Posted in Franklin, Science

Traitors or Heroes: Ben Franklin

Today is birthday number 313 for Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706.

Franklin is the only founding father to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Most people know about Franklin, the statesman and philosopher. Here are some relevant Franklin quotes for today…

THE NEWS MEDIA

Apology for Printers

If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

ON COMPROMISE

Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania

Has not the famous political Fable of the Snake, with two Heads and one Body, some useful Instruction contained in it? She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her Way was to pass thro’ a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct Course; one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on the left, so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the Decision was completed, the poor Snake died with thirst.

THE EMPIRE DIMINISHED

Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One

[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.

HEALTH CARE

Referring to private hospital funding alone:

That won’t work, it will never be enough, good health care costs a lot of money, remembering ‘the distant parts of this province’ in which ‘assistance cannot be procured, but at an expense that neither [the sick-poor] nor their townships can afford.’ … ‘[This] seems essential to the true spirit of Christianity, and should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our power reaches.’

LIBERTY

Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor
Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), pp. 19-21. [November 11, 1755]

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

WAR

Letter to Mary Hewson

All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting and destroying each other.

TRAITORS OR HEROES

Letter to Thomas Jefferson (March 16th, 1775).

In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes? That is the question we must ask.

 

Franklin was one of the most well known and well-respected scientists and inventors of his day. We have him to thank for (among other things)…

 

FURTHER EXPLORATION

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

VIDEO (30 minutes): Walter Isaacson: “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier post celebrating Franklin’s birthday. I’ve added some quotes and information and corrected some links.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Child Development, EdTech, OnlineLearning, Preschool, Privatization, Religion, Science, ScreenTime, Segregation, vouchers

2018 Medley #24

Online Preschool, Children’s Screen Time,
Religion in School, Segregation,
Diverting Public Money to Privatization

 
ONLINE PRESCHOOL – AN OXYMORON

Should Your Three-Year-Old Attend Online School?

If you read only one blog entry from this medley, it should be this one.

The latest “reform” insanity is online preschool.

By preschool, I mean a developmentally appropriate environment where young children can experience social interaction, develop an understanding of literature by being read to, and have direct contact with the real world.

Developmentally appropriate does not mean that three- and four-year-olds do so-called “academic” work on worksheets or computers. It means approaching instruction based on research into how children develop and grow. Preschoolers need clay and water-tables, not worksheets. They need blocks, watercolors, and dress up clothes, not tablets and calculators. They need climbers, sandboxes, and slides, not standardized tests and “performance assessments.” They need to experience the world with their whole bodies and all of their senses.

Why then, would anyone think that young children would benefit from something called an “online preschool?”

We have tried it in Indiana. The legislature wasted $1 million for an online preschool…the same legislature that is filled with lawyers, businessmen, and career politicians who know nothing about early childhood education.

Peter Greene takes on online preschools in this post…including UPSTART, the program in use in Indiana.

Never mind that everything we know says this approach is wrong. Much research says that early academic gains are lost by third grade; some research says that pre-school academics actually make for worse long-term results. If most of your 5-year-olds are not ready for kindergarten, the problem is with your kindergarten, not your 5-year-olds.

Turning to technology does not help. A study released earlier this year by the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, found that most “educational” apps aimed at children five and younger were developmentally inappropriate, ignoring what we know about how littles actually learn.

 

CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY

“Disruption” Using Technology is Dangerous to Child Development and Public Education

Nancy Bailey discusses “disruption,” technology, and how “reformers” are finding new ways to damage the learning process.

Early childhood teachers express concern that tech is invading preschool education. We know that free play is the heart of learning.

But programs, like Waterford Early Learning, advertise online instruction including assessment for K-2. Their Upstart program advertises, At-home, online kindergarten readiness program that gives 4- and 5-year-old children early reading, math, and science lessons.

Technology is directed towards babies too! What will it mean to a child’s development if they stare at screens instead of picture books?

Defending the Early Years recently introduced a toolkit to help parents of young children navigate the use of technology with children. “Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide,” written by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., describes the kinds of learning experiences that will help them develop to be curious, engaged learners…

 

SOLVING THE SCREEN TIME PROBLEM FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE

Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, senior advisor to Defending the Early Years, has written a guide for parents who are struggling with technology issues for their children. The Parent’s Guide is an easy to read summary of what young children need and how much screen time is appropriate. It includes tips on how to put the concepts into practice.

