Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, NPE, OECD, PISA, SchoolFunding, Segregation, special education, Testing

A Report on Reports

Need something to do this weekend?

Here is a chance to get dig deeper into some issues important to public education. Below are links to reports about school inequity, special education, vouchers, segregation, charter schools, and other topics of interest.

You can learn how

  • the election of 2016 has caused stress and conflict in the nation’s high schools
  • public investment in education has declined
  • international test scores don’t tell the whole story about public education in the U.S.
  • charter schools drain money and resources from actual public schools
  • socio-economic status continues to be the most accurate predictor of academic success

ISSUES ABOUT MONEY, FUNDING, AND POVERTY

Education inequalities at the school starting gate

Economic inequities abound in the U.S. and schools are not equipped to address all the issues facing children alone. Policy makers and legislators must work with schools by providing funding for wraparound services, a fully funded school curriculum, and strategies to improve economic development in communities. Ignoring inequity, or asking schools to perform miracles without necessary resources is a guarantee of failure.

From Emma García and Elaine Weiss, the Economic Policy Institute

What this study finds: Extensive research has conclusively demonstrated that children’s social class is one of the most significant predictors—if not the single most significant predictor—of their educational success. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that performance gaps by social class take root in the earliest years of children’s lives and fail to narrow in the years that follow. That is, children who start behind stay behind—they are rarely able to make up the lost ground…

What can be done about it: Greater investments in pre-K programs can narrow the gaps between students at the start of school. And to ensure that these early gains are maintained, districts can provide continued comprehensive academic, health, nutrition, and emotional support for children through their academic years, including meaningful engagement of parents and communities. Such strategies have been successfully implemented in districts around the country, as described in this report, and can serve to mitigate the impact of economic inequalities on children’s educational achievement and improve their future life and work prospects.

A Punishing Decade for School Funding

We are ignoring the underfunding of schools and services for our children and the future of the nation is at stake. Instead of planning for the future with an investment in our children, we’re living “paycheck to paycheck” and ignoring the fact that we are limiting the future of a huge number of our children…which limits the future of our nation.

From Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, and Eric Figueroa, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade. Worse, some of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools

Yet another study which shows that diverse school populations helps children and segregation harms them. Have we given up trying to abide by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling?

From David E. Kirkland and Joy L. Sanzone, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of School

Diversity along lines of race and socioeconomic status seemed to modestly close achievement gaps (i.e., opportunity gaps), while hyper-segregation seemed to greatly exacerbate them (i.e., opportunity barrier). 

Deconstructing the Myth of American Public Schooling Inefficiency

Betsy DeVos continues to use international rankings in order to criticize, blame, and demean our nation’s public schools. Rarely, if ever, does she include the fact that poverty has been, and continues to be, the societal problem which contributes the most to our average achievement. She rarely discusses the fact that American students from low-poverty schools score higher than any students in the world. She only uses the “failure” of public education as a tool to transfer the billions of education dollars into private pocketbooks.

The following report discusses some of the apples-to-oranges problems of comparing the U.S. to other advanced nations.

From Bruce D. Baker and Mark Weber, the Albert Shanker Institute

The United States is faced with a combination of seemingly high education expense, but noncompetitive compensation for its teachers, average to large classes, and high child poverty. Again, it’s hard to conceive how such a combination would render the U.S. comparable in raw test scores to low-poverty nations like Korea or Finland, or small, segregated, homogeneous enclaves like Singapore or Shanghai…

Finally, it is equally important to understand the magnitude and heterogeneity of the U.S. education system in the context of OECD comparisons, which mainly involve more centralized and much smaller education systems. Lower-poverty, higher-spending states that have been included in international comparisons, like Connecticut and Massachusetts, do quite well, while lower-spending higher-poverty states like Florida do not. This unsurprising finding, however, also tells us little about relative efficiency, and provides little policy guidance for how we might make Florida more like Massachusetts, other than by waving a wand and making it richer, more educated and perhaps several degrees colder.

