Posted in Article Medleys, ChildhoodMortality, reading, reform, retention, Science, STEM, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #1

Shortchanging Our Children and our Future,
Retention-in-Grade, Struggling Readers,
Why Teachers Quit, Chalkbeat


Missing an S for Science in the STEM Frenzy

Like other aspects of America’s infrastructure, our public education system is being systematically dismantled. We’re shortchanging the future of the nation by not providing a full curriculum for all our students.

Two in 5 schools don’t offer physics! In both Alaska and Oklahoma, about 70 percent of high schools don’t offer the course. Florida and Utah are close behind, with nearly 60 percent of high schools lacking physics. Iowa, New Hampshire, and Maine do much better, with only about 15 percent of schools not offering the subject.

Small schools are hurt worse, raising questions about the quality of science instruction in charter schools.

Ninety percent of America’s kids attend public schools, so dwindling science instruction is troubling. But it’s not surprising. Defunding public education is intentional, meant to transform schools into technology hubs—charters for the poor.

What message are we sending to the future?


Held back, but not helped

Yet another state discovers that retention-in-grade doesn’t help students.

Louisiana is one of the states where you have to pass a test to move on to the next grade (in fourth and ninth grades). After a retention rate of around 25%, they’ve found that the process doesn’t really help.

Retention is a problem that even educators contribute to…not just legislatures, school boards, or politicians. It’s true that the legislatures and politicians are the ones who pass the “third grade punishment” laws (fourth grade in Louisiana), but rarely do teachers or administrators object beyond the “we need to make those decisions” stage. Those voices shouting “retention-in-grade doesn’t work” are drowned out by the crowd shouting “we have to do something” followed by “what else can we do?” And therein lies the problem.

Teachers can’t solve the problem of retention-in-grade on their own. Retention is ineffective as a method of remediation, as is passing a child to the next grade without any intervention. Intervention takes time and costs money.

States should stop wasting millions on testing, and, instead, spend that money on remediation. Struggling students need extra help, not another year doing the same thing over again. Research has repeatedly shown that intensive intervention works…but it costs money.

Only when we decide that our children are worth the cost will we be able to provide the education that each child needs.

Students who fell short were assigned mandatory summer-school classes, after which they took the test again. If that second attempt wasn’t successful, students couldn’t move on to fifth or ninth grade. The practice of retention in Louisiana also extended beyond the high-stakes grades. In 2015-16, more than one-third of all retained students were from grades K-3. In that same year, 10 percent of all ninth graders were held back. In a presentation a few years ago, a top education-department administrator, Chief of Literacy Kerry Laster, wrote, “We retain students despite overwhelming research and practical evidence that retention fails to lead to improved student outcomes.” Laster’s presentation, based on 2010 data, reported that 28 percent of Louisiana students did not make it to fourth grade on time.


Why Good Teachers Quit Teaching

Teachers are leaving the profession faster than they’re entering. The non-educators in statehouses and legislatures are forcing teachers to do things that are not educationally sound. This has been going on for too long.

In what other profession do outsiders dictate practice? Who tells your attorney how to practice law? Who tells your plumber how to fix a leak? Who tells your doctor how to diagnose an illness?

Let teachers teach.

Bonnie D. left after 30 years of teaching because she felt the system was no longer acting in the best interest of all students. “Everything became all about passing the ‘almighty test,’” she says. “Decisions were made by the administrators to concentrate only on those students who could perform well. Call me old fashioned, but I always did my best to reach and teach every student in my room, not simply the ones who had the best chance of passing a test.”

In addition, many teachers worry about the effect high-stakes testing has on kids. “Sometimes tests coincide with a bad day,” Michelle S. tells us, “or a day when a student is just not feeling it. That is an incredible amount of stress on kids—especially those classified as ‘bubble kids.’”