Many parents find it hard to make decisions about screen time for their kids because advice comes from different directions and often conflicts. In the field of child development, we have decades of theory and research that can be very helpful as a guide for screen and digital device use with young kids. These ideas can be a resource for you to depend on when you are trying to figure out about any screen, app, or digital device your child might want to use.

 

READING, NOT RELIGION, IN SCHOOL

Counterpoint: Don’t preach, teach

We live in a pluralistic society…and the founders decided that every citizen has the right to their own religious beliefs. The nation’s judicial system, charged with interpreting the Constitution, has taught us that government must remain neutral in religious questions. To that end, public schools are not allowed to indoctrinate children in a particular religion. Some teachers and administrators try, but, while they believe they are doing “the work of the Lord” they are actually breaking the law of the land.

While teaching about religion is allowed, and beneficial, there are places for religious preaching in American life…the home…the church, not the public school.

The reason for this becomes clear when you stop and think about the mandate of public education in a pluralistic society. Public schools should give all kids an equal sense of belonging and respect their rights. In the United States, where religious freedom is woven into our cultural and historical DNA, thousands of religions have flourished — and a growing number of Americans choose no faith at all. School boards, principals and teachers must embrace this reality, and this means they must not be in the business of deciding which religious beliefs matter for students, and which don’t. Decisions about when, where, how and if we pray are among the most intimate and personal ones we make. They are for families and individuals to decide.

 

SEGREGATION YESTERDAY. SEGREGATION TODAY…

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

This is a long, but fascinating look at why and how our schools are still so segregated. You can even use the interactive chart to see how segregated your local school system is.

Will humans ever lose the “us” vs. “them” attitude. Americans haven’t lost it yet. People still move their families in order to get away from, and reduce the fear of “the other.” Sadly, we’re not yet mature enough to understand that we are all one people…on one planet.

Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout — mainly wealthier, whiter communities — have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.

We see this in city after city, state after state.

And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.

The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

 

INDIANA, GET OUT OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL BUSINESS

Public schools’ struggle correlates directly to state voucher support

Thanks to Tony Lux, former local superintendent in Indiana, for this list of ways Indiana has neglected its public schools, and how the state’s voucher program has damaged public education.

• Since 2010, the total state budget has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the consumer price index (cost of living) has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the education budget has only risen 10 percent.

• Vouchers cost $150 million a year, and the cost is diverted from public school funding, resulting in an actual 7 percent increase in public school funding. (More than half the Indiana voucher recipients never attended public schools.)

• Without vouchers, every public school would get an additional $150 per student.

• Property tax caps have resulted in millions of dollars lost for many school districts.

• Public schools in poor communities annually experience a 10 percent to 60 percent property tax shortfall, equaling tens of millions of lost dollars for some.

• Remedies for lost revenue are no longer provided by the state. Districts now depend on local referendums.

• Lost property taxes that pay for school debt, construction and transportation must be replaced from state dollars intended for student instruction.

• A portion of state tuition support called the “complexity index” provides special funding to meet the needs of the poorest students. Not only has the complexity index dollar amount been decreased to “equalize” the dollars per student among all schools, but the state has decreased the number of students qualifying – for some schools – by half.

• Forbes magazine points out that Indiana is ill advisedly attempting to fund three systems of schools – traditional public, charters and vouchers – with the same budget it once used for only traditional public schools.

• The “money follows the student” mantra for charter school students creates a loss of school funding that is significantly and disproportionately more damaging than the simple sum of the dollars. If a district loses 100 students, the loss can be spread over 12 grades. A classroom still needs a teacher if it has 25 students instead of 30, but the district has lost $600,000 in funding.

• Of the 20 schools or districts receiving the highest per-pupil funding, 18 are charter schools, none of which are required to report profit taking.

• Since 2010, teacher salaries have dropped 16 percent.

There needs to be an end to the expectation that the only solution for schools, especially those in the poorest communities, in response to uncontrollable losses of revenue, is to cut, cut, cut programs, teachers, support staff and salaries regardless of the negative effect on students.

 

INTERESTING EXTRAS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE

Kindergarten difficulties may predict academic achievement across primary grades

Identifying factors that predict academic difficulties during elementary school should help inform efforts to help children who may be at risk. New research suggests that children’s executive functions may be a particularly important risk factor for such difficulties.

Humpback whale songs undergo a ‘cultural revolution’ every few years

Like any fad, the songs of humpback whales don’t stick around for long. Every few years, males swap their chorus of squeaks and groans for a brand new one. Now, scientists have figured out how these “cultural revolutions” take place.