POLITICS AND ITS IMPACT ON EDUCATION

Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America’s High Schools

During the years I taught I often stopped to reflect upon how politicians and policy makers seemed intent at making the job of teaching harder.

Today’s political climate is no different. The election of 2016 has had an impact on our public schools beyond policy…

From John Rogers, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access

VI. Educators can mitigate some of these challenges, but they need more support. Ultimately, political leaders need to address the underlying causes of campus incivility and stress.

  • 72.3% of teachers surveyed agreed that: “My school leadership should provide more guidance, support, and professional development opportunities on how to promote civil exchange and greater understanding across lines of difference.”
  • 91.6% of teachers surveyed agreed that: “national, state, and local leaders should encourage and model civil exchange and greater understanding across lines of difference.” Almost as many (83.9%) agreed that national and state leaders should “work to alleviate the underlying factors that create stress and anxiety for young people and their families.”

PRIVATIZATION

Charters and Consequences: An Investigative Series

The Network for Public Education reports on charter schools and their impact on real public schools, public school systems, public educators, and our nation’s students, the vast majority of whom attend public schools.

[Full disclosure: I contribute to, and am a member of, the Network for Public Education.]

From the Network for Public Education

• An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools
• The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters
• The transformation of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations
• All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline
• Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff
• Complete transparency in all expenditures and income
• Requirements that student bodies reflect the demographics of the served community
• Open meetings of the board of directors, posted at least 2 weeks prior on the charter’s website
• Annual audits available to the public
• Requirements to follow bidding laws and regulations
• Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes
• Requirements that all charter facilities meet building codes
• Requirements that charters offer free or reduced-price lunch programs for students
• Full compensation from the state for all expenditures incurred when a student leaves the public school to attend a charter
• Authorization, oversight and renewal of charters transferred to the local district in which they are located
• A rejection of all ALEC legislation regarding charter schools that advocates for less transparency, less accountability, and the removal of requirements for teacher certification.

SPECIAL EDUATION

Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents Are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities

Two things in this section, first, an article discussing the GAO Report. Then a short blurb from the report itself.

From Elise Helgesen Aguilar, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

A New Government Report Shows Private School Voucher Programs Fail To Provide Information, Especially To Families Of Students With Disabilities

Specifically, it found that most private school voucher programs do not provide necessary or even accurate information to parents of students with disabilities about the rights those students forfeit by enrolling at a private voucher school.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that students with disabilities are provided with certain rights and services in public schools, including a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.

But students who leave the public schools with a voucher forfeit many of those protections because they are considered parentally placed in private schools. For example, students accepting vouchers are not entitled to FAPE or to the due process rights that students in public schools have.

Many parents are not aware that they are giving up those rights when enroll their child in a private school voucher program. In fact, the report found that one-third of all voucher programs across the country do not provide any information to parents about the loss of procedural safeguards and due process protections under IDEA.

From the U.S. Government Accountability Office

Our draft report also included a recommendation for Education to require states to notify parents/guardians of changes in students’ federal special education rights, including that key IDEA rights and protections do not apply when a student with a disability is moved from public to private school by their parent. In response, Education stated that IDEA does not include statutory authority to require such notice, and suggested that the department instead encourage states to notify parents. However, as noted in our draft report, Education already strongly encourages states and school districts to provide such notice. Despite these efforts, we found that in 2016-17, more than 80 percent of students nationwide who are enrolled in private choice programs designed for students with about changes in IDEA rights, or provided some inaccurate information about these changes. We therefore continue to believe that states should be required, not merely encouraged, to notify parents/guardians about key changes in federal special education rights when a parent moves a child with a disability from public to private school. To this end, we have converted our recommendation into a Matter for Congressional Consideration to require such notice.

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, Competition, Darling-Hammond, DeVos, library, NancyBailey, Quotes, Ravitch, Segregation, Stephen Krashen, TeacherShortage

Listen to This #12

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Please. Education is not a horserace.

