Category Archives: Testing

2019 Medley #8

Grade Level, Student Achievement,
Society’s Mirror, Teacher Shortages,
Charter Accountability,
Disenfranchising the Voters

CHILDREN DON’T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

This post isn’t about reading, but Mitchell Robinson brings up important information we should remember.

Last month, third graders in Indiana took the IREAD-3, a reading achievement test. Those who fail to achieve the arbitrarily designated cut score must take the test again during the summer. Those who fail it again must repeat third grade.

The concept of grade level should be flexible, not based on an arbitrary cut score. It should reflect the average reading level of a child in a particular grade instead of a goal for every child to achieve on a given test day. We should teach children at their zone of proximal development — the level just beyond the child’s independent level, not at the level the test insists upon.

Would we like all children to be above average? Of course, but we can’t ignore the math which renders that impossible. Additionally, we can’t ignore the detrimental impact of poverty on school achievement. Our job, as teachers, is to analyze a child’s achievement and make our plans based on what will help him progress as quickly as possible. That means starting where the child is…not at some vague “grade-level” determined by an outside source.

By setting a cut score on a test, and using the test to determine grade placement, the state is ignoring this basic concept of academic achievement and development, usurping the professional judgment of the classroom teacher, and ignoring the best interests of children in a misguided quest to get a number with which to label teachers, schools and school districts.

I agree with Robinson when he says that we can set “goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students.” We do that by understanding the reading process and observing our students. [emphasis in original]

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

But the only thing that measuring reading by “grade level” does is make a lot of kids–and teachers–feel dumb when they are not, and turn reading into drudgery instead of the life-long pursuit of joy, knowledge, and enjoyment it’s meant to be.

FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT

Food for thought: Students’ test scores rise a few weeks after families get food stamps

What’s this? Students learn better when they are well fed? Go figure!

…scores were highest around three weeks after families received benefits, and lowest at the beginning and end of that cycle. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.

It’s not fully clear why scores spike around that three-week mark, but the researchers suggest that the academic benefits of better access to food, like improved nutrition and reduced stress, take some time to accrue.

“Students with peak test performance (who received SNAP around two weeks prior to their test date) may have benefited from access to sufficient food resources and lowered stress not only on the day of the test but for the previous two weeks,” Gassman-Pines and Bellows write.

Source: Food Instability and Academic Achievement: A Quasi-Experiment Using SNAP Benefit Timing

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

‘As society goes, school goes:’ New report details toll on schools in President Trump’s America

Children learn what they live. Guess what happens when they live in a society filled with hatred and bigotry…in a society where truth has no meaning…in a society where disagreements are solved by shooting those who you disagree with…

John Rogers and his colleagues (Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera) at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 500 public high school principals from across the country and found this:

* 89 percent reported that “incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.”

* 83 percent of principals note these tensions are fueled by “untrustworthy or disputed information,” and over 90 percent report students sharing “hateful posts on social media.”

* Almost all principals rate the threat of gun violence as a major concern, and one in three principals report that their school received in the previous year threats of mass shooting or bombing or both.

There’s more: In schools with a sizable immigrant population, principals report the significant negative effects that federal immigration policy and its associated anti-immigrant rhetoric have on student performance and family stability.

And schools that are in the areas of the country hardest hit by the opioid crisis are directly affected by addiction, overdose, and family devastation.

Source: School and Society in the Age of Trump

TOMORROW’S TEACHERS

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought

The right-wing war on the teaching profession is succeeding. Fewer young people are going into education. The number of uncertified teachers is increasing. Class sizes will increase.

As might be expected, this has the greatest impact on high-poverty schools.

What can we do? Who will be tomorrow’s teachers? Will there still be a well staffed, local public school for our children and grandchildren?

Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools…

Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools…

The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools…

Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession…

THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

In the Public Interest‘s weekly privatization report for April 8, 2019, is all about charter schools. Fully ten of the fifteen education articles have to do with charters failing to do the job that taxpayers were giving them money to do. Charters should not be allowed to open in areas where an additional school isn’t needed. Charters must be fiscally and academically accountable, just like real public schools.

Louisiana officials are recommending to close a charter school amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a failure to provide proper special education services to the roughly 40 percent of enrolled students with disabilities.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

What does it say about a political party which wins elections by preventing citizens from voting…by arranging districts so that politicians choose their voters, not the other way around…and by going against the will of the voters to divert money from public institutions to privatization?

