built them. Taking part of a building away from a public school and turning over part of a building to a privately run charter school is like stealing the community’s property for profit. We don’t turn over control of certain parts of public parks for privately run athletic teams. We don’t close of parts of public libraries and let for-profit book sellers “share the space.” Neither should we do that with public schools.

Merrow said it all when he said…

In the end, how charter schools conduct their business is basically their own business.

November 22

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

Policy makers regularly talk about how important it is to have good schools, but there’s no follow through on their part. They blame schools for low achievement, but don’t accept their responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation, the main cause of low achievement.

Schools…the education of our citizens…is not a high priority for this nation, despite the rhetoric. Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” If that’s true, then the nation is in jeopardy.

The late Carl Sagan had this to say more than 25 years ago…

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.

December 19

This is the latest and longest of the videos I posted this year. It’s an important one because, despite ESSA, many teachers and schools around the nation are still judged by the test scores of their students, a practice which Dr. Berliner says is invalid. He also discusses the fact that outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to carry the process one step further and evaluate schools of education by the test scores of their students’ students.

We’re using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year’s ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

Student achievement tests measure only student achievement.

David C Berliner’s presentation is titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.

Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America’s education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

Posted in Common Core, poverty, Sagan, Testing

“This is Stupid!”

All we need are higher standards and harder, better tests to miraculously solve all our student achievement problems…from those caused by learning disabilities to the economic and racial achievement gaps.


Feds: IEPs Should Align With Grade-Level Standards

The US Department of Education came out with new Guidance.

In guidance released Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education said that all IEPs should conform to “the state’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.”

Do the unqualified and inexperienced non-educators who run the USED (yes, I’m talking to you, Secretary Duncan and your Gates Foundation cronies) understand what IEP means? Of course the goal should (and always has been) for students to learn as much as they are able, but the /I/ in IEP stands for individual. Standards which are intended as a one-size-fits-all guide to learning ought to be adjusted for individual goals.

There are caveats, however, for the “very small number” of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, write Michael K. Yudin and Melody Musgrove from the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in their seven-page “Dear Colleague” letter. States are allowed to establish “alternate academic achievement standards” for these students.

We learned last year that the attorney-not-educator Yudin, seems to believe that higher expectations will yield the miracle which will equalize all students’ learning capabilities. Nothing has changed, according to the USED.

The guidance does not impose new rules on states or school districts, but offers information to assist those entities in meeting their obligations under existing law, the Education Department said.

But teachers still don’t have high enough expectations.

To help make certain that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standards, we write to clarify that an individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.

Apparently Yudin and Musgrove, writing for USED, don’t believe that teachers have high enough expectations for students in special education. We need to raise the bar higher, call for tougher, one-size-fits-all standards, add more high-stakes tests, and “accountability.”

Because that has worked so well for general education since the 2001 adoption of No Child Left Behind.


Politicians give lip-service to “there’s more to school than testing,” but no one seems to be willing to remove the high-stakes from testing. Accountability, it seems, is still only measured by test scores…and if “the test” can’t measure everything, then we need a new test, not a new acknowledgement that high-stakes testing is destroying our schools, teachers, and students.

Other, higher achieving countries, seem to survive with fewer tests, but the excuse that “those countries are different” comes from the no-excuses crowd and drowns out what is often the big difference in our societies – the percentage of children who live in poverty.

In a 1989 interview, Dr. Carl Sagan discussed our child poverty level.

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century [20th] more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line. What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.

Dr. Sagan’s prediction about child poverty has come closer to being fulfilled. As of 2013, more than half of all public school children in the United States live in poverty. Nearly half of America’s children live in low-income families, and half of them, live below the federal poverty level.

The correlation between achievement and poverty is well known. More testing doesn’t help. More high-stakes tests and higher cut scores don’t help. Tougher standards don’t help. What children need instead of more accountability is for us to provide the schools our children deserve. The Chicago Teachers Union provided research and information on how to do this in their publication, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.

