Category Archives: Teaching Career

It’s All About Growth

LOSING

One of my favorite bloggers, Peter Greene, is on his second set of children…his older children are in their thirties and he is the father of twin babies. It’s normal, I think, that we look back at our lives with a certain amount of nostalgia and Greene does this in a beautiful and thoughtful way in his post, Parenting Is All About Losing.

My wife asked me the other day, “Is it always like this?” We had turned around and had one of those moments when you realize that your baby looks like a small child, an undersized person, but not an infant any more. It’s a truly mixed moment emotionally, one part pride and joy at how big your child has grown, and one part sadness and loss because there was an infant just here a moment ago and now that tiniest person is gone forever.

There are conflicting emotions accompanying our children’s growth…

Not that it’s all loss and sadness. Every stage of my older children’s lives was the best so far, the best until the next new stage revealed itself to be even better. They get stronger and wiser and more terribly beautiful each time. It would never be enough to try to hold them back, to trade the unnatural prolonging of one stage for an unrealized better stage to come. Not that some parents don’t panic and try some emotional equivalent of binding their children’s legs so they won’t learn to walk or run. It never works. Children were born to grow, and grow they will, with or without our help.

So, he acknowledges that the emotions are conflicted and there are some good aspects to those changes, yet he titles his piece Parenting Is All About Losing, perhaps unconsciously emphasizing the negative.

I’d like to, respectfully, turn that around, and focus on the positive. Parenting is all about growing…for the parent and the child.

GROWING AND THE CIRCLE

My first thoughts on reading his post brought me to Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game.

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

We can’t go back, but we can watch our children grow. One stage is over and the next one appears without fanfare until we realize we’re seeing a new version of our child (and, I would add, ourselves). We never noticed the change until it was upon us.

There’s some comfort that we’re repeating the growth that our own parents experienced as we watch our children grow from childhood to adulthood. Greene recognizes this when he thinks about his own adult children.

…it is an unspeakably great big warm ball of blasting sunshine to experience your children as grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world.

At this point, however, he returns to “the losing.”

I wouldn’t. As I have seen my own children become “grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world” I would prefer to reflect on the ways we have grown together. They have, without doubt, taught me as much as I have taught them. I have grown as much as they have. There’s nostalgia in the past, but as Joni Mitchell put it,

There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

The positive side is that things can get better and there are plenty of new dreams, no matter how old I get. Some of those new dreams are trivial, like seeing the latest season of Star Trek, and hoping that the Cubs will win another World Series in less than 108 years. Other dreams, though, are profound…and remarkable, like hearing my great-grandchild learn to talk, and seeing my children and grandchildren work to make a better world.

GROWING AS TEACHERS

As educators, we see the same pattern. Greene writes,

Teachers go through the cycle of loss, too…

I always experienced a sense of sadness at the end of the school year and I had to say goodbye to my students — even the difficult-to-teach ones. When teachers look back at a year filled with 20 – 30 human children we see the growth they made and feel that same sort of nostalgic joy and sorrow. We see a different version in June of the child who entered our class the previous fall.

Spending six-plus hours a day together, for five days a week, and thirty-six weeks is an intense experience that non-teachers might not be aware of. The relationship between a teacher and her students is more than just an adult exchanging information with a child. It’s more than just teach and test. There’s a relationship which develops that goes both ways…a deep understanding of who the person is on the other end of the pencil. (If you don’t understand this relationship or have never experienced it, read through Beverly Cleary’s classic Ramona the Pest. The relationship between Ramona and her teacher, Miss Binney, should be explanation enough.)

Our growth as teachers, though, should be positive, too. Yes, it’s sometimes sad and hard to watch students move on with their lives…and often we never know how their lives progressed. Still, we have to trust that the growth is positive…for us and for them.

A few years ago I wrote a post about meeting a former student. We talked about the experiences we shared when she was eight and nine years old. I wrote,

She didn’t thank me for helping her learn to read. She didn’t thank me for helping her pass the achievement test. She didn’t thank me for helping her learn her math facts. She thanked me for being a kind and caring adult who helped her during a difficult time.

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.

