Posted in Charters, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, Segregation

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools – Part 2

Last month I posted The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools. I tried to show that America’s average international test scores are low (in the middle of the pack) because of our embarrassingly high rates of child poverty.

Other factors, however, compound the problem of more than 20% of American children living in poverty.

SEGREGATION

A major problem in America’s schools, for example, is economic and racial segregation.

Christine Organ writes that we’ve put low-income kids in separate schools that are definitely not equal.

Public Schools Aren’t Failing Us. We’re Failing Our Schools (And Our Kids).

…we’ve created a system that relegates low-income students to the farthest corners of public education. We’ve created a system that, by design, segregates schools by socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity.

Schools in low-income areas don’t have the same resources as schools in wealthier areas. The common complaint about “throwing money at schools won’t solve the problems” is usually made by someone whose local schools have enough money to provide an adequate education for their children. Personnel, materials, upkeep and maintenance cost money. When an impoverished neighborhood needs to come up with money to support its local school it’s going to have more trouble than a wealthier neighborhood.

She continues…

Instead of taking money away from or closing those schools that serve lower-income students, we need to give them more money. We need stop funding schools with property taxes. We need to provide quality summer school programs, parent education classes, and after-school programs. We need to work on making sure that low-income students aren’t also food insecure or coming to school hungry. We need to stop holding PTA fundraisers where parents can “bid” on time with teachers and other activities that give some kids a leg up. We need to pay teachers more and evaluate them on their performance, not on their students’ test scores.

Of course, this will take additional funding, and if our kids go to a school that benefits from this messed up have/have-not system, they might be asked to give up something. But as they say, equality feels like oppression when you’re used to benefiting from your privilege, so get used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable. We all want what’s best for our children, but that can’t come at the expense of other innocent children when it comes to education.

Those of us who have enough must accept that those who don’t have enough need more, and it’s up to us to share. We should have learned that in kindergarten, after all. Besides, the children of the nation belong to all of us. They are our future. If we improve the lot of “the least among us” we all benefit from an educated workforce and lower incarceration rates. Even if we increased the amount of money going to schools with low-income students by 25% it would still cost less per child than prison…and higher graduation rates means lower prison rates. We would save money in the long run.

Those with more than enough, the 1% of the population who received the largest portion of the post-2008-recovery wealth, need to share as well.

The point is, we’re either one nation or we’re not. We’re either “in this together” or we’re not.

CHOICE

“Choice” is the mantra of the school reformers. They insist that parents should have the choice of where they send their children. The truth, however, is that, when it comes to private and privately run schools, it is the school which chooses its students. Private schools which accept vouchers and charter schools using public funds can either not accept students, “counsel out” those who “are not a good fit” or just expel them outright. In this way, they minimize the number of low achieving students who are allowed entrance. Those children who are rejected often the most expensive to educate. They must then return to the public schools. Public schools accept everyone.

Why selection bias is the most powerful force in education

Selection bias hides everywhere in education. Sometimes, in fact, it is deliberately hidden in education. A few years ago, Reuters undertook an exhaustive investigation of the ways that charter schools deliberately exclude the hardest-to-educate students, despite the fact that most are ostensibly required to accept all kinds of students, as public schools are bound to. For all the talk of charters as some sort of revolution in effective public schooling, what we find is that charter administrators work feverishly to tip the scales, finding all kinds of crafty ways to ensure that they don’t have to educate the hardest students to educate. And even when we look past all of the dirty tricks they use – like, say, requiring parents to attend meetings held at specific times when most working parents can’t – there are all sorts of ways in which students are assigned to charter schools non-randomly and in ways that advantage those schools. Excluding students with cognitive and developmental disabilities is a notorious example. (Despite what many people presume, a majority of students with special needs take state-mandated standardized tests and are included in data like graduation rates, in most locales.) Simply the fact that parents typically have to opt in to charter school lotteries for their students to attend functions as a screening mechanism.

UNIVERSAL PUBLIC EDUCATION

Some countries restrict which students go to school and which students take standardized tests. Not in the U.S. We educate everyone, and everyone, even the most academically challenged students, take “the test.” Steven Singer explains…

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

We have developed a special education system to help children at the edges that many other countries just can’t touch. In some countries these students are simply excluded. In others they are institutionalized. In some countries it’s up to parents to find ways to pay for special services. The United States is one of the only countries where these children are not only included and offered full and free access, but the schools go above and beyond to teach these children well beyond their 12th academic year.

In every public school in the United States these students are included. In math, reading, science and social studies, they are there benefiting from instruction with the rest of the class. And this, in turn, benefits even our non-special education students who gain lessons in empathy and experience the full range of human abilities.

Of course, most of our special education students are also included in our test scores. Yes, other countries that ignore these children and exclude them from testing get higher scores. But so what? Do you mean to tell me this makes them better? No, it makes them worse.

When politicians pander to “reformers” and “reform” minded donors by calling our schools “failures,” they do an injustice to America’s public schools.