Why It’s So Hard to Be a Teacher Right Now

Many legislatures are still relying on test scores to tell them which schools are “good” and which are “failing.” That continued stress, added to the attitude out of the U.S. Education Department that public schools are a “dead end” means that being a teacher is not getting easier.

…test-prep stressors haven’t gone away, Weingarten says they started to abate late in 2015 when President Obama signed into law an act that gave states more power to determine public school curricula without the threat of federal penalties tied to standardized test scores. “There was hope things would get better,” she says.

But then a new source of stress emerged: the 2016 election, and President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to the post of Education Secretary. DeVos is a prominent charter-school advocate, and at times has been highly critical of America’s public schools. (She once said America’s public schools are “a dead end.”)


Watch Out Padma, Here Comes Chalkbeat!

Chalkbeat accepts money from the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) such as the Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Anschutz Foundation, EdChoice, and the Walton Family Foundation. They claim that their supporters (complete list here) don’t impact their editorial decisions.

Here’s what I do know–teaching is not a competition. It’s not a reality show. If it were a reality show, it would be judged by experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris. The thing is neither of them would deign to participate in an exercise like this one by reformy Chalkbeat. More likely it will be an exercise in determining who can best read the Moskowitz Academy Scripted Lesson Plan, or who can make the Most Kids Pass the Test, or some other reformy nonsense.

I’m personally offended that Chalkbeat deems itself worthy of judging teachers. I’ve been reading Chalkbeat since it started. I rate it biased, reformy, ineffective, and totally unqualified to understand our jobs, let alone judge our work. We do not cook meals. We do not just do test prep. We deal with real people, and they have many more layers than the artichokes they prepared three ways on Top Chef last week.


There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

When Readers Struggle: Background Knowledge

This is the first in a series on struggling readers by Russ Walsh. As of Jan 7, there is a second post, When Readers Struggle: Oral Language

Whenever I ask a group of teachers to identify areas that seem to cause difficulty for struggling readers, lack of background knowledge is sure to be near the top of the list.

Liking Those We Don’t Like: The Dissonance Involved with Supporting Public Schools

It’s one of the most exasperating issues for parents and educators, but education goes relatively unmentioned in each campaign.

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?

American kids are 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other rich countries

A new study ranks 20 wealthy countries on childhood deaths. The US comes in last.

Lawmakers want more research before they spend big on preschool. When it comes to vouchers, there’s no such hesitation.

Lawmakers have demanded lots of proof to determine whether preschool helps kids…

Yet they’ve requested no long-term study of another similarly designed, tuition support program — vouchers for private schools…

The Lasting Payoff of Early Ed

The benefits of early education are found to persist for years, bolstering graduation, reducing retention, and reducing special education placements.

Posted in asimov, Quotes, Science

Isaac Asimov, January 2, 1920

On the anniversary of Isaac Asimov’s 98th birthday, I offer some quotes relevant to today’s political and cultural environment.


A Cult of Ignorance by Isaac Asimov. Newsweek, January 21, 1980

It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, ”America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?”

None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

The complete article, A Cult of Ignorance, by Asimov, may should be read here.


From The Gods Themselves

The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists.

From Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations

It is the easiest thing in the world to deny a fact. People do it all the time. Yet it remains a fact just the same.


From Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.


From Combatting U.S. Scientific Illiteracy in The Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1989

Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?


From Foundation

Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.


From Foundation

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.


From an Interview by Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers’ World Of Ideas

Science doesn’t purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism. It’s a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. And this works, not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life. I should think people would want to know that what they know is truly what the universe is like, or at least as close as they can get to it.

From The Roving Mind

I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

Posted in Sagan, Science

Sagan Day 2017

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

For this year’s Sagan Day, I offer some quotes on our current condition…


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.


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, 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.


I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United states is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.


We could not guess how different from us they (extraterrestrials) might be. It was hard enough to guess the intentions of our elected representatives in Washington.

Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, DeVos, Politics, poverty, Quotes, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

Listen to This #11


In 2009, Don McLeroy, then Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, said, “Somebody’s got to stand up to experts that…I don’t know why they’re doing it…”

Stand up to experts…because they have “expertise.” Why on Earth would we listen to people who are trained in a particular field and who, through research and study, have learned more than the rest of us?

McLeroy was railing against scientists who had the gall to suggest that they knew more about science than he did. And McLeroy’s attitude, which has been drifting through America for centuries, is on the rise again, and is responsible, at least in part, for the election of President Donald (“I love the poorly educated”) Trump.

Jim Wright says we’ve traded our moon ships for the Creation Museum. Carl Sagan was prescient in his 1996 interview.

The Later Days of a Better Nation, Part IV

From Jim Wright

Somewhere in the last half a century, we Americans traded Apollo moon ships for the Creation Museum and the ugly truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is a reflection of who we’ve become as a nation.

Trump is the utterly predictable result of decades of an increasingly dumber and dumber electorate. A deliberately dumber electorate, Idiocracy in action, a society that dismisses intelligence and education and experience as “elitism” while howling in drunken mirth at Honey Boo Boo and lighting their farts on fire.

…Trump is the result of a nation that glories in ignorance, manipulated by conspiracy theory and a primal fear of the dark, that embraces monkey violence and cowers from the unknown future with bluster and bared teeth and a gun clenched in one fist, instead of looking forward with quiet courage, head up, feet wide, braced and ready with curiosity and confident they are prepared to handle anything that might come along.

Trump is the result of a nation that traded the moon for the Creation Museum.

Carl Sagan’s last interview with Charlie Rose (Full Interview)

From Carl Sagan

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.


Senator from Louisiana spends summer recess substitute teaching in home state

Speaking of experts…who are America’s education experts? The media and general public apparently believes that the answer to that question is “billionaires” and “textbook publishers.” Here’s a politician who disagrees. This Louisiana Senator has discovered that education is not just “telling them what they need to know.”

From Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana)

Every single person who makes policy for elementary and secondary education needs to substitute teach once a year.

Teaching the heart as well as the mind: Caring, kind adults can make all the difference

Instead of damaging the teaching profession with punitive laws which lower salaries, reduce teachers’ control over their classrooms, and allow anyone with 5 weeks (or less) of training to stand up in front of students, we ought to be improving the working conditions of teachers in order to attract those people who are willing to devote their lives to preparing the nation’s future.

From Phyllis Bush in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Those who want to fix teachers and kids seem to forget that all of the testing and all of the online learning and all of the latest technology and all of the moronic plans of those who have no idea about what is instructionally or developmentally appropriate have little to do with children.


A Message to the Democratic National Committee

How would Democrats respond if the two largest teachers unions asked for something in return for their political support? Diane Ravitch has the answer we should all give when asked to donate to a political campaign.

From Diane Ravitch

Not a dime until you support public schools and oppose privatization.


Lily Eskelsen García: Education is not Uber

In my last post, I wrote,

Would a wealthy family send their child to a public school without a library? Would you be able to find a white suburban school without a playground or gymnasium? How about a music program?

Why do we expect poor families to accept poor facilities and understaffed schools?

From Lily Eskelsen García

Anyone could do this without a federal grant. Go in to the best public schools in your state…Go in. Walk around and see what they’ve got there to help those kids: gifted programs, athletics, arts. They’ve got a library. They’ve got a librarian…and they’ve got the staff and they’ve got the programs. Kids have access and opportunity.


Retiring Monroe Schools superintendent blasts education officials

We’re still wasting millions of dollars annually on useless tests…

From Phil Cagwin in the Journal-News (Ohio)

“There also seems to be the expectation that our teachers should focus more on the common core standards and test results than on our children. Our teachers are not threatened by accountability, but when they are expected to teach to tests that have no value to instruction, and that change constantly, it seems such a waste of valuable time for quality student and teacher interaction, not to mention the millions of taxpayer dollars that funnel to the test making and scoring companies,” said Cagwin.