Teachers don’t always know how they affect a student’s life. I have been lucky to meet a few former students and learn that I had a positive impact on their lives, but that doesn’t always happen. We have to do our best and hope that we provide more positive than negative. Building good relationships helps ensure that the balance will lean more toward the positive. In the process of building those relationships, the positive impact will land upon the teacher as well. Teachers and their students, both, are part of each other’s circle game…

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2019 Medley #9

Pre-School, Vouchers and Low Test Scores,
Billionaires Aren’t Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Two reports endorse investment in early childhood education

Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren’t investing in early childhood education the way they should…too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations (Corporations are people, my friend.”) to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.

The supermajority in Indiana still hasn’t been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state’s pilot program in pre-school…a “pilot” now in its sixth year.

A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.

Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.

What Preschool Isn’t: Waterford UPSTART and Any Other Online Program!

Yes…we’re trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We’ll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run “schools,” especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.

Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?

Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child’s creativity to develop…for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).

Any tax money that goes to “virtual pre-schools” is worse than a waste of money.

I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?

Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.

So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.

VOUCHERS — STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no

Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers…a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.

First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color “escape” “failing” public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn’t solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to “choice.” Now, Indiana’s voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.

Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.

Your tax dollars are going…

…instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.

New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.

BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC

Who Should Pay for Public Education?

The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates’s vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university’s education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It’s because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.

Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can’t answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that’s not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.

So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.

Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.

DEAR CHARTERS, HERE’S MONEY. LOVE BETSY

Charter networks KIPP and IDEA win big federal grants to fund ambitious growth plans

Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift…

“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive…”

Maybe that’s because the local community doesn’t need, want, or isn’t willing to pay for another school.

“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.

“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.

“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”

THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH

The teacher weekly wage penalty hit 21.4 percent in 2018, a record high

Let’s admit it. Many of America’s teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher’s salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it’s even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?

First, that’s just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it’s dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you’ll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.

Second, while teachers don’t go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it’s about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don’t pay them a competitive wage?

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.

(((DISINTEGRATING BEFORE OUR EYES)))

Once We Were Free: Mourning the era of American Jewish freedom

I…want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.

This isn’t about public education. It’s about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.

Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.

Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.

The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.

I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.

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Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana’s public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let’s take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).

Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was “their wallets.” The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master’s degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in “continuing education” in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor’s degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still “rewards” teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it’s easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and “teach” biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn’t like a teacher couldn’t just fire a teacher without just cause. That’s no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.

FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated “active school shooter” training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff’s department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training “more realistic.” Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,

“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”

Great. So let’s pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for “local control.”

Indiana teachers’ real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year’s inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for “local control.”

Collective Bargaining

There’s an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There’s no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There’s no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators’ salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don’t hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we’d be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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2019 Medley #6: WTF Edition

Dear Life: WTF, Shooting Teachers as PD, Children are Trying to Save the Planet, Intelligence: Not a Plus for Presidential Candidates

WTF! Some days are like that.

DEAR LIFE: WTF

A lifelong teacher

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog knows by now that our BFD of NEIFPE, Phyllis Bush, passed away last week. Last year Phyllis gave me a tee shirt that said, “DEAR LIFE: WTF.”

I agree. The children of Indiana have lost a champion in the fight to save public education.

You can read some of the many tributes to Phyllis HERE.

“Whether it is taking a kid to the zoo or to Zesto for ice cream, whether it is writing a letter to your legislators, whether it is running for office, whether it is supporting your favorite charity, DO IT! Monday morning quarterbacks are of little use to anyone. Whatever you do, live your life to the fullest. Do what matters to you.”

Godspeed, Phyllis. You were a teacher. You did what matters.

SHOOTING TEACHERS AS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: WTF

Teachers were ‘shot’ with fake bullets ‘execution style’ during active shooter training, ISTA says

There aren’t enough WTF’s for this news. The idea that teachers need to “learn” how terrifying it is to be in an active shooter situation is just WTF insane.

The problem is not that teachers (and students) don’t know how to react in an “active shooter” situation…the problem is that there are too many f#%@ing weapons in the hands of lunatics.