Kelly Day, who blogs at Filling My Map, writes,

It is no accident that academic achievement mirrors the country’s economic structures. We will never fix our broken education system in the U.S. until we fix our broken economic system. Students will continue to fail academically as long as they live in fear, hunger and poverty- no matter what educational reforms or policies we enact.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Early Childhood, reading, retention, Segregation, Testing, WhyTeachersQuit

2016 Medley #16

Elections, Why Teachers Quit, Reading in Kindergarten, Third Grade Punishment, Segregation

ELECTION

Now that it’s Clinton v Trump, where do they stand on education?

If you haven’t yet decided who to vote for based on foreign policy experience, likely supreme court nominees, or something else, here are some samples of the education policies of the two major party candidates for POTUS…

[Full disclosure: I’m not a Democrat. I think that the education policies of the Obama administration under the disastrous direction of Arne Duncan has damaged public education as much, if not more, than the policies of George W. Bush. While Hillary Clinton says some of the right things I have no reason to believe that she will be a better “education president” than Presidents Bush (II) or Obama. On the other hand, I won’t vote for Trump, a bigoted demagogue who won’t denounce the white supremacists, racists, and anti-semites who support him. I’ll vote for Clinton if the polls show that she can win Indiana. If not, I’ll vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party]

OVER-TESTING

Clinton: “We should be ruthless in looking at tests and eliminating them if they do not actually help us move our kids forward.” International Business Times, 10/24/15
Trump: No position.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Clinton: Too many charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody.” The Washington Post, 11/08/15
Trump: “We’ve got to bring on the competition — open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00

RESPECT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, EDUCATORS

Clinton: “I will ensure that teachers always have a seat at the table in making decisions that impact their work.” U.S. News & World Report, 10/03/15
Trump: “Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00

ANOTHER TEACHER REFUSES TO HURT CHILDREN

A Teacher Retires After 25 Years, Dismayed At How His Profession Has Changed

How long will we continue the test and punish, racial and economically segregating, anti-child, education policies of “reformers?” This is why there is a teacher shortage. This is why veteran teachers leave the profession instead of continuing to hurt the children they are supposed to teach. This is why we need to replace the state legislators and governors who get their kick-backs from testing companies and privatizers.

Why would Rick Young, a 58-year-old teacher who imagined he’d teach until the end of his working career, leave something he’s so obviously passionate about?

“It’s become a lot harder to teach and especially to teach in a way that I personally think is meaningful for my students,” he said.

Young is talking about a national trend in teaching to more clearly document and measure what’s taught, meant to keep teachers accountable, along with a new standards. That led to a shift for teachers toward standardizing lesson planning.

He said this means filling out what is, to his mind, endless paperwork as he now must plan his lessons in a more systematic and precise way.

KINDERGARTEN SHOULD NOT BE THE NEW FIRST GRADE

Winning the battle but losing the war? Behind the science of early reading instruction.

There is lots of evidence that reading books to young children, even to little babies, helps children to develop their language skills. Books offer exposure to a wide variety of words, provide children with valuable knowledge about the world, and provide a treasured sharing opportunity for parents and children. However, the transition to independent reading is one that deserves careful consideration. As noted by Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige in her essay, “Defending the Early Years”, most kindergartners are not developmentally ready to learn to read. This is not to say they should be kept away from letters and sounds. Champions for play-based pre-school education have articulated a wide variety of ways in which play-based curricula can skillfully weave in letters, sounds and books without formal teaching or formal assessments. Feeding a curiosity for sounds, letters, and books in a way that truly excites and engages the child can nurture later reading. An early introduction to books is a very good thing for young children. However, an early expectation that a child will learn to read independently may actually backfire.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS – AGAIN

Retention doesn’t work. The research is clear. At its very best, retention doesn’t help students beyond the first one or two years.  Intense, early intervention works, but costs money. Americans, many educators included, would rather ignore the research than spend the money and effort to help students. Privatizers glory in the “learn or be punished” scenario which allows them to blame public schools and public school teachers for “failing.”

Here are some links to actual research in grade retention, including some links within the links.

While retention policies are receiving a lot of attention due to a push to improve 3rd-grade reading, early identification and intervention are more likely to improve student performance.

Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don’t catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

Another reason we strongly oppose this policy is that the consensus among researchers and experts is overwhelming that retaining students, no matter what their actual level of achievement, is likely to damage rather than help their educational prospects.

Models suggest that early primary grade retention scars the educational career mainly at high school completion, though there are important, unconditional effects on college entry and completion as a result.

Read-By-Third Grade Begins the Destruction of Young Children in Nevada

A dozen and a half states force schools to retain third graders who don’t “pass the test” including Indiana…and now Nevada.

A century of education research proving retention does NOT work should be enough.

Simply: Whole group learning did not work the first time so the remedy should not be another year of whole group learning. Repetition of a grade level, without a significant change in the method of instruction does not work. Real remedies would include smaller class-size, differentiated instruction, language learning scaffolding if necessary, or individualized support like tutoring in small groups. The worst possible remedy is blanket retention for large masses of at-risk studennts.

SEGREGATION

The children of children who went to desegregated schools reap benefits, too, study finds

In 1954 the US Supreme Court decided that separate but equal schools were inherently unequal and were unconstitutional. But in 2007, the Roberts Court sidestepped Brown which set the stage for today’s resegregation of America’s public schools. For a short time after Brown, the Federal Department of Education took steps to make sure that schools were desegregated.

