Posted in Baseball, Play Kid's Work, poverty, reform, retention, SAT, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, Tenure, Testing

Blogoversary #11: A Review

Today this blog begins its twelfth year (See NOTE, here). It would have been nice to be able to write a post on how American public school advocates have overcome the forces of so-called “education reform.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. The privatizers are still doing damage and spending their billions to turn public schools into charters. They’re still working to divert funds for public education into vouchers.

So instead, of a victory post, here is a short clip from each September that this blog has been in existence from September 2006 through September 2016.

On beyond thirty…

September 14, 2006

From my first post. Now, after 40 years, I am still fascinated by how humans learn…still volunteering in a local elementary school.

So here I am, now a part time pull-out reading specialist in a suburban/rural school in the midwest, still trying to figure out a better way to teach even after 30 years. I still find learning fascinating. It’s still hard for some children…easy for others…and I still want to know why.

“That” time of year…

September 10, 2007

It’s ten years since this post. Economic stratification and inequity is worse than ever. Test scores still reflect the income of the family.

Poverty, as the media is fond of saying, is no excuse. Gerald Bracey, educational researcher, replies that, true, poverty is not an excuse…it is a condition, just like gravity. “Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

All the Way with Pearl Jam

September 27, 2008

Sometimes I post non-education content. This song was for the Cubs. Last year they went “all the way.” #bucketlist

Duncan’s Background and Duncan’s Plans

September 6, 2009

*This quote is by Stephen Krashen…containing a quote by Susan Ohanian…

In her book, “Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids Caught in a Killing Curriculum,” published in 2001, Susan Ohanian, an experienced and award-winning educator who has actually taught in public schools, pointed out that:

“The pattern of reform … has spread across the nation: Bring in someone who has never been involved in public education; proclaim that local administrators and teachers are lazy and stupid; use massive testing to force schools into curriculum compliance” (page x).

Since this passage was written, this pattern of reform has clearly spread to the highest levels.

Tenure and Unions

September 22, 2010

Indiana teachers no longer have due process as a job protection. Before 2011 tenure in Indiana guaranteed a teacher a hearing in front of an impartial party. No longer.

Tenure, they say, protects bad teachers. Unions support and protect the tenure system which, they say, gives teachers in K-12 a “job for life.” The only problem with that statement is that it’s wrong.

Tenure, as defined by these reformers and in turn, the general public who listens to them, does not exist. K-12 teachers who achieve tenure — or permanent status — do not have a job for life. According to Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University’s School of Education,

Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.

Tenure’s primary purpose is economic job security, tied to the otherwise uncompetitive pay in comparison to other professions; however, tenure is not a lifetime guarantee.

Why Are SAT Scores So Low?

September 23, 2011

Here’s something which the corporate “reformers” don’t like to talk about. The higher the family income, the better the children do on SAT tests. Take a look at this…

Which Future Awaits our Grandchildren?

September 7, 2012

The shame of the nation, as Jonathan Kozol put it, is still the number of American children who live in poverty.

We don’t have to write off nearly a quarter of our children to poverty. I wrote a few days ago,

What other nation would accept a poverty rate of almost a quarter of its children?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine any other of the world’s wealthy nations allowing that to continue. The United States is among the world leaders in child poverty — We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Play is More Important Than Tests

September 9, 2013

Sadly, kindergarten is the new first grade.

I remember when the “abuse of testing craze” started a couple of decades ago…that was when we were required to use “research-based instruction.” A group of us got together and found a research basis for everything we did. Every teacher in our school system needed to be ready to justify what they did based on research.

Later, (2002) the US Department of Education started the What Works Clearinghouse so teachers could find teaching techniques and methods which were (supposedly) supported by research.

But now the truth has come out…when research goes against what the “reformers” want it’s ignored…or denied.

Retention Wars: Blaming Children

September 25, 2014

More than a dozen states, including Indiana punish third grade children — 8 and 9 year olds — for low reading achievement by forcing them to repeat third grade. Retention in grade doesn’t work…and we have known it for decades.

In the past, parents, teachers, and administrators used to make the decision to retain a student in his current grade. Now it’s state legislatures, governors, and departments of education. We have allowed the wrong people — politicians and policy makers — to determine the academic placement of our children using the wrong kinds of tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

Teacher Shortage? When All Else Fails Blame the Union

September 18, 2015

…”Reform” is the status quo in Indiana. Indiana is a state where public schools are closed so charters can open, where bankrupt charters are forgiven their taxpayer-funded loans, where an A-F school ranking system is manipulated for the benefit of political donors, where vouchers are available with only minor restrictions, where teachers are evaluated based on student test scores because testing is overused and misused, where teachers no longer have due process rights, where untrained or poorly trained non-educators can walk into a classroom and start teaching with minimal oversight, where the Governor and members of the State Board of Education blatantly prefer privatization over public schools

#%@! Adults Should Quit Punishing Children

September 7, 2016

Retention in grade doesn’t help children. It merely shows how adults have failed children.

FLORIDA STILL REQUIRES THE PUNISHMENT OF 8 AND 9 YEAR OLDS

…as does Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington. Other states – Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia – encourage it, though it’s not required. Different hoops are needed to avoid it in various states. See K-3 Quality: Is there a third grade retention policy?

These states and Florida, demand retention in grade of third graders for not learning quickly enough, or not being able to pass a standardized reading test. Retention in grade isn’t remediation. Retention in grade punishes children for the failures of adults.

