Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, Racism, SchoolFunding, Segregation, Testing

2017 Medley #27

Accountability, School Funding,
Students’ Rights, Charters and Segregation, Closing Schools, Racism, Testing

ACCOUNTABILITY

Unqualified billionaires gaining too much influence on public education

Have you ever noticed how important accountability-for-public-schools is to politicians and “reformers?” But where is the accountability for others?

  • for religious and private schools taking public money through vouchers?
  • for corporate run charter schools?
  • for state and local school boards when certain schools are neglected over others?
  • for state governments to provide full and adequate funding for public education (see FUNDING, below)?

Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.

Over the past 20 years, education policy has increasingly been enacted not to satisfy the needs of the students and their families, but the wants of the wealthy and powerful who are converting public education from a civic enterprise to a marketplace for edu-vendors: the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has paid to expand charters and lobby for the use of Common Core standards in all 50 states; real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad now leads a group of corporate funders pushing a plan to move half of all K-12 students in Los Angeles into charter schools; the Walton family has initiated a new $1 billion campaign to promote charters nationwide; Trump financier Carl Icahn has established a chain of charters in New York City.

No one elected these billionaires, and they are accountable to no one.

FUNDING

While the rest of the world invests more in education, the U.S. spends less

The current federal administration…the administrations of more than a few “Red” states…and a substantial number of American citizens…hate government and assume that everything the government does is bad. With the rise of Trump and his “hate-government-cabinet, we see a vacuum in governmental services (except for the military).

Republicans are still arguing that lower taxes for the wealthy will trickle down and improve the economy even though that “voodoo economics” hasn’t worked for the last 40 years, but the truth is, many Republicans are attempting to defund the government.

The U.S. has one of the lowest tax rates as a portion of our GDP in the developed world (32nd out of 35 OECD nations). If we don’t have tax revenue, then we can’t support necessary government services. I’m not a hater of government, and I believe that government services are important. Taxes are necessary to pay for those services. The government needs an income to keep things running…infrastructure, health care, defense, social services, and education. When we don’t invest in ourselves we sacrifice our future.

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

STUDENT’S RIGHTS

MI Teacher Suspended for Assaulting Student Refusing the Pledge

September 17th was Constitution Day in the U.S. The Constitution guarantees free speech and a teacher, as the agent of the local government, does not have the right to manhandle a student who, for whatever reason, chooses not to recite the pledge to the flag.

Students do not give up their first amendment rights when they enter the classroom.

A teacher here in Michigan is suspended pending an investigation for allegedly physically assaulting a 6th grade student by violently yanking him out of his chair for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, something that is the student’s absolutely protected right to do.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation

Race and ethnic relations in the United States is at a dangerous point. The recent reemergence of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and ultra-nationalists, along with a general willingness of many in white America to admit to their bigoted beliefs, has left those who hope for peaceful relations among racial groups, ethnic groups, and immigrants feeling disappointed.

As a reflection of our society, it’s probably no surprise that American schools are now more segregated than ever as tribal impulses cause people to separate. The American “melting pot,” if it ever actually existed, is fading.

Thus, one of the big problems with school choice is the peer-reviewed research demonstrating the finding that “Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools.” Peer-reviewed research has also demonstrated that the choice of African American and white families for schools with homogenous racial compositions “helps to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.”

The same study found that choice was also bad for achievement on average as, “the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of African America students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left.”

In contravention of Brown, charters are influencing and intensifying racial segregation across the nation. After several decades, the promise of charter schools to foster integration and a less balkanized society is clearly not being realized.

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS

Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

[Note: Just after I wrote this I read that Indianapolis has decided to close three high schools…ostensibly for enrollment reasons. I’m curious if we’ll see the addition of charter high schools soon. See It’s final: Indianapolis Public Schools Board approves plan to close high schools]

In 2013 Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced the closure of 50 public schools. Later that same year, the Chicago Public Schools posted a document requesting that charter schools open in the city during the following two years.

Recently, CREDO, a research group supportive of “reform” strategies, presented the results of a new study which showed that simply closing schools was ineffective. Furthermore, the students who needed school improvements the most, poor students and students of color, were the ones who were most negatively impacted by school closings.

The results of the CREDO study confirm that the most common cause of “low performing schools” is poverty and its impact on student achievement. Without addressing the out-of-school-factors which affect student performance or the general lack of support for public schools serving poor students and students of color, closing a school will do nothing but shuffle the problems around to other schools – or to the streets.