  • Recognize That Class Size Matters
  • Educate The Whole Child. We need to stop eliminating non-tested subjects from the curriculum. Children need the arts and Physical Education, Vocational Education, Social Studies, hands on Science, and recess in addition to Reading and Math.
  • Create More Robust Wrap-around Services. Counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists are part of a completely staffed school building.
  • Address Inequities In Our System. Only three nations spend more money for their wealthy children’s education than for their poor children’s education. The U.S. is one of those nations.
  • Help Students Get Off To A Good Start. Early childhood education needs to be funded and supported.
  • Respect And Develop The Professionals.
  • Teach All Students. Public schools accept all children. Funding needs to be available to support the staff and materials needed to meet the needs of all students.
  • Provide Quality School Facilities
  • Partner With Parents
  • Fully Fund Education

All that’s missing is the determination to do what needs to be done…the money backing up our up-till-now false claim that the education of our children is important to this nation.

Behind in assessment and losing the shame game

Why do we just throw out soundbites about how we’re so far behind other nations? Why don’t we spend time analyzing what successful nation’s do?

Instead, we double down on high-stakes tests and blame students for not working hard, teachers for being lazy union do-nothings, and schools for “failing.”

When we talk about the relationship between poverty and achievement we’re told not to make excuses – although lately more and more “failing” charter schools have caught on that you can’t eliminate the high national poverty level from within the classroom.

When students struggle we respond with harder standards. When students do well on tests we raise the cuts scores to increase failure.

Are we trying to make our schools fail? I think the answer is, “yes.” Failing public schools means more privatization which means more charter and tax supported private schools. It means weaker unions which means lower wages, which means more profit.

… most Americans are generally satisfied with their local schools and dismally uncertain about all the others.

…it seems to me if we really wanted the public to look closer and try to understand why PISA, NAEP, and other kinds of assessments are important, we would need to do more than just shame public schools. We’d need to have a thoughtful and nuanced conversation about why some education systems have been able to improve student performance and others haven’t. We’d have to look at culture, resources, leadership, teacher training, and national sentiment. We’d have to analyze gaps of all kinds, not just achievement. And we’d have to use the information to help teachers and education leaders understand why others are making progress without humiliating them in the comparison.

… comparing tests scores among students and nations offers little value if shame is the only thing that comes of it. If we don’t extract some information about how to improve our own unique education system and acknowledge that real and significant differences exist among all systems, then why make the comparisons in the first place?

…In recent years, education policy has shifted toward high-stakes accountability based almost entirely on test scores. Yet the path toward a larger, more strategic investment in education that includes strategies and incentives to promote the social and emotional success of students is virtually untrodden.

It’s the money. We’re moving towards a profit centered education system where low overhead and profits are the goals instead of higher achieving students.

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

As Sagan said, “this is stupid.”


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.


Posted in Arizona, Article Medleys, Election, HClinton, NewMexico, poverty, reading, Sagan, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2015 Medley #12

Limiting Teachers’ Free Speech, Hillary Clinton, Poverty, Sagan,
Teacher Crisis, Reading



Politicians tell educators, “Shut up! You have no freedom of speech.”

In Indiana, teachers and other government employees are prohibited from using their work emails for political messaging (See Indiana Code 3-14-1-17), but free speech for educators in Arizona and New Mexico is limited even more. The amendment referred to below effectively prohibits Arizona teachers from saying anything about any legislation…

In the 2015 legislative session, the AZ House passed an amendment to Senate Bill 1172 that places a gag order on any school employee who publicly protests legislative action. The bill “prohibits an employee of a school district or charter school, acting on the district’s or charter school’s behalf, from distributing electronic materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation.”

And the New Mexico Administrative Code prohibits school staff members from saying anything which disparages standardized tests! STAFF RESPONSIBILITY:
C. It shall be a prohibitive practice for anyone to:
(8) disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of the standardized tests.


Am I Ready for Hillary?

Blogger Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) remembers how we were fooled into thinking that Democrats support public education…and how Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama have proven that assumption completely wrong.

Is there any reason to expect Hillary Clinton to denounce the Gates/Broad plan for public education? Probably not, since the Gates Foundation is a major supporter of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Eli Broad was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and probably will be again.

Is there any candidate or political party who will speak out against the privatization and corporatization of public education?

I have never been a single-issue voter, but my profession has never been so attacked, besieged and crushed under policymakers’ boots. So I will not, not under any circumstances, vote for any candidate who gives me the slightest inkling that she (or he) is planning to give me four more years like the last fifteen. I don’t care if you’re promising me a pony and your opponent is threatening to send locusts to my home town– if you aren’t going to change the destructive, educationally abusive, mandatory malpractice policies of the previous two administrations, I will not vote for you, period, full stop.