Betsy DeVos: Trump’s illiberal ally seen as most dangerous education chief ever

DeVos is what happens when money runs the country instead of the people.

From David Smith, in The Guardian

What DeVos – a 59-year-old entrepreneur, philanthropist and former chair of the Michigan Republican party – lacks in expertise or charisma, she makes up for in money…

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 Anti-Intellectualism, climate change, environment, Science, Trump, Tyson

Standing in Denial, Rising to Power


Is it just ignorance, or the quest for profit, that has made the Trump White House (with help from the Republican Congress) one of the most anti-science administrations ever?

Just this past week, the United States was the only one of the world’s 20 wealthiest nations to reject the Paris Climate Accords. Even the worlds largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, and the world’s largest natural gas producer, Russia, supported the Accords.

The Energy 202: Trump stands alone at G-20 on Paris climate accords

But at the end of what observers deemed the “G-19 1” summit, the balance of that equation stayed the same. Nineteen of the 20 attendee nations at the annual Group of 20 meeting reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord. The United States stood alone in abandoning it.

The U.S. stands – almost – alone.

The only other nations who have refused to sign on to the Accords are Nicaragua, because the accords aren’t strong enough to fight the danger of climate change, and Syria, which is in the midst of its civil war.

The President, however, has made it clear that he sides with the “science-deniers” and against the rest of the world.


The assault on science is felt in education, too. Aside from the cuts to education programming proposed by the U.S. Education Department under school privatizer, billionaire Betsy DeVos, there is growing antagonism – even more than before – towards those who are educated.

The Pew Research Center recently released results of a survey showing that a majority of Republicans think post-secondary education (colleges and universities) has a negative effect on the country.

Sharp Partisan Divisions in Views of National Institutions

While a majority of the public (55%) continues to say that colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days, Republicans express increasingly negative views.

A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.

Furthermore, the number of foreign students entering our colleges and universities has dropped, possibly due to more stringent restrictions on visas, or perhaps a more derisive attitude towards intellectuals.

The rise of Trump has given renewed power to this anti-intellectual attitude, under the encouragement of the anti-science blathering of someone who claims to be a “really smart person” (See Dunning Kruger Effect).

Know Nothings: On the Road to Taliban

Two years ago, 54 percent of Republicans said colleges had a positive impact on the country’s direction, with 37 percent rating higher education negatively. That ratio shifted to 43 percent positive and 45 percent negative last year.


Perhaps the issue is one of greed, after all. Trump has given power to the denial of science by appointing unqualified, pro-energy industry people to head the science-based cabinet departments…people like Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon-Mobile, who was appointed Secretary of State with zero government or diplomatic experience. There’s Scott Pruitt at the EPA, for example, who has sued the EPA 13 times and has 8 cases still pending because they dared to fight his pro industry policies in Oklahoma. And Rick Perry, who, when he began as Energy Secretary, thought that his job required him to be a

…global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry.

Other members of the administration’s teams are equally ignorant, inexperienced, or entangled with the fossil-fuel industry.

The Deep Industry Ties of Trump’s Deregulation Teams

One such appointee [to Trump’s Deregulation teams] is Samantha Dravis, the chairwoman of the deregulation team at the E.P.A., who was a top official at the Republican Attorneys General Association. Ms. Dravis was also president of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which brought together energy companies and Republican attorneys general to file lawsuits against the federal government over Obama-era environmental regulations.

The Republican association’s work has been criticized as a vehicle for corporate donors to gain the credibility and expertise of state attorneys general in fighting federal regulations. Donors include the American Petroleum Institute, the energy company ConocoPhillips and the coal giant Alpha Natural Resources.