It doesn’t matter where a student attends school if he has been damaged by lead poisoning, traumatized by neighborhood violence, weakened by lack of health care, or disadvantaged by food and shelter insecurity. Out-of-school-factors which lower achievement will follow a student to whatever school he or she attends.

Instead of closing schools and hoping for a miracle, school systems ought to improve achievement through wraparound services for students who come to school exhibiting the effects of poverty. Support for services like social workers, instructional specialists, and increased teacher training should be included. Schools should provide whatever services are needed to support students. States and municipalities should support schools systems with funding necessary to deliver the services as well as support for the communities. Closing schools – essentially blaming them for the failures of society to deal with the problems of poverty – is unfair and counterproductive.

…a new study found that closing schools where students achieve low test scores doesn’t end up helping them learn. Moreover, such closures disproportionately affect students of color.

What’s surprising, however, is who conducted the study – corporate education reform cheerleaders, the Center for Research on EDucation Outcomes (CREDO).

Like their 2013 study that found little evidence charter schools outperform traditional public schools, this year’s research found little evidence for another key plank in the school privatization platform.

SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT

…on Racism

I swore never to be silent…

Todd Garza, Superintendent of Ludlow (MA) schools has a blog in which he speaks out on current education topics. This post discusses his personal obligation to speak out against bigotry and racism. It’s important, he believes, for educators to be role models for their students as well as teaching academics.

However, it is the duty and responsibility of every educator to loudly and with one unified voice state unequivocally that racism, hatred, and bigotry cannot be tolerated and have no place in our national dialogue. Failure to denounce such speech and actions every time we are confronted amounts to tacit approval and that is unacceptable.

…We have very little control over the battles being played out on the national stage. However, we can control what happens in our communities, our schools and our classrooms. As adults we can model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit. If we start small it will spread. There will always be a diversity of opinions in our communities and that is the beauty of our system. However, we must never give in to the fear that opens the door for hate, racism and bigotry to intrude. We are not perfect, but we are Americans with all that that stands for and we can be better than we have been in recent times. Remember, our children are watching.

…on Testing

NACS outlines for parents irrelevance of ISTEP

Superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Indiana, Chris Himsel, has written an op-ed letting parents know how useless and wasteful the Indiana ISTEP test is.

Yesterday, ISTEP scores were released to the public across the state. Compared to other districts, Northwest Allen County Schools performed well. However, the information is not relevant to us. Why? Because (1) the events that yielded these scores took place over four months ago and (2) the results provide zero information about why students passed or why students did not pass. Therefore, the recently released data do not offer useful information designed to help us meet the individual learning needs of our students. Why is it important to receive information designed to meet the individual learning needs of students? Because the test results themselves are not an indicator of school or teacher quality; school and teacher quality is a result of how learning data, including test results, are used to improve learning among individual students.

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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 Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #3

Choice, Vouchers, Poverty, A Public Good, School Finance, Teachers, A Story

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: Whose Choice Is It?

It’s National School Choice Week…a time to celebrate (?) the privatization and destruction of America’s public schools.

Private and privately run schools which receive public tax dollars should be held to the same standards as public schools.

  • They should have open board meetings.
  • Their finances should be open and subject to audit by the public.
  • They should have the same requirements for hiring teachers and administrators.
  • They should have the same requirements for curriculum. 
  • They should be required to provide an appropriate education for all students no matter their achievement level, academic ability, first language, physical needs, behavioral needs, religious beliefs, ethnicity, economic status, or skin color.

In addition,

  • No school, public or private, or its teachers, should be judged solely on the test scores of its students.
  • No public funds should be used for sectarian purposes.
  • No student should be turned away from any publicly funded school because they are too expensive to educate.

We should make all public schools high quality. We should improve our local schools, not privatize them. We should give all our nation’s children the resources they deserve, not just those who are chosen by private and privately run schools.

As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don’t speak English. The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with most difficulties will be housed in the least well financed schools.

Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.” While the reformers and the takeover artists and the hedge fund managers talk and talk and talk about the miraculous results of school choice, research shows that these results are uneven at best.

See also…

No, Betsy, School Choice Is Not a Good Thing

Public education is a “common good” provided for all people.