Republicans in Indiana tried this during the 2019 legislative session and didn’t get away with it. I don’t doubt that they will try again.

Pinellas County voters reapproved a special property tax in 2016 to improve teacher salaries and arts programs, not to subsidize charter schools. Miami-Dade voters approved a property tax increase last year to raise teacher salaries and hire more school resource officers, not to subsidize charter schools. Yet now Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to change the rules and force local school districts to share money from local tax increases with privately operated charter schools. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries.

💰📖🚌

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Filed under Achievement, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Florida, IREAD-3, Legislatures, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, TeacherShortage, Testing

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

FLORIDA’S THIRD GRADE READING LAW IS JUST LIKE THE OTHERS

Florida has a third-grade retention law, just like Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, fifteen other states and the District of Columbia. Learning to read by third grade is so important, according to The National Council of State Legislators, that some states find it necessary to retain children who can’t read.

Learning to read by third grade is important because

Research has demonstrated that students not reading proficiently at the end of third grade are four times more likely to not finish high school. Further, the levels of reading proficiency for third graders are linked to specific long-term outcomes: 23 percent of below-basic readers fail to finish high school, compared to 9 percent of basic-scoring readers and 4 percent of proficient readers.

…not to mention the fact that…

Researchers have pointed out that unintended consequences of retention can include increased costs for school districts (national average of $10,700 per retained student).

So it’s an economic issue, too. [I would agree with that, although the problem is the economic status of the children.] And it’s almost as an afterthought that NCSL mentions that retention-in-grade can have detrimental academic results, as well.

Additionally, retention can negatively impact students’ long-term achievement (i.e. high school graduation rates).

The source for the statement that retention can have a negative impact on graduation rates is titled, New research suggests repeating elementary school grades — even kindergarten — is harmful. The authors of this 2014 article claim that the research on retention-in-grade is “muddied” and the research they report on makes it even “muddier.”

Is that true? Is the research “muddied?”

Not much.

RETENTION HAS QUESTIONABLE VALUE

Research going back decades is consistent that the long term impact of retention-in-grade is negative.

The National Council of State Legislatures has a concern about third graders going on to fourth grade without sufficient reading skills and they are ok with the assumption that retention-in-grade will help kids “catch up.” That assumption isn’t supported by research.

Third-grade Reading Legislation

To encourage local schools and districts to take this milestone seriously, several states have enacted legislation that requires students not reading proficiently by the end of third grade to be retained.

Note that third-grade retention states punish 8 and 9-year-olds as an incentive to get them to read better. Furthermore, the implication is that punishing children will “encourage” schools and districts to take the third-grade reading challenge seriously.

Why?

  • …because schools and districts don’t really worry when third graders can’t read unless they’re given some incentive?
  • Are teachers and schools somehow “holding back” their best effort to teach children to read until the state steps in and “encourages” them to teach better by threatening to punish their students with retention?
  • Are the children not learning to read because they aren’t given the incentive of “not flunking?” Will the threat of retention spur the students to learn more?

The answers to those questions and assumptions are the same. NO!

Teachers are doing their best to help children. Retention does not motivate children. Reading is a complicated process that can’t be improved by “incentives” or threats.

Do you want children to read better? Institute early interventions for children who are having difficulties in kindergarten and first grade. Establish high-quality pre-schools for all children. Pay for these improvements by eliminating the third-grade standardized reading tests used for placement decision. Retention-in-grade is a waste of time, money, and causes real emotional damage.

FLORIDA’S THIRD-GRADE PUNISHMENT LAW DOESN’T WORK EITHER

The Florida third-grade punishment law has yielded another study showing that holding kids back in third grade is not only not helpful, but downright damaging.

The Effects of Mandated 3rd Grade Retention: An Analysis of Florida’s A+ Plan

  • 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. 
  • 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

  • The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

  • Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.
  • Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.
  • There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and nonretained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).

(See the full report HERE.)

JUST STOP IT

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?

For more of my rants against retention-in-grade, including lots of references, click HERE.

👧🏾🎓👦🏻

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Opposing Mediocre Minds: Einstein on Education

Today, March 14 is Pi day (3.14) and the birthday (#140) of Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein is remembered as the physicist who developed the theories of special, and general relativity.

the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers…

…that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity.