During active shooter training, some Indiana teachers were “shot execution style” with “projectiles” that caused welts and blood, according to the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA).

The ISTA addressed their concerns about these drills in a series of tweets on Wednesday as members of the association testified in front of the Senate Education Committee.

“The teachers were terrified but were told not to tell anyone what happened. Teachers waiting outside that heard the screaming were brought into the room four at a time, and the shooting process was repeated,” the ISTA said.

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

This comment should not have to be said…WTF is wrong with people?

“Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training,” said Dan Holub, executive director of the ISTA, talking to WISH-TV.

THE CURRENT WORLDWIDE EXTINCTION: WTF

Let the children strike as a lesson to all who live on this planet

Instead of ignoring nearly all the scientists in the world and continuing to do damage to the only home in the universe humans can inhabit, one would think that an entire species of intelligent beings would understand that fouling your own home is simply stupid.

The children who marched last week — all over the world — trying to get the adults in their lives to pay attention are the ones who are going to have to pay the price.

…young people enjoy similar rights and freedoms as we all do. Therefore, we should listen to children carefully when they speak to us about their lives. In fact, increased depression and anxiety that have led to dramatic erosion of children’s mental health and well-being around the world is, at least partly, due to their worries about the state of our planet. Active citizenship means having a voice about things that affect their lives.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. science spending

WTF!

At the Environmental Protection Agency, the administration is again proposing to take an ax to climate and research programs. Overall, the agency’s budget would shrink by nearly one-third, from about $8.8 billion to $6.1 billion. Its science and technology programs would be funded at about $440 million, nearly 40% below the current level of $718 million. The budget line for air and energy research, which includes climate change science, would drop by more than $60 million, from about $95 million to $32 million. Congress has repeatedly rejected such proposed cuts.

FYI

The Constitution of the United States
Article. I. Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN ACTION

Pete Buttigieg is smart, but if you like him you won’t dwell on it

Ok…so when there is someone who is intelligent we need to pretend that he’s not so smart because intelligence will lose him votes! WTF!

…I cringed a bit when I saw a tweet making the rounds talking about how he’d learned Norwegian to read more books by a Norwegian author for whom he could not find translations. I mean, that’s obviously very impressive, but talking about how smart he is doesn’t do him any political favors.

In a blog post about him I wrote about nine years ago when he was running for Treasurer, I mentioned, “we have an anti-intellectual streak a mile wide in this country where we want politicians to go with their gut and not any silly book-learnin’.”

…I suppose it’s some sort of progress that I think his educational achievements are likely to cost him more votes than the fact that he’s gay.

❗️❗️❗️

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Thinking Strike

TEACHER STRIKES

They went on strike in West Virginia and Oklahoma. They went on strike in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland…in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Arizona.

All over the country teachers are standing up and walking out. Sure, it’s about salaries, but it’s also about class size, wrap-around services, and pensions. It’s also about teachers’ students and their own children.

The strikes are in response to years of neglect. Teachers are tired of being disrespected. They’re tired of seeing their students left behind by shrinking budgets. Teachers are tired of seeing funds meant for their schools and their students being used for private, religious, and privately run charter schools. Scores of teachers are leaving their profession in frustration. Those who have stayed are standing up and fighting back.

INDIANA

States aren’t able — or willing — to invest the money needed to fully fund their public education systems. Indiana, for example, has yet to see its school funding reach the level it was at before the 2008 recession. Indiana teachers earn almost 16 percent less than they did in the 1999-2000 school year when adjusted for inflation. The state’s Republican majority began the 2019 legislative year calling for teacher raises, but the Republican-dominated Indiana House sent a budget bill to the (also Republican-dominated) Senate which offers schools a scant 2.1% increase…only slightly more than 2018’s inflation rate of 1.9%. At that rate, it will take decades for teachers to reach salaries equivalent to those in 1999-2000. There seems to be, on the other hand, plenty of money for the privatization of education. Hoosier legislators have had no trouble increasing the amount of money for charter and voucher schools each year.

Why haven’t Indiana teachers walked out? Former state senator Tim Skinner thinks they ought to.