Did desegregation work? Studies showed that black students benefited from desegregation. A new report shows that the benefits continued to the next generation as well.

Previous studies have also found large benefits to black students after desegregation. But Johnson also tracked the offspring of these desegregated students — the next generation, born after 1980. And Johnson found that the more years of desegregated schooling their parents had experienced, the better outcomes these kids had. Specifically, these children had higher math and reading test scores, were less likely to repeat a grade, were more likely to graduate from high school, go to college and attend a higher quality college.

Tomorrow’s Test

Our students are a diverse group of humans…education needs to adjust.

Our schools face two central challenges as they diversify. First, how do we train and retain educators to relate to students from a broad range of racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic backgrounds? More than 50 percent of public school students are now low-income. One out of 5 speaks a language other than English at home. And nearly one quarter are foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of America’s public school teachers are white—down from 86 percent 20 years ago—and more than three-quarters are female.

As public school students diversify, qualities such as empathy, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and understanding are more important than ever in our teachers—just as they will be for all of us in an increasingly diverse society. Teachers will need to have the capacity to serve not just as instructors but also as cultural brokers and social leaders, aware of their own biases, empathetic when confronting difference, comfortable with change.

The Charter School Swindle – Selling Segregation to Blacks and Latinos

Why do we continue to throw away taxpayers’ money on charter schools which can leave whenever they decide it’s no longer profitable? It’s time to invest in real public schools. Fix the schools we have, don’t throw them away!

…charter schools DO increase segregation. They DO suspend children of color at higher rates than traditional public schools. And they DO achieve academic outcomes for their students that are generally either comparable to traditional public schools or – in many cases – much worse.

Segregation — Racial, Ethnic, and Economic — Dominates Nation’s Schools

According to the Civil Rights Project’s researchers, the most racially segregated states today are New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and New Jersey. They add: “The relative decline in the ranking of Michigan, which was often up with Illinois and New York as most segregated, probably relates to the drastic shrinkage of the Detroit Public Schools and suburbanization of black families in that metropolitan area.”

Today, the nation’s most populous and urban northern states post the highest rates of black-white school segregation, while the Brown decision was quite successful in integrating the schools across the South. Why is that? “Because of the dramatic changes in southern segregation produced by the enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, none of the 17 states that completely segregated schools by law (e.g., the type of mandatory segregation that was the focus of the Brown decision) have headed this list since 1970…. The ironic historic reality is that the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court supported very demanding desegregation standards for the South while the interpretation of Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation limited the impact of Brown in the North and West. This was a massive oversight since segregation in those regions resulted from residential segregation, itself a result of a myriad of governmental policies and private decisions like segregative school and teacher assignments by school boards, discriminatory housing policies and other local and state policies.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, IN Gen.Assembly, Public Ed, reform, Segregation, Testing

2016 Medley #5: Indiana Republicans (still) Hate Public Education

Indiana’s “reformist” Politics

Indiana’s legislature is run by a supermajority of Republicans. The Hoosier state is nearly all “red” and has only gone for a Democratic presidential candidate twice in the last 75 years (1964 and 2008).

The supermajority legislature and the Republican appointed State Board of Education has been attacking public education, public school teachers, and teachers unions regularly and in 2011, passed laws to eliminate teacher seniority rights, do away with tenure (due process) for teachers, stop paying teachers for extra education, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and restrict collective bargaining rights to money issues (salary, insurance).

The General Assembly is so solidly and heavily Republican that when they talk about “compromise” they’re talking about the House Republicans compromising with the Senate Republicans. Democrats are apparently only there to delay the inevitable through objections and speeches. Rational discourse between parties is met with Republicans figuratively putting their hands over their ears and mumbling, “I can’t hear you.”

It won’t get any better either. The governor and his lackeys in the legislature have been bought and sealed by the Koch Brothers and ALEC. Is there hope that enough people might cross party lines and vote some of the rascals out” Not likely. Most of the citizenry, outside of a couple of major cities, are life-long, “my-daddy-was-a-Republican-so-I’m-a-Republican-too” Republicans.

[There are some who are more thoughtful, of course. But they continue to vote Republican even if they disagree on education issues, because of traditional Republican issues like abortion and GLBT rights.]

Indiana Democrats try their best, but the odds are not in their favor. As long as Republicans keep getting elected then the leadership (Bob Behning and Brian Bosma in the House, and David Long and Dennis Kruse in the Senate) will continue to do what they can to keep the campaign dollars coming from “reformers.”

THE MISUSE OF TESTING

Guest column: Schools should be about children

This excerpt from a behind-a-pay-wall article was written by a Bloomington, IN mom. In it she calls out the state testing program for all the damage it has done. Grading schools, labeling children, and evaluating teachers is a waste of time and just one more piece of the ALEC plan to completely privatize public education.

(Bloomington area readers, the author suggests you subscribe to your local newspaper.)

At one time, testing was only part of the overall assessment for how kids and schools were doing. We relied on teachers to tell us the rest. After all, teachers are with our kids every day and are professionals who know where students fall on the continuum of development and learning. We trusted teachers.

