Category Archives: SPI

2019 Medley #2

N.J. Charters, “Bible Literacy” Courses,
Teacher Shortage, Kg Readiness,
IN General Assembly, L.A. Strike, Vouchers, Science Facts, Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson!

FALSE PROMISES

Broken Promises: Camden’s “Renaissance” Charter Schools

We keep looking for ways to fix public schools, but it’s just as important for us look for ways to fix inequity and poverty. Our schools are just a mirror, reflecting the societal conditions our policy-makers, and we the voters, are unable or unwilling to correct. Until we focus on the source of the problem — that some people are given rights and privileges denied to others — we’ll continue to fail.

[emphasis in original]

Students who enter charter school lotteries are not equivalent to students who don’t. Plenty of research backs this up (see the lit review in this paper for a good summary of this research). Combine this with the high attrition rates in many “successful” charters, and the high suspension rates at many more, and you have a system designed to separate students by critical family characteristics that do not show up in student enrollment data.

…It’s important to note that the Camden City Public Schools do not have the luxury of setting caps on enrollments, deciding which grades to serve, or not enrolling students who move in after the kindergarten year. Everyone in Camden must get a seat at a CCPS school. But only a lucky subset of students get to attend a renaissance school.

 

“BIBLE LITERACY” COURSES

The Threat Behind Public School ‘Bible Literacy’ Courses

Not all of America’s public school students are Christian. Not all Christians in the United States use the same translation of The Bible. When we try to include religious texts in school we run up against the problem of whose version of the text to use, which religious texts should be included, and which religions or sects to include. Teachers who teach such courses need to be well-versed in the law making sure they don’t express a preference for one religion, sect, religious text, or version of a religious text over another.

This is one of the reasons that the First Amendment separates church from state. Madison, the author of the first amendment, grew to recognize the need for the separation of church and state through…

…his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation…Madison wrote. “This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think anything relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

The current crop of Bible-in-public-school bills does nothing more than attempt to inject religion into public schools. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, in his bill, SB 373, makes it especially plain that this is his goal since his bill adds “creation science” into the mix.

Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.

…Let’s not be misled: Barton, the backers of Project Blitz and other far-right groups behind this new push aren’t interested in truly objective classes about the Bible in public schools. They want classes that indoctrinate children in a specific religious perspective – theirs.

NO TEACHER SHORTAGE

There Is No Teacher Shortage

This post by Peter Greene (the first of two in here) explains that the teacher shortage is the result of stagnant working conditions and lack of respect for teachers.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers can’t do their job, that teachers won’t do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, “What’s wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it’s supposed to be done.” And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we’ve been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.

 

KINDERGARTEN READINESS MAY NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

When I began teaching my first class of third graders (after a half year of teaching kindergarten) I discovered that the achievement range of my 38 students was much larger than I had imagined. Some students were reading several years above grade level, and some were reading one or two years below grade level. One student in particular, John*, was reading at a pre-primer level. In retrospect it was plain that this child was a candidate for special education, but, as a first-year teacher in a system with minimal provisions for special needs children (at least at that time), I was responsible for figuring out what to do to help him learn to read.

What should a teacher do with a child reading at a pre-primer level in third grade? I decided that I would do the same for him as I did for the students who were reading several grade levels above average. I would provide material at his level. That meant that John wouldn’t be exposed to grade-level reading material. In other words, I changed the curriculum to fit his needs, rather than make a futile attempt to force him into a curriculum in which he would fail, become frustrated, and learn to hate reading. The latter is what many schools have forced teachers to do since No Child Left Behind.

* not his real name

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem…if you still think that children raised in poor families have “too many” needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.

NO VOTER INPUT FOR EDUCATION POLICY IN INDIANA

Bill gives governor unusual power over schools

I wrote about a related issue in this bill last week. This bill, should it become law, would mean that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be an appointed position beginning in 2021, rather than a position voted on by the citizens. Since members of the State Board of Education are also appointed, the voters will have no direct input in the state’s education policy except through the governor.

Governor Holcomb will be the one to appoint the Secretary of Education which means that of the eleven members of the SBOE, nine will be appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With HB 1005, Indiana would become one of 15 states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer. The most common procedure – used in 21 states — is for the state board of education to appoint the chief state school officer.