See also: Hillary Clinton Feels Common Core Pain


What Can We Agree On, After Atlanta?

Those who claim “poverty isn’t destiny” and “poverty is no excuse” are often those who have failed in their responsibility to reduce societal poverty. John Merrow calls out the hypocrisy of deflecting all the responsibility to teachers and schools.

To me, the biggest hypocrites are those who preach, “Poverty can never be offered as an excuse” (for poor student performance) but then do nothing to alleviate poverty and its attendant conditions. What they are saying, bottom line, is “It’s the teachers’ fault” when kids in poverty-ridden schools do poorly on tests or fail to graduate.

These preachers disguise their mendacity with words of praise for teachers, calling them ‘heroes whose brave work changes the lives of their fortunate students blah blah blah.’ Sounds great, but when it comes from those who discount all the other factors that affect outcomes, it’s hypocrisy. They’re setting up teachers and schools to be blamed.

How satisfying and convenient to have a simple, easy-to-grasp analysis. And how hypocritical.

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

Just in case there are any doubts…poverty matters.

“Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says MIT’s John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study’s authors. “To me, it’s a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn’t come easily in their environment.”



Fewer education majors, and worries about where tomorrow’s teachers will come from

The current hatred that the media, policy makers, and pundits have for professional educators is going to backfire on Americans. The real teacher crisis isn’t “bad teachers.” It’s the deprofessionalizing of the teaching profession by “reformers.”

In Indiana, for example, rather than create an incentive for high achieving students to go into education using competitive wages, professional autonomy (i.e. self-direction, which legislators nationwide seem to be actively discouraging), and self-directed, meaningful professional development, we have lowered the standards for becoming a teacher.

Why would legislators, members of state boards of education, and even the most devout “reformers” want to lower the qualifications for teaching when “bad teachers” is one of the main rallying cries of GERM, the Global Education “Reform” Movement? Why are untrained teachers such as those now allowed by Indiana, or new recruits coming from Teach for America preferred when we know that training and experience matter for student achievement?

Perhaps it’s because privately run schools such as charter schools don’t pay teachers as much as public schools. Since those schools are receiving more and more taxpayer dollars they find themselves in a quandary; Follow the rules for public schools or lose the money. Legislatures, state boards of education, and governors, all of whom want to support school privatization, are lowering the requirements for teachers so private corporations can lower personnel costs and maximize profits.

Rather than increasing the quality of America’s educators, we’re diluting it. The “reformers” demonize teachers and by doing so chase good teachers out of the profession and disincentivize prospective teachers from seeking careers in education. We’re doing the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

Nor have the full effects of the enrollment slowdown been realized. The real struggle is expected to crest in several years when school districts search for new teachers from a shrinking pool of qualified educators.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” says Alisa Chapman, a UNC system vice-president for academic and university programs who is closely tracking the enrollment declines in UNC system education programs. “It’s going to be more challenging for our public schools to find teachers that they need for their classrooms.”

American teachers, more demoralized than ever, are quitting in droves

…there is little evidence to show that any of this has worked, even by the reformers’ criteria for success in testing and evaluation methods such as, “valued added measures” and standardized tests scores. In fact, years of these “disruptive innovations” have resulted in a situation today of poor job satisfaction for teachers….

…the turnover rate in the teaching profession is on the rise. The report for the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that “over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years.”


Don’t read because you should

If you want students to learn that reading is a rewarding experience then you ought to let them read whatever they want to read. P.Z. Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota (Morris), writes about learning to enjoy reading by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and comic books.

If you’re only interested in students learning to read because they have to pass a test, then ignore this…

…beware the attitude that you should tell people what they should read: what you’re doing isn’t ennobling their mind, it’s teaching them that reading is a chore and an obligation, and that it isn’t fun at all…

My philosophy is always to encourage a passion — if you are devoted enough to start devouring books on any topic, eventually you’ll find enjoyable and educational stuff on your own. But the key step is to foster pleasure in reading anything.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

Posted in environment, Sagan, Science

On Sagan Day: The Pale Blue Dot

Saturday, November 9, was Carl Sagan Day.

Here’s Sagan’s timeless ode to Earth: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

“…to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known — the pale blue dot.”

Quote from Cosmos (1980)

Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!