Posted in David Berliner, DeVos, MLK, OECD, PISA, poverty, Public Ed, Stephen Krashen, Testing

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

Betsy DeVos, who recently bought the office of U.S. Secretary of Education, spouts the same myth that’s been going around for decades…that American public schools are “failing.”

The Answer Sheet, in DeVos: Outcomes at U.S. schools are so bad, they probably can’t get much worse, reported

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Wednesday that U.S. public schools nationwide are in such bad shape that she isn’t “sure how they could get a lot worse.”

And, like other myth-spouters in the “education reform” movement, she invoked international tests, adding,

“I’m not sure how they could get a lot worse on a nationwide basis than they are today. I mean, the fact that our PISA scores have continued to deteriorate as compared to the rest of the world…

She’s wrong.

The U.S. is regularly in the “middle of the pack” when it comes to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test administered by the OECD. In 2015 U.S. students were 31st, 20th, and 19th in Math, Reading, and Science respectively. This score, and previous, similar scores, have been used by politicians and policy makers to claim that America’s public schools are failing.

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren’t achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

PISA

Putting PISA Results to the Test

According to a 2015 report by UNICEF, the U.S. has the second-highest child poverty rate (23.1%) among industrialized nations from the European Union and OECD; only Romania’s is higher (25.5%).

…the majority of children attending U.S. public schools – 51% – are growing up in low-income households, the highest percentage since the federal government began tracking the figure.

Poverty matters when it comes to achievement. Students who live in poverty in the United States come to school with issues that don’t affect wealthier students. Stress, for example...

Children growing up in poverty often experience chronic stress…chronic stress can affect the developing learning centers of the brain, with impact on attention, concentration, working memory and self-regulation.

In other words, the simple fact of growing up in poverty affects a child’s ability to learn. In addition, there are factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

David C. Berliner examined the impact of out-of-school factors on achievement. In Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, Berliner wrote,

OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

These factors include conditions having an impact on developing fetuses, such as the medical care given to the mother, the mother’s general health, and any toxins ingested by the mother either through drug or alcohol abuse, or through environmental toxins in the environment. After the child is born things like low birth weight, inadequate medical care, food insecurity, environmental pollutants like lead poisoning, family stress, and other characteristics of high-poverty neighborhoods all have an impact on a child’s ability to learn.

To place all the blame for low achievement on public schools serving large numbers of students living in poverty is unfair to the schools, teachers, and students.

TEST SCORES REFLECT ECONOMIC STATUS

Mrs. DeVos probably doesn’t know that low test scores correlate exactly with high poverty (see here and here). Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.

We can show these results using graphs from PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’.

The first graph shows where schools with various percentages of students in poverty would fall if only those schools were compared to other countries in the OECD.

This graph compares schools with various percentages of students in poverty to countries in OECD with similar poverty levels. The first side, for example, shows how students from schools with a poverty rate of less than ten percent compare to nations with a poverty rate of less than ten percent.

These two charts from PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’ clearly show the impact that poverty has on American students’ test scores. In every case, students who attend schools with a given percentage of children in poverty 1) score higher than students who attend schools with lower percentages of children in poverty and 2) score higher than countries with similar rates of poverty.

At the very least we can say that the child poverty rate, over which schools have no control, has an impact on student learning. In his blog post, Why Invest in Libraries, Stephen Krashen, USC Professor Emeritus, wrote,

Poverty means, among other things, inadequate diet, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a powerful impact on achievement (Berliner, 2009; Krashen, 1997). The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, undernourished, ill, and have little or nothing to read (emphasis added).

FINDING SOLUTIONS

Can schools do nothing to overcome the impact of poverty on student lives? Not alone. However, with the help of legislators, taxpayers, and parents, support for students struggling to succeed can help.

Here are some suggestions – most of which cost money – to help raise student achievement. These ideas come from various sources, including The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids, Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence, and The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.

Legislators should help by fully funding public education in order to

  • Develop age-appropriate Pre-K programs
  • Reduce class sizes
  • Provide a well rounded, age-appropriate curriculum
  • Include the arts, recess, and physical education in the curriculum
  • Eliminate unnecessary testing (this one saves money)
  • Recruit experienced and diverse staff including classroom teachers and specialists
  • Include non-teaching staff when needed, such as nurses, counselors, and social workers
  • Maintain high quality facilities
  • Introduce parental support programs

THE CHALLENGE TO POLICY MAKERS

When she looks at the U.S. international test scores, Secretary DeVos, and other policy makers see “failing schools.” This is wrong. The low average scores, and the even lower scores aggregated for low income students, indicate that economic inequity is overwhelming the infrastructure of our public school systems. Instead of blaming public schools, politicians and policy makers must take responsibility for ending the shameful rate of child poverty and inequity in America.