Now, thanks to the state Legislature and governor, the test has become the focus of our kids’ education. It is no longer a temperature check for how kids are learning; it is the (state’s) objective…

[…]

Does slapping an “F” on a school and stigmatizing the teachers and children within, help those kids? Does a threat of takeover and privatization by the state ameliorate the effects of poverty? No. It creates a pressure cooker for children and teachers.

High-stakes testing provides fertile ground for the profit-making idea of “school choice.” Prove public schools are failing and offer alternatives. Charters, voucher schools and public schools compete for tax dollars in a game that is rigged. Test companies grow richer.

The laws that created this marketplace of education all come from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s goal is to create more competition in education and to privatize it. There is even an Indiana Reform Package of model legislation on their website. Our governor has written the introduction to the ALEC report card.
The A-F grading of schools, tying teachers’ pay to test scores, the pass-a-40-question-reading-test-or-fail third grade law — these are all from ALEC. They were not backed by research of what are best practices in teaching. Most reflect the opposite.

SHUTTING DOWN UNIONS

Schooling lawmakers: Education bills have predictable consequences

The editorial writer in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette seems to think that this year’s anti-teacher, anti-public schools legislation will mobilize teachers around the state to fight back. Turnout is always largest during a presidential election year, which, I hope will favor those who are against further damaging public education.

One of this year’s bills, which the House wrested from the (slightly) less-hateful-of-teachers Senate, takes us back to the day where nepotism and corruption ruled the hiring and firing of teachers. The Republican leaders in the Senate claimed the law was part of a solution to the teacher shortage and that it was “misunderstood.” They killed the House version because of all the outcry from teachers and their supporters.

The House leaders, on the other hand, led by a florist-turned-self-declared-education-expert, are in the process of pushing the Senate version through to the Governor’s desk. If the Governor should sign it (and it’s an election year, so he might listen to the outcry against it) it will become law and the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and school boards can be overruled by back-room conversations and deals with no public input or accountability.

[Hoosier voters, write to your House legislators today and tell them to reject SB10 (which eliminates more collective bargaining rights) and SB334 (which expands the nation’s most expansive giveaway of public funds to private schools through vouchers)]

There’s little Indiana lawmakers could do to further marginalize teacher unions, although some believe they’ve found a tool.

But Senate Bill 10 might be just what the struggling associations need to remind teachers of the value of collective bargaining. It gives superintendents the authority to pay some educators more than others, as they did in the days when some school chiefs paid male teachers more than their female colleagues or when a board member could insist on extra pay for a daughter-in-law. There’s no provision to limit the extra pay to teachers in hard-to-fill disciplines like math or special education.

Arbitrary compensation systems and other unfair management practices gave rise to Indiana’s collective bargaining law in 1973. A return to those practices will mobilize teachers in numbers the bill’s supporters can’t imagine.

Zombie teacher-pay bill rises from the dead

That should have been that. But Rep. Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, picked up the supposedly dead SB 10 and waltzed it through the committee by a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday, the final day for committee action. It now goes to the full House.

Expect Behning to block any attempt to amend the bill. Any change would send the bill back to the Senate, which has said it won’t pass the measure again.

DAMAGE TO TEACHERS

The big trouble in Indiana public schools, as explained by a troubled educator

What do teachers think about all this? Here’s a sample.

The looming teacher shortage in Indiana is the same as in other parts of the nation. Fewer people are going into teaching because of stagnant salaries, lack of professional autonomy, and general disrespect of educators.

Yes, the mess in education isn’t just affecting those of us who are in education. First, legislators thought we weren’t doing our job, so they legislated the pay scale so good teachers would get paid more for their efforts. In reality, the legislature has capped teacher salaries, not allowing years of experience or education to fiscally matter. Being a highly effective or effective teacher results in a minuscule stipend, maybe enough to get the brakes fixed on your car.

Salaries for teachers statewide are stagnant. Your income does not rise over time. Families cannot be supported on a teacher’s salary over time, and yet college costs the same for them as it does to be an engineer.

I wonder why there’s a teacher shortage.

DAMAGE TO STUDENTS

In 1954, for those old enough to remember, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education, that “separate educational facilities [for black and white children] are inherently unequal.”

In a second ruling, PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ET AL. in 2007, the Court essentially stripped Brown v. Board of Ed of all it’s power. It told (emphasis added)

…local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits.

The Justices who passed PARENTS, would argue that it didn’t overturn Brown, but in the meantime, school districts around the nation were suddenly free to ignore segregation and close their eyes to continued separate facilities.

Study finds Indy charter schools increased segregation

Charters have added another level to the continued segregation of children in public schools. The charter school movement has increased segregation all over the country. The cure to the so-called “bigotry of low expectations” has made things worse.

The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University education professor Marc Stein and published last summer in the American Journal of Education, found that charter-school choice in Indy led to “higher degrees of racial isolation and less diversity” than in the public schools the students were leaving.

African-American students were more likely to enroll in charter schools with a higher concentration of black students than the neighborhood schools they left; and white students more likely to enroll in schools with a higher percentage of white enrollment.