Former Senator: Teachers should think strike

[Skinner] believes that public education has been the target of the Republican Party for the past 15 years and refers to “senseless budget cuts, expansion of vouchers and crippling regulations.”

Furthermore, he doesn’t believe the Indiana State Teachers Association is taking a strong enough stand in response.

In an interview with the Tribune-Star on Feb. 22, ISTA president Teresa Meredith noted that many teachers across the state are calling for a walkout to raise awareness about the need to improve public school funding and teacher pay.

But she also stated, “I really want to avoid that.” She believes other options must be used first, including a rally at the Statehouse March 9.

Skinner believes Meredith “is exactly wrong about what teachers should be doing. Teachers have been turning the other cheek for the last 15 years, and the ISTA still doesn’t realize that they are getting the hell beat out of them,” he wrote in an email to the Tribune-Star.

PDK-GALLUP POLL

According to the 2018 PDK-Gallup poll the public supports teachers and their right to strike. Two-thirds of Americans agree that teachers deserve a raise. Nearly four of five Americans would support their local teachers in a strike for higher pay.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, American parents would prefer that their children not become teachers. Why not? Because of the pay, mostly. Also, I think, because of the lack of respect given to teachers, lack of job security, and the lack of support when on the job. Those are the reasons there is a serious teacher shortage in Indiana and around the country.

Indiana’s (and America’s) children need enthusiastic, well-trained teachers more than ever, but the number of college students going into education has continued to drop. Who will teach tomorrow’s students? Will the state further lower the qualifications for teaching so more people who aren’t actually qualified will teach? Lower qualifications will help fill classrooms with adult bodies, but how will that help student achievement?

Starting in 2011 Indiana teachers lost their seniority rights and most of their collective bargaining options. Most importantly, the legislature, filled with adults who only remember education from the point of view of a student, decided what and how teachers are supposed to teach but blamed teachers when student achievement didn’t soar.

TEACHING ATTRACTIVENESS

How does Indiana compare to other states?

Understanding Teacher Shortages: 2018 Update

The Learning Policy Institute has an interactive…

…map [which] highlights a number of key factors that reflect and influence teacher supply and attrition and signal whether states are likely to have an adequate supply of qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. Based on these data—which treat compensation, teacher turnover, working conditions, and qualifications—each state is assigned a “teaching attractiveness rating,” indicating how supportive it appears to be of teacher recruitment and retention and a “teacher equity rating,” indicating the extent to which students, in particular students of color, are assigned uncertified or inexperienced teachers.

Each state gets a “teaching attractiveness rating” — a number between 1 and 5 with 1 being the least attractive.

Indiana’s teaching attractiveness rating is 1.9. Arizona, at 1.3, is the only state with a “teaching attractiveness rating” that is lower than Indiana’s. Three states where teachers went on strike in 2018 are all higher…

  • Kentucky: 4.05
  • West Virginia: 2.73
  • Oklahoma: 3

Will Indiana’s teachers stand up for themselves and their students? Will they decide that turning the other cheek…and…getting the hell beat out of them is not helping them or the students in their classrooms.

Maybe Tim Skinner is right.

“They need to stop promoting vouchers and stop promoting every single form of education in Indiana except public education,” he said. “Stop for awhile and evaluate to see what good this 15-year reform movement has done for public schools … and recognize it’s damaged public schools.”

🚌🏫🚌

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2019 Medley #4

Disrespecting Teachers,
Benefits of a Book-oriented Home,
Math is for Boys and Girls,
Poverty Affects Achievement,
Bill of Rights for School Children.

THE DISRESPECT OF TEACHERS

Our Public Schools Aren’t Failing; We’re Failing Our Public Schools

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

Ed reformers blame teachers for “failing schools” but that’s because the truth is closer to home. Here we read about Michigan’s “failing schools” caused by legislative neglect or, more likely, legislative abuse.

The state’s public schools were once admired across the nation. They were well-funded and supported, and provided an excellent education for children. These schools became “the center of community life” in many places in the state, and still do in many communities.