*All quotes are my words unless otherwise noted.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, Science, Tenure, Testing, VirtualSchools

2017 Medley #13

Choice, Alternate Facts, Tenure, Testing,
Virtual Charters, Accountability,
Lead Poisoned Children

CHOICE

School Choice: The Faustian Bargain

“…corporate education reformers,” says Russ Walsh in this blog post, “are anti-democracy.” That statement rings true, especially now, at the end of this year’s Indiana General Assembly Session. Legislation making the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position first failed, and then passed the General Assembly after significant political manipulations from legislators who were anxious to take the right to vote for education away from the people. The state Board of Education is already filled with political appointees, and now, beginning in 2025, the office of the Superintendent will be as well making Indiana one of only six states where both the executive head of the Department of Education and the members of state’s board of education are appointed.

These are the same anti-democratic legislators who have spent the last half dozen years transferring tax money from public schools to the pockets of corporate charters and church-run private schools. The budget for this year, for example, gives public schools a 1.6% increase while increasing funding for “Choice Scholarships” (vouchers) by 7% and giving SGO tax credits a whopping 31%…all paid for with public tax dollars.

I suggest that those of us who oppose vouchers and charter schools call school choice what it is in the eyes of that Ohio voter, tax theft. The government collects our taxes in order to provide essential services to all of us. There is no choice involved, we all must pay taxes (unless, apparently, we are hugely wealthy). Those essential services include providing for a military, promoting research on health and welfare, providing for police and fire protection, and funding public schools. When money is diverted from the support of the public schools, it amounts to, as the Ohio voter said, theft. Or maybe another way to say it is “taxation without representation”, since voters have no voice and no oversight of how tax money is spent in schools that receive money through vouchers or charters.

Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

The goal of “reformers” is, apparently, the complete and total destruction of public education.

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

This op-ed by David R. Currie, Ph.D., of Pastors for Texas Children, could easily have been written about the state of Indiana.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.

ALTERNATE FACTS

THIS Is What’s Wrong With America

Congressman: “Don’t confuse me with facts…”

A Facebook friend who lives in Todd Rokita’s Congressional district attended his recent Town Hall. In a post following the event, she reported on an exchange she had with the Congressman:

My question was “What evidence do you require in order to revise your opinion on climate change?”

His response was “No evidence could ever exist that would change my mind. It’s all Liberal science.”

…I really never expected to live in a country where science and empirical research required defense, but evidently Luddites aren’t simply historical oddities. So later this morning, I will join other Hoosiers at the Statehouse to participate in a “March for Science.”

TENURE

Checker Still Doesn’t Understand Tenure

“Reformist” politicians in Indiana have frequently commented on how there are too many well-rated teachers. The complaint is that if there are so many “A” or “B” rated teachers, why aren’t there more “A” or “B” rated schools?

This reflects a basic misunderstanding of the process of education and why it’s essential that educators participate in the policy-making process. Yet we continue to see “education” conferences, panels, and gatherings where the teachers’ voices are absent. We continue to see the federal government education department staffed with non-educators – and those who are hostile to public education. We continue to see the movement for laws and policies which restrict teachers’ ability to do their job.

…instead of saying, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the profession must be in good shape,” reformsters say, “Hey, teachers are mostly well-rated, so the evaluation system must be broken, because we just know that a huge number of teachers suck.” So, data is good, unless it conflicts with your pre-conceived biases, in which case, just throw the data out.

“Tenure” is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in K-12 education. It’s also a concept which “reformers” disingenuously claim, allows teachers a “job for life.” “Tenure” in K-12 education doesn’t mean “a job for life” as Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes. Instead, the K-12 version of “tenure” simply provides teachers with due process.

In Indiana, when K-12 teachers had tenure, teachers who administrations wanted to fire were allowed a hearing before an impartial observer. When administrators did their jobs, teachers who were guilty of immorality, incompetence, or illegal behavior, were fired. Since 2011, however, teachers in Indiana longer have “tenure.” A teacher who is going to be fired may request a meeting with the superintendent, or with the school board, but no impartial observer is required.

…while there are some large districts where the process is long, convoluted and prohibitively difficult, mostly “We can’t fire her because if tenure” is administrator-speak for “I could fire her, but it would take a lot of time and I’d have to, you know, work really hard, and then I would have to find a replacement and you know how hard that would be and I’m already backed up on meetings this week and now some kid just threw up in the hall, so how about I just blame her on the union and tenure and get back to my own work.” Where burdensome dismissal procedures exist, they have been negotiated into contracts. Fixing those contracts by outlawing tenure is like fixing the electoral college by installing a dictatorship– little bit of overkill.

TESTING

The Wrong Medicine

When school “reform” was in its infancy the “reformers” insisted that their policies would improve student achievement and reduce the economic/racial achievement gap. After several decades of “reformist” policies such as excessive testing and test prep, vouchers, and charter schools, the results are in. Students do no better now than they did before the “reforms” were initiated.

One of the worst problems features of “reform” is the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Teachers no longer use test results to guide their instruction because, in most cases, the results of the tests are not timely or specific enough to help. When results are finally returned, they are used to evaluate teachers, grade schools and school systems, and as justification for closing neighborhood schools, none of which are appropriate or valid uses of the test scores.

At what point do parents, teachers, and administrators stand up and say “Enough is enough?” When do we begin to refuse to allow the removal of even one more dollar from our classrooms to continue to support this enormous exercise in futility.