The Republican association also received funding from Freedom Partners, backed by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch. Ms. Dravis worked for that group as well, which recently identified regulations it wants eliminated. Among them are E.P.A. rules relating to clean-water protections and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. [emphasis added]

The anti-science crowd has been waiting patiently for someone like Trump and his followers to welcome them into power and reverse the progress we have made against climate change. The current administration is not the first to fuel resentment and suspicion of education among those who have not had advanced training. The U.S. has always had a strong anti-intellectual undercurrent. Trump is just the most recent of a long line of manipulators bent on dividing the people.

Manufactured Illiteracy and Miseducation: A Long Process of Decline Led to President Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s ascendancy in American politics has made visible a plague of deep-seated civic illiteracy, a corrupt political system and a contempt for reason that has been decades in the making. It also points to the withering of civic attachments, the undoing of civic culture, the decline of public life and the erosion of any sense of shared citizenship.


Is there any way to reverse this trend, short of waiting until the next election? What can we, as educators do? There are no easy answers, but I’ll share some thoughts next time.

In the meantime, spend the next 5 minutes listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson tell why science, and truth, are important…

When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, Science, Tenure, Testing, VirtualSchools

2017 Medley #13

Choice, Alternate Facts, Tenure, Testing,
Virtual Charters, Accountability,
Lead Poisoned Children


School Choice: The Faustian Bargain

“…corporate education reformers,” says Russ Walsh in this blog post, “are anti-democracy.” That statement rings true, especially now, at the end of this year’s Indiana General Assembly Session. Legislation making the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position first failed, and then passed the General Assembly after significant political manipulations from legislators who were anxious to take the right to vote for education away from the people. The state Board of Education is already filled with political appointees, and now, beginning in 2025, the office of the Superintendent will be as well making Indiana one of only six states where both the executive head of the Department of Education and the members of state’s board of education are appointed.

These are the same anti-democratic legislators who have spent the last half dozen years transferring tax money from public schools to the pockets of corporate charters and church-run private schools. The budget for this year, for example, gives public schools a 1.6% increase while increasing funding for “Choice Scholarships” (vouchers) by 7% and giving SGO tax credits a whopping 31%…all paid for with public tax dollars.

I suggest that those of us who oppose vouchers and charter schools call school choice what it is in the eyes of that Ohio voter, tax theft. The government collects our taxes in order to provide essential services to all of us. There is no choice involved, we all must pay taxes (unless, apparently, we are hugely wealthy). Those essential services include providing for a military, promoting research on health and welfare, providing for police and fire protection, and funding public schools. When money is diverted from the support of the public schools, it amounts to, as the Ohio voter said, theft. Or maybe another way to say it is “taxation without representation”, since voters have no voice and no oversight of how tax money is spent in schools that receive money through vouchers or charters.

Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

The goal of “reformers” is, apparently, the complete and total destruction of public education.

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

This op-ed by David R. Currie, Ph.D., of Pastors for Texas Children, could easily have been written about the state of Indiana.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.


THIS Is What’s Wrong With America

Congressman: “Don’t confuse me with facts…”

A Facebook friend who lives in Todd Rokita’s Congressional district attended his recent Town Hall. In a post following the event, she reported on an exchange she had with the Congressman:

My question was “What evidence do you require in order to revise your opinion on climate change?”

His response was “No evidence could ever exist that would change my mind. It’s all Liberal science.”

…I really never expected to live in a country where science and empirical research required defense, but evidently Luddites aren’t simply historical oddities. So later this morning, I will join other Hoosiers at the Statehouse to participate in a “March for Science.”


Checker Still Doesn’t Understand Tenure

“Reformist” politicians in Indiana have frequently commented on how there are too many well-rated teachers. The complaint is that if there are so many “A” or “B” rated teachers, why aren’t there more “A” or “B” rated schools?

This reflects a basic misunderstanding of the process of education and why it’s essential that educators participate in the policy-making process. Yet we continue to see “education” conferences, panels, and gatherings where the teachers’ voices are absent. We continue to see the federal government education department staffed with non-educators – and those who are hostile to public education. We continue to see the movement for laws and policies which restrict teachers’ ability to do their job.

