Posted in Article Medleys, reform, SchoolShootings, Teaching Career, vouchers

2018 Medley #6

‘Ed-Reform’ is Bipartisan, Teacher Pay,
School Shootings, Vouchers 


Betsy DeVos Didn’t Say Anything in Her Viral 60 Minutes Clip That Democrats Haven’t Supported for Years

Education reform, which, in Indiana has resulted in the loss of public revenue to parochial, private, and charter schools, is not a Republican-only phenomenon. Democrats have participated in the slow, steady, dismantling of public education in the U.S.

Starting with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (which is not necessarily the start of the privatization movement), the Democrats have thrown their weight behind privatization. 92% of Democrats in the U.S. House voted “Aye” for the bill, as did 94% of Democrats in the Senate.

In keeping with that tradition, when it came time to replace the damaging law, the Obama administration replace the bill, with Race to the Top (RttT), which continued many of the damaging effects of NCLB.

In the last presidential election, there was little or no discussion at all of K-12 education because the two parties weren’t that far apart on the issue. The Republicans came out in favor of “choice” in their platform (p.32)

We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children. To protect religious liberty we will ensure that faith-based institutions, especially those that are vital parts of underserved neighborhoods, do not face discrimination by government.

I assume by their behavior that to Indiana Republicans, “discrimination by government” means refusing to give private religious schools public tax dollars. So, to rectify that, nearly a half billion dollars of public tax revenue has been spent on Indiana vouchers since 2011, and more than $150 million in the current 2017-2018 school year.

Democrats weren’t quite as “free-market” oriented, opting for “public” charter schools and saying nothing about school vouchers.

Democrats are committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools, and we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.

K-12 education was rarely if ever mentioned during any of the candidate debates.

Perhaps Democrats haven’t been quite as bad as Republicans, but in this article for Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley, explains how Democrats have also done their best to damage public education…

The bad news for Democrats who found DeVos’ performance appalling is that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years. Broadly speaking, the regime of compelling competition between schools by creating charter-school or school-choice programs and by rewarding those whose students do well on standardized tests was launched at a federal level by the No Child Left Behind Act; the NCLB was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in 2001 with 87 votes. When Barack Obama became president, he created the Race to the Top program, which the Washington Post described at the time as a “competition for $4.35 billion in grants” that would “ease limits on charter schools” and “tie teacher pay to student achievement,” i.e. direct extra funds to already-successful schools.


Indiana teacher pay shrinking

Isn’t it time for teachers in Indiana to speak up?

Average teacher salaries in Indiana have declined by over 15 percent in the past 15 years after adjusting for inflation. That’s according to an interactive analysis produced last week by Alvin Chang of Vox, drawing on data from the National Education Association.

Indiana’s pay cuts, Chang writes, are “worse than the nation as a whole, where teachers have had their pay cut by an average of 3 percent when we adjust for inflation. And since 2010, teachers in Indiana had their pay cut by 9.7 percent.”

They’re also worse than in West Virginia, where low pay and a lack of raises touched off a two-week teacher strike that pushed state officials to approve a 5-percent raise for educators. Clearly, lagging teacher pay is an issue across the country. The West Virginia strike could be a harbinger of things to come. Kentucky or Oklahoma could be next.


Justice Department’s School Safety Plan Puts Black, Brown Students In Danger, Critics Say

This is what happens when you focus on symptoms rather than causes. We need better policing of who can get and who owns guns in our society…better limitations on the kind of guns, sizes of magazines, and quantities of ammunition that people are allowed to buy…and better support services for people in need.

“The decision to funnel more money into the militarization of our schools and policing of young people is really problematic,” Kaitlin Banner, deputy project director at the liberal nonprofit Advancement Project, told HuffPost. When states or the federal government encourage school districts to increase the presence of police in the schools, the officers end up mostly in schools that serve children of color, who bear the brunt of the tougher security policies, she said.

“We’re similarly concerned about bringing more guns and weapons into the school environment,” Banner said.

White House vows to arm teachers

The POTUS realized that we ought to raise the age for gun purchases (we already have a higher age for handguns, why not for rifles?). Then – NRA – and he changed his mind. The NRA is a tool of the gun manufacturing industry interested only in the number of guns sold, not the safety of American citizens.

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but backed off President Donald Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out a series of policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups.

Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include any substantial changes to gun laws.