He came to the U.S. in the early thirties and, with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and the accompanying anti-semitism, he decided to stay (after short stays in both Belgium and England). He was already internationally known, having won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect.

Princeton offered him a job and he became a U.S. citizen in 1940 (while also retaining his Swiss citizenship).

MORE THAN PHYSICS

Einstein was more than a world famous scientist. He was also someone who examined philosophy, religion, and politics and much of his writing has applications for students and teachers.

The quotes below (from Wikiquote) reflect the universality of Einstein’s thought and apply to education and learning.

THE SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE

It is ironic that the first quote I’ve listed here is one on the value of science institutions to nations. This week I read that our current administration has requested deep cuts in science funding.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. funding for science.

The administration is asking for…

  • a 13% cut for the National Institute of Health.
  • an 8% cut for NASA
  • a 12% cut to the National Science Foundation
  • 17% less for the Office of Science in the Department of Energy
  • A cut of 1/3 for the EPA overall and cuts of 40% for science and technical programs and 66% for air and energy research (climate change)

It would be nice if someone would stop the war against knowledge.

Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If therefore, we wish to promote culture we have to combine and to organize institutions with our own power and means.

As long as we’re looking at the behavior of our current government, here are a couple of things Einstein said that are important to our current national atmosphere.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

Force always attracts men of low morality.

TESTING ISN’T LEARNING

Here are three thoughts from Einstein that relate directly to our overuse and misuse of testing. He understood that testing isn’t learning. Schools ought to be places where opportunities are provided for learners to explore the wonders of personal and intellectual growth, not the learning of facts for a test.

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

ON TEACHERS, TEACHING, AND LEARNING

Einstein’s experience reinforces the fact that relationships in education are as important as the content.

School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave…I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement.

After reading the following quote I thought it would be nice to be able to gather all my former students together in one place and apologize (on behalf of myself and the state’s curriculum) for not letting them have more personal involvement in their growth.

It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.

Teachers want to be paid enough to live on, but for the most part, we follow our career in order to help the next generation through the life-bumps on the way to adulthood. I don’t like the word “calling” when it comes to teaching, mostly because this gives legislators the idea that we don’t care about getting paid enough to live on. But teachers are, for the most part, “called” to do their work because they love children and learning.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

The beauty of science is that, not only does it begin in wonder, it also ends in wonder. Often non-science teachers are afraid to teach science. This is, in part, becuase their own sense of wonder has been lost…and that is too bad.

All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.

It’s often said that children become less curious as they go through school. Is that because we teachers do something to stifle their curiosity?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

WHY IS THERE SCHOOL?

What is the very purpose of schooling? Do we teach students so they can “grow up to be something” or so they can grow as human beings?

It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person.

ON BALANCE

If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.

🔬📚⚗️

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2018 Top Ten: Medley #25

We’re coming to the end of another calendar year so it’s time for resolutions and “best of” lists. Here’s the list of this blog’s Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.

#10, MARCH 29

What’s Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance – RTFM

The Children’s Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America’s eighth-graders were reading “below grade level” which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America’s eighth graders are reading at or above “grade level.”

This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th-grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”

 

#9, MARCH 4

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.

Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests — the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation — is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional, your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that was important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn’t be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that’s not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.

 

#8, SEPTEMBER 14

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

After nearly 13 years of ranting against the corporate-led destruction of public education, I lament that not much has really changed.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

#7, JUNE 16

Fathers Day 2018: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

My annual Fathers Day post with the same message each year: 1) read aloud is important and 2) dads should do it!

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

 

#6, OCTOBER 10

Education is NOT an Expense

Corporate reform is slowly changing public education into a consumer good. It’s not and shouldn’t be. It’s a public good. An investment in public education is an investment in our future.

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.

It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

 

#5, JUNE 9

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Privatizing public schools doesn’t help children. Learning doesn’t improve. The impact of poverty isn’t eliminated.

We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.

What about “failing” public schools?

What “privatizers” call a “failing” public school is, in fact, a “failing” municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.

Even so, America’s public schools perform well. We don’t have a “failing” school problem. We have a child poverty problem.

Public funds should be reserved for public schools.

 

#4, NOVEMBER 30

Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

Who would have thought that demoralizing teachers, cutting their salaries, eliminating benefits, and reducing job security would have a detrimental impact on the profession of teaching?