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally-staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds and resources available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. Public monies are rightly spent to make that good local school a reality. In public education, as with smoking and seat belts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

HB 1228 – Vouchers for Underperforming Schools

Indiana’s voucher plan takes public funds and gives it to schools which are economically unaccountable to the public.

Public dollars for public schools. Period.

If the purpose of “school choice” is for students to be able to get out of failing schools and move to a better school, then this proposal makes a lot of sense. If the point of the exercise is to subsidize parochial education, to bust unions, or to divert public education money to friends and well-wishers, then obviously this proposal would not be met with favor.

Whether this would save the state money or cost it money is tied to the question of how many students that attend voucher schools would otherwise attend public schools. There seem to be a fair number of kids who were going to attend the voucher schools anyway but are now being subsidized by taxpayers to go to these schools. (“[M]ore than 50 percent of students accepting vouchers had never attended a public school.”) So, in terms of financial impact to taxpayers, the question is whether, if their private school underperformed the public school and they were no longer eligible for a voucher, the kids would stay at the private school or go to the public school in their area.

What Mike Pence doesn’t like to admit about Indiana’s school voucher program

I don’t know that Vice President Pence doesn’t like to admit this…my guess is that he thinks that it doesn’t sound good politically, but he and most of his fellow super-majority cronies in the state legislature and the new administration in the executive branch are all in favor of “choice.” There’s a basic cultural divide between those who believe in supporting public education (along with public highways, public libraries, parks, etc) as a “public good” and those who believe that 1) the government can’t do anything right, and 2) privatization is always better.

Those of us who believe that the government has some responsibilities, and needs the resources to provide for its citizens, must start electing representatives who agree with us.

Indiana’s school choice program started under a prior governor as a small pilot, tailored to poor families that did not believe public schools were providing their children with an adequate education. Gov. Pence, however, escalated this program into a de facto entitlement for middle-upper-class families, pulling millions of dollars from our poorest schools so that these more affluent families could subsidize a private school education for their kids. Betsy DeVos wants to expand these voucher programs to as many states as possible.

Pence likes to claim that Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country. What he does not like to admit is that in five years of this program, Indiana’s taxpayers have sent more than $345 million to religious schools with little to no state oversight or regulation. These taxpayer dollars would have otherwise funded public education in our state.

POVERTY

Trump not informed about education

Like many who are ill-informed about public education, President Trump assumes that America’s schools are “failing.” He assumes (as do most Republicans and many Democrats) that the public school system in the United States is not working and in need of an overhaul.

It’s true that we can improve America’s public schools, but the best and most effective improvement would be to reduce the level of child poverty in the United States. Stephen Krashen continues to preach. Will anyone hear him?

In his inaugural address, Mr. Trump said that our educational system “leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.’” President Trump is apparently unaware of the fact that when researchers statistically control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world.

Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor medical care, and lack of access to reading material. All of these have profound negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world will have little value if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Our child poverty rate is 21%, the highest of all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

Martin Luther King was right: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (1967, Final Words of Advice)

President Trump’s staff needs to focus on the real problem in American education.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Students who live in poverty need more educational resources, not less. The United States continues to provide more resources for middle and upper class students. It’s poverty, stupid.

United States’ schools with fewer than 10% of students living in poverty score higher than any country in the world. Schools with student poverty rates that are less than 24.9% rank 3rd in the world, and schools with poverty rates ranging from 25% to 49.9% rank 10th in the world. However, schools with 50% to 74.9% poverty rates rank much lower – fifth from the bottom. Tragically, schools with 75% or higher poverty rates rank lower in reading scores than any country except Mexico.

THE SUCCESS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Focusing on the Pebbles

When public schools are supported, great things can happen.

When the history of the United States is written from the vantage of the middle of the 21st century, and the question asked is what was it that made the United States the preeminent nation in the world during the 20th century, the answer will be found in the 19th century.

It won’t be the telegraph, or the telephone, or the automobile, or even the computer that has made America great. Rather, it was the invention of the common school.