Schools Should Use Walkouts in Protest of Gun Violence as a Teaching Moment

Today’s walkout is an example of informed citizenry. Learn from it…

School administrators owe it to their students to examine their reaction to young peoples’ self-expression and to ask how they can help build on this moment of protest as an educational experience. As the Supreme Court observed in Brown v. Board of Education, education is “the very foundation of good citizenship.” Public school is the place where students experience and interact with government, learn through discussion and debate with other students from differing backgrounds, and build the foundation for participation in a democratic society. Rather than seeking to silence students’ political engagement and quashing their desire for conversation, schools can approach this moment as an opportunity for learning about civic action.


School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

In case you missed this…vouchers don’t work to improve education and are simply a way to transfer public funds into private and religious hands. This report is from 2017.

School “failure” is almost always the result of high poverty, lack of opportunities, and out-of-school factors. Vouchers can’t solve those issues.

The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear.

Here are two excellent editorials about Indiana’s ever-expanding, wide-ranging voucher plan.

Cost-benefit stats show failures of voucher plan

Our state gives money to private schools which do not have to follow the same rules as public schools giving them an advantage. Yet, when they still “fail” the state “waives” their responsibility.

Nearly $13 million in voucher money flowed to schools receiving a D or F on state report cards. The Indiana State Board of Education just last week granted a waiver to Ambassador Christian Academy, a “D” school. The state board agreed a majority of students showed academic growth over the last school year, even though the same board proposed new accountability rules for public schools that will not give credit for academic growth.

Voucher use rises to record high

Indiana’s voucher plan was originally sold as a way to help poor children “escape from failing schools.” No longer. More and more middle income parents are using vouchers without trying public schools. It has become an entitlement program for religion.

Indiana’s school voucher system continues to grow, with the state spending $153 million for the 2017-18 academic year – a record for the program – to help more than 35,000 students attend private schools.

A report on the 7-year-old voucher program – also known as school choice – shows a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year in the number of students taking part. It also shows the cost to Indiana public schools continues to rise.

State numbers mirror data from Allen County, where voucher numbers are up in three of the county’s four public school districts.

Allen County has 6,215 voucher students, up from 6,209 last year. The estimated cost to public school districts in the county rose by more than $500,000 to $25.8 million in 2017, according to the report.



Posted in Article Medleys, ChildhoodMortality, reading, reform, retention, Science, STEM, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #1

Shortchanging Our Children and our Future,
Retention-in-Grade, Struggling Readers,
Why Teachers Quit, Chalkbeat


Missing an S for Science in the STEM Frenzy

Like other aspects of America’s infrastructure, our public education system is being systematically dismantled. We’re shortchanging the future of the nation by not providing a full curriculum for all our students.

Two in 5 schools don’t offer physics! In both Alaska and Oklahoma, about 70 percent of high schools don’t offer the course. Florida and Utah are close behind, with nearly 60 percent of high schools lacking physics. Iowa, New Hampshire, and Maine do much better, with only about 15 percent of schools not offering the subject.

Small schools are hurt worse, raising questions about the quality of science instruction in charter schools.

Ninety percent of America’s kids attend public schools, so dwindling science instruction is troubling. But it’s not surprising. Defunding public education is intentional, meant to transform schools into technology hubs—charters for the poor.

What message are we sending to the future?


Held back, but not helped

Yet another state discovers that retention-in-grade doesn’t help students.

Louisiana is one of the states where you have to pass a test to move on to the next grade (in fourth and ninth grades). After a retention rate of around 25%, they’ve found that the process doesn’t really help.

Retention is a problem that even educators contribute to…not just legislatures, school boards, or politicians. It’s true that the legislatures and politicians are the ones who pass the “third grade punishment” laws (fourth grade in Louisiana), but rarely do teachers or administrators object beyond the “we need to make those decisions” stage. Those voices shouting “retention-in-grade doesn’t work” are drowned out by the crowd shouting “we have to do something” followed by “what else can we do?” And therein lies the problem.

Teachers can’t solve the problem of retention-in-grade on their own. Retention is ineffective as a method of remediation, as is passing a child to the next grade without any intervention. Intervention takes time and costs money.

States should stop wasting millions on testing, and, instead, spend that money on remediation. Struggling students need extra help, not another year doing the same thing over again. Research has repeatedly shown that intensive intervention works…but it costs money.

Only when we decide that our children are worth the cost will we be able to provide the education that each child needs.