We Americans are selfish and self-centered. Peter Greene’s tweet about DACA elsewhere in this post expresses it well…as does this quote from Jim Wright in his Stonekettle Station post, Ship of Fools, where he says,

“F*** you, I got mine” is a lousy ideology to build civilization on.

PZ Myers, a curmudgeonly biology professor/blogger from Minnesota, discusses education…and how it should NOT divide winners and losers. Education he says, is a process by which everyone should gain knowledge.

When we make education a competition, we resign some students to the “loser” category. What would be better for the long-term health of our society…to have a large group of “losers” trying to survive under the heel of the winners? or a society where everyone is educated with greater knowledge, where everyone grows up a winner?

From PZ Myers

The mistake is to think of education as a game where there are winners and losers rather than an experience in which we try to make sure every single student comes out at the end with more knowledge. It’s not a competition.

TEACHER SHORTAGES

Where have all the teachers gone?

The so-called “education reform” movement has been successful at making the teaching profession unattractive. We are losing teachers at an alarming rate, and some schools are forced to fill classrooms with unqualified adults. Schools with more resources can afford to hire actual teachers, and schools with fewer resources – commonly those schools which serve low-income, high-minority populations – end up staffing classrooms with untrained teachers.

In order to overcome the shortage (as well as strike a blow against teachers unions) states, like Indiana, are adding pathways to teaching so unqualified adults can get into the classroom quicker.

What kind of future are we building for ourselves?

From Linda Darling-Hammond in The Answer Sheet

…even with intensive recruiting both in and outside of the country, more than 100,000 classrooms are being staffed this year by instructors who are unqualified for their jobs. These classrooms are disproportionately in low-income, high-minority schools, although in some key subjects, every kind of district has been hit. This is a serious problem for the children they serve and for the country as a whole.

DEVOS

8 Powerful Voices in Defense of Public Education – Diane Ravitch

The Network for Public Education (NPE) is producing a series of videos in support of public education and against the movement to privatize our schools. NPE President, Diane Ravitch, is one of the strongest voices in support of public education today.

From Diane Ravitch

[Betsy DeVos] is the first Secretary of Education in our history, who is actively hostile to public education. We’ve never had this before.

SEGREGATION

School Segregation, An Ever-Present Problem Across America

Humanity’s past is littered with wars, murders, assassinations, conquests, and other horrible events caused by our narrow, selfish, racist, and tribal, impulses. If we want to survive into the next century, we’ll need to overcome those baser characteristics of our species…and learn to accept that we are one, diverse, human race.

From Jan Resseger

Hannah-Jones concludes: “What the Gardendale case demonstrates with unusual clarity is that changes in the law have not changed the hearts of many white Americans.” These articles—Felton’s and Hannah-Jones’—are worth reading together. They are a sobering update on America’s long struggle with racism and the unresolved and very current issue of school segregation which is always accompanied by educational inequity. Quality education is supposed to be a right for all of our children, but we are a long way from having achieved justice.

Integrating Little Rock Central High School, September 25, 1957

PERSONALIZED LEARNING

Teacher Appreciation As School Starts

A personal relationship with another human being is an important part of “personalized” learning.

From Nancy Bailey

While the focus appears to be on transforming teaching into digital competency-based instruction, or personalized learning, real human teachers are what make learning for every child personalized. That title was stolen from them.

LIBRARIANS AND LIBRARIES

Credentialed school librarians: What the research says

From Stephen Krashen

We cheerfully spend billions on unvalidated tests and untested technology, yet we ignore the impressive research on libraries and librarians, and are unwilling to make the modest investments that will ensure that school libraries are well supplied with books and are staffed with credentialed librarians.

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICA

A Confederacy of Dunces

The Roman philosopher, Epictetus, wrote,

We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.

That is a concept which Americans would do well to learn. We are living at a time where people are proud of their ignorance.

From Shiela Kennedy

There’s a saying to the effect that the only foes that truly threaten America are the enemies at home: ignorance, superstition and incompetence. Trump is the trifecta.