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Posted in Public Ed, Science, Tyson

A Vaccine Against Charlatans

I’ve been thinking about the state of science education in the United States. A while back I wrote about improving our science education, and since that time nothing has changed. At least not as far as our federal government’s (and in Indiana, the state government’s) attitude towards science is concerned. For example, the U.S. is now the only country in the world which has officially denied climate change by our attempted withdrawal from the Paris Accords…A coal lobbyist is running the EPA…and the Department of the Interior is working to sell off land it’s supposed to protect.

Sadly, the state of science literacy in the United States has allowed many Americans to be unaware of what’s happening. Many Americans don’t really understand why they should be concerned.

It’s important that we improve science literacy in the U.S. But how?

 

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

How can we help improve science education in the community, state, and nation? Here are some ideas for parents, teachers, and concerned voters…

1. 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.

2. 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 56th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Latvia, Cuba, Canada, South Korea, 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.

3. Work to counter the effects of poverty by investing 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.

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

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

5. Support students by lowering class sizes.

 

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

7. 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. The Chicago Teachers Union has developed a program, specific to Chicago schools, titles The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve 2.0. Many of the plans in this document are worth considering for other school systems.

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

9. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option.

10. 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.

 

A PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY

…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

The preceding 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. We have to choose to spend more money on our future citizens.

Instead of asking, “Can we afford that?” we should state, “We cannot afford not to fully fund public education.” The public schools quite literally, hold our future. For the well-being of our children and grandchildren, we must fully fund our schools.

 

FOR SCIENCE TEACHERS

Science teachers at all grades need to keep up with current information, especially in today’s anti-science atmosphere. The following are some ideas to help keep science teachers up to date on science topics. Others interested in science education can also benefit from these.

  • 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 you 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?

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

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

“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.”

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Posted in Sagan, Science

Still Teaching From the Grave

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

Last month I reread Carl Sagan’s Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the brink of the Millenium. It is Sagan’s last book, published in 1997, the year after he died from the rare bone-marrow disease myelodysplasia.

Billions and Billions is a book of essays covering a wide range of topics, including the fact that he never actually said, “billions and billions” on his Cosmos television series, extraterrestrials, abortion, and exoplanets. He also included essays on some pet concerns of his – climate change, and the diminishment of science literacy in American society.

He dealt with our national ignorance in an earlier book (see the quote in the picture below), but in Billions and Billions, he continued his quest to convince his fellow humans that we must take care of the Earth, our home, lest we join the dinosaurs in extinction.

The Earth is an anomaly. In all the Solar System, it is, so far as we know, the only inhabited planet. We humans are one amongst millions of separate species who live in a world burgeoning, overflowing with life. And yet, most species that ever were are no more. After flourishing for 180 million years, the dinosaurs were extinguished. Every last one. There are none left. No species is guaranteed its tenure on this planet. And we’ve been here for only about a million years, we, the first species that has devised means for its self-destruction. We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think as well as we can. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after. There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.

The mid-term elections held earlier this week have reminded us that in order for us to survive as a species, and allow other species to survive, we must extinguish the anti-intellectualism – “a kind of celebration of ignorance, as Sagan put it – that has once again risen to the surface in our society. The only way we can do that is to educate ourselves, our children, and even more importantly, our leaders, so they can understand the issues facing us.

Sagan wrote presciently about a future that one could argue has come to pass…

I have a foreboding of an America…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 have been bamboozled by scientifically illiterate charlatans whose goal is not the health of the Earth or the human species, but the bottom line of their corporate sponsors.

 

Even though he’s been gone more than two decades, we can still learn a lot from Dr. Sagan.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, FirstAmendment, NAEP, retention, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

2018 Medley #10

Teacher Activism, Retention-in-Grade,
Charters, Testing,
First Amendment, Science

TEACHER ACTIVISM

The 9 states where teachers have it worst

According to CBS teachers have it pretty good, specifically because of pensions,  which they imply make up for low salaries…a debatable proposition at best. Why, if pension programs are so great, did we stop providing them?

In the meantime, Indiana teachers have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings drop by nearly 16 percent since 2000. Have Indiana legislators seen the same drop? What about the CEOs of Indiana’s Fortune 500 companies – Eli Lilly, Anthem, Cummins, Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, NiSource, and Simon Property Group? Have they seen the same loss of income? Would you like to hazard a guess?

As a sample, click here for the salaries of Eli Lilly’s executives.