But our state’s “new landlord”, aided and abetted by the “multi-level marketing robber barons” of West Michigan, stopped funding our schools, allowing too many of them, especially in our largest cities, to fall into neglect and disrepair. Michigan’s last governor took $1 billion from the state’s education fund, while declaring himself the “education governor”, and we wonder why Detroit’s schools don’t have the resources needed to maintain their facilities, or pay their teachers a competitive salary. Our current Secretary of Education suggested the best solution to the problems with Detroit’s schools would be to simply shut down the entire district, and let families find other places to send their children–and this is the person in charge of the nation’s public schools.

Teachers not appointed to governor’s teacher compensation commission

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

The State Board of Accounts includes CPAs…the Native American Indiana Affairs Commission includes members of local Native Americans…

But a commission directly affecting teachers in Indiana has no teacher as a voting member.

Gov. Eric Holcomb followed through Tuesday on his pledge to charge a state commission with finding ways to make Indiana teacher pay more competitive with neighboring states.

However, none of the seven voting members of the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is a teacher.

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

As professionals, teachers are disrespected.

State legislatures and policy makers choose how and what teachers must teach. When their choices don’t improve achievement, however, the teachers are the ones who are blamed…

As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade.

THE BENEFIT OF HOME LIBRARIES

Home Libraries Confer Long-Term Benefits

Reading aloud to children is the single most important activity that parents and caregivers can do to help children become readers and achieve success in school. The study linked here reinforces the benefits of living in a book-oriented environment and explains that it has life-long benefits. Unfortunately, not all parents are able to afford the books for a home library or even provide transportation to public libraries.

Fortunately, there are a few sources of free books for children.

We’ve known for a while that home libraries are strongly linked to children’s academic achievement. What’s less certain is whether the benefits they bestow have a long-term impact.

A new large-scale study, featuring data from 31 countries, reports they do indeed. It finds the advantages of growing up in a book-filled home can be measured well into adulthood.

MATH IS FOR GIRLS, TOO

No intrinsic gender differences in children’s earliest numerical abilities

It turns out that men don’t have any more “natural” inclination for math then do women.

Across all stages of numerical development, analyses consistently revealed that boys and girls do not differ in early quantitative and mathematical ability. These findings indicate that boys and girls are equally equipped to reason about mathematics during early childhood.

LOOKING BACK

Here are two posts from the past which are still relevant to today’s educational environment.

Poverty Limits Student Achievement

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

David C. Berliner’s 2009 report explains the ways that poverty impacts student achievement. We must address poverty at the same time as we address school achievement or we’re doomed to fail. Legislators who blame teachers or students for “failing schools” must take responsibility for their own failure to create an equitable society. They must provide high-poverty schools with the resources needed to counteract the out-of-school factors impacting student achievement.

Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools, therefore, face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.

The Schools All Children Deserve

A Bill of Rights for School Children

Russ Walsh’s 2016 book, A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, contains this gem, a Bill of Rights for School Children, first published on his blog.

Fulfilling the items on this list would go a long way to providing equitable educational opportunities for all children.

As we look to future, it may be useful to consider some principles about public education that, for me at least, seem immutable. A Bill of Rights for the school child if you will.

1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public education.

2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe local neighborhood school.

3. Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person.

4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.

5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.

6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well-planned, engaging, and collaborative.

7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.

8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.

9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.

10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses.

📚🚌🎓

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Filed under Article Medleys, Holcomb, library, Math, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Walsh

What will it take for Hoosier teachers to stand up?

NO TEACHER PAY INCREASE

Yesterday the Indiana State House of Representatives passed a budget…without adding more money specifically for teacher pay.

The House included an increase for education funding of 2.1% for the first year and 2.3% the second year. Given the recent inflation rates, this will allow school systems to add next to nothing. The inflation rate for the previous two years, 2018 and 2017, was 1.9% and 2.1% respectively. Republican legislators have suggested that teachers could get more money in their pockets if school systems budgeted better…spent less money on administrators and other “frills.”

Their criticism of school spending has raised the ire of superintendents and educators who say they have little left to cut after years of increasing costs and state revenue that has barely kept pace with inflation.