Indiana’s governor appoints members of the state board of education; so, with approval of the bill, the governor will control both the setting and administering of education policy.

In states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer, the governor has total power to appoint state board members in only Iowa, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, board members are elected; or they are chosen by the governor but confirmed by the legislature.

The House approved the measure Thursday by a vote of 70-29, with most of the yes votes coming from Republicans and most of the no votes from Democrats. It rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment to require the secretary of education to have experience in education.

L.A. TEACHERS STRIKE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for our schools – and the country

Americans still prioritize now over future. We have cut funding for public schools through actual reductions and through the transference of tax funds from public schools to charter and voucher schools. Indiana, for example, paid $154 million to school voucher schools. The actual cost of charter schools is much more difficult to find, but a Duke University study of charters’ impact on North Carolina schools determined that

…charter school growth results in a “large and negative fiscal impact” on the districts evaluated.

and

…the findings are consistent with previous studies and show that charter growth generally results in a lower quality of education for students who remain in a district’s traditional public schools.

The Los Angeles teachers who went on strike earlier this month didn’t strike only for more pay and benefits. They were offered a 6% increase before the strike. They accepted a 6% increase to end the strike. What they gained were improvements to the learning conditions of the students in the form of lowered class sizes and much-needed wraparound services.

It was clear, however, that part of the problem with funding in Los Angeles and California, as well as in other parts of the country, is that money is being diverted from public schools to privately run charter schools. States can’t afford to support multiple school systems.

We believe every student, however challenged, ought to have access to success. And we know that in our classes with more than 40 students, there are often five or 10 with special needs and another 10 or 15 still learning English as a second language while as many as half or two-thirds are homeless or in foster care or in a continual state of crisis. Students collapse in class from hunger and stress and fatigue and depression.

Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. No one except the dedicated teachers who every day give a damn about them. And we’re going to keep giving a damn and hope that one day those in power give a damn.

 

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Side effects in education: Winners and losers in school voucher programs

One size does not fit all. Some teaching methods work for some children, other methods work for other students. Some schools are better for some students, other schools are better for others.

Think about this in terms of the evaluation of teachers, for example. Teacher A might be able to help student A, who is homeless, adjust to school, while Teacher B may not. But Teacher B’s classes usually have higher test scores. If you were the parent of student A which teacher would you want for your child?

As much as we might want to seek a perfect solution for all students, one student’s medicine may very well be another one’s poison. As students’ characteristics and education treatments interact, negative side effects may occur. Funding private schools with public dollars probably does not affect all students positively in a uniform fashion. To date, studies of school voucher programs have found their effects to vary among different populations of students.

Moreover, besides the side effects resulting from the interactions between students’ characteristics and education treatments, side effects also occur because of the broad range of desirable and potentially competing education outcomes. So far, evidence of the effects of voucher programs has been limited to a narrow set of outcomes such as academic achievement. Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other equally important outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society (Abowitz & Stitzlein, 2018; Labaree, 2018). Thus, we do not know their effects, negative or positive, on other important outcomes. It is, however, reasonable to believe that voucher programs and other forms of privatization of education can have negative side effects on individual students, the public school system, and the society (Labaree, 2018).

A WARNING

The most disturbing news yet

I recently saw a discussion on social media where someone stated…

“Science is facts. Theory is not yet science.”

After a quick facepalm, I responded with the article, “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words. This didn’t work, of course, because the person in question had been “educated” at a “Bible Institute.” He was obviously mistaught basic science concepts.

This is what we are up against. When the effects of climate change are no longer deniable, these same people will, at that point, point to “god” and claim we are being punished for allowing gay marriage, transgender soldiers, unisex bathrooms, or some such nonsense. Until that time, they will go along with the right-wing talking point denying climate change claiming it’s just a conspiracy to get more money for scientists.

In the meantime, there are places where insects are disappearing and the entire food chain is at risk. Those places shouldn’t be taken as exceptions, but rather as warnings.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

…We are part of a complex web of interdependencies, and it’s also a non-linear dynamical system. There’s a word for when parts of such a system show a pattern of failure: it’s called catastrophe. By the time you notice it, it’s too late to stop it.