How about now? Today.

The right number of standardized tests that we should be forcing down the throats of our children is precisely zero. The tests do not help our children, our teachers, or our parents. They have not improved education in America one bit.

VIRTUAL CHARTERS

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017

Note the recommendations in this report – virtual charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as public schools.

During her confirmation hearing, when Senator Tim Kaine asked her about equal accountability for private and privately run schools accepting public tax dollars, Secretary DeVos repeated the phrase, “I support accountability” over and over again, refusing to answer whether all schools should be held to the same accountability. This report would seem to indicate that the answer to the question should have been “Yes, all schools receiving tax dollars should be held to the same accountability standards.”

Given the rapid growth of virtual schools and blended schools, the populations they serve, and the relatively poor performance of virtual schools on widely used accountability measures, it is recommended that:

  • Policymakers slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual schools and the size of their enrollments…
  • Policymakers should carefully and continuously monitor the performance of fulltime blended schools…
  • Authorities charged with oversight should specify and enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that fail to perform adequately.
  • Policymakers should specify a maximum student-teacher ratio for virtual and blended schools…
  • Policymakers should regulate school and class sizes…
  • State agencies ensure that virtual schools and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ…
  • State agencies should continue the work they’ve started in revising accountability systems…
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures appropriate to the unique characteristics of full-time virtual schools
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should support more research to identify which policy options—especially those impacting funding and accountability mechanisms—are most likely to promote successful virtual schools and blended schools…
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should also support more research on exactly how special education is being provided in virtual and blended schools….

FLINT, LEAD

Marc Edwards – How to Address the U.S. Water Crisis in Flint and Beyond

Is your water safe?

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Posted in Booker, Charters, DeVos, Politics, Preschool, Public Ed, Quotes, reform, Tenure, Testing, theArts, Trump

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #5

BUILDING SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defeating the DeVos Agenda

Competing on an uneven playing field, public school corporations have taken to advertising in order to keep their students from going to charter schools or using vouchers to attend private schools. Instead, John Merrow offers additional advice on how to “advertise” by involving community members, especially those who have no current connections to the public schools.

Public schools belong to their communities, not to the school board members, or the parents of current students. Schools are investments in a community’s future, paid for by everyone, for the benefit of everyone. Closing schools and opening charters, or offering vouchers, is taking years of community investment and throwing it away.

From John Merrow

Only when ‘outsiders’ become convinced that what’s happening in our public schools is not just test-prep and rote learning pushed on sullen teenagers by demoralized instructors, only then will Betsy DeVos and her militant Christian army of ideologues and profiteers lose this war.

TEACHING THE ARTS

Piecemeal Privatization of Arts and Music in Public Schools

The latest Kappan (April, 2017) is focused on the Arts.

Many school systems in the U.S. have had to cut back on their arts programming due to budget cuts and the obsessive focus on reading and math. Music and art teachers are stretched thin trying to educate large numbers of children in areas that aren’t tested, and therefore, not considered important by “reformers.” Articles in the journal discuss the influx of public/private partnerships which are replacing in-house education specialists in places. Nancy Bailey acknowledges that these partnerships are beneficial where no arts programming exists, but the loss of the arts programming is the real problem.

From Nancy Bailey

This country needs to quit with the trickery. Pretending the arts are returning with partnerships, or through subject integration, or technology, is only a charade. Our tax dollars should go directly to public schools for these programs and to real arts and music teachers.

EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD

Truth in Edvertising

Are private and privately run schools better than traditional public schools, or do they just have better PR and better advertising? Traditional schools don’t usually spend money on advertising because money spent on advertising isn’t spent on instruction.

Are schools commodities like widgets, where money needs to be spent on advertising? If we, as a society, accept the marketplace version of education…if we accept that competition improves education…if we accept that it’s up to the parent to find the school with the best “fit” for their child…then public education will probably not be a priority.

On the other hand, if we accept that public education benefits the whole society…that public education is a public good, then we won’t waste money on advertising, and the “bottom line” will be educating our children, not turning a profit.

From Sarah Butler Jessen on Have You Heard Blog and Podcast

There’s been a lot of talk about how much money they [Success Academy] spend. We were able to look at some of their budgets from the 2012 and 2013 year, along with a bunch of other charter management and charter organizations in New York City authorized by SUNY. Again, as we raised in recent earlier article about the 2010 data, in Williamsburg and Cobble Hill in particular in that year, they’re spending more than $1,000 per entered student on marketing alone.

LACK OF SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IS BIPARTISAN

Democrats link party rivals to DeVos as 2018 fights emerge

In Indiana it’s the Republicans who support so-called “education reforms” which have the effect of damaging public education, deprofessionalizing public school teachers, and re-segregating our schools. But it’s not just a Republican movement. It’s bipartisan. There are Democrats across the nation who are apparently hell-bent on replacing public education with privatized, corporate, charter schools.

Cory Booker (and here)…Andrew CuomoRahm Emanuel

From Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association

“What’s happened over time is that we have seen the Legislature has changed very significantly, and we’ve really seen that among Democrats, we have just many more folks that are supportive of charter schools,” he said. “Do these national winds, do they affect things here? Absolutely, absolutely. But it’s not like we’re just going to be blown across the map.”

Still, Wallace suspected charter school opponents would view DeVos’ appointment as a political opportunity to cut into charter schools’ gains.

“Yeah, that’s going to happen, and we have to be aware of that,” he said.