The test score bonus is still in effect, however, so those teachers who teach in low-poverty schools are guaranteed a cut from an extra $30 million. Perhaps we could cut the millions we waste on the “state test.”

Not all of this paltry increase in education funding will make its way to public school classrooms, however. The House has chosen to spend more on school privatization. They decided that charter schools deserve an increase from $500 to $1000 per student, and have increased voucher costs by adding a new tier worth 70% of state tuition support.

…and we’re still waiting for someone to evaluate the charter and voucher entitlements.

CHARTERS

Are students offered a better education in charter schools? That was the original selling point. Charter schools were supposed to improve all schools through competition.

Not anymore…now it’s all about choice. Unfortunately for some children, however, the “best” charter schools refuse to “choose” them.

There’s a backlash against charter schools. What’s happening and why.

This country is nearly 30 years into an experiment with charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated, sometimes by for-profit companies. Supporters first described charters as competitive vehicles to push traditional public schools to reform. Over time, that narrative changed and charters were wrapped into the zeitgeist of “choice” for families whose children wanted alternatives to troubled district schools.

…Public support goes up and down, depending on the poll, and data suggest growth in charters is leveling off. Repeated financial scandals and other crises have tarnished the sector. While some charters are terrific schools that get better student outcomes than nearby district schools, others get similar or worse student outcomes. In cities with high concentrations of charters, such as Washington, where nearly 50 percent of students attend them, some parents complain that they can’t get their children into the “best” charters and the notion of “choice” is false.

VOUCHERS

Surely, having the choice of private schools yields higher achievement. The legislator has never evaluated the program, though…sinking more than half a billion dollars into mostly religious schools since its inception.

Students’ math scores drop for years after using a private school voucher in country’s largest program

Notably, the authors show that low-income students who used a voucher had slightly higher starting test scores than low-income kids who stayed in public schools. This gives credence to fears that a voucher program could concentrate the most disadvantaged students in the public school system.

But it’s all about choice. If you’re the “right” kind of person the voucher-accepting school might “choose” you.

Cost-benefit stats show failures of voucher plan

And the child must also fit the school. Some of the faith-based schools limit admission on the basis of religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Instruction in science and social studies can be colored by religious beliefs. As the Huffington Post reported in a joint project with The Journal Gazette last fall, some taxpayer-supported schools use materials that teach only creationism or that homosexuality is immoral and environmentalism is spiritually bankrupt.

Meanwhile, the voucher program continues to drain money from the constitutionally mandated public schools.

Cumulative effect

The voucher program has essentially created Indiana’s second-largest school district without the oversight found in public school districts. Most of these students have never attended a public school before using a voucher, and this year only 274 vouchers were used to leave an F-rated public school.

If the $150 million from Tuition Support used for vouchers this school year were redistributed to the public schools as part of each district’s basic tuition grant, Fiona’s Logansport School district would have received an additional $619,000 this year.

The Budget bill now goes from the House of Representatives (67% GOP) to the Senate (80% GOP). Any chance they’ll change the bill to favor public schools?

RALLY ON MARCH 9

Indiana teachers, do you think that the March 9th rally for public schools is going to convince the members of the Senate to add a 3% pay raise for teachers?

Are the Senators going to change the law so that we quit sucking tax dollars from public schools to send to religious institutions?

Do you think that the GOP members of the Senate even care about the teacher shortage?

Bangert: Indiana teacher pay raises: What your lawmakers say they will, and won’t, do

“My understanding is we have a shortage in the state of teachers, and teachers are lasting fewer than five years,” Campbell said. “The latest legislation to pass is to allow non-certified teachers to teach in our schools because they’re so desperate to find teachers. If we’re having to resort to these measures, we’re not doing what we need to do to make sure children in Indiana are receiving a quality education.”

What will it take for Indiana’s teachers to stand up for themselves and their students? (Teachers, who did you vote for in the last election?)

What will it take for Indiana to get fully funded public schools…with qualified teachers in every classroom…with reasonable class sizes…with competitive salaries…

The legislature isn’t going to help.

🚌💰🚌

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