The average white student in the analytic sample chose a charter school that enrolled 13.9 percentage points more white students and 13.1 percentage points fewer black students than their previously enrolled school. Concomitantly, black students chose to enroll in charters with enrollments that were 9.2 percent more black and 5.6 percent less white than their former schools.

As a result, charter schools were becoming more racially isolated. In 2008-09, only one charter school in the study met the city desegregation target of having its enrollment of black students within 15 percentage points of Indianapolis Public Schools. When the charter schools opened, five met the target.

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Posted in Public Ed, Segregation, Teaching Career, Testing

Revisiting ’06

I spent a week in the hospital during Spring Vacation. Now that I’m home I’m trying to catch up on what’s happening in GERM (Global Education Reform Movement), as well as the annual damage to Indiana’s public education by Governor Pence, the State Board of Education, and the Indiana General Assembly.

In the meantime here are some comments of mine from 2006, the year I started blogging. Notice how little has changed since then; Privatization of public education, obsessive focus on standards and testing, and blaming public education for the economic ills of society has been a constant…

TESTING

State standardized test time

One size fits all. The test is all that matters…consistently for decades.

September 16, 2006

Is it possible that you might have a student who works hard, does all of his or her assignments, completes homework, passes classroom assessments, yet fails the standardized test for whatever reason? It doesn’t matter. Everyone has to pass the test…and if they don’t, no amount of make up work, or daily achievement will matter. Everyone has to be the same.

The new slogan in American education…One size fits all. Everyone is – or has to be – identical. There’s no room for an Edison, an Einstein, or a Mozart. Pass the test…pass the test…don’t worry about anything else…

SCHOOL SEGREGATION

A Must Read – Jonathan Kozol

Shame of the Nation is not Jonathan Kozol’s most recent book, but it’s one of his most important contributions. The extended title, The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, correctly identifies what the nation’s high child poverty levels, the expanding economic gap, and the re-segregation of schools caused by the charter school movement, are doing to public education.

October 9, 2006

When you read [Jonathan Kozol’s book, Shame of the Nation] he’ll show you how the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s led to integrated schools in various places around the country. He’ll also show you how those schools were successful in closing the black/white achievement gap. Finally, he’ll show you how we have lost nearly all of that to re-segregated school systems…worse than before in many places.

FEDERAL DAMAGE TO PUBLIC EDUCATION

Sick of NCLB

We can freely interchange the names of the Presidents…Clinton, Bush, Obama…as well as the name of the name of the federal program…NCLB or RttT.

October 22, 2006

No child left behind is the logical outgrowth of the now discredited report “A Nation at Risk.” It is no mistake that the errors in that report were quashed by the Reagan administration.* Yet the myths of that era were embraced by the nation by Democrats as well. Bill Clinton was just as eager to develop a “national curruculum” as the Republicans. His administration was just as quick to call for the grade retention of students who didn’t pass “the test” as the Republicans. He was just as willing to use standardized testing as the benchmark from which all school results are gathered and compared as are the Republicans.

We don’t have the luxury of being sick of complaining about NCLB. The students who are under our care are being damaged right now. If we sit back and wait for things to change who will be the voice of the students who are being pushed to drop out so their low test scores won’t effect AYP? Who will be the voice of the 5 year olds who are being drilled and killed so they can improve their DIBELS scores?

* See Gerald Bracey’s “The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education” (PDK membership required for access)

SCAPEGOATING THE SCHOOLS

The Zen of Public Schools

The last sentence is the most important one in this passage and it’s one I’ve repeated over and over again. No one in the nation is taking responsibility for our economic gap and high child poverty. The public schools are being blamed for the failure of our nation to solve its social and economic problems…

October 31, 2006

…the state wants public schools to be, as Bill Moyers put it, “the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do.”

Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there’s a “crisis” in education – especially in the public schools. I don’t think that’s true. I think the crisis is in society and since no one wants to take responsibility for the enormous inequities in our society, it is blamed on the public schools.

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Time to Teach

Education researcher Richard Allington reminded us that one size does not fit all because children are different people and learn in different ways. The obsessive focus on a single test or set of standards defining what a “child ought to know” shortchanges the education of all children.

November 17, 2006

“Our current ‘scientific’ method focuses almost exclusively on identifying what works best generally, [but] children differ. Therein lies what worries me about ‘evidence-based’ policy making in education. Good teaching, effective teaching, is not just about using whatever science says ‘usually’ works best. It is all about finding out what works best for the individual child and the group of children in front of you.” — Richard Allington

Edison, Einstein, and Everyone else

12/24/06

Edison and Einstein were highly intelligent, yet were branded as failures at school. They were, however, able to persevere and eventually their lives were marked by great achievement. The damage done to students by our current test-crazed culture is that low achievers who have high ability are labeled failures and not all of them will be able to overcome the emotional and social impact of that label.

If we don’t recognize students of ability no matter what their achievement, then the Einsteins and Edisons in our classrooms today may be silent in the future.