JACKIE ROBINSON – JANUARY 31, 1919

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

📚📝📖

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Speaker Bosma, Qualifications Matter!

THE SPEAKER IS WRONG

Brian Bosma, the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, seems to think that educational qualifications don’t matter for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Just like Betsy DeVos (or Arne Duncan) didn’t need any educational qualifications to be the U.S. Secretary of Education, one, apparently, doesn’t need any experience in education to be Indiana’s SPI.

But the Speaker is wrong. Qualifications matter.

Why Indiana’s education leader doesn’t have to be a teacher, according to Brian Bosma

Bosma has no problem with people who have a teaching license being superintendent of public instruction…

So the Speaker won’t prevent someone with education credentials/experience from becoming SPI. Well, that’s something, at least…

…but it shouldn’t disqualify somebody, he says.

I wonder…

Would Bosma expect the Superintendent of the Indiana State Police to have training and experience in criminal justice? The current holder of that position does have just such experience. He’s a former State Trooper and County Sheriff.

How about the commissioner of the state’s Department of Health? The current commissioner, Kristina Box, is a medical doctor and a Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“There may be people who are uniquely qualified through business or other experience to lead our schools in the state,” Bosma said. “Is the preference to have a license? Absolutely. Does a license, in and of itself, does make someone an outstanding leader for our state schools? I would say not necessarily.”

Bosma thinks that we don’t need an educator as head of the Indiana DOE, just “preferable. It’s true that some heads of departments in the state government are filled by attorneys or political science majors. And, I would even agree that an education degree doesn’t necessarily make someone a good leader for the state schools…I’m looking at you, Tony Bennett.

Perhaps the Speaker is one of those people who believes that education should be run like a business. That’s why anyone…an attorney or MBA would be a good fit. Or, since it’s a government department he would probably be ok with a poli sci major (like former US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings) or, again, an attorney.

I wonder…

Would Speaker Bosma hire someone for his private law firm who had no training or experience in the legal profession? How about his firm’s office manager? Wouldn’t he want to hire someone with office managerial experience? legal experience? Is a law office a specialized environment and someone working with attorneys should know something about how the law “industry” works? My guess is that the Speaker would say yes. My guess is that he would never hire anyone to his office without “experience in the field.”

Why should it be different with education? Just because you “went to school” doesn’t mean that you know anything about how to run a school, or how students should be taught.

A school is not a business. Schools can’t decide to stop one, less-than-profitable product line while keeping only the profitable lines open. General Motors dumped Pontiac. But a school can’t decide that this year’s fourth graders, for example, aren’t quite up to par, so the fourth-grade wing of the school needs to be closed. Children aren’t pieces of machinery.

Public schools don’t get to choose their materials for manufacture. An ice cream manufacturer can refuse a shipment of bad blueberries which would ruin it’s famed blueberry ice cream. Public schools, real public schools, must accept every child who walks through its doors. Public schools can’t turn away students who are more expensive to education like private schools and charter schools can.

…we [in the public schools] can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all. Every one.

Public schools don’t deal with a product the way that a business does. The children who come to public schools aren’t uniform…which is a feature, not a bug. Each child is different. Each classroom is different. Each school office is different. Each administrator is different. The assembly line doesn’t work in schools. Children aren’t widgets.

I wonder…

The current Superintendent of Public Instruction is Jennifer McCormick, who is not running for reelection in part because she doesn’t want to continue to be part of the mess that the legislature has made of the public schools in Indiana. She didn’t actually say it quite that way. She said she wasn’t running again because “…Indiana’s ‘governance structure’ is not healthy.”

This morning McCormick tweeted,

Perplexing but not surprising- people who are most judgmental & outspoken about the qualifications necessary to perform a job are typically those people who have never done the job.

Gosh, Mr. Speaker, I wonder who she was talking to?

A SPECIALIZED FIELD

The Speaker is wrong.

The Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction ought to be an education professional for the same reason that the Superintendent of the Indiana State Police ought to be, and is, a law enforcement officer…

…for the same reason that Indiana’s Attorney General ought to be, and is, an attorney…

…for the same reason that the Commissioner of Indiana’s State Department of Health ought to be, and is, a medical professional.

Education is a specialized a field. The State Department of Education is, and in the future ought to be, run by an education professional.

🚌🚌🚌

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