“I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”

#3, AUGUST 3

LeBron James and the Promise of Public Schools

If we cared about the future, we would provide the same services to all schools that LeBron James is providing. These are the schools all children deserve.

LeBron James is a millionaire…but unlike others among the super-rich who stick their wallets into America’s education infrastructure, The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with community partners, is helping to fund a public school run by a public school system, and staffed with unionized public school teachers. The taxpayers are paying for the school, teachers, and the usual expenses just like they do for all public schools, while the Foundation and its partners are providing funds for building renovations, wraparound services, and other extras.

This kind of investment is what all our children need and deserve

 

#2, AUGUST 15

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

Underpaid. Overworked. Is it any wonder that there’s a serious teacher shortage in Indiana (and the rest of the U.S.)?

A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new…

THE #1 POST OF 2018, SEPTEMBER 27

Don’t Bother Me With Politics. I Just Want To Teach.

The turnout for the last election was higher than in previous midterm elections. Too many teachers, however, still voted for the Republican legislators for the Indiana legislature who have done their best to damage public education.

Many teachers from Indiana are one-issue voters. Unfortunately, the one-issue is not education. It’s time teachers stood up for their own profession and voted for the interests of their students.

Teachers must become the political voice for their students.

Teachers who don’t vote allow others to make decisions about what goes on in their classrooms. As the former first lady, Michelle Obama said this week, “Democracy continues, with or without you.” If you don’t vote, it goes on without you.

 

🎉🍾🎉

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Filed under Article Medleys, Election, Jim Trelease, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Testing

Education is NOT an Expense

INVESTMENTS

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.

 

It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

It seems that Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) doesn’t agree. He is. apparently, against public schools as stated in this post on facebook from last week.

 

“What the hell are we doing, putting government in charge of educating our children?”— Jim Lucas, October 4, 2018

LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS SAY ISTEP IS WORTHLESS

Lucas was responding to this article on Fort Wayne’s WANE-TV about the low test scores on this year’s ISTEP – Less than half of Indiana’s students passed ISTEP. Perhaps he only read the title because if he had read the entire article (or had watched the embedded video) he would have read this…

Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel says he hasn’t looked at [ISTEP test scores] and doesn’t care to.

“ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed,” he said. It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them.”‘

We shared some of NACS’ results with him. With only 45 percent of his high school students passed both sections of the test, he says that doesn’t line up with the nearly 95 percent of his students passing the national college-readiness ACCUPLACER test.

“There’s a disconnect between the test scores which makes us believe there’s a flaw in the testing system Indiana’s using for the ISTEP,” he said.

And this…

Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs agrees, calling the ISTEP a waste of time and tax dollars.

“While Southwest Allen County Schools is legally obligated to take the ISTEP+ tests, SACS does not place much value in their results,” he said. “ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents.”

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION – WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

Lucas is a member of the Republican super-majority in the Indiana House and a member of the House Education Committee. As such, he is at least partly responsible for the condition and quality of public education in Indiana, and he, along with others in the legislature, must be held accountable.

  • He favors the privatization of education and supports vouchers and charter schools. He also supports expensive testing programs. As a consequence, the funding set aside for public schools has been less than what is needed because money for testing and for financial support of voucher and charter schools all come from the same pot of funds.
  • He and his ilk have supported the deprofessionalization of Indiana’s teaching force…the loss of collective bargaining, the lowering of requirements to become a teacher, the lack of autonomy in the classroom, and a 16% decrease (adjusted for inflation) in the salaries of Indiana’s teachers.

In other words, Lucas is a member of the group (the education privatizers in the Indiana House, the Indiana Senate, and the State Board of Education – mostly Republicans) which has removed incentives for teachers, made choices on how and what to teach, yet has held teachers accountable for the decisions of the legislature. Those decisions have caused the current teacher shortage and damaged our public schools. If he doesn’t like how Indiana’s public education is working, he has himself, and his cronies, to blame.

High stakes standardized tests are academically worthless and a waste of money. They measure family income, not achievement. Charter schools and vouchers are diverting funds from public schools. Legislators, like Lucas, who have tied the hands of actual educators, must take responsibility for the damage they have done to public education in Indiana.

Lucas and his fellow Republicans own 70% of the Indiana House of Representatives and 80% of the Indiana Senate.

We can change those percentages on November 6.