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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 Article Medleys, Charters, PositiveRelationships, Segregation, Teaching Career

2014 Medley #13

Relationships, Teaching Profession,
Segregation, Charters

RELATIONSHIPS MATTER

A friend wrote the following about a former student of hers. Her entire statement is proof of the power of positive relationships in the classroom. The goal of education should be to build lifelong learners, not test takers. Skills like perseverance will be of greater benefit than parsing sentences or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers.

Academics are important, but it’s who we are and who our students grow to be that determines our success in life…much more than the facts we know or our score on the SAT or other test.

“Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.”

One of the most wonderful things I have had the opportunity to experience as a teacher is watching one of my former students grow into a strong and beautiful young woman. This one student has emailed me a few times a year to keep me updated on school and her life since she moved on from my 6th grade class. Now she is graduating high school!

I went back to read the very first email she had sent me in August 2008. She made a promise to me in that email that she would try harder and she would always remember all the “lectures” (this was “real” talk) I gave and use them. She promised this because “I know you cared.” She made good on her promises!

KILLING THE PROFESSION OF TEACHING

Teaching and learning are not market transactions…

Four decades ago more than 20% of college graduates finished their studies with a degree in education. Indeed, when I received my teaching certificate in 1975 (a few years later than the data in the chart below) there was a glut of elementary school teachers. I sent out well over 100 resumes (with information about my 4.0 graduate school GPA) to public school systems in the Midwest. I received three responses…and from those three, I was able to get 2 interviews…and eventually one (1) job.

That’s all changed.

With all the “reformer’s” hype about “bad teachers” and “high quality teachers” America is systematically destroying the teaching profession. While bemoaning the fact that teachers are terrible, people like Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush and some members of the Indiana State Board of Education are supporting the placement of untrained people in public school classrooms.

Is this attitude of “reformers” simple stupidity? malice? jealousy? greed?

The graphic below shows a drop from about 20% in 1970 to about 6% today in college students graduating with education degrees. If you factor in the fact that nearly half of all beginning teachers never make it to their fifth year the number is even smaller. If someone had purposely designed a plan to destroy the profession of teaching in the public schools of America they couldn’t have done a better job. Where will tomorrow’s teachers come from? Perhaps we won’t need any.

See also:
Digest of Educational Statistics
Fewer PA college students want to be teachers
Education Majors in PA. State Universities Drop 31% – Corbett’s Mission Accomplished
Students hesitant to pursue teaching
Enrollment falling among education majors
Hard economic lesson: Education majors decline: Financial, political factors discourage would-be teachers
Education Majors Earn Less Regardless of Career
Number of teachers in training down statewide
The 5 Worst College Majors If You Want to Make Money

SCHOOL SEGREGATION CONTINUES 60 YEARS AFTER BROWN

American schools are now more segregated then they have been in the past 50 years. Charter schools have contributed to the increase in segregation, but most is due to housing patterns.

The two articles below discuss the successes and failures of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

Michigan 1 of 20 states with most-segregated schools

Segregation is still widespread at American public schools, 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling, a new report shows.

And it no longer impacts just black and white students.

Black and Latino students are more likely to attend schools with mostly poor students, while white and Asian students are more likely to attend middle-class schools, according to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Are Segregated Schools a Relic?

The 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education is a propitious time to ask if the landmark decision has achieved its primary goal. In a provocative essay, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom acknowledge that the number of “majority-minority” schools has increased by several percentage points over the past two decades (“Brown at 60: An American Success Story,”The Wall Street Journal, May 13). But they assert that it is logistically impossible to entirely eliminate segregated schools unless mass busing is instituted.

Rucker Johnson has an interesting historical perspective on how reduced segregation improved the achievement of minority students while not harming the achievement of white students.

CHARTERS: MONEY AND POLITICS

Six Charter School Myths; my testimony before the City Council today

Leonie Haimson had this to say about charters in New York…

…charter schools are publicly funded but governed by private corporate boards, and do NOT have to follow the same laws or rules that public schools do.

…Charters are not governed by any democratically elected body, and are able to enact extreme disciplinary policies, and often exhibit high suspension and student attrition rates.

…Charter schools have also used their private status to evade federal constitutional and statutory protections for employees and students.

Everything that Charter Schools Have Taught Traditional Educators About Building Great Schools

An editorial cartoon…

The Money

A Reader Explains the Purpose of Charter School Waiting Lists and Lotteries

The bottom line for charter administrators and boards is money, not students or parents as this comment by a former charter employee shows…

I once recommended to the principal that we stop taking applications after a certain point. I had two reasons for suggesting this: 1) We were giving families false hope, as anyone other than the first five to ten on the waiting list had no realistic chance of getting in, and 2) We could make better use of the time and money being spent on processing applications for students we knew would never be accepted, and on marketing to more families when we were already at capacity. His response was that we needed to keep adding as many names as possible to the waiting list, so that we would have numbers to back up our organization’s efforts to demonstrate the need for more charter schools.

Agassi’s School Partner Aims for $1 Billion With Firm

There’s not much about students in this article about Andre Agassi’s charter school plans. They talk about high expectations, but my guess is that their talking about money. The point is once again that the goal is greed, not student learning.