  • It was the public schools that gave America some mobility across social classes, providing a modicum of truth to the premise that we are the preeminent land of opportunity.
  • It was the public schools that changed our immigrants into patriotic Americans.
  • It was the public schools, along with public libraries, that gave Americans the skills and opportunities to develop the kinds of knowledge necessary for a democracy to function.
  • It is the public schools that serve most of our nations’ special education students, hoping to give them productive lives, and hoping to give their parents some relief from a tougher parenting role than most of us have had to face.
  • It is the public schools that primarily serve the English Language Learners who, in another generation, will constitute a large part of the work force that we depend upon.
  • It is the public schools that serve America’s neediest children and their families.
  • And it is the public schools, in the wealthier neighborhoods, that provide a large proportion of American students with a world-class education.

SCHOOL FINANCE

Trump says our schools are “Flush with Cash!?” They’re Falling Apart!

One phrase in this article speaks volumes.

“…many schools are still waiting…especially those serving minority students.”

Los Angeles Unified School district routinely has broken desks and chairs, missing ceiling tiles, damaged flooring, broken sprinklers, damaged lunch tables and broken toilet paper dispensers.

They’re flush with cash!?

New York City public schools removed more than 160 toxic light fixtures containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a cancer causing agent that also hinders cognitive and neurological development. Yet many schools are still waiting on a fix, especially those serving minority students.

They’re flush with cash!?

At Charles L. Spain school in Detroit, the air vents are so warped and moldy, turning on the heat brings a rancid stench. Water drips from a leaky roof into the gym, warping the floor tiles. Cockroaches literally scurry around some children’s classrooms until they are squashed by student volunteers.

They’re flush with freakin cash!?

Are you serious, Donald Trump!?

THE CLASSROOM TEACHER

‘The level of workload expected of teachers is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives’

This article is from November, 2016, but it really needn’t be dated. We’ve been neglecting our teachers and schools for decades.

Teachers are reaching – or perhaps have reached – a point where this level of work commitment is becoming corrosive. Children do not benefit from overworked teachers. This level of work is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives.

This year, this level of work has failed once again to result in a pay rise commensurate to the workload. The 1 per cent rise will make teachers feel unvalued. They also know that they remain without a voice.

The next year will also see the recruitment crisis worsen. Why? Well, graduates will see the pay and the conditions of service and seek alternative employment.

We will also see schools having to continue with a worthless testing regime and even more cuts that will affect all areas of education.

A STORY

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

“Alternative facts” are the new “naked.” This seems like an appropriate time for a “reminder.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

Posted in A-F Grading, Charters, Choice, Equity, Privatization, Public Ed, Quotes, REPA, SchoolFunding, Testing, Value-Added, WhyTeachersQuit

Random Quotes – June 2016

THIS DOESN’T WORK…

Johnson Academy receives charter renewal

Hypocrisy at work.

The constant barrage of disdain against public schools by the legislature and the governor has led to an increase in the investment in privatization and the contrasting defunding of public education. “Public schools are ‘failing'” the refrain goes, “so we need to divert tax money from the public schools to vouchers and charters.”

Then we read something like this…

from The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Education One, a public charter school-authorizing entity based at Trine University, granted the Timothy L. Johnson Academy a two-year charter renewal.

The academy on Werling Drive in Fort Wayne now has a two-year charter effective June 30 through June 30, 2018.

The school was rated an “F” school in the A-F state accountability rating system for 2014. The two previous years, the school received a “D.”

The school, founded in 2002, lost its charter with Ball State University in 2013.

THIS DOESN’T EITHER…

Unqualified, Uncertified Teachers: Where is the Outrage?

How “reformers” have worked to destroy the teaching profession – Indiana version.

Problem: Career professional teachers, supported by professional teachers unions, demand higher wages and benefits. This stands in the way of privatization in two ways; 1) higher personnel costs results in lower corporate profits, and 2) education professionals support increased resources for their students thereby further reducing profits.

Answer: Destroy the teaching profession (and public schools along with it) through the following steps:

1. Claim that public schools are “failing” and blame it on “bad teachers.”

2. Evaluate teachers using test scores and restrict salary increases for teachers whose students score high. This reinforces the “bad teachers” myth and allows the destruction of the salary structure for all teachers. [Odd how “bad teachers” seem to congregate in schools with high levels of poverty. Oh, and deny that poverty is relevant to achievement.]

3. Threaten the livelihoods of teachers who work with hard-to-educate students, ESL students, students who live in poverty, and students with special needs, through punishments for teaching students with low test scores.

3. Attack and threaten teacher training institutions for turning out all those “bad teachers.”

4. Divert funding from public education to vouchers and charter schools providing less funding for “failing” schools. Budgets are cut. Class sizes rise. Test scores suffer. Continue to blame “bad teachers.”