So Indiana is having trouble finding enough teachers. What a surprise.

From CBS News

Pay for Indiana teachers has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since 1999-2000, according to the Department of Education. They now earn almost 16 percent less.

Average annual pay is about $50,500, slightly lower than the national average.

Indiana is having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill its classrooms, with some pointing to pay as a culprit.

“People won’t be as interested in going into a field where they will have to take a huge lifetime pay cut,” said Partelow of the Center for American Progress’. 

Bill Maher Zings Eric And Donald Trump Jr. As He Comes Out Fighting For Teachers

Perennially obnoxious Bill Maher comes up with a commentary in honor of the teachers on strike…

From Bill Maher

We pay such lip-service to kids…they’re the future, our greatest natural resource, we’ll do anything for them. And then we nickel and dime their teachers?

If we really think children are our future, shouldn’t the people who mold their minds make more than the night manager at GameStop?

…Here’s an idea. Don’t give the teachers guns, give them a living wage. 

‘I need a college degree to make this?’ asks Arizona teacher who posted salary online

Arizona teacher Elisabeth Milich reminds us that teachers are underpaid because school systems are underfunded. In what other job would you be forced to buy your own paper clips and tape? Do the CEOs in the article, above, have to buy their own sharpies?

From Elisabeth Milich

I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip i use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.

HOW DOES RETENTION HELP TEST RESULTS

Reforms that work: Worldwide data offer useful hints for US schools

Education “reform” in the United States requires us to use unfounded and even damaging education practices such as retention in grade. Dozens of U.S. states require third graders to pass a test in order to move to fourth grade. Research has found that retention in grade is ineffective in raising student achievement and retention in grade based on a single test is tantamount to educational malpractice.

In Indiana, however, retention of children in third grade is grounds for celebrating. With the lowest achieving third graders removed from the pool, those who did move to fourth grade scored a higher achievement average on the NAEP. High enough to brag about…

Want your students to score higher on standardized tests? Simply remove the low achievers.

From the Editorial Page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The IREAD 3 exam, which third-graders must pass to be promoted to grade 4, went into effect in 2012. As a result, 3 percent of Indiana students were retained that year.

“Those who weren’t held back took the fourth-grade NAEP tests in 2013, and got positive attention for how well they did,” Hinnefeld noted. “Advocates credited Indiana reforms like expanded school choice and limits on teacher collective bargaining. But a more likely explanation is that removing the lowest-performing students gave the 2013 fourth-grade scores a boost.”

CHARTERS AND TESTING

Indiana students’ scores lag after transferring to charter schools, new study shows

Another Educational “reform” popular in Indiana is the expansion of charter schools. When a district’s poverty levels rise too high, resulting in lower achievement on tests, the state moves in and hands the school over to private charter operators.

The only problem is…the charter schools are, as we’ve said so many times before, no better. In fact, a recent study shows that kids lose achievement points after transferring to charter schools.

From Shaina Cavazos at Chalkbeat

“Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

Never one to miss tossing in an excuse for privatization, Chalkbeat uses an excuse despite the fact that “no excuses” is the cry used by “reformers” to declare public schools “failing.”

ISTEP scores during this time, the researchers note, were not the most reliable. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, test glitches and scoring problems invalidated thousands of students’ scores. Also during this time, the academic standards on which the tests were based changed, as did the test itself and the company that administered it.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

DHS to Track Thousands of Journalists

Where are the people who were marching to protect the Second Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From Ed Brayton

Mr. Orwell, please report to your office immediately.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”…”

SCIENCE DEFIERS

Gang of Foxes

The science deniers in the current administration are trying to remove the barriers protecting us from poisoned air and water.

From Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama for Strategy and Communications.

We do sort of gloss over the f-ing insanity of the fact that one of our [political] parties not only doesn’t believe in climate change, but is actively trying to make it worse.

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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

SHORTCHANGING OUR CHILDREN…AND OUR FUTURE

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?

RETENTION-IN-GRADE

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 TEACHERS QUIT

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.”)

CHALKBEAT’S GREAT AMERICAN TEACH-OFF

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.

A QUICK PEEK

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.

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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.

ON IGNORANCE

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.

ON DENIAL

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.

ON WISDOM

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.

ON SCIENTIFIC LITERACY

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?

ON RIGHT AND WRONG

From Foundation

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

ON VIOLENCE

From Foundation

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

ON SCIENCE, EVIDENCE, AND TRUTH

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.

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