Students who fell short were assigned mandatory summer-school classes, after which they took the test again. If that second attempt wasn’t successful, students couldn’t move on to fifth or ninth grade. The practice of retention in Louisiana also extended beyond the high-stakes grades. In 2015-16, more than one-third of all retained students were from grades K-3. In that same year, 10 percent of all ninth graders were held back. In a presentation a few years ago, a top education-department administrator, Chief of Literacy Kerry Laster, wrote, “We retain students despite overwhelming research and practical evidence that retention fails to lead to improved student outcomes.” Laster’s presentation, based on 2010 data, reported that 28 percent of Louisiana students did not make it to fourth grade on time.


Why Good Teachers Quit Teaching

Teachers are leaving the profession faster than they’re entering. The non-educators in statehouses and legislatures are forcing teachers to do things that are not educationally sound. This has been going on for too long.

In what other profession do outsiders dictate practice? Who tells your attorney how to practice law? Who tells your plumber how to fix a leak? Who tells your doctor how to diagnose an illness?

Let teachers teach.

Bonnie D. left after 30 years of teaching because she felt the system was no longer acting in the best interest of all students. “Everything became all about passing the ‘almighty test,’” she says. “Decisions were made by the administrators to concentrate only on those students who could perform well. Call me old fashioned, but I always did my best to reach and teach every student in my room, not simply the ones who had the best chance of passing a test.”

In addition, many teachers worry about the effect high-stakes testing has on kids. “Sometimes tests coincide with a bad day,” Michelle S. tells us, “or a day when a student is just not feeling it. That is an incredible amount of stress on kids—especially those classified as ‘bubble kids.’”

Why It’s So Hard to Be a Teacher Right Now

Many legislatures are still relying on test scores to tell them which schools are “good” and which are “failing.” That continued stress, added to the attitude out of the U.S. Education Department that public schools are a “dead end” means that being a teacher is not getting easier.

…test-prep stressors haven’t gone away, Weingarten says they started to abate late in 2015 when President Obama signed into law an act that gave states more power to determine public school curricula without the threat of federal penalties tied to standardized test scores. “There was hope things would get better,” she says.

But then a new source of stress emerged: the 2016 election, and President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to the post of Education Secretary. DeVos is a prominent charter-school advocate, and at times has been highly critical of America’s public schools. (She once said America’s public schools are “a dead end.”)


Watch Out Padma, Here Comes Chalkbeat!

Chalkbeat accepts money from the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) such as the Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Anschutz Foundation, EdChoice, and the Walton Family Foundation. They claim that their supporters (complete list here) don’t impact their editorial decisions.

Here’s what I do know–teaching is not a competition. It’s not a reality show. If it were a reality show, it would be judged by experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris. The thing is neither of them would deign to participate in an exercise like this one by reformy Chalkbeat. More likely it will be an exercise in determining who can best read the Moskowitz Academy Scripted Lesson Plan, or who can make the Most Kids Pass the Test, or some other reformy nonsense.

I’m personally offended that Chalkbeat deems itself worthy of judging teachers. I’ve been reading Chalkbeat since it started. I rate it biased, reformy, ineffective, and totally unqualified to understand our jobs, let alone judge our work. We do not cook meals. We do not just do test prep. We deal with real people, and they have many more layers than the artichokes they prepared three ways on Top Chef last week.


There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

When Readers Struggle: Background Knowledge

This is the first in a series on struggling readers by Russ Walsh. As of Jan 7, there is a second post, When Readers Struggle: Oral Language

Whenever I ask a group of teachers to identify areas that seem to cause difficulty for struggling readers, lack of background knowledge is sure to be near the top of the list.

Liking Those We Don’t Like: The Dissonance Involved with Supporting Public Schools

It’s one of the most exasperating issues for parents and educators, but education goes relatively unmentioned in each campaign.

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

Is your district drawing borders to reduce or perpetuate racial segregation?

American kids are 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other rich countries

A new study ranks 20 wealthy countries on childhood deaths. The US comes in last.

Lawmakers want more research before they spend big on preschool. When it comes to vouchers, there’s no such hesitation.

Lawmakers have demanded lots of proof to determine whether preschool helps kids…

Yet they’ve requested no long-term study of another similarly designed, tuition support program — vouchers for private schools…

The Lasting Payoff of Early Ed

The benefits of early education are found to persist for years, bolstering graduation, reducing retention, and reducing special education placements.