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

Special thanks to Meg Bloom, Phyllis Bush, and Donna Roof, all members of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, for their help in preparing the presentation from which this blog post was adapted.

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, Politics, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, Stephen Krashen, US DOE

2016 Medley #31

Support Public Education, Poverty, Politics, Privatization, US Secretary of Education,
Imagination Library

SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION

The Mis-Measure of Schools and School Children

Russ Walsh explains in clear language why A-F grading scales are an insufficient way to judge schools.

Currently, at least 14 states grade their public schools on an A-F scale. Educators are correct to point out that this is a stupid way to hold schools accountable. Three reasons pop out right away when we think about the idiocy of giving schools a letter grade and then publicizing this grade through the media.

Don’t Let The Government Take Away Your Public School

Over the past three decades, both Democrats and Republicans have worked to privatize America’s public school system.

America’s public schools ought to be repaired and improved, not abandoned. If your local public schools are successful then protect them. If they need repair, fix them. You don’t throw away your car when a tire goes flat. You fix it.

With his selection of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, Donald Trump has made it clear. He wants to take away your public school. Tell him, “Keep the government’s hands off our public schools!”

…it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.

Open Letter to Rep. Jason Saine -You’re a State Representative; Fight For All Public Schools, Not A New Charter School

Too many legislators make decisions based on campaign contributions. Here’s a letter to a legislator in North Carolina reminding him where his responsibility lies.

When you as a lawmaker were elected to office in North Carolina, you took a vow to uphold the state constitution no matter what area you represented. While the interests of any lawmaker’s constituents are of vital importance, it could be argued that the entire state is actually the represented area of any lawmaker. Any policy, law, or act passed will have an effect on all North Carolinians.

One of the most sacred components of the NC state constitution is the edict that the state will provide a quality public education for all students and will fully fund the schools that educate those students. If a lawmaker is beholden to supporting the state constitution and helping make public schools viable for all students, then it is almost as if each lawmaker is a de facto board member for each public school in the state.

Dennis Kruse, Bob Behning, Brian Bosma, and other Indiana legislators, the same is true in our state. Your responsibility is to provide a “general and uniform system of Common Schools” for the benefit of all…not just your campaign donors.

Indiana Constitution ARTICLE 8. Education, Section 1. Common school system

Section 1. Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.

POVERTY

The reason for “lousy” performance on international tests: Poverty.

Public school parents, students, teachers, and advocates owe Stephen Krashen continued thanks for his nearly single-handed effort to educate Americans (through frequent letters to editors) about the role of poverty in low achievement, and the benefits of libraries for student reading achievement.

Here is his most recent letter (to the Miami Herald) in response to an article decrying the low scores of American students.

Until we eliminate poverty, let’s invest in food programs, school nurses, and libraries and at least protect children from some of the effects of poverty.

POLITICS

DeVos says media is spreading ‘false news’ about her

…and by false news she means

  • she has no experience in public education, as a professional, a student, or a parent
  • she has worked to divert public funds into private hands through charters and vouchers

Betsy DeVos is even less qualified to be the US Secretary of Education than was Margaret Spellings or Arne Duncan. At least they had the experience of being a public school parent.

It’s true that you don’t have to actually work in a field to learn a little bit about it, but shouldn’t you at least have some knowledge of a system before you take over the federal reins?

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, pushed back against criticism of her selection today — accusing the media of spreading false stories about her.

“There’s a lot of false news out there,” DeVos said on stage with Trump at a rally in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. “All I ask for is an open mind and the opportunity to share my heart.”

DeVos doesn’t have a conventional background in education, such as working as a teacher or schools superintendent. But the billionaire philanthropist has long donated to “school choice” advocacy groups and politicians who are supportive of school vouchers and charter schools.

Undermining Public Education Has Been A Bipartisan Affair

Betsy DeVos might be the worst nominee for US Secretary of Education we’ve ever had, but most of the others in recent memory haven’t been a whole lot better. Both Democrats and Republicans have worked to push the “market” solution for what ails public schools in America. Not one presidential candidate, of either major party (in my memory, I think only the Green Party, has acknowledged that privatization is bad for public schools, and that child poverty is the cause of low achievement), in the last 16 years has understood that the major challenge facing public schools in America is child poverty.

Most members of congress are the same. They talk about how important public schools are, how much they respect teachers, how much we need to empower parents to have “choice” in their children’s education, but few, if any, understand that our child poverty rate is the basis for our low international test standing.

If there is one thing Democrats and Republicans agreed on during the last two decades, maybe the only thing, it is how to undermine public support for public education. Misguided education policy is a bipartisan endeavor in the United States and set the stage for the Trump anti-education agenda.

PRIVATIZATION

Rural America in the Crosshairs: A New Frontier for Profiteers

Most public school advocates acknowledge that many urban schools are being decimated by charterism and public school starving voucher programs. But how many understand that rural, and small town, public schools are also suffering from the intrusion of the “market” into public education?