…instead of saying, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the profession must be in good shape,” reformsters say, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the evaluation system must be broken, because we just know that a huge number of teachers suck.” So, data is good, unless it conflicts with your pre-conceived biases, in which case, just throw the data out.

“Tenure” is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in K-12 education. It’s also a concept which “reformers” disingenuously claim, allows teachers a “job for life.” “Tenure” in K-12 education doesn’t mean “a job for life” as Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes. Instead, the K-12 version of “tenure” simply provides teachers with due process.

In Indiana, when K-12 teachers had tenure, teachers who administrations wanted to fire were allowed a hearing before an impartial observer. When administrators did their jobs, teachers who were guilty of immorality, incompetence, or illegal behavior, were fired. Since 2011, however, teachers in Indiana longer have “tenure.” A teacher who is going to be fired may request a meeting with the superintendent, or with the school board, but no impartial observer is required.

…while there are some large districts where the process is long, convoluted and prohibitively difficult, mostly “We can’t fire her because if tenure” is administrator-speak for “I could fire her, but it would take a lot of time and I’d have to, you know, work really hard, and then I would have to find a replacement and you know how hard that would be and I’m already backed up on meetings this week and now some kid just threw up in the hall, so how about I just blame her on the union and tenure and get back to my own work.” Where burdensome dismissal procedures exist, they have been negotiated into contracts. Fixing those contracts by outlawing tenure is like fixing the electoral college by installing a dictatorship– little bit of overkill.


The Wrong Medicine

When school “reform” was in its infancy the “reformers” insisted that their policies would improve student achievement and reduce the economic/racial achievement gap. After several decades of “reformist” policies such as excessive testing and test prep, vouchers, and charter schools, the results are in. Students do no better now than they did before the “reforms” were initiated.

One of the worst problems features of “reform” is the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Teachers no longer use test results to guide their instruction because, in most cases, the results of the tests are not timely or specific enough to help. When results are finally returned, they are used to evaluate teachers, grade schools and school systems, and as justification for closing neighborhood schools, none of which are appropriate or valid uses of the test scores.

At what point do parents, teachers, and administrators stand up and say “Enough is enough?” When do we begin to refuse to allow the removal of even one more dollar from our classrooms to continue to support this enormous exercise in futility.

How about now? Today.

The right number of standardized tests that we should be forcing down the throats of our children is precisely zero. The tests do not help our children, our teachers, or our parents. They have not improved education in America one bit.


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017

Note the recommendations in this report – virtual charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as public schools.

During her confirmation hearing, when Senator Tim Kaine asked her about equal accountability for private and privately run schools accepting public tax dollars, Secretary DeVos repeated the phrase, “I support accountability” over and over again, refusing to answer whether all schools should be held to the same accountability. This report would seem to indicate that the answer to the question should have been “Yes, all schools receiving tax dollars should be held to the same accountability standards.”

Given the rapid growth of virtual schools and blended schools, the populations they serve, and the relatively poor performance of virtual schools on widely used accountability measures, it is recommended that:

  • Policymakers slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual schools and the size of their enrollments…
  • Policymakers should carefully and continuously monitor the performance of fulltime blended schools…
  • Authorities charged with oversight should specify and enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that fail to perform adequately.
  • Policymakers should specify a maximum student-teacher ratio for virtual and blended schools…
  • Policymakers should regulate school and class sizes…
  • State agencies ensure that virtual schools and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ…
  • State agencies should continue the work they’ve started in revising accountability systems…
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures appropriate to the unique characteristics of full-time virtual schools
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should support more research to identify which policy options—especially those impacting funding and accountability mechanisms—are most likely to promote successful virtual schools and blended schools…
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should also support more research on exactly how special education is being provided in virtual and blended schools….


Marc Edwards – How to Address the U.S. Water Crisis in Flint and Beyond

Is your water safe?