Posted in Public Ed, Teaching Career

Resolution #3: Educate Yourself

A series of resolutions for 2018…


  • Educate yourself.


Teachers are overworked and overstressed. Often teachers go home after a difficult day at school and spend an hour or two on planning, assessing student work, or on piles of mostly meaningless paperwork.

A few hours later, after a rushed meal, minimal time with family, and a night of not-enough-sleep, it starts over again.

Weekends are a bit better…time to catch up on everything.

It’s no surprise, then, that teachers feel like they don’t have time to find out what’s happening in the politics of public education. They only know that it seems like each year there are more and more restrictions on what and how they can teach, more tests for their students, fewer resources, and larger classes.

Meanwhile, the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) continue to move forward increasing funding for charter schools and unaccountable voucher schools by diverting public money from public schools.


Make the time.

I know…I’m retired. I don’t have to get up and face a classroom of kids every day. It’s easy for me to say. I get it.

But things have changed since I retired. I can write letters and blog posts, and argue with legislators in support of public education and public educators, but I’m out of date. A lot has changed since I last had my own classroom in 2010. I don’t know what today’s classrooms are like in your school.

Teachers, this is your profession, and it consists of more than just the time you spend with your students. I would ask you to think of time spent educating yourself about what’s happening in education as one part of your professional development.

The political world of public education will

  • affect your students and your children, if you have any, as they progress through school
  • affect you and your economic status while you’re working and in retirement
  • affect how many more years you will be able to teach
  • affect how large your class sizes are
  • affect your academic freedom
  • affect what you teach, how you teach, and how often your students have to pause their learning to take a standardized test.

Right now, legislators, most of whom haven’t set foot in a classroom since they were students, are making decisions which will affect you, your students, and your classroom.

This is your profession. You owe it to yourself, your students, your future students, and your community, to educate yourself. Be the lifelong learner you wish to see in your students.

[If you’re not a teacher, you owe it to yourself, your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, and students of the community, to educate yourself. What happens to public education affects your children – and all of the above – and your community.]


Here are some places to start (feel free to add more in the comments)…

Read Books (in no particular order)

Read Blogs (in no particular order)

Listen to Podcasts


  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.


  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”


  • Educate yourself.
Posted in Public Ed, Teaching Career

…in which I rant about poor word choices and ignorant teachers.

Arghhh! The ignorance! The dumbassiness! It hurts!


In a recent post (which I first read about in Mercedes Schneider’s blog entry, Teacher Workload vs. Teacher Salary: And the Winner Is…) blogger Paul Murphy wrote that teachers complain about their workload and low pay because it makes them feel superior.

Teachers who talk about working 12-hour days and going in on weekends and spending thousands of their own dollars aren’t actually complaining about it. They’re proud of it. They believe it’s proof of their dedication. It makes them feel superior to those who aren’t as selfless.


I was a teacher for nearly four decades…and I talked about how much work it was to be a teacher, but it wasn’t bragging. Most of the time I was trying to explain to people who have no clue what teaching actually entails, that it’s a real job. It takes a lot of work to do it well.

I never felt “pride” that I was working for free or paying for classroom supplies with my own money. On the contrary, I often felt it was shameful that our nation’s children were such a low priority that the workers felt obligated to subsidize the employers.

Teachers spend extra money and time on our classrooms because we put our students first. Pride? Not really. Necessity? You bet. Murphy even admits that he wouldn’t stop doing those extra things…and he goes on in a subsequent post to explain further. Teachers need to organize, work the contract and by doing so, let their employers know that they won’t work for nothing. This, he admits, is easier said than done. I agree.

My disagreement with Murphy is in his language choices. Teachers don’t talk about their jobs to “feel superior.” We’re not “proud” of our sacrifices. We do them because we care about our students.


He added,

With the end of summer closing in, many teachers will be heading into their classrooms to donate some work. They’ll spend hours decorating their rooms…

Murphy was speaking specifically of elementary teachers (although I know secondary teachers who go in early and stay late, as well). We go in early and we donate work. Why? Because the work has to get done, and if we only work the hours for which we’re paid our students will be the poorer for it.