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

2017 Medley #27

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

ACCOUNTABILITY

Unqualified billionaires gaining too much influence on public education

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

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

Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.

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

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

FUNDING

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

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

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

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

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

Bucking that trend is the United States.

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

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

STUDENT’S RIGHTS

MI Teacher Suspended for Assaulting Student Refusing the Pledge

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

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation

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

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

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

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

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

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS

Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT

…on Racism

I swore never to be silent…

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

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

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

…on Testing

NACS outlines for parents irrelevance of ISTEP

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

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

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Budgets, Discrimination, Religion, Segregation

2017 Medley #18: DeVos Doubles Down

Accountability, Discrimination, Budget Cuts, Church-State Entanglement

We all knew that Betsy DeVos was going to be a problem for public education. She didn’t hide her disdain for the common folk who sent their children to America’s public schools. She didn’t hide the fact that she wanted to privatize all the education in the U.S.

So it was no surprise that last week she presented the Trump Administration’s plans to support privatization and destroy public education.

[emphasis in any of the quoted material below is mine]

ACCOUNTABILITY: FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ONLY

DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

The bludgeon used by “reformers” against public schools has been accountability based on test scores. As we have learned in Indiana, that accountability is only meant for public schools. Schools accepting vouchers or charters can get their grades changed, can get loan forgiveness when they collapse, can continue to receive state funding even after having “failed,” and can even choose their own students.

Accountability is the weapon used to hurt public education, and then claim that public schools are failing. As far as DeVos is concerned, no such accountability is needed for schools run privately.

…What we know is what we’ve known since the days that DeVos beat back attempts at accountability measures in Michigan– she opposes anything that might in any way tie the hands of the Right Kind of People, the people who deserve to set policy and create schools and profit from all of it.

I can understand how liberals are bothered by this policy. What I don’t quite understand is where the conservatives are. Where are all the people who built up the education reform wave in the first place with rallying calls for teacher accountability and school accountability and don’t just trustingly throw money at schools and where the hell are our tax dollars going, anyway? Oh wait– they are off in the corner, counting up all the money they aren’t going to pay in taxes under the GOP plan.

As my college ed prof told us in the seventies, the accountability needle keeps swinging back and forth– but this time it has gone so far in the accountability direction that it has come out the other side in a place so unaccountable that the federal Secretary of Education cannot imagine a situation in which she would deny federal dollars to any voucher school, ever, for any reason. This isn’t just throwing money at schools– it’s lighting the money on fire and throwing it off a cliff. This is wrapping all the money around a big club that will be used to beat anybody who’s not white and wealthy and healthy.

Betsy DeVos Continues Her Push For Private School Vouchers

One of the problems with “school choice” programs (aside from the fact that the “choice” is with the school, not the parents) is the lack of public oversight. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into private, religious, and charter schools, which are given fewer restrictions for how money is being used. Nearly every day there’s another scandal in which someone misappropriates or misuses funds meant for educating children.

…We have a responsibility to provide great public schools to every kid in America. Instead of strongly investing in public schools where 90 percent of kids go, Trump’s budget cuts billions of dollars from key programs and would divert already scarce funding to private schools.

Members of Congress pressed DeVos on the fact that these private schools, even though they get taxpayer funds through vouchers, discriminate against students and are unaccountable to the public. Although she tried to evade their questions, it was clear that she has no interest in ensuring meaningful oversight of schools or barring discrimination in a federal voucher program.

PRIVATIZATION: DISCRIMINATION ALLOWED

Betsy DeVos Wants to Take Money From Poor Kids and Give it to Schools That Could Discriminate Against Them

Private schools get a big boost with the Trump/DeVos education plan. At the same time the message for public schools is, “Let them eat cake.”

…the real priority of this administration isn’t pragmatic; it’s ideological – and it’s a particularly ugly ideology our federal government has historically been focused on dismantling.

More specifically, Trump’s education budget cuts $9.2 billion (13.5 percent) of federal outlays to public schools, and eliminates or phases-out twenty-two programs.