In this article, public school advocate Victoria Young, directs her attention to the privatization taking place in small towns and rural areas.

So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.

The fabric of the community was shredded.

Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.

SECRETARIES OF EDUCATION

The U.S. Secretaries of Education, A History: Part I

My own page about the US Secretaries of Education simply lists the Secretaries and their qualifications (or lack thereof) for the job.

History teacher Jake Miller, at the Educator’s Room, goes further and provides us with (part 1 of) a complete history of the US Education Department and it’s frequently unqualified leaders.

The Department of Education is one of the newer offices in the Cabinet. After three years of debate within the legislature in creating the department, a bill was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 17, 1979. Prior to that, educational issues were overseen by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

READING

In a 2010 blog post, Building a Nation of Readers, I referenced Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and said,

Dolly Parton put her money where her mouth was.

She began her program of giving books to children in Sevier County, TN, her home county, where she provided every child with a new book each month of their lives for their first 5 years. When a child entered kindergarten, then, they would have a home library of 5 dozen books. The program has exploded now to where more than 10 million free books are distributed annually in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

An Open Apology To Dolly Parton

A new fan gives Dolly her due…

Now the Dolly Parton Imagination Library just surpassed gifting one million books to participating children around the world each month. To celebrate, your Dollywood Foundation randomly selected one of those children to receive a $30,000 college scholarship. Two-year-old Evey, from Conway, Arkansas, has no idea yet how fortunate she is, but her parents surely do.

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Posted in Charters, Chicago, Election, JohnOliver, NEIFPE, poverty, Quotes, reading, Stephen Krashen, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, vouchers

Random Quotes – August 2016

POVERTY

Teachers are not the problem, poverty is

Stephen Krashen reminds America to quit scapegoating teachers and public schools for low achievement due to poverty. We have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the industrialized world – nearly one-fourth of our children. Where are the policy makers who take their share of the responsibility for our failure as a nation to take care of our children?

by Stephen Krashen

Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases, and the other Gates ideas that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

John Oliver on Charter Schools

John Oliver takes on the abuse and corruption in the charter school industry. (NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by John Oliver

The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market. And by the time it’s obvious a school is failing, futures may have been ruined.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Select Group is Served by Vouchers

Terry Springer is a former high school English teacher from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She’s one of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, a public education advocacy group (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the same group).

In the linked article she discusses Indiana’s voucher program.

by Terry Springer

…[Executive director of Indiana Non-Public Education Association, John] Elcesser’s argument that voucher parents are taxpayers and their tax dollars should go to the school of their choice is rather like the argument that my tax dollar should only go to repair the roads and bridges I travel on or to pave my driveway. Public education benefits the whole community; private education does not. The arguments for the money following the child fly in the face of that perspective…

TEACHERS

Out with the old. In with the new.

Here’s a cartoon by Fred Klonsky. Earlier this month Chicago Public Schools laid off 1000 employees, half of whom were teachers. Two weeks later they announced they were hiring 1000 new teachers.

A teacher: Why I am not going to keep my bonus

Are teachers “in it for the money?” Are teachers holding back, instead of teaching well in order to get more money?

by Stuart Egan

I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

Reasons for mass resignations: 28 Dodgeville teachers leave over money and student behavioral issues

This article discusses the teacher shortage facing Dodgeville, Wisconsin. In the comments below the article, Tim Slekar, Dean at nearby Edgewood College, explains why there’s a teacher shortage.

by Tim Slekar, Dean at Edgewood College’s School of Education, Madison, WI

Dodgeville is just ONE example of the exodus. Teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves all across the state and enrollment in teacher education programs is plumetting. We have a teacher exodus problem.

Our elected officials will use this as evidence of a “teacher shortage” and then bitch to lower standards to let any jackass teach.

There is no “shortage.” Those that have been waging the war on teachers are winning.

FIX PUBLIC EDUCATION

Who profits from a “broken public school” narrative?

Shouldn’t the goal of public education be to have good public schools for all children, in all areas? Why do we have cities where children have to “apply” to public schools instead of just having excellent public schools in every neighborhood? Why aren’t we working towards a system where every public school is excellent?

by Ali Collins

If you want to help a district function effectively, you work with leaders to fix underlying problems, you don’t create workarounds or do the work. In this way, non-profits enable failure. They become complicit in creating and maintaining problems they then profit by fixing. [emphasis added]

READING

Making Joy a Reading Standard

Wouldn’t it be nice if at least one reading “standard” focused on creating readers who loved to read?

by Mary Anne Buckley

Joy is in listening to and being moved by words and joy is in crafting words that move others. Joy is in recognizing ourselves in characters as well as challenging ourselves to see things from a different perspective. Joy is connecting and reflecting with one another.  I wrote that I answered the last question from the interview panel without thinking but in all actuality I’ve been thinking about that answer for years. When we remember our own personal joy of reading and infuse that into our instruction the lessons themselves become joyful.