And, I should add, it’s not all decorating, something Murphy, as an elementary teacher, ought to know. Decorating a classroom is not like putting up Christmas lights, Thanksgiving turkeys, or Valentine’s Day hearts, although that might be part of it. We also display motivational posters, calendars, word walls, charts, maps. Those are better labeled teaching tools not decorations. We use those teaching tools for the benefit of the students. So, when I went in to school a week early to get things ready, aside from making sure that materials were ready for students, and making sure that the classroom looked inviting, I also made sure that there were necessary teaching tools available for use during classroom instruction.


Finally, he wrote,

…what struck me, as it always does, is the contradiction between whining about low pay and bragging about working for free.

Again, not bragging! And not whining about low pay, either. Are school boards accused of whining about money when they claim, “we haven’t got enough money for a 1% across the board raise”? Are legislators accused of whining when they say, “this is all we can afford to budget for public education this year”?

Our so-called “whining” about pay is really an objection to the lack of full funding from the state. Local school systems are forced to choose between providing a full curriculum with sufficient materials, or a well paid staff. They often cannot do both.


But, again, the common knowledge is that teachers don’t really work that hard, so why pay them like other professionals? Teaching is easy. After all, they have all that time off in the summer, get to go home at 3 pm every day, and only have to spend their days with a bunch of kids. How hard can it be?

That “common knowledge” is the reason teachers need to talk about how much work they do, how much they spend on their classrooms, and how little they’re paid in relation to how much they do and how much other professionals with equal training are paid.

My objections (whining?) are with Murphy’s word choices…I agree with much of what he wrote, but bragging, decorating, and whining, are not only incorrect descriptions of what teachers do, they’re (IMHO) demeaning. Words matter.

And, as if on cue, there appeared a comment to Mercedes Schneider’s blog supporting the aforementioned “common knowledge” about teachers…


Those elementary teachers sure are precious, aren’t they? They ought to spend some time trying to grade labs or essays only during the time that they’re at school. Working overtime as a high school teacher *is* doing the minimum. Sheesh.

Yes, it’s true. The comment about how easy teachers have it (in this case, elementary teachers) was written by…a teacher.

Socrates is apparently a high school teacher who thinks that elementary teachers have it easy because we don’t have to grade labs or essays and we don’t have to work extra hours. We are, apparently, “precious” because we have it so easy, and if we really want to work hard we would have become secondary teachers!

Socrates is obviously ignorant about what goes on in an elementary classroom.

Now it wouldn’t be hard to find an elementary teacher who is equally ignorant about secondary teachers – Someone who might say, “they get to go home early every day”…”they don’t have to worry about recess duty, bus duty, or cafeteria duty”…”they get a whole period for prep time (or lunch)”…”they may have two or three preps a day, but elementary teachers have seven, eight, or even nine different subjects they have to teach every day”…and so on.

Luckily for both sets of ignoramuses, I know differently. I know from experience how hard elementary teachers work. I know from observation how hard secondary teachers work.

There are differences between elementary and secondary teachers, which we won’t get into right now. Suffice it to say, however, that those secondary teachers, like Socrates, who think that elementary teachers don’t work just as hard as they do, are wrong…wrong…wrong.

And vice versa.

It’s teachers like Socrates who perpetuate the stereotype of “teaching as an easy job,” and Murphy, who use demeaning language, perpetuating the myth that teachers complain without justification, who make life hard for the rest of us.

Posted in Article Medleys, books, Choice, Immigrants, poverty, Public Ed, Quotes, Teaching Career

My Year-End Favorites

The “Year’s Bests” and “Year’s Mosts” list…images, blog posts, quotes, podcasts, and books.

Thanks for reading…


The Success of America’s Public Schools

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

In which Steven Singer teaches us how well our public schools are doing. Facts matter.

From Steven Singer

…America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

Here’s why: the United States educates everyone. Most other countries do not.

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.


My Own Favorite Blog Post of the Year

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

I follow Steven Singer’s post with one of my own about the amazing success of America’s public schools.

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.

My Most Popular Blog Post of the Year

Kill the Teaching Profession: Indiana and Wisconsin Show How It’s Done

This post about how Indiana and Wisconsin are destroying the teaching profession,  received the most attention of anything I wrote this year, picking up several thousand hits.

From Live Long and Prosper

…in order to offset the loss of teaching staff in the state, rules for becoming a teacher have been relaxed…

…because nothing says increased achievement more than hiring under qualified personnel.


Trump fires Lady Liberty.