5. Deny that experience matters. End seniority, salary schedules, and incentives for increased education or advanced degrees.

6. Once all these are in place and a teacher shortage develops, lower qualifications for teaching through state board of education policies.

7. Ignore all research about poverty and achievement, the effectiveness of experienced teachers, and the importance of investment in public education.

Success: Using non-professional, non-career teachers, with higher turnover rates, results in lower personnel costs and higher profits.

from Russ Walsh

I would like to see the business model of any successful company that says, “Let’s forget trying to make the job more attractive to top candidates, we can just hire someone who is unqualified for the job.”

NOR DOES THIS…

The Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing Later Life Outcomes Strikes Again

A child is more than a test score.

from Jay Greene

If we think we can know which schools of choice are good and ought to be expanded and which are bad and ought to be closed based primarily on annual test score gains, we are sadly mistaken.

WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING

Report Demonstrates that Greater Investment, Well Distributed, Raises School Achievement

Mind the Gap: 20 Years of Progress and Retrenchment in School Funding, Staffing Resources, and Achievement Gaps

Instead of diverting funds away from public education we ought to be investing in our local public schools.

from Jan Resseger

“(A)cross states, over the past decade and a half in particular, states with lower pupil-to-teacher ratios and fairer distribution of staffing tend to have both higher outcomes among children from low-income families and smaller (economic) achievement gaps…. We also have evidence that states in which teacher wages are more competitive have smaller achievement gaps and higher scores for children from lower income families.”

Her conclusion…

…you get what you pay for, and if you want to close achievement gaps between poor children and their privileged peers, you should spend what you need to to ensure that the children living in the poorest communities get the added attention they need from highly qualified teachers.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Across the Nation, Education is Getting Short Shrift

Tax dollars earmarked for public education are being diverted to privatization schemes such as vouchers and charters. Americans, through their legislators, bought and paid for by corporate donors, are neglecting their future.

From Jeff Bryant at The Progressive

You can place blame for the country’s education funding crisis squarely at the feet of state lawmakers and policy leaders who simply refuse to fund schools.

STUDENT DREAMS

Second graders imagine their dream school. It isn’t what you might think.

What would you have wished for when you were in second grade?

Second graders at a Boston elementary school said they wish for a school with

  • “…pencils, markers, and glue sticks…”
  • “…a shiny and new school…”
  • “…a room with soft things and people to talk to…”
  • “…a better playground…”
  • “…a class pet and field trips to far-away places…”
  • “…a whole library…”

What kind of school do your kids deserve?

from Lily Holland via Valerie Strauss

I think I’ve changed my mind. When I introduced this activity, I originally said I dreamed of a school with an outdoor garden that my students and I could use to grow healthy food. Now I think I dream of a school where 7-year-olds don’t have to just dream about the schools they deserve.

WHY TEACHERS LEAVE

Teaching, GOP lose frustrated Hoosier

Professional, career teachers are leaving education. The loss will be felt in years to come when our leaders only come from the elites who could afford quality education and our voting population consists of adults whose education was damaged by greed and shortsightedness.

From Brenda Yoder in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Establishment Republicans don’t seem to care about these students or others who need caring teachers more than they need six weeks of ISTEP+. They don’t care about the rural communities where schools are fighting just to stay alive. They don’t care about excellent teachers who do their best for the students they love.

They care about the money they can get from ALEC, Pearson and from being elected by the “voucher” bandwagon. Seriously, vouchers aren’t the issue anymore. Integrity, real needs, and change are.

CHOICE HAS BRED CHAOS

We Can Recover From The School Choice Movement

The “choice” in education has always been available for those who were wealthy. “Choice” now means that privatized schools can choose their students. Parents who are confused and without a well-staffed, well funded neighborhood school to rely on, are left to struggle with the system.

from Ed Berger, Ed.D

“Choice” is a marketplace idea wrongly applied to education. The assumption that most parents have the information they need to make intelligent decisions about the education their children need, and the education children need to be effective citizens, has been proven wrong. School choice has failed to improve our schools. In fact, choice has created a chaos of confusion for parents who have risked (gambled) on moving their children out of comprehensive education programs to place them in partial education programs. The costs of these misguided experiments is evident in high dropout rates, incomplete educations, and damaged children.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Florida, poverty, Privatization, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings

2015 Medley #37

Privatization, Poverty, YGWYPF,
Bullet-Proof Blankets

PRIVATIZATION – THE FALSE CHOICE

The adventures of Timmy in Public Schools…

You’ve got homework!