DEMONS

AMERICA, DAMMIT! – Thoughts from Glacier National Park (starting at about 2:00)

(NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by Hank Green

…We work so hard to demonize each other that everyone comes out looking like demons…

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Posted in Duncan, John Kuhn, Obama, Politics, Quotes, Stephen Krashen, TeacherShortage, TeachersSpeakingOut, Testing, Tyson

More Random Quotes – August 2015

THIS JUST IN: REPUBLICANS STILL HATE TEACHERS…

Republicans’ deep hatred for teachers can’t be denied and they’re not trying
from Steven Thrasher

If you’ve been listening to the Republican candidates you’ve probably heard some nasty things about teachers. Thrasher tells us why.

Teachers’ unions are made up of groups Republicans always love to bash: government workers with lady parts.

Just to be fair, the author also wrote about Democrats…

Republicans have always hated teachers’ unions for obvious reasons. They reliably support the Democratic party, even though Democrats routinely go to war against teachers as well, particularly alumni from the Obama administration.

…AND DEMOCRATS ARE NOT MUCH BETTER

Teacher evaluations at the schools that Obama, Duncan picked for their kids
from Valerie Strauss

Democrats are just quieter about it. All states have to comply with Arne Duncan’s proclamations about VAM…they could lose their federal funds or get stuck having to deal with No Child Left Behind. If using test scores to evaluate teachers was such a good idea you’d think that the Secretary of Education, and his boss, would send their precious children to a school run by “reformers.”

Think again…

These comments were delivered when Duncan sent his children to Arlington public schools. They are now going to attend the University of Chicago Lab School…which is full of unionized teachers and devoid of “reformer” education. When they lived in Chicago, the Obamas sent their daughters to the Lab School. They now attend Sidwell Friends.

“What did the president and the secretary seek and obtain for their own kids, where the important issue of teacher evaluation was concerned? The answers recently arrived in two e-mails:

“Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011: ‘We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.’

“Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011:

“ ‘We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.’ ”

IT’S THE “OTHER” SCHOOLS THAT ARE “FAILING”

Groundhog Day: Parents Again Rate Local Schools Higher than Schools of the Nation
from Stephen Krashen

Year after year parents rate their own children’s schools high…but it’s “those other public schools” that are bad.

Seventy percent of parents said they would give the public schools their oldest child attended a grade or A or B, but only 19% would give public schools in the nation an A or B.

An obvious explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been presenting a biased view. 

WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
from a teacher friend

Contrary to “reformer’s” beliefs, teachers don’t like to make excuses. The charge of “making excuses” gives “reformers an “out.” When teachers cry “poverty” “reformers” and their legislator friends can claim “excuses” instead of actually dealing with a very real problem. As the late Gerald Bracey said,

Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.

The school administration blames the central office…who blames the state DOE…who blames the legislature…who are only doing what their donors demand.

Teachers must speak out!

Part of the problem is that teachers are caught in the proverbial “Rock and a Hard Place’ scenario. We can’t really turn to the public because in many cases they really don’t want to hear about it, and the state and administration simply blame someone else for the current state of affairs.

One of the things I remind my coworkers who aren’t outspoken…that if we remain entirely submissive and say yes, yes, yes to everything without defending students and teachers, we are just signing up for more of the same treatment.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Blackmon: In Georgia, ‘reform’ aims to destroy public schools
from Myra Blackmon

Here is a pretty good summary of what “education reform” is all about…

This is how the self-selected “education reformers” operate. Their motive is profit and personal advancement. They love the idea of schools run by private organizations, staffed with uncertified teachers, cherry-picking the easy students and leaving the most vulnerable students behind. Unproven, invalid standardized tests drive every decision.

It is disgusting. It is immoral. It is repugnant to every American ideal of community, mutual support and benefit and democratic rule. It defies the values of local control in favor of centralized, easily managed power — all the while claiming “it’s for the children.”

It’s high time we kicked them all out and made them earn an honest living — as far from our schools as we can get them.

Education Roars Back
from Bob Grundfest

If you keep telling the nation that teachers are to blame for everything bad in our society…and you continue to cut salaries and benefits…and you close schools, cut staff, and, in general, trash public schools in favor of private charters and private parochial schools…and if you publicize all of this so high school and college students see how poorly teachers, and public schools are treated…

…why would a young adult, right out of high school, choose to make education his or her career…and why would anyone think that young adults would want to go into teaching?