Retired Chicago-area teacher Fred Klonsky provides an editorial comment about the nation’s immigration policy. This sums up the year accurately…

From Fred Klonsky


Have you Heard: Truth in Edvertising

With a “market-based” education economy comes advertising. Jennifer Berkshire, Jack Schneider, and their guest, Sarah Butler Jessen, discuss “edvertising”. If you are at all concerned about the privatization of public education you owe it to yourself to listen to this.

From Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider

…in schooling certainly there is a private good aspect to it. But schooling is also a public good. It’s something that benefits our society, our neighborhoods, our communities. It benefits the most advantaged, but it also benefits the least advantaged at least theoretically. So when we acting as consumers, we’re only acting in alignment with the private good aspect of education.

So think for instance, buying an alarm for your house versus trying to cultivate safer cities or safer neighborhoods. Whereas one of those is an inherently private good. The alarm is only going to protect me and my family. The public good is going to benefit everyone in the community and that’s not something I can promote via shopping.


My favorite quotes from the year…from actual, real-life educators.

The Hypocrisy of “Choice”

Testing Opt Out: Parent Wants Conference; School Calls Police *Just in Case*

From Mercedes Schneider

One of the great contradictions within corporate ed reform is the promoting of a “parental choice” that stops short of the parent’s choice to opt his or her children out of federal- and state-mandated standardized testing.


School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

From Russ Walsh

Those of us who continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education are accused of using poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Right up front let me say I am against the status quo and I have spent a lifetime in education trying to improve teacher instruction and educational opportunities for the struggling readers and writers I have worked with. To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.

2 School Districts, 1 Ugly Truth

From John Kuhn

Educational malpractice doesn’t happen in the classroom. The greatest educational malpractice in the Unites States happens in the statehouse not the school house.

If we truly cared about how our students end up, we would have shared accountability, where everyone whose fingerprints are on these students of ours, has to answer for the choices that they make.


On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

We need to learn from history.

By Timothy Snyder

Lesson 10: Believe in Truth: To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Publisher’s Description

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

Here’s a video of Timothy Snyder talking about his book, HERE.


Books I hope to get to in 2018…

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools, by Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi

Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education, by John Merrow

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

Posted in Children'sLiterature, Public Ed, Quotes, Racism, research, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career

Listen to This #16


The United States seems to be going out of its way to damage public education and discourage public school teachers. We ignore the voices of educators and ignore current educational research (much of which is done in the U.S.) used by high achieving nations. Instead we listen to edupreneurs interested in profit, politicians looking for kickbacks, and policy makers who don’t know anything about teaching, public schools, or public education.

We create “failing schools” by defining success using narrow, standardized test-based results and force teachers to teach in ways they know are developmentally or academically inappropriate. In addition we ignore out of school factors that lead to lowered student standardized test-based achievement.

Finally, we create educational models which discourage young people from choosing education as a career and push out current career teachers. We use “failing schools” as an excuse to blame teachers, bust unions, and privatize. Meanwhile, the needs of our most vulnerable students are being neglected.

From Carl Sagan in 1989.

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.


How America Is Breaking Public Education

From Ethan Siegel, Forbes

…despite knowing what a spectacular teacher looks like, the educational models we have in place actively discourage every one of these.


Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Still Cannot Really Be Measured

This is true for teachers everywhere…

From Stu Egan

How schools and students are measured rarely takes into account that so much more defines the academic and social terrain of a school culture than a standardized test can measure. Why? Because there really is not anything like a standardized student. Experienced teachers understand that because they look at students as individuals who are the sum of their experiences, backgrounds, work ethic, and self-worth. Yet, our General Assembly measures them with the very same criteria across the board with an impersonal test.


The Educational Malpractice of Ms. Moskowitz

tl;dr: Before you tell teachers what and how to teach, do it yourself. Then, after you’ve taught for a lifetime, let us know how you feel about someone who has never spent a day in a classroom calling you “stupid” and “lazy.”

This is a long quote, but well worth it…and click the link above to read the whole article.