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns with cuts in federal support for afterschool programs, Special Olympics, arts education, gifted and talented students, teacher training, class size reduction, career and technical education, and programs targeted at helping disadvantaged students and veterans successfully complete high school and enter higher education.

TARGETING THE NEEDIEST

10 Serious Issues Facing Public School Students: Where’s Betsy?

DeVos couldn’t seem to care any less about serious problems facing America’s school children. Problems like poverty and segregation simply don’t matter. In fact, the cuts in the proposed budget seem designed to target the most needy children in our schools…the poor, special education, and students who don’t speak English.

Betsy DeVos wastes precious time on her choice initiative, ignoring the most serious problems facing our young people in public schools. At a hearing the other day, she pushed many of these problems onto the states.

But I would argue that these difficulties still require thoughtful attention and research from an education secretary who should be engaged.

Instead of working to find solutions to such problems, she’s too busy planning how to destroy public education with her unproven choice ideology.

Children in crisis need help now! They can’t wait.

Is There a Point to All This Cruelty?

Betsy DeVos does not know anything about public education except that she doesn’t believe in it as a concept. Free public education is one of the unquestioned triumphs of the American experiment, but it’s a disposable commodity to a know-nothing fanatic who married into a vast fortune and dedicated a lot of it to wrecking public education.

THE PROBLEM WITH CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT

Annie Waldman: Betsy DeVos on Creationism and Intelligent Design

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been a watchdog for the constitutional separation of church and State since 1947. As such, they understand that “school choice” was a tool originally utilized to support racial segregation. That hasn’t changed. “School choice” programs in America are contributing to the increase in segregation. One might even think that was (one of) the goals from the beginning.

Americans United has also been on watch to prevent the entanglement of churches with the state. They have worked tirelessly to keep religious practices and content out of public schools. Betsy DeVos has a history of supporting the entanglement of church and state…as well as her obvious preference for parochial education.

[Full disclosure: I have been a member of Americans United for more than three decades.]

“DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.

“Candi Cushman, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, described DeVos’ nomination as a positive development for communities that want to include intelligent design in their school curricula. Both the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and Betsy DeVos’ mother’s foundation have donated to Focus on the Family, which has promoted intelligent design.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, DeVos, Franklin, Segregation, special education, US DOE

2017 Medley #16: Privatization – Leaving Some Students Behind

Special Needs Students, Segregation,
U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The “Free Market,” Ben Franklin

SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND

Indiana’s School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students

Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.

I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don’t qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don’t need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don’t deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?

Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.

…NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne’s public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.

Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it’s just 7 percent. It’s the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here’s Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.

Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.

CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION

School Choice: Designed To Fail

How do we define “good” schools? What does a “failing” school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When “choice” advocates tell parents that they should have the right to “choose the best school for their children” they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.

With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we’re witnessing the return to the “separate and unequal” schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a “public good” is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.

By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”

CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and “educational savings accounts.”

The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that “the market” will eventually eliminate “bad” or “failing” schools because patrons will “shop with their feet.” According to the “market-based” orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.

An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are “failing” and schools with high test scores are “good.” As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, America’s schools aren’t failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.

A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

School Privatization in the Age of Betsy DeVos: Where Are We in Mid-May?

…this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.

The Network for Public Education has made available short explanations of all three school privatization schemes: vouchers, tutition tax credits here and here, and education savings accounts.

EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS

The Free Market Does Not Work for Education

In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of “market-based” education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs…not to students who live in rural areas…not to students who live in low population areas.

The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.

All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald’s could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don’t do it…

…Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It’s because it’s harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald’s in the desert– the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.

Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, “We’ll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn’t make economic/business sense for you to serve.” But now it’s not a free market any more, is it?

BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION

Ben Franklin in a letter to Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780

Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.

In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn’t support itself without government support didn’t deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the “civil power.” Substitute “parochial school” for the word “Religion” in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.

“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

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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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