POLITICS

Trump Restocks the Swamp

President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” telling the American people that the government wouldn’t be made up of special interests and their lobbyists.

From Ed Brayton

[Trump] criticized Obama for his lack of transparency, yet just reversed the policy of releasing visitor logs so the public could know if the president or his close advisers were meeting with lobbyists and others with a clear stake in public policy. And a man whose big selling point was that he was rich so he would not be beholden to big corporations and the wealthy. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to name a single thing he’s done since taking office that wasn’t what moneyed interests would want him to to in order to make him more money.

Update for Trump Voters

From Robert Reich

He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.

…He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

PRE-SCHOOL IN INDIANA

IN: Welcome UPSTART Pre-K Cyberschool

Putting a three- or four-year-old in front of a computer screen and calling it “pre-school” is the most insane thing to come out of the education “reform” cesspool.

From Peter Greene

…we’re assured that UPSTART will provide “program sponsors” with data. Because, you know, it’s never too early to start building your tiny human’s data file, so that the trouble she had picking out vowel sounds when she was four flippin’ years old can follow her around for the rest of her life.

In Indiana, the legislature wants to make UPSTART part of the Pre-K expansion bill.

TESTING AND MANDATES

Standardized Testing Creates Captive Markets

The Republicans have railed for years against the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and it’s forced health insurance mandates. Yet, forced testing mandates, which every state must waste tax dollars on, is supported.

A must read

From Steven Singer

The reason public schools give these tests is because the government forces them. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school take certain approved standardized assessments. Parents are allowed to refuse the tests for their children, but otherwise they have to take them.

TENURE AGAIN STILL

Teacher Tenure and Seniority Lawsuits: A Failure of Logic

They’re not giving up. Even after the Vergara Decision was overturned anti-teacher forces are still fighting against tenure and seniority. Their goal – the complete destruction of teachers unions at any cost, even if it means also destroying the teaching profession.

From Jersey Jazzman

The backers of these lawsuits will make occasional concessions to the idea that schools need adequate and equitable funding to attract qualified people into teaching. But they never seem to be interested in underwriting lawsuits that would get districts like Newark the funds they need to improve both the compensation and the working conditions of teachers.

THE FEDERAL ROLE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

The War on Public Schools

The Federal government has helped public education by requiring equal access to educational opportunities for all children regardless of race, sex, or disabilities. They have provided funds for disadvantaged students, for teacher preparation and continuing education, and materials.

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core, the Federal government increased it’s influence on public education, but evoked a backlash. It’s true that some Federal intrusion into public education is necessary and important…

From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights quoted in the American Prospect

The hard-learned lesson of the civil rights community over decades has shown that a strong federal role is crucial to protecting the interests of educationally underserved students

‘REFORM’

Closing schools is not an educational option

No school was ever improved by closing it.

From Mitchell Robinson in Eclectablog

Whenever I hear public officials and education policy decision makers suggest that closing schools is a legitimate strategy, I know that person is not serious about actually improving educational outcomes.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, Curmudgucation, Lead, Michigan, Public Ed, Recess, Tenure, Testing

2017 Medley #11

Lead, Defend Public Education, What Tests Measure, Tenure, Recess, Let’s Stop Pretending, Choice, 

POISONING CHILDREN

The EPA (at least until the department is destroyed under the current “we don’t need clean air or water” administration) says that

…there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.

Yet, we don’t know how much lead is getting into homes around the nation. Last year, USA Today noted that upwards of six million people are drinking from systems deemed unsafe, but there are likely more than that because of the way we test for lead.

…almost 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people nationwide have failed to meet the EPA’s standards for lead in drinking water. But people in thousands more communities deemed in compliance with EPA’s lead rules have no assurance their drinking water is safe because of the limited and inconsistent ways water is being tested, the investigation found.

How many of America’s schools are labeled as “failing” because their children suffer from lead poisoning? How many children’s futures are being damaged by unknown amounts of lead in the water?

Is your water safe?

Michigan, Flint Reach Settlement to Replace Lead Pipes

The settlement still needs to be approved by the federal judge presiding in the case. This sounds like a good start, but we need to recognize that Flint was not the only city that has this problem, nor was it the worst. Testing has revealed similar and even higher levels of lead in cities all over the country. The results are devastating for children, dooming many of them in school because of the effect lead has on their brains as they develop. The fact that it tends to be focused in cities with high minority populations only makes it more difficult for those children and families to escape poverty and have stable, productive lives.

E. Chicago residents wait to leave lead-tainted homes

The complex was home to more than 1,000 people, including about 700 children. Tests by the Indiana Department of Health found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. Even at low levels, exposure can cause nervous system damage and lowered IQs, according to experts.

DEFEND INSTITUTIONS: DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defending Public Education from Trump’s Tyranny

Russ Walsh reviews Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Lesson number 2 is Defend Institutions. Snyder writes,

It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about— a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union— and take its side.

Walsh, like me, chooses the institution of public education. He writes,

One way we can be sure that Trump and his minions are coming after our institutions is to see who the Tweeter-in-chief has chosen to head up various government departments. Almost to a person (Pruitt, Perry, Price), people who are opposed to the very institutions they are leading have been put in charge. If public education is to survive, we are going to have to fight for it. We cannot sit back and wait for this current nightmare to pass because by the time we wake up, it may be too late. It should be clear to all of us that the institution of public education is under a very real threat from the authoritarian Trump administration and its anti-public schools Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE COMPASSION?