Given the years of blame and economic hardship that teachers have had to endure, it’s no wonder that there’s a shortage. And given the attitude that many national and state leaders have about teachers, it’s no wonder that qualified students are looking at other fields of endeavor. The truth is that we pay a great deal of lip service to wanting a highly qualified, well-trained teaching staff at every school, but the best and brightest are not stupid; they see what’s going on in education and are increasingly turned off to it. And since we don’t have the best and brightest going into government, the solutions will be doubly difficult to come by.

MONEY FOR EDUCATION OUGHT TO GO TO EDUCATION

It’s common for legislators to complain that so much money is spent on education, but an important question is how it is spent. We use billions of tax dollars nationally to support testing and test prep and that’s money that should be going to instruction, materials, and student support.

…and what about all the money diverted from public schools to for-profit charters and voucher accepting parochial schools?

@TCBGP

TEACHERS ARE MORE THAN JUST TEST-JOCKEYS

‘Teachers want to change the world’
from John Kuhn

Relationships are greater than pedagogy. If you deliver flawless instruction but haven’t nurtured relationships with your students — even the challenging ones — then you might as well teach to an empty room.

DREAMS OF THE FUTURE

Neil DeGrasse Tyson quoted a young man in his book, Space Chronicles

There are lots of things I have to do to be an astronaut. But first I have to go to kindergarten — Cyrus Corey, age four.

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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 Curmudgucation, Duncan, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Ravitch, Stephen Krashen, Teaching Career, vouchers

2014 in Quotes

This is the 102nd and last post of 2014 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it’s pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.

JANUARY

From the Bottom of Duncan’s Barrel

“If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations [sic] educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America’s students.” — Peter Greene

FEBRUARY

2014 Medley #5

“Your editorial sends the message that our public schools are failing. They aren’t. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American schools rank near the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular because the child poverty rate in the U.S. is very high, 23%, second-highest among all economically advanced countries. Children of poverty suffer from hunger, malnutrition, inferior health care and lack of access to books. All of these have a powerful impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world won’t help when children are hungry, ill and have little or nothing to read.

“Our focus should be on protecting children from the impact of poverty.” — Stephen Krashen

MARCH

Public Education: For the Public Good

How do you respond to voucher supporters who claim that they should be allowed to take “their tax money” out of the public school system and use it to send their children to private schools? What good are public schools to people who don’t have any children or whose children have grown?

Consider:

  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for public libraries because they wanted to buy their own books instead?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for fire departments because they had purchased a fire suppressant system?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for roads because they didn’t drive a car?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for parks because they never used them?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for police departments because they hired their own, private security force?

The government — local, state and national — is responsible for various aspects of our lives, from safety to clean air to public parks. Public money is spent for these “public goods” because everyone benefits — even those who never use the services.

JUNE

Billionaires Win in California

Professional educators provide students with high quality education — we know this because wealthy “reformers” make sure that schools for their children are filled with highly qualified, well-trained professionals. In high poverty schools, however, educators alone can’t overcome the effects of societal neglect. Nearly one-fourth of America’s children live in poverty which has the single, largest affect on student achievement, yet the billionaires’ battle is against teachers…not politicians.

When will politicians and their billionaire handlers accept responsibility for their part in the education of our children?

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

Jack Schneider, LA Times quoted in Making it easier to fire teachers won’t get you better ones.

Instead of imagining a world in which teachers are easier to fire, we should work to imagine one in which firing is rarely necessary. Because you don’t put an effective teacher in every classroom by holding a sword over their heads. You do it by putting tools in their hands.

JULY

The Case Against “reformers”

“Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It’s about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It’s about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It’s about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can’t imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring.” — Susan Zimmerman, in Comprehension Going Forward

OCTOBER

2014 Medley #22

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America’s public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle class families.

Politicians and policy makers can’t solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students, when the problems don’t go away.

American schools are not failing…American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.

DECEMBER

Random Quotes – December 2014

“Public education is a promise we make to the children of our society, and to their children, and to their children.” — John Kuhn

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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, Charters, Election, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, special education, Stephen Krashen, Testing, vouchers

2014 Medley #25

Testing, Public Schools, Privatization,
Charters, Vouchers, Special Education, Democrats, Elections

THE ABUSE AND MISUSE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS

I apologize for not having the link for the following quote. Someone named oakspar77777 left this comment at the end of an article. In it, the commenter discusses detrimental changes to America’s public education system. 1) the loss of community schools and 2) the misuse of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and schools. This is an excellent description of the damage that obsessive testing has done to our nation’s schools. (If anyone knows where this is from, please leave the link in the comments)

The tests and the resulting testing industry, however, are only the symptom of the problem.

The problem is two fold. First, it is the movement from community schools to state schools and now (with things like NCLB/RTTT and Common Core) to national schools.

The bigger the “system” the less personal it becomes. Like a business, at the family level it is personable and about relationships but at the corporate level it is about margins. Testing is a means for identifying margins and produce “profit/loss reports” for the CEOs to spin to the stockholders (the citizens of the US).