Gayle Cosby is a member of the Indianapolis Public Schools school board. In this entry she links to an excellent video of what has happened to education in New Orleans since charters moved in. Watch this if you care about public education…the falsehoods about “choice” will be coming to your town or state soon, if they’re not already there.

Go watch this 16 minute video. Share it on social media. Talk about it. I’ll let it sink in for a little while…give you some time to think about how similar this is to Indianapolis… then I’ll be back with a little discussion for ya.

Florida Has a Plan to Eliminate Public Education

The good news about ESSA is that it has moved some important education decision making to the states, instead of leaving it with the federal government. The bad news is that for some states, like Florida, that means nothing changed. State legislators can no longer blame the federal government for tying their hands and privatizing public education. Contact your state representatives now. End the use of tax revenue for private and religious profit. End the overuse and misuse of standardized testing.

Diverting……the name of the game in Florida and it is growing.

TALLAHASSEE — Without a word of debate Friday, the Florida House approved a controversial proposal that could require school districts to share tens of millions of dollars in construction funds with rival charter schools.

Just follow the money to find the corruption…..

The bill was one of four high-profile education proposals that won the support of the Republican-dominated House to end the week. The others would:

  • Ease the penalties for schools that fail to comply with the constitutionally mandated limits on class size.
  • Create a pilot program to give principals more control over hiring and budget decisions.
  • Encourage school districts to adopt mandatory school uniform policies for children in grades K-8 by offering incentive money.

All of the Democrats in attendance voted against the charter school bill, HB 7037. But none debated the measure on the floor

On top of everything else, the incentives of money to local districts to enforce school uniforms was added into the mix. I wonder which uniform company has major stockholders sitting in the legislature. 

New report: Charter schools great at making money for private business, not much else

Read this important report. The motive for public spending on education should be to provide education for the community not to provide a profit for corporate education amateurs.

Charter schools are able to siphon off large quantities of public money for private gain — and only substantial changes to state policies regarding charter schools can stop this, according to the authors of the report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at University of Colorado Boulder.

The Adventures of Timmy, Part 2

Growing Evidence that Charter Schools Are Failing

“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and 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 public expense of the people themselves.” — John Adams

Sometimes regulation is necessary. The education of our children is one of those areas where the public needs to keep tabs on what’s going on for two reasons. First, charters and voucher schools use public tax money and they need to be held accountable to the taxpayers. Second, education is a public trust. The nation depends on an educated populace for its continuation. It is in our national best interest to make sure that public schools are fully supported.

Performance aside, charters have other serious issues. The Nation called them “stunningly opaque…black boxes.” Indeed, the federal government has spent billions on charter development without basic forms of accountability, even for the causes and details of school closings. The charter system is so unregulated that oversight often comes from whistleblowers who feel disturbed enough, and courageous enough, to report abuses.

The report Cashing in on Kids notes that the Walton Foundation, one of the biggest charter school supporters, has “supported the unregulated growth of a privatized education industry.” The Walton-funded New York Charter School Association, which takes considerable public money and advertises itself as “independently-run public schools,” refused state audits, arguing that they were run by boards outside the public domain. Charter operators want the best of both worlds. As Diane Ravitch explains, “When it is time for funds to be distributed, they want to be considered public schools. But when they are involved in litigation, charter operators insist they are private organizations.”

POVERTY

Are Low U.S. Scores on International Tests Caused by High Child Poverty or Bad Schools?

Poverty negatively affects student achievement. Students who are hungry or hurt by the effects of poverty, have trouble achieving at as high a level as students who don’t live in poverty. This isn’t new information. Politicians and policy makers can’t solve the problems of poverty so they continue to deflect the blame to schools instead of taking responsibility.

Do schools need to improve? Of course, but schools in high poverty areas need extra support, and politicians are loathe to provide it. Citizens in high poverty areas are rarely campaign donors.

…Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond explores the many ways childhood poverty affects the lives of America’s poorest children—their child and adolescent development, their health, their academic potential, and their life prospects. Desmond begins with the story of Crystal, a premature baby born after her mother was stabbed. Crystal’s father is imprisoned; she is molested as a preschooler, placed, at age five, in foster care where she begins a life with “dozens of group homes and sets of foster parents.” Crystal drops out of school at sixteen, ages out of foster care at eighteen, and after a litany of other problems, becomes a homeless adult. Desmond continues: “Should we say Crystal is ‘poor’? She certainly is that—but living in mere poverty would be a tremendous blessing for Crystal. Poverty is defined officially as an income cutoff, a threshold. But there are many depths below the poverty line. Poverty is qualitatively different from ‘deep poverty’ (half below the poverty line), which in turn is a world apart from ‘extreme poverty’ (living on $2 a day). There is poverty, and then there is poverty. Recent debates about poverty measurement have focused largely on its material attributes…. These debates are necessary and productive, but a relatively small income is but one of any obstacles preventing Crystal from living a full, productive, and healthy life. Like many people from disadvantaged families, she experienced setbacks at a very young age (even before birth) and never fully recovered from them. Poverty is more than a material condition.” Surely we need to improve our public schools, but just as surely we need to learn how to identify and address challenges like Crystal’s. Today, we pretty much talk as though we expect school teachers to be able, on their own, to turn such children’s lives around.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

Eight Years Under the Ax

How have schools fared since the “great recession?”

Wall Street tanked the economy, resulting in a big bunch of cutbacks as every state tried to deal with a sudden lack of money. That part of the story we already knew.

The second part of the story, which you may have suspected, is that once states got in the habit of slashing education budgets, the just kept on doing it even after the economy began to recover. CBPP does not bury the lede on this one:

Most states provide less support per student for elementary and secondary schools — in some cases, much less — than before the Great Recession.

BULLETPROOF BLANKETS

Now you can buy a bulletproof blanket specifically made for your kids to use during school shootings

This article reminded me of my own childhood growing up during the Cold War. During monthly “air raid drills” we would hunker down under our desks and listen in fear for the sounds of Soviet planes ready to drop bombs on us. For most of the years of my childhood I would stop at the sound of every plane overhead and search the skies to see if I could see the bomber with the red star. This was especially disruptive since I lived on the incoming air route to O’Hare Field in Chicago…

Now that our leaders are too afraid of the NRA to provide sensible solutions to mass murder we will raise another generation of children growing up in fear.

If mass shootings weren’t such an integrated part of our culture, you’d think The Bodyguard Blanket was an SNL skit or an Onion article. Kids are being gunned down in their 1st grade classrooms, but what can we do? No we’re not talking about gun laws, just arm your children with these bulletproof shields!

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Article Medleys, Charters, poverty, Privatization, SchoolFunding, SchoolShootings

Posted in SchoolFunding, Teaching Career

Teachers Subsidize Schools

The Indiana State Teachers Association posted a review of the new education laws effective July 1, 2015. Included in the list is this one…

New State Education Laws Effective July 1

Educator Tax Credit (HEA 1001)
The state’s budget includes a new state income tax credit for teachers who spend their own money to pay for classroom supplies currently deductible under federal tax laws. The credit, a direct dollar-for-dollar offset of your state income tax liability, is capped at the lesser amount of what you spend on qualifying supplies or $100 each taxable year. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, members should retain appropriate receipts for tax purposes.

This Indiana tax credit goes along with the Federal Income Tax deduction of $250 (note that a credit is better than a deduction since the former reduces your actual tax while the latter just reduces your taxable income).

This new law is good news for Indiana’s teachers, right?

Well…yes and no. We all know that teachers spend money on their classes during the school year. The National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) (an organization of school supply retailers) found that nearly all teachers spend money on their classrooms and the average amount spent nationally is just under $500 per teacher.

The study found that 99.5 percent of all public school teachers spent some amount of money out of pocket, with the national average for 2013-2013 [sic] coming in at $485 among those surveyed.

Getting a $100 credit on one’s state income tax, as well as the $250 deduction on federal income tax is nice for teachers. Most, if not all, teachers would continue to spend money on their classes for needed supplies or for their students whether or not they got a credit or deduction, but every little bit helps.

Two things, however, bother me about this.

I agree that tax money, in this case in the form of credits and deductions, ought to be spent on schools, supplies for public schools, and, when necessary, food, clothing, and supplies for children. We all benefit from public schools so we all are responsible for adequately funding them. However, there are two main reasons why public school teachers spend money for school.