A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

These thirty things which can’t be measured by the BS Test (big standardized test – h/t Peter Greene) are only the tip of the iceberg. Standardized tests, which in Indiana, are used to measure teacher effectiveness, also can’t measure a teacher’s dedication, her understanding of child development, or his empathy for a child’s emotional crises…and more.

CURMUDGUCATION

Below are two posts from Peter Greene who consistently brings clarity to the issues facing America’s public schools.

Tenure

MN: Vergara III: The Attack on Tenure Continues

Another attack on tenure…this time in Minnesota. Let me repeat it once more: “Tenure,” for K-12 teachers does not mean a job for life. It simply means due process. How do you get rid of “bad teachers?” Hire good administrators.

The plaintiffs are four moms from Minnesota (you get a picture here of how PEJ “found” them), including lead plaintiff Tiffani Forslund, a charter school teacher currently running for a seat on city council. Since the days of Vergara, the people crafting these lawsuits have learned to angle more toward Saving Poor Children, because it’s much easier to attract teachers to underfunded schools with tough populations when you can promise those teachers that they will have no job security at all. The lawsuit wants to implement a solution of “protecting our best teachers and replacing low-performing teachers with effective teachers” which seems magical and simple and completely unrelated to whether or not teachers have tenure.

Recess

FL: Recess Is For Babies

“Florida government– what the hell is wrong with you?”

That’s the question Curmudgucation asks at the end of this post. Why is the state deciding how much time children should spend at recess? Shouldn’t that be left to professionals who understand child development…people like pediatricians, child psychologists, or teachers?

Apparently the Florida legislature believes that the length of time children spend at recess has an impact on their test scores. Test scores are the most important thing in Florida (see also Curmudgucation’s post, FL: Court Rules in Favor of Stupid) and elsewhere. If test scores are low it must be the fault of teachers, which means children must be punished.

Voting against twenty minutes a day for recess for five year olds…insanity.

But a Florida House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday decided that twenty minutes a day is just too generous…

The amended version of the bill cuts the requirement for recess back to only those days without phys ed, and limits it to grades K-3 only, because once you get to be nine years old, it’s time to get down to business, you little slackers! It’s also bad news for phys ed teachers, because it allows schools to count recess as part of their phys ed time– in other words, Florida thinks you phys ed teachers are just glorified recess monitors.

TRUTH

Can We Please Stop Pretending …?

Let’s stop pretending that politicians, legislators, and other policy makers have any clue about what makes a good school.

Let’s stop pretending that those same politicians, legislators and policy makers are not directly responsible for much that happens in America’s classrooms.

Let’s stop pretending that money doesn’t matter.

Rob Miller has more…

For no other reason than I’ve grown weary of thinking and writing about the Oklahoma budget crisis, I decided to dust off my original list and add about 65 more items that literally poured forth from my brain. Sorry, but I get a little snarky towards the end…

  1. That all 5-year-olds arrive at the schoolhouse ready to learn.
  2. That policy-makers who have never taught or earned an education degree know more than the practitioners who work with kids every day.
  3. That charter schools that accept the same students as public schools achieve better results.
  4. That class size doesn’t matter.
  5. That higher academic standards will automatically result in more kids being college and career ready.

CHOICE: SEARCHING FOR A GOOD SCHOOL

The masquerade of school choice: a parent’s story

Here is a story of a parent trying to choose the best school for her child. Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S., like Finland and other high achieving nations, provided high quality public schools in every town and neighborhood? Students and their neighborhoods benefit from the stability of public schools. Unfortunately, we’re so concerned with figuring out how we can privatize public schools in order to line the pockets of edupreneurs, that we have, in many areas, given up on the public schools.

I navigated the school choice maze as a university professor with good income, flexible hours, reliable transportation, and a strong parent network. Imagine the process of school choice for parents of students attending failing schools, with limited income, or relying on public transportation.

Don’t let school choice trick you. The best way to provide quality across social class, race and ethnicity is to invest in public schools.

CHOICE: SCHOOLS MAKE THE CHOICE

Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice

From USA Today.

In this article, Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute said that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet.”

That’s wrong.

School choice allows families to use their “feet” to look for schools which will accept their children. Schools make the choice, not the students.

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute agreed, adding that a federal voucher or tax credit “can essentially push out of the way programs that have been created by states … and that kills what Justice (Louis) Brandeis called ‘laboratories of democracy.’ We want to have states trying different ways of trying to deliver education and school choice, so we can see what works well, what works well for specific populations.”

Noting that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet” by choosing another school, he added, “The way you vote with your feet against the federal government is you’ve got to move to another country, which can be somewhat onerous.”

Petrilli said accepting federal funding could be most painful to private — and especially religious — schools, which will face “really difficult choices.” Would the funding force them to accept LGBTQ students — or teachers, for that matter — against their religious beliefs?

“They just won’t participate,” he said. “And then what’s the point? You don’t have a program.”

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Posted in Curmudgucation, Teachers Unions, Tenure

2016 Medley #10: Vergara Overturned

Vergara Overturned

Two years ago a judge in California found for plaintiffs who essentially claimed that low student achievement of  children in poverty was caused by due process and teachers unions. They blamed due process, sometimes called “teacher tenure” for allowing “bad teachers” to remain in the classroom. Here’s what I said back then.