Second, it is the movement from testing being used to measure student ability and mastery to testing being used to measure teachers and schools.

Test scores used to tell us which kids needed advanced classes and which needed remedial. Now they are used by parents to know which school to put their kids in.

Test scores also used to tell us which kids mastered the material or not, holding those who did not accountable to try again until they did master it. Now they are used to measure teachers, so that teachers are the ones actually being graded.

So, this lack of trust in the teaching profession, lack of willingness to realize that students are not identical and do have variance in both aptitude and motivation, and desire to make the family/community relationship of teaching a national political concern ALL have led to standardized testing being worthless as anything other than a political football.


THE SELLING OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Investors Ready to Liquidate Public Schools

Here is how investors plan on cashing in on public schools…schools purchased and supported for years by public funds.

It goes like this:

  1. Compliant legislatures reduce funding for public education.
  2. Weakened by fewer funds, the schools who serve the poor and have more social problems to address begin to struggle the most, first.
  3. Use compliant, big corporate media to convince the public that the underfunded schools that serve the poor are wild, dangerous places. Editors love “teacher knocked out by student” stories.
  4. Once the public is convinced that those scary urban “jungle” schools are hopeless, pass legislation that allows corporate charters to take over and convert public property to their profitable use.
  5. Pass laws that allow charters to be black boxes where the public has no idea how their tax money is being used.
  6. Charters regiment children of the poor in ways that prepare them to be compliant service workers who don’t expect to have a voice.
  7. Use big corporate media to convince the public that charters are doing better even though they are not.

How can we stop it?

The big “if” in all of this is the question of whether or not educators, concerned parents, and concerned community members can rally to maintain local, democratic control of public schools. Any degree of standardization that comes from beyond the state only serves large, nation-wide investor interests.

IF educators can successfully counter the investor propaganda that parents are the only true stakeholders in a child’s education, then raiders can be opposed successfully. The oldest to the youngest and richest to poorest members of every community are the true stakeholders in public schools and public education.

IF local, democratically elected school boards can stay empowered to make decisions for the local public schools, then this raider process can be resisted.

IF all stakeholders can successfully press legislators to listen to them instead of paid, professional lobbyists hired by large, investor-owned charter corporations, then we can resist the raider attempts.

CHARTERS

Charters’ grades fall, spurring concerns

Research shows that when the demographics of students are comparable, privately run schools do no better than public schools.

Charters are not public schools. They are private schools which get public money. When push comes to shove and charters are forced to provide complete transparency of operation they claim that they are private businesses. They shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.

The main idea behind charter schools was that giving them greater freedom to innovate while also making it possible to close them for poor performance would lead to better education for students.

But, at least by one measure, that doesn’t appear to be happening.

The percentage of Marion County charter schools receiving a D or an F from state regulators has spiked from 30 percent two years ago to 54 percent this year.

The percentage is slightly lower statewide, but has also increased the past two years.

VOUCHER HYPOCRISY

28 private schools go ungraded by state

Indiana grades its schools using a simplistic A-F rating, with a complicated formula. Tony Bennett lost his job over the fact that he changed the grade of one of the favored charter schools — owned by someone who just happened to donate thousands to Republican campaigns.

Now, some private schools have escaped the grading. What do you think would happen if a public school escaped its grade designation? The privatizers would scream “accountability” so loud the state’s borders would rattle. Meanwhile, a leader of a pro-voucher group, the Institute for Quality Education, is just so pleased that the selectivity of their schools allowed them to choose students whose test scores yielded A’s and B’s for the ones which were graded.

Twenty-eight private schools that have educated hundreds of Hoosier students and received at least $10.6 million in taxpayer dollars did not receive a grade this year.

That means about 10 percent of the schools accepting state-paid vouchers skated through without public accountability because of a statistical anomaly.

“I don’t think that’s good practice for taxpayers or parents. If we look at the whole landscape of letter grades and accountability every school that receives those dollars should have to be held accountable,” said Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis. “No one should be exempt. We need to be truthful and forthright about schools.”

DISABILITIES AREN’T REAL

Washington: Disabilities Aren’t Real

Peter Greene called it “quite possibly the stupidest thing to come out of the US DOE” which is saying quite a bit, considering all the stupid things coming from that Federal department. Arne Duncan’s office has announced that the test scores of students with disabilities are too low. Students with disabilities, the secretary’s spokesperson says, “do not have significant cognitive impairments that prohibit them from learning rigorous academic content.”

The posting for the US DOE was written by Michael Yudin, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. He is not, and never has been, an educator.

Peter Greene discusses the State of Washington’s decision to follow the U.S. DOE…

Following in the footsteps of one of the dumbest initiatives to come out of the US Department of Education, Washington state has arrived at some destructive fact-free findings regarding the education of students with special needs.

The Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds has created and released a report that…well, I will let the conclusion speak for itself:

The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

So there you have it– as previously suggested by the federal Department of Education, the disabilities that students claim to possess do not actually exist in any meaningful way. Any limitations that they appear to have are simply the result of the system’s (i.e. teachers) low expectations:

But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

The State of Washington agrees with Arne Duncan that students’ disabilities aren’t real. According to the report, it comes from low teacher expectations and students not receiving “proper” support.

THE MYTH OF “FAILING SCHOOLS”

Commentary: Texas textbooks need to get the facts straight

The myth of America’s “failing schools” persists. The truth is that the bold-faced sentence in the below quote is incorrect in its implication. Our overall scores on international tests are lowered because of the high rate of child poverty in the U.S. American students, when poverty is taken into account, score at the top in international tests.

The following is a quote from an editorial which denounces the anti-science members of the Texas State Board of Education.

Scientific know-how has been responsible for half of all U.S. economic progress since World War II. Texas — as the wellspring of many great advances in agricultural science, electronics, aeronautics and much more — knows this well. Sadly, children in other parts of the world now outperform U.S. students in mathematics and science. [emphasis added]

DEMOCRATS ARE PRIVATIZERS TOO

The next two links should be taken together. The President talks a good game…promoting teachers, and support for schools, but the appointments to the U.S. Department of Education tell a different story. This president, like his Republican predecessor, is a privatizer, plain and simple.

Presidential Proclamation — American Education Week, 2014

Great educators and administrators deserve all the tools and resources they need to do their job, including chances for professional development and pay that reflects the contributions they make to our country. They are the most critical ingredients in any school, and my Administration is working hard to support them as they empower our Nation’s youth.

Obama’s USDOE: Appointed to Privatize. Period.

President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so. Sure, the White House offers a decorative promotional on K12 education; however, if one reads it closely, one sees that the Obama administration believes education (and, by extension, those educated) should serve the economy; that “higher standards and better assessments” and “turning around our lowest achieving schools” is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leftover casserole, and that “keeping teachers in the classroom” can only elicit prolonged stares from those of us who know better.

All of these anti-public-education truths noted, the deeper story in what the Obama administration values regarding American education lay in its selection of US Department of Education (USDOE) appointees. Their backgrounds tell the story, and it isn’t a good one for the public school student, the community school and the career K12 teacher.

VOTING

A dishonorable distinction for Hoosiers

Election day registration would help increase the voter turnout, but, as Bernie Sanders suggested, making election day a national holiday would do a better job of it.

“It’s impossible to say for certain, but it’s likely that the single biggest change … to increase turnout would be to adopt election-day registration,” he wrote in an email. “Research has generally demonstrated that one of the biggest obstacles to turnout is a requirement that registration occur about 30 days prior to the election.”

While he noted that same-day registration might present slightly higher potential for fraud, Pitts said there are ways to reduce it, including requiring a photo ID. “Again, like all election laws, there are typically upsides as well as downsides, and one’s views of each tends to correspond with underlying philosophies about how easy and convenient it should be to vote,” he wrote.

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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 Corp Interest, Darling-Hammond, Stephen Krashen, Testing

The Case Against “reformers”

THE ‘rEFORM’ LIE

Three recent articles did a nice job of summarizing the problems facing public education in the U.S. They add to the already strong case against the so-called “reform” movement.

The ultimate goal of most “reformers” is, apparently, the privatization of America’s public schools rather than improved student achievement. “reformers” use a variety of tools to achieve that goal…tools like union busting, overusing and misusing tests, transferring funds from public to private hands through vouchers, charters and virtual charter schools, political manipulations — such as the recent takeover of the responsibilities of the Indiana school chief, Glenda Ritz (and her DOE) by the Indiana State Board of Education and Governor Pence (see HERE and HERE), funding cuts, school closings, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession by inserting untrained amateurs like Teach For America temps into public schools, general political propaganda, and buying state and federal politicians.

  • They starve schools of needed resources, raise class sizes, eliminate libraries and the arts, deny that the poverty which runs rampant throughout our cities has any effect, and then blame students, parents and teachers when achievement is low.
  • They close schools or turn them over to private corporations with no public oversight.
  • The low achievement of our most economically deprived students is blamed on teachers…yet there’s rarely a comment about teachers when it comes to the high achievement of our nation’s wealthy students.
  • They demand accountability of teachers and use student test scores to grade teachers and schools, but dismiss any accountability for the failure of the states and nation to deal with its huge child poverty levels and segregated schools.
  • They want to lower the qualifications for entry into the teaching profession (In what universe does less training make better teachers?).
  • They obsess over student achievement on tests rather than recognizing that a child is more than a test score.
  • They blame unions, but don’t explain why the presence or absence of teachers unions in a state has little effect on student achievement. (Hint: It’s poverty)
  • They want to deny employee protections to teachers, blame “bad teachers” for low achievement, and then (apparently) expect to have legions of expert teachers clamoring for low paying, high stress jobs.