 

🏛🏫📝

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Filed under Accountability, Charters, Election, IN Gen.Assembly, ISTEP, Privatization, Public Ed, SBOE, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #23

For Kids-Not For Profit,
McCormick Asks For Accountability,
Teacher Evaluations, Income and Testing,
The Reading Wars, Elections Matter,
DeVos’s Ignorance,
October is ADHD Awareness Month

PUBLIC EDUCATION: FOR KIDS, NOT FOR PROFIT

IRS Should Close Tax Loophole That Allows Private School Voucher “Donors” To Profit With Public Funds

Indiana has a tax credit of 50% for donors to scholarship granting organizations which means that half the donations to those organizations come from the state. It’s worse, however, in ten other states,  Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia. I must admit that I’m surprised Indiana hasn’t gone this far…

For example, imagine that a wealthy South Carolinian who is in the top tax bracket gives $1 million to a “scholarship organization” that funds the state’s private school voucher program. South Carolina will reimburse that donor $1 million – this means the donor hasn’t spent anything. Nonetheless, the federal government considers that $1 million a charitable donation and therefore not taxable. At the top federal income tax bracket of 37 percent, the donor saves $370,000 on their federal taxes. But because the donor was reimbursed by the state for every dollar of their $1 million donation, that extra $370,000 savings is pure profit. It’s outrageous.

 

STATE SUPER CALLS FOR CHARTER AND PRIVATE SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

Superintendent of Education, Dr. Jennifer McCormick Supports Conditions on Receipt of Public Funds; Won’t Run for Re-Election

Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, ran for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2016. Her opponent was the incumbent Glenda Ritz. During her tenure, Superintendent Ritz tried to use her position to support public schools and protect public education from the privatizers in the legislature and the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE). Dr. McCormick professed to have a similar educational platform as Ritz, but she claimed that, as a Republican, the Governor, Legislators, and members of the SBOE, would listen to her.

They didn’t.

…Superintendent McCormick believes that “any school that takes public money should be an inclusive place for LGBT students and staff.” It seems pretty clear that she does not see eye-to-eye with her Republican colleagues on what the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s role should be or with how charters and private schools should be held accountable for their receipt and use of public money. This news came as Dr. McCormick discussed the Department of Education’s legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Among the priorities she announced for the Department were providing an inclusive environment for K-12 students, holding charter school authorizers accountable both fiscally and academically, and reducing testing time.

 

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

An Open Letter to NJ Sen. Ruiz, re: Teacher Evaluation and Test Scores

There are too many out-of-school factors for teachers to be held 100% responsible for the achievement of their students.

– You can’t hold a teacher accountable for things she can’t control. Senator, in your statement, you imply that student growth should be a part of a teacher’s evaluation. But a teacher’s effectiveness is obviously not the only factor that contributes to student outcomes. As the American Statistical Association states: “…teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions.”(2)

Simply put: a teacher’s effectiveness is a part, but only a part, of a child’s learning outcomes. We should not attribute all of the changes in a student’s test scores from year-to-year solely to a teacher they had from September to May; too many other factors influence that student’s “growth.”

 

HIGH INCOME – HIGH SCORES

ISTEP results are a non-story

Speaking of test scores…ISTEP scores are finally here…delayed again…and still worthless for anything other than giving schools full of high-income students another “A” banner for their hallway. Meanwhile, schools full of low-income students fight to get equitable funding for wrap-around services. Where are the “F” banners for the legislators who fail to take responsibility for inequitable funding?

It’s a lousy week to be an education reporter in Indiana. ISTEP-Plus test results were released Wednesday by the State Board of Education, so editors are assigning – and readers are expecting – the usual stories. Which schools did best? Which did worst? Which improved, and which didn’t?

Reporters who spend their work lives visiting schools and talking to educators and experts know this is the epitome of a non-news story. They know that years of experience and research tell us that affluent schools will have higher test scores than schools serving mostly poor students.

 

THE READING WARS

The Reading Wars? Who’s Talking About Reading and Class Size?

“The ‘reading wars’ never go away — at least not for long.” — Valerie Strauss

There are more than two sides to The Reading Wars. Actual practitioners, reading teachers, understand that teaching reading is a nuanced process. You can’t ignore context and you can’t ignore sound-symbol correspondence.

A good teacher finds out what her students need and what helps her students learn. She then tries different approaches and chooses that combination which most benefits the student.