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

SO MANY “BAD TEACHERS

How many bad teachers are there in California…and why do they seem to be located only in schools with high levels of student poverty?

  • FACT: High levels of poverty interferes with student learning to a much larger degree than is publicly acknowledged by “reformers.”
  • FACT: Many states (here, for example) aware permanent status to K-12 teachers giving them the right to an impartial hearing in disputes. The right is to due processwhich simply means that there must be a legitimate reason to fire them. This is frequently misnamed “Tenure.”

After an extended discussion with a (non-teacher) friend who lives in California it’s clear that there are some aspects of California laws that could be changed. California has one of the shortest probationary periods in the country before permanent status is awarded. It was also clear that (in my friend’s opinion) the process of firing a teacher for cause in California is too cumbersome and takes too long (similar objections have been made about the process in New York and other states).

This week the appellate court reversed the decision. Here’s what the California Teachers Association had to say…

Breaking News: Vergara Overturned!

“This is a great day for educators and, more importantly, for students,” said CTA President Eric C. Heins. “Today’s ruling reversing Treu’s decision overwhelmingly underscores that the laws under attack have been good for public education and for kids, and that the plaintiffs failed to establish any violation of a student’s constitutional rights. Stripping teachers of their ability to stand up for their students and robbing school districts of the tools they need to make sound employment decisions was a wrong-headed scheme developed by people with no education expertise and the appellate court justices saw that.”

…and from  NEA…

Vergara v. State of California Decision Reversed

“Today was a win for our educators, our schools and most importantly, our students.

“Now we must return to working on real solutions to ensure all of our students succeed. Only when teachers, school boards, and administrators work together can we ensure that there is a great public school for every student.

“The Vergara v. State of California lawsuit was an example of using our court system for political goals. The unanimous three-judge panel’s opinion states it clearly. The plaintiffs’ case–instead of addressing and proposing solutions to the real problems–focused on the wrong issues, proposed the wrong solutions, and used the wrong legal process. It was not about helping students and has become a divisive distraction from the real work needed to improve student success.

Peter Greene, at Curmudgucation, did his usual excellent job of analysis. First, the reason Vergara was pursued in the first place…

Vergara Pt. II– Now What?

There is no question that Vergara (and the New York case and the new Minnesota case) were breathed to life for one reason and one reason only– to try to stick it to those damn unions. We know the people– we’ve read their articles, talked with them on twitter, seen them in the comments section of a thousand different online conversations. They hate the union. Hate it. They think the roadblock to everything decent and good is the teachers’ union, that the teachers’ union is a giant scam to make teachers and union reps rich while thwarting the plans of brilliant visionaries who just want to be free to implement their grand design without having to answer to anybody, least of all the hired help. They think that public schools are a scam that the union came up with to suck the taxpayers dry while teachers sit and eat bon-bons and ignore the cries of downtrodden children. They hate the union, and like many people on many sides of many issues these days, they are looking for any argument, no matter how disingenuous and cynically constructed, that can be used to make the union shut up and go away.

He continued with a good description of why teacher seniority is a positive thing…and why job protections such as due process (aka tenure) are important.

I believe that the benefits of a seniority-based system are huge. Huge. It incentivizes people to look at teaching as a career, a job to which they can devote their entire life, which in turn encourages them to be the very best they can be and to invest themselves in training and self-improvement. It gives stability and institutional memory to a school, creating ties that bind a community together and making a school a community institution that connects people to a history that matters. It helps draw good people to the work because you may not ever be paid real well, but at least you don’t have to spend half your time worrying about losing your job over something stupid. And it protects teachers so that they can do their job like professionals with an educational mission instead of political appointees who are busy trying to suck up to whoever has the power to fire them this week.

School boards and teachers unions negotiate together for a contract. Outside arbitrators can be used when there are stalemates. The two parties should work together to give teachers a decent contract which includes ways to help teachers who need help and to remove teachers who are not doing their jobs.

There is no need to keep bad teachers in the classroom. Teachers and school boards can work together to help school systems function efficiently and allow teachers to teach. Due process for teachers means that administrators have to do their jobs and document why they think a particular teacher needs to be removed from the classroom, and what they have done to help the teacher improve.

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Posted in Mitch Daniels, Teaching Career, Tenure, WhyTeachersQuit

Why is This So Hard to Understand?

DANIELS BRINGS HIS SHOW TO PURDUE

Dave Bangert reports on the current fight over tenure policy between the faculty at Purdue University, and the President and Board of Trustees of the University. The President is former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels.

Bangert: Red-letter showdown over Purdue tenure

During Monday’s University Senate meeting, faculty leaders said they wanted better definitions of at-risk students and measurements for what counted as tenure-worthy mentorship — including assurances that professors who deal mainly with graduate students wouldn’t be penalized.

So that entire line about mentoring undergraduates was struck out — in red — under the University Senate resolution approved Monday. The faculty Senate also balked at language that would have given faculty a leg up on tenure if they developed competency-based courses — ones Daniels has pushed for and that would be based more on mastery of the material than the straight semester-oriented work done now.

You can read the discussion of the issues in the article. The part that got my attention was a comment by the University (faculty) Senate Chairman, Kirk Alter.

“This gets at a bigger issue,” Alter said. “I think to some — maybe to the board of trustees, maybe to Mitch — they see this tenure thing in higher ed analogous to tenure in K-12. And it’s a completely different thing. In K-12, you essentially get tenure by breathing. That’s very much a union-based view of tenure. We all know what that outcome is; that got left behind in Indiana (when Daniels was governor). Whether that’s good or bad isn’t the issue. People remember.”