  • Schools are underfunded and supplies like paper, markers, books, and toilet paper are not always available. Since teachers need these things to do their job, they buy them with their own money.
  • Low income students often don’t have winter coats, shoes, book bags, or meals (aside from breakfast and lunch at school). Teachers support students with these sorts of gifts.

Teachers pay for these because the appropriate source of funding — school budgets or parent income — isn’t always available, especially in underfunded schools with a preponderance of students from low-income families.

In a recently republished 2005 letter to Reading Today, Stephen Krashen wrote

Teachers face a serious moral dilemma. If they don’t spend their own money on books, equipment, and even toilet paper, the students suffer, especially students from low-income families who often attend seriously underfunded schools and have little access to books outside of school. If teachers do spend their own money, there is no pressure on the system to supply these essentials…

School districts know that teachers will “pick up the slack” to help their students, and because of tight, reduced, or low funding they, often reluctantly, rely on the generosity of their teachers to provide what the system cannot. States, especially those run by “reformers” in the legislature or governor’s office, continue to cut the budgets for public schools (many choosing, instead, to fund vouchers and charter schools), so school districts are finding themselves with less and less money for supplies.

The problem is not that teachers buy things for their classrooms…or that they are only partially reimbursed for supplies and necessities purchased…

The problem is that teachers are placed in the position of having to subsidize their employer because federal, state, and local funding is inadequate.

Children in America are just not a high priority.

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Parents, Public Ed, SchoolFunding

School as Vacation for Parents

Kmart has a new “not back to school” ad. It’s the usual ad stuff coupled with an explanation to kids that, “this is not a back to school commercial.”

Instead it’s “vacation” commercial for parents to help them with “…relaxation and freedom from entertaining their children…”

That’s right. School is the place where parents send their kids when they need a “vacation.” It’s the same as going out to dinner when Mom and Dad don’t want to cook…or calling the babysitter when parents want a night out. The underlying concept here is that schools and teachers are a babysitting service…and what’s even better, public schools, unlike charter, private and parochial schools, must take your kids because it’s the law.

I get it…it’s not really Kmart’s fault. Even teachers joke about how summertime is the time when parents really learn to appreciate teachers. And, it’s true. Kids are a lot of work…and sometimes two or three kids at home all day can be just as hard as a class of 25. Keeping kids entertained without resorting to Disney marathons or hours on the computer/phone/tablet, isn’t easy. I’m sure that some parents will be relieved that their local public school will supply interesting content for their child…presented by a real, live, caring, person – aka the teacher(s).

But think about it for a moment…school is more than just a vacation for parents, right? The nation’s collective attitude about the role of schools and teachers needs an adjustment. Would we be able to counteract America’s tradition of anti-intellectualism with an acknowledgment that teachers are more than just babysitters? Would Americans begin to see teachers as well-educated professionals instead of part-time test-jockeys if we changed our attitude about school a bit?

Instead of a place to send our kids for a ten-month parent vacation, perhaps we ought to adopt the attitude of higher achieving countries. Pasi Sahlberg says this about the purpose of schools in Finland…

In Finland we think that children need to have a safe and balanced learning environment that is equally guided by academic and non-academic curricula, team learning and individual work, and formal and informal learning. We also believe that it is very important to learn about the world and its different languages and cultures from very early on. That’s why we give foreign language learning and international education high priorities. There is a Finnish saying: “Real winners don’t compete”. We believe that what children learn to do together today, they can do alone tomorrow.

Teachers already know they are much more than babysitters and school is much more than test scores. The vast majority of parents know this too, even if they do (half) joke, “I can’t wait till school starts so you’ll have something to do and get out of my hair!” Most parents understand and respect their kids’ teachers. Polls show that parents of students in school…those people closest to the schools and best able to see what’s actually happening in America’s public schools…trust their kids’ teachers and their kids’ public schools.

With a change in national attitude maybe we could wash away some of that “traditional American anti-intellectualism.” A strong social investment in improving the understanding of the purpose of school, along with fully funding our public schools, would do more to improve student achievement than “test-and-punish” policies and diverting money from public schools to private corporations and religious groups.

We ought to support, not trivialize, America’s public schools.

Kmart ad for a parent vacation.

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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.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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