From Mitchell Robinson on Eclectablog

I am beyond tired—beyond exhausted, really—of persons who have never taught anyone anything lecturing the rest of us who have about what we are doing wrong, how stupid we are, how lazy we are, and how they know better than we do when it comes to everything about teaching and learning. How about this, Eva and Elizabeth?–instead of pontificating about things you are equally arrogant and ignorant of, why don’t you each go back to school, get an education degree, or two, or three, get certified, do an internship (for free–in fact, pay a bunch of money to do so), or two, or three, then see if you can find a job in a school. Then, teach.I don’t care what you teach; what grade level; what subject. But stick it out for at least a school year. Write your lesson plans. Grade your papers and projects. Go to all of those grade level meetings, and IEP meetings, and school board meetings, and budget negotiation meetings, and union meetings, and curriculum revision meetings, and curriculum re-revision meetings, and teacher evaluation meetings, and “special area” meetings, and state department of education meetings, and professional development in-services, and parent-teacher conferences, and open houses, and attend all those concerts, and football games, and dance recitals, and basketball games, and soccer matches, and lacrosse games, and honor band concerts, and school musicals, and tennis matches, and plays, and debates, and quiz bowl competitions, and marching band shows, and cheerleading competitions, and swim meets.

Then do it all 10, or 20, or 30 more times, and let me know how you feel about someone who never did ANY of these things, even for a “few lessons“, telling you how stupid, and lazy you are, and how you’re being a “defender of the status quo” if you’re not really excited to immediately implement their “radical, disruptive” ideas about how to “save public education.”


IN: Diminishing Education

The Indiana State Board of Education ignored the input of dozens of teachers and administrators. They didn’t ignore the input from the Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association by a vote of 7-4. All four of the “no” votes came from experienced educators.

Who do you think knows more about public education, educators or business people?

From Peter Greene

But to say that you cannot graduate until you prove that you can be a useful meat widget for a future employer– that idea represents a hollowing out of educational goals. Be a good citizen? Become a fine parent? Lifelong learning? Developing a deeper, better more well-rounded picture of who you can become as a person, while better understanding what it means to be human in the world? Screw that stuff, kid. Your future employer has the only question that matters– “What can you do for me, kid?”

Earning an Indiana high school diploma just became a lot more complicated


The new requirements are strongly supported by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Manufacturers Association…

Teachers, principals and superintendents from across Indiana told the state school board during six hours of public testimony Wednesday that the rush to adopt graduation pathways before finalizing how they’ll work inevitably will result in another Indiana education fiasco, akin to extra-long standardized testing and the repeatedly revised school accountability grades.


FreshEd #97 – Should we copy Finland’s education system? (Pasi Sahlberg)

This run-on quote by Finnish educator Past Sahlberg asks why high performing nations are using the newest research on education, much of it coming out of the United States…but we, in the U.S. are ignoring it and continuing our test and punish ways?

From Pasi Sahlberg

…why people are not really taking their own research seriously? How can it be that in the United States, day in and day out, people come across great books and research reports and others and they say, no, this is not how it goes, but when you cross the border, just north of the US, go to Canada, and you see how differently policy makers, politicians, and everybody takes the global international research nowadays, and they consider their findings and look at the findings of the research compared to their own practice and policies and their finding inconsistencies there just like in Finland, they are willing and able to change the course. But not in the US.


Billionaires get handouts. My students don’t even get toilet paper.

Would you work at a place where the budget was so tight that you were allotted one roll of toilet paper a year?

Could you run your classroom on one roll of toilet paper per school year? How can a “civilized” society treat any of its citizens in this manner? How can we treat our children like this?

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela.

From Katherine Brezler, a second-grade teacher in The Bronx and a candidate for New York State Senate in the 37th District.

While billionaires get a handout, my students — and students across the country — get one roll of toilet paper. Every year that I’ve been a teacher, that roll is gone well before the year is over. Simple hygienic necessities should not be subject to budget constraints. Our teachers and students deserve dignity and respect.


Looking Back: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I’ve been saving this quote. It contains material which has been difficult for me to confront. The Looking Back article, from the blog, Reading While White, deals with the children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, its racist content, and the racism of its author, Roald Dahl.

There is no denying that Roald Dahl was a racist and anti-semite and those prejudices leaked into his work. [See here, here, and here.] I accept that.

I accept the fact that Dahl and his agents attempted to purge the book of its more blatant expressions of racism by rewriting the Oompa Loompas as non-black and non-African pygmies in the second and later editions, as well as the movies based on the book. I also accept that those rewrites did not completely remove all offensive elements from the book.

The quote below deals with how to come to terms with a beloved book, and I do love this book, which is so obviously flawed. The author wonders if her love of the book was not based on the actual book, but on the circumstances of her exposure: a favorite teacher and a highly motivating environment and study of the book.

What if, she asks, we had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory critically?