The one thing that the “reformers” don’t have is a research basis for the changes they champion.

IT’S POVERTY

Stephen Krashen…

The Vergara decision: The big picture

Our unspectacular international test scores are the result of poverty, not teaching quality: The US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (23%, compared to Finland’s 5%). When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American scores on international tests are at the top of the world.

There is no evidence that Teach for America teachers do better, no data supporting flipped classrooms, and no data showing that less experienced teachers are better. Evaluating teachers using test-score gains is inaccurate: Different tests produce different ratings, and a teacher’s ratings often vary from year to year.

Firing teachers based on unreliable measures, eliminating tenure (really due process), and devaluating experience will reduce the number of teachers. They will be replaced with unproven technology, a boondoggle for computer companies but a disaster for students.

Paul Buchheit continues the assault on the “reformers” misrepresentations…

Five Facts for the Dangerously Deluded Education Reformers

1. Privatization takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
…The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year…Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history…Spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago.

2. Testing doesn’t work.
…”The tests that are typically used to measure performance in education fall short of providing a complete measure of desired educational outcomes in many ways”…With regard to teacher evaluation, the American Statistical Association reported that Value-Added Assessment Models “are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.”…

3. The arts make better scientists.
…A comprehensive study at Michigan State University found that “success in science is accompanied by developed ability in other fields such as the fine arts.”…

4. Privatization means unequal opportunity for all.
…A National Education Policy Center study found that charter schools, in comparison to nearby public schools, were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that “segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities.”…

5. Reformers are primarily business people, not educators.
…Billionaires like Bill Gates and Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family, who have little educational experience among them, and who have little accountability to the public, are promoting education reform with lots of standardized testing. As already noted, the writers of the Common Core standards included no early childhood educators or experienced classroom teachers. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a joint statement rejecting the standards as inappropriate for children in the early grades…[emphasis added]

People like Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan and Bill Gates, who don’t know anything about education are having a huge impact on America’s public schools. Unfortunately they rarely listen to, or purposely ignore, actual practitioners and researchers.

CLOSE THE GAPS

To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap

Linda Darling-Hammond is an experienced educator with more than 40 years of experience in public education and educational research. She maintains that teachers in the U.S. are prevented from doing their jobs. High achieving nations treat teachers with more respect, allow teachers to do what they were trained to do, give teachers time to collaborate, and provide sufficient resources.

In addition, the fact that nearly a fourth of America’s children live in poverty creates special difficulties that higher achieving nations don’t have. Our high poverty children are more at risk because our social safety nets are less adequate than in other developed countries. We have more children without health care. We have more children living with food insecurity. We have more homeless children. We spend less money on our students who live in poverty than we do for our wealthy students. Teachers who work with high poverty students have enormous challenges to overcome and are given fewer resources.

…American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement…

Address inequities that undermine learning: Every international indicator shows that the U.S. supports its children less well than do other developed countries, who offer universal health care and early childhood education, as well as income supports for families. Evidence is plentiful that when children are healthy and well-supported in learning in the early years and beyond, they achieve and graduate at higher rates. The latest PISA report also found that the most successful nations allocate proportionately more resources to the education of disadvantaged students, while the United States allocates less. It is time for the U.S. finally to equalize school funding, address childhood poverty as it successfully did during the 1970s, institute universal early care and learning programs, and provide the wraparound services — health care, before- and after-school care, and social services — that ensure children are supported to learn….

Value teaching and teacher learning: Countries where teachers believe their profession is valued show higher levels of student achievement….

Redesign schools to create time for collaboration: OECD studies show that higher-performing countries intentionally focus on creating teacher collaboration that results in more skillful teaching and strong student achievement. U.S. researchers have also found that school achievement is much stronger where teachers work in collaborative teams that plan and learn together….

Create meaningful teacher evaluations that foster improvement: All U.S. teachers stated that formal appraisal is used in their schools, based on classroom observations; feedback from parents, guardians, and students; and review of test information. This is not very different from the TALIS average. What is different is the nature of the feedback and its usefulness. American teachers found the feedback they received to be less useful for improving instruction than their peers elsewhere

We cannot make major headway in raising student performance and closing the achievement gap until we make progress in closing the teaching gap. That means supporting children equitably outside as well as inside the classroom, creating a profession that is rewarding and well-supported, and designing schools that offer the conditions for both the student and teacher learning that will move American education forward.

We have lost our way as a society. We’ve lost the ability or the desire to do what’s right for the children of our nation, and our nation is, and will be poorer for it. Susan Zimmerman, in Comprehension Going Forward, said it best.

“Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It’s about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It’s about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It’s about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can’t imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring.”

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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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