The goal is to generate a profit for investors while serving a higher public purpose, said Turner, principal and chief executive officer of the new firm. Public-impact investing, which dedicates funds to issues such as education, community development, the environment and health care, has been increasing and is likely to climb further this year, according to JPMorgan Chase and Co. and the Global Impact Investing Network, which studied 125 companies that manage a total of $46 billion in such investments.

‘It’s Proven’

The Politics

Jeb Bush bashes traditional public schools (again)

Jeb Bush is running for president and he’s filling the airwaves with half truths about charter schools and public schools. The bad news is that people will hear and believe what he says.

He didn’t, of course, mention that schools in the [charter] network have a reputation for higher suspension and attrition rates than traditional schools in their districts.

…He didn’t mention the recent analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University that concluded that students at charter schools in Chicago actually don’t perform any better on state-mandated standardized tests than students in traditional public schools.

…What he didn’t mention was a big charter school study last year that concluded that Florida charter schools had math and reading test scores that were either no better or worse than traditional public schools.

…he didn’t mention that research showed private and public schools don’t educate the same populations of students and that many private schools that accept vouchers have high attrition rates and don’t have the same “accountability” measures involving high-stakes standardized testing that is required in public schools.

…He also didn’t mention a recent report by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, funded by pro-voucher groups, that concluded that Milwaukee’s voucher program, the oldest and largest in the country, didn’t affect student test scores but did improve graduation rates. But it should be noted that more than half of the students who enrolled in the voucher program dropped out, which, one would be reasonable to assume, affected the graduation rates.

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Charters, Duncan, Obama, Segregation

Segregation: 60 Years After Brown

In a few weeks we’ll mark the 60th anniversary of the (May 17,) 1954 school desegregation decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. Even after 60 years, however, the U.S. is still struggling with racism and segregation.

SPEAKING OUT AGAINST RACISM

Last weekend President Obama spoke out against the racism reflected by the comments of Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA franchise, Los Angeles Clippers.

Obama: Donald Sterling’s Racism Is Part Of ‘The Legacy Of Race And Slavery And Segregation’

“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” he said. “We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.” [emphasis added]

The President included segregation as one of the problems that still exists in America. Does he realize that his administration is contributing to the problem of segregation by forcing states to increase the number of charter schools?

Race to the Top, the Obama/Duncan plan to privatize America’s public schools, requires states to, among other things, increase charter school caps. Charter schools do not, in general, perform better than public schools, and are often worse. But what’s relevant to President Obama’s comments, though, is that charter schools are often responsible for increased racial segregation.

CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

Charter Schools and the Risk of Increased Segregation

…the policy on charter schools remains a centerpiece of the administration’s initiatives (as it was, in a different form, in the Bush Administration), despite abundant evidence that the policy is inconsistent with the longstanding goal of promoting school integration.

Perhaps the increase in segregation is unintended. In 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education struck down the concept of separate but equal schools. States could no longer maintain separate facilities for students based on race. However, in 2007, the Court found that using race as a means to desegregate schools was also not allowed. This allowed continued de facto segregation. In other words, it is legal for schools to be segregated if the segregation is by, among other methods, “parental choice.” Whether segregation is desirable or not doesn’t seem to be an issue any more.

The fact is that desegregation worked — in that it helped the achievement of black students thereby reducing the racial achievement gap (The results were not universal, so desegregation alone is not sufficient to end the achievement gap, however, the gains made during the time the U.S. desegregated schools were real). The challenge to the nation today is to find a way to increase school integration without using race as a means to desegregation…

In any case, whether it is intended or not is irrelevant. School segregation is increasing and charter schools are contributing to the increase.

It is not that government has an agenda to increase segregation. Proponents of charter schools believe they’re giving low-income and minority students opportunities they otherwise would not have had. That belief is true in some cases; all charter schools do not result in segregation. But far too many do, and the trend is unfavorable. It takes a lot of care through targeted funding and oversight to mitigate the pressures that lead to yet more segregation. But whatever motivations drive the choices families and schools make, it is important that government does not exacerbate the problem of segregation by ignoring the unintended consequences of its policies. The risk is an increasingly divided public education system. [emphasis added]

It’s been asked before if President Obama is even aware of what his administration’s education policy is…what it expects the states to do…and its consequences — intended or unintended. Does he know that charter schools increase racial segregation?

A new round of segregation plays out in charter schools

The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, which has documented charter school segregation for years, has found that in several western and southern states white students are disproportionately represented in charter schools. These patterns “suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,” according to a 2010 report from the group.

Choice Without Equity:
 Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards

Seven years after the Civil Rights Project first documented extensive patterns of charter school segregation, the charter sector continues to stratify students by race, class and possibly language. This study is released at a time of mounting federal pressure to expand charter schools, despite on-going and accumulating evidence of charter school segregation.

Our analysis of the 40 states, the District of Columbia, and several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charter school students reveals that charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation. While examples of truly diverse charter schools exist, our data show that these schools are not reflective of broader charter trends.

“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there…”

Yes, Mr. President, it’s still there.