[Full disclosure: My son, a children’s librarian in the Midwest, is one of the authors of the Reading While White blog, though he did not write this particular post.]

From Elisa Gall in Reading While White

…every time that critical voice or bubble of discomfort arose, I chose not to pay attention to it. It was selective memory, because I did not want to let this book go. I have to call that what it really is: White fragility (and other kinds of fragility, considering the myriad ways this book is problematic). I can’t help but wonder now if my love for this book wasn’t caused by Dahl’s craft at all, but by the joy of remembering reading the book all by myself, or the kickass teacher who made her class immersive and fun (let’s not forget the bathtub). Still, it’s worth noting that criticisms of this book are not new. As long as there have been children’s books, there have been people working against racism in children’s books. My teacher was awesome in a lot of ways, but she did put time and effort into a celebration of THAT title. What if we had read something else? Or what if we had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory critically?

Posted in John Kuhn, Legislatures, Public Ed, Quotes, Teaching Career

Listen to This #15: From John Kuhn


John Kuhn is the superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD near Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. He is an outspoken supporter of public schools and an advocate for equity in funding.

I’ve been following him on this blog since his speech at the 2011 Save Our Schools Rally, and have quoted him frequently.

In the last few days several hundred thousand people have watched the video below, 2 School Districts, 1 Ugly Truth. More quotes, videos, and links, follow…

2 School Districts, 1 Ugly Truth

From John Kuhn

Educational malpractice doesn’t happen in the classroom. The greatest educational malpractice in the Unites States happens in the statehouse not the school house.

If we truly cared about how our students end up, we would have shared accountability, where everyone whose fingerprints are on these students of ours, has to answer for the choices that they make.

More…from his books, twitter feed and speeches.


Public Education is a promise we make to the children of our society, and to their children, and to their children.


Everyone just kind of assumes that the people telling teachers how to teach actually know something about teaching that the teachers don’t know.


I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”?

John Kuhn at the Save Our Schools Rally in Washington D.C., July 2011


If the teacher is the quarterback, Congress is the offensive line. Their performance impacts our performance, but they keep letting us get sacked by poverty, broken homes, student mobility, hunger, health care. And they just say “Oops” as that linebacker blows by them and buries his facemask in our chest. Then we get back to the huddle and they say, “You gotta complete your passes.” We’re aware of that. Make your blocks, legislators. Give us time to stand in the pocket and throw good passes. Do your job. It doesn’t take a great quarterback rating to win games; it takes a team effort.


As soon as the data shows that the average black student has the same opportunity to live and learn and hope and dream in America as the average white student, and as soon as the data shows that the average poor kid drinks water just as clean and breathes air just as pure as the average rich kid, then educators like me will no longer cry foul when this society sends us children and says: Get them all over the same hurdle.


I will never follow the lead of those who exclude the kids who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise.


From Fear and Learning in America (Teachers College Press, 2014)

Politically powerful parents in America won’t accept inadequate public schooling for their children – they have minimum expectations that just happen to align nicely with Bloom’s taxonomy and John Dewey’s quote about what the best and wisest parents want for their children; and they have the voices and the votes to realize at least an approximation of those expectations. Suburban public school parents want for their children precisely what author Jonathan Kozol has vividly described as the components of the wonderful education poor children deserve (and need, if they are to enter into the full promise of this nation). These parents want their children’s schools to have well-appointed libraries, reasonable class sizes, ample time for exploration and play, comfortable climate-controlled buildings, safe surroundings, and green grass.

The only difference is that poor people have little more to cling to than Jonathan Kozol’s eloquence; suburbanites have political heft and can actually make sure their children get something approaching their loving standard of educational quality.


From Test-and-Punish: How the Texas Education Model Gave America Accountability Without Equity (Park Place Publications, 2013)

The school reform movement that today fixates on outcomes and turns a blind eye to equity was born out of this intractable conflict between twin titans of political heft: business executives and politically engaged upper middle–class parents. Inequity ws the obvious and time–honored solution to align these two camps. The legislature could keep both influential constituencies happy by building and maintaining a system just like the one it had constructed, a system of selective adequacy wherein upper– and middle–class neighborhoods boasted great public schools, and poor neighborhoods got “efficient” ones. If you had to shortchange education, it was good politics to shortchange it in minority neighborhoods.

Test-and-Punish: How the Texas Education Model Gave America Accountability Without Equity is reviewed HERE.