Alter is right that K-12 tenure got “left behind in Indiana (when Daniels was governor).” Indiana K-12 teachers don’t have tenure any more. In other words, if a principal wants to fire a teacher there doesn’t really need to be any reason other than they don’t like each other, or the principal wants to clear the spot for his niece, a school board member’s nephew, or the superintendent’s first cousin once removed. Teachers in Indiana have the right to go to the superintendent and talk about why they got fired, but there’s no other recourse unless the school system (or the principal) broke the law.

Perhaps the members of the Purdue faculty remember how easy it was to strip the state’s K-12 teachers of their tenure and they’re afraid it will happen to them, too. When Mitch Daniels is in charge this is a real threat.

On the other hand, Alter’s description of K-12 tenure as something you get “by breathing” is a common misunderstanding promoted by the “reformers” to bust unions and divide pro-public education teachers and the families they serve.

TWO SIMPLE FACTS ABOUT K-12 TENURE

“Reformers” purposefully misrepresent the facts of K-12 tenure in order to weaken teachers unions and reduce teachers rights. Tenure for K-12 teachers is not something you get “by breathing.” Principals have complete power to fire teachers during the first few years of a K-12 teacher’s career. If Principal says to First Year Teacher, “I don’t like the way you teach. You’re fired” then that teacher is fired.

More than 40% of beginning teachers nationwide are either fired or “counseled out” of education during their first few years. If a teacher makes it to “tenure,” otherwise known as “permanent status,” it’s because the principal allowed them to get that far, apparently because he or she was good at their job.

So, fact number 1: Not all K-12 teachers get tenure (or “got” tenure before the legislature decided that it was an unnecessary perk with which to attract and keep the best people in our public school classrooms).

“Reformers” like to say that, once a teacher gets tenure it means they have a “job for life.” This is like saying they get it “by breathing.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. K-12 tenure is not a permanent job. It’s a guarantee of due process. Diane Ravitch explained it in Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement

In the public schools, however, tenure means due process. There is no ironclad tenure for teachers. A teacher who has tenure is entitled to a hearing before an impartial arbitrator, where the teacher has the right to see the evidence and the grounds for the charges against him or her and to offer a defense. Critics say that the dismissal process is too cumbersome and too costly; they say it takes too long to remove an incompetent teacher. In some states and districts, that is true. It is the job of the state and the district to negotiate a fair and expeditious process to handle charges and hearings. The hearings should be resolved in months, not years. After a fair hearing, teachers found to be incompetent or guilty of moral turpitude should be removed without delay.

Fact number 2: Tenure for K-12 teachers does not mean “a job for life.” It means due process. Period. Read that again…it’s not that difficult to understand.

ONE OF MANY REASONS FOR THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

The benefit of due process, which Indiana teachers no longer have, was one way they protected themselves from arbitrary or punitive firings by administrators, but in 2011, then governor Mitch Daniels and his fellow “reformers” in the Indiana General Assembly stripped K-12 teachers in Indiana of this due process.

Now the media is focusing on the teacher shortage in Indiana.

When politicians who don’t know anything about the field of education start making punitive laws affecting teachers and students, fewer people will want to teach. It’s that simple.

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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Posted in Evaluations, Teaching Career, Tenure

Minneapolis Blames Teachers

BLAMING TEACHERS — AGAIN

Today’s news…Minneapolis has followed the lead of Los Angeles and New York, and has released the evaluation data of their public school teachers (did they release the same data for charter and private school teachers? Just asking…).

And, like LA and NY, it turns out that — surprise!! — the “worst” teachers are in the schools with the highest poverty.

Minneapolis’ worst teachers are in the poorest schools, data show

New teacher evaluation data show that Minneapolis schools with the largest number of low-income students have the highest concentration of poor-performing instructors.

When New York released their data, the news media went crazy listing the “worst teachers in New York.” Guess who the students taught by the city’s “worst teachers” were? Answer: Poor children and English language learners. The “worst teacher” in the city turned out to be a teacher of English language learners whose students, once they reached a certain level, left her class.

The same was true in Los Angeles. It turns out that the “worst” teachers are in schools with high numbers of poor students and English language learners.

White students get better teachers in L.A., researcher testifies

Black and Latino students are more likely to get ineffective teachers in Los Angeles schools than white and Asian students, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher.

We blame teachers nationally, too…

Obama administration wants better teachers for nation’s poor schools

The Obama administration is ordering states to devise strategies to get better teachers into high-poverty classrooms, correcting a national imbalance in which students who need the most help are often taught by the weakest educators.

IT’S POVERTY, STUPID

So, why does this happen and is there anything we can do about it?

First, it’s important to know that poor students and English language learners (ELL) do not have the “worst” teachers. Teacher ratings in these cities, and most places these days, are based on the test scores of their students. Poor students and students learning English have lower test scores than students from higher incomes. That’s a fact based on NAEP scores, SAT scores and virtually all the state achievement test scores in the nation.

The reason poor and ELL students score lower is due to a variety of reasons, most of which are non-school related.

Researcher Stephen Krashen lists Food insecurity, lack of health care, higher exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of access to books, as reasons poor students achieve at a lower level. David C. Berliner includes those and adds, low birth weight, higher levels of drug and alcohol abuse, higher rates of family violence, lack of mental health care, poor housing conditions, mobility, and lack of affordable preschools and summer activities for students.