Class size matters. The larger the class the more difficult it is to focus on the needs of each student. Large classes force teachers into focusing on the approaches which meet the needs of the majority of students…which means some students miss out.

Any teacher who has studied reading, understands that both phonics and whole language are important. A great reading teacher is capable of interweaving the two, depending on the instructional reading needs of every student in their class.

Some students need more phonics. Other students don’t need as much phonics. Teachers are better able to address the individual needs of their students, while bringing the class together, if they have manageable class sizes. Questions involving how to teach reading are important, but class size is critical no matter how reading is taught.

Lowering class sizes enables teachers to create an individualized reading prescription, like an IEP. It enables teachers to provide more one-on-one instruction which we also know helps students. It also provides them with more time to work with parents.

 

VOTE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Education — and Betsy DeVos — are issues in key political races this November

While it may not top the list of issues motivating voters to go to the polls, education is a key factor in some big races. (Depending on age, location, political affiliation or time of survey, other matters may come out on top, including the economy, immigration or health care.) And while Education Secretary Betsy DeVos isn’t on the ballot anywhere, her priorities are.

Americans have long cited education as a key concern when asked by pollsters to list issues important to them, but it has never been seen as one that could affect their vote. But for a combination of reasons, including the inevitable swing of the political pendulum, things seem different this year.

Hundreds of teachers and retired educators — an unprecedented number — are running for political office on the local, state and federal levels. There are hundreds of teachers — most of them Democrats — running for state legislative seats alone.

 

DEVOS DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE DOESN’T KNOW

Betsy DeVos doesn’t know what she doesn’t know about education

The Dunning-Kruger effect “…occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. In simple words, it’s ‘people who are too ignorant to know how ignorant they are’.”

Betsy DeVos is too ignorant about education to understand that she knows nothing about education.

“Parents, by their very nature, should decide what, when, where and how their children learn,” DeVos said.

But even amidst the barren, dystopian landscape of Ms. DeVos’ vision of American education, the quote above somehow caught my eye. You have to give it to her: Betsy has a real knack for distilling complicated, complex problems down into a single ignorant, nonsensical nugget of edu-drivel.

And she’s just clever enough to remember who her audience is here–and it’s not teachers, or teacher educators, or the 75+% of parents who are happy with their kids’ schools. No, her audience is the conservative base who believe that nothing public is better than anything private, who refer to public schools as “government schools,” and believe that paying even a single dollar in taxes is a form of robbery….

 

OCTOBER IS ADHD AWARENESS MONTH

7 Facts You Need To Know About ADHD

October is ADHD Awareness Month. It’s sad that we even have to post the following…

1. ADHD is Real

Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States long ago concluded that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a real, brain-based medical disorder. These organizations also concluded that children and adults with ADHD benefit from appropriate treatment. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]

 

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Just in Case Someone’s Listening

Today is the twelfth anniversary of this blog (see my main blog page, here). In the last dozen years of blogging, the education world hasn’t changed significantly. I started writing in the middle of the No Child Left Behind era, didn’t stop during Race to the Top, and continue now in the era of Betsy the Billionaire.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

I should probably rename this blog, “The Dead Horse Blog,” “Think Like Sisyphus,”  “The Wall: Beat Your Head Here,” or maybe simply “Belabored.”

On the other hand, my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year’s “Teachers’ Spring” will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I’ll keep going…just in case someone is listening.

Here are a dozen things I wrote in the early years of this blog…mostly about things that haven’t changed yet.

How to Guarantee School Improvement – September 2009

And here’s another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind…

Legislators, other politicians, and policymakers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.

If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America’s public school system would become the envy of the world.

 

Teaching is Doing – January 2014

Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren’t cut out for teaching…or that it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn’t realize that it’s not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can’t handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that “those who can’t, teach” has it backward. Teaching is doing…and it’s those who can’t who must move on to some other, less important line of work.

 

American Schools are Not Failing – October 2014

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

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

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

 

If I Could Go Back and Do It Again – March 2010

This quote names my biggest teaching frustration, written a few months before I retired. Now, eight years later, when I think about the years I spent teaching I try to remember the successes I had – and there were many – but it’s hard to forget the failures. I regret 1) not being able to help all the children I wanted to help, and 2) my failure to reach all the students I should have been able to reach.

My biggest teaching