Related:

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Article Medleys, Gates, GradingSchools, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Public Ed, reading, Segregation

2013 Medley #18

Public Education, Bill Gates,
Grading Schools, Segregation, Reading

STOP WASTING MONEY

Deck Chairs on the Titanic Failure of American Education

We’re doing the opposite of what our children need and deserve.

Stress inhibits learning, so we design stressful expectations; dopamine (from pleasurable activities) enhances learning, so we remove joy from schools; homework has very limited usefulness with negative returns after an hour or so (for elementary age kids), so we demand more hours of work; the importance of exercise in brain development is inarguable, so we eliminate recess and gym; the arts are central to human understanding, but we don’t have time.

I have been accused of complaining but not offering solutions, so here’s a solution: Properly fund schools and allow good teachers to select the materials and pedagogy that serve the actual students in their care. The rest will take care of itself.

And we can take the billions we’re wasting on NCLB, RTTT, Common Core and other nonsense and spend it to improve the lives of the shameful number of children who live in poverty in the “richest nation on Earth.”

GRADING SCHOOLS

Will Indiana schools reject grades?

Fort Wayne school board and South Bend school board have both rejected the state’s A-F grading system after the former state school chief Tony Bennett was caught manipulating school grades to benefit one of his supporter’s charter school.

Let’s hope that other Indiana school systems follow suit. A full scale A-F rejection by the state’s school boards would send a strong message to the legislature.

But celebrating “A schools” suggests the grades were earned. If those schools deserved their As, does it mean other schools in the district deserved the D and F grades they received? Is that really the message that school officials want to send to students, teachers and the public?

Retired Indiana educator speaks out against A-F grading system

NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush has written a letter describing the weakness of the A-F grading system for schools.

While our legislators assume that the reason a family would choose a school is because of a dubious letter grade, I would counter that people choose schools for a variety of reasons, the least of which is an arbitrary grade. Perhaps, many people choose their schools because they want their children to attend neighborhood schools within walking distance from home. Some choose schools because of programs like Montessori or New Tech or IB. Some choose schools because of music or arts programs. Some choose schools because they have talked to friends and neighbors and church members and found that a particular school seems like a good fit for their child. I have never heard anyone say that their kids are going to this or that school because of the State letter grade any more than I remember any kid ever coming back years later to walk down memory lane to remember some awesome test I gave.

SEGREGATION

Breaking News: School Segregation Study Strikes A Nerve

This article is about Texas, but it applies to the entire nation. Schools are more segregated today than ever…segregated by economic status, race and language.

Read Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2006)

Every educator knows that a child’s performance in school has more to do with what happens in their home than with their teachers. A child who doesn’t speak English at home or whose parents are not educated will not do as well on tests. A child who has to work to support their family has less time to study.

…In the past, schools and districts received ratings based on solely on how well the children scored on standardized tests. If a school or district failed to meet state expectations after three years, parents could pull their kids out and the state could shut the schools down.

That led to high turnover in struggling schools, where principals and teachers complained that they could only accomplish so much in a such a short period of time. Educators felt punished for agreeing to teach the state’s most difficult pupils.

[NOTE: For those interested in The Shame of the Nation here’s an interesting blog in which four students read, discuss and analyze the book. Start with the oldest entry and work up.]

READING

How the ‘reading wars’ are being reignited

The NCTQ so-called “ratings” of teacher education programs was a farce. They never visited any schools choosing instead to simply look at syllabi and course titles.

They claimed to use scientific based criteria for evaluation, however, when it came to the “requirements” that NCTQ demanded for Reading instruction…

…NCTQ claims the panel was sorting based on the presence of a “scientific basis,” to each textbook, their ratings prove them wrong. For example, Marie Clay, the founder of Reading Recovery and godmother of emergent literacy, is listed eight times, and each time deemed either unacceptable or irrelevant to the study of early literacy. Reading Recovery is the only reading program that has received the highest rating for evidence of positive effects from the Institute for Education Science’s What Works Clearinghouse.

BILL GATES

‘Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates’ Website Reveals 7 Major Things Educators Want The Mogul To Know

Bill Gates needs to listen to teachers…they obviously know more about education than he does. If he wants to spend his money to improve education he ought to donate it for jobs and health care.

7. Schools should teach children things that can’t be tested, too.
6. One size does not fit all in education.
5. Teacher evaluations should not be heavily tied to test scores.
4. Not all reformers have it right.
3. Give education professionals a seat at the table.
2. No Child Left Behind was bad.
1. Implementing Common Core standards will not fix things.

EDUCATIONAL LEADERS WITHOUT EXPERIENCE

Christie mocks educators and the people of Camden. Who cares?

Governor Christie in New Jersey is like Mayor Emanuel in Chicago. Neither would accept for their own children the kind of education they demand for the poor…untrained teachers and administrators, large class sizes, lack of support personnel, lack of fine arts, inadequate resources…

Christie has appointed someone with minimal experience to lead the Camden NJ schools. He doesn’t believe that experience in the field of education matters, at least not in schools where ‘other’ children attend.

On Monday morning, an obedient state school board will kick dirt in the faces of public school employees who cherished educational leadership as a profession. The tools of the rich will once again be used against the poor.

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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~

Article Medleys, Gates, GradingSchools, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Public Ed, reading, Segregation