Students in poverty and ELL students come to school already behind their higher income peers. This makes it harder for them to catch up to their peers and achieve at the same level and harder for their teachers to receive high marks when their evaluations are based on student test scores.

Second, the federal government, states, and school systems incentivize the flight of teachers from high poverty schools as do social issues and student behavior. Federal and state methods for teacher evaluation punish teachers whose students are low performers on standardized tests. Students in poverty come to school with unmet social needs which often results in more difficult behavior issues in the classroom. High achieving and more experienced teachers are encouraged by these factors to move to schools serving students of higher income. In many cases, teachers of high poverty students are less experienced and are evaluated at lower levels. Economic and racial segregation at all levels of our society only exacerbates the differences between the schools.

Tenure Is Not the Problem

…a California court struck down state teacher tenure and seniority protections as a violation of the rights of poor and minority students to an equal education. The decision, which will make it easier to fire bad teachers, who are disproportionately found in high-poverty schools, is being hailed as a great triumph for civil rights…

So why do high-poverty schools have a hard time attracting strong teachers? Because they often provide poor working conditions. When you pack poor kids into environments separate from more affluent students, the schools generally have high rates of discipline problems. Low-income students, who often don’t see much first-hand evidence of the payoff of education, act out more often on average than middle-class students. Low-income parents, who are stressed and may work several jobs, are not in a position to help teachers out by volunteering in class, as middle-class parents often do. And in high poverty schools, students often have inadequate health care and nutrition, which hinders their performance on academic tests. [emphasis added]

Finally, the federal government and the states don’t necessarily support schools with high needs students. When budgets are cut and resources are lost, higher income neighborhoods can often provide replacements from local sources. This is not so in high poverty areas. The economic structure of school funding shortchanges schools with high poverty students.

Race to the Top, unlike previous federal education programs, has not focused funding on areas of high need. Instead, money was provided to states and districts who followed certain expectations including using test scores for evaluating teachers and increasing charter school enrollments.

MINNEAPOLIS

It’s not surprising then, that teachers of lower achieving students would be rated as lower achieving themselves. (We could also discuss why the tests used to rate students, teachers, schools and school systems are inadequate, inappropriate, invalid and/or inaccurate, but that’s been done before. See Ohanian, Kohn, Darling-Hammond and Ravitch, among others).

What is surprising is that the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools doesn’t seem to be aware of all this. She said,

“It’s alarming that it took this to understand where teachers are,” Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said Friday. “We probably knew that, but now have the hard evidence. It made me think about how we need to change our staffing and retention.”

The fact that the test scores identify teachers of high poverty students shouldn’t be either new information or alarming. Anyone who understands the current test and punish system our schools now function under should be aware of this.

Why do New York’s poor schools have lower-rated teachers?

“While [the test score calculations] claim to be able to measure the quality of teachers, regardless of the students that they have, in fact, in study after study, it’s shown that that’s not true,” he said. “When you’re teaching students that are struggling themselves, your … score is going to be lower.”

Peter Greene has an excellent post about the lack of understanding present in Minneapolis, and specifically, the Minneapolis Public Schools administration.

So Sorry, Minneapolis Teachers

It is absolutely mind-boggling that a group of presumably educated allegedly intelligent adults can look at data and get the interpretation of it exactly completely backwards. Minneapolis school leaders are looking at data that tells them exactly where they need to focus resources, support, funding, and build a roof. Instead, they are going to blame the whole complex of information on teachers.


CITY, STATE, AND NATION MUST SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY

It is mind boggling. I checked the resume of the Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent, Bernadeia H. Johnson. She has an education degree, B.S. Communication Disorders. She has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and an Ed.D. in Administration and Educational Policy. She actually taught elementary school for 8 years…and then worked her way up through the ranks of the administration to her current position.

How is it possible that someone with as much experience and education as she has could be surprised by lower test scores from schools filled with poor students?

How is it possible that she doesn’t seem to understand that evaluations based on those test scores wouldn’t yield lower levels of success? Yet she said it was “alarming” and implied that she didn’t realize this before.

Did she not know how her schools were performing before the results were published? Or is she feigning surprise in order to divert the “blame” away from her administration and on to the teachers?

I don’t know what the public school administration is like in Minneapolis. I don’t know what state laws might be interfering with public education. But I do know that a superintendent who doesn’t know that teachers in high poverty schools will have students who score lower than teachers in low poverty schools isn’t paying attention.

A superintendent shouldn’t allow her teachers to take the blame. She shouldn’t allow the implication that the teachers of students with lower test scores are somehow not as good as other teachers (based on that alone).

Instead she could have said, “Yes, we know that our teachers who spend their careers working in the schools with students who live in poverty will not bring their students’ test scores up to those of their more privileged peers. However, we understand that it is not only the responsibility of the schools to help our children learn and achieve. They need more resources, more support from their parents, the city, the state legislature and the federal government. They need wraparound services to help them overcome the effects of poverty. They need less testing and more education.”

She could have quoted from The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools

Our students deserve smaller class sizes, a robust, well-rounded curriculum, and in-school services that address their social, emotional, intellectual and health needs. All students deserve culturally-sensitive, non-biased, and equitable education, especially students with IEPs, emergent bilingual students, and early childhood students. They deserve professional teachers who are treated as such, fully resourced school buildings, and a school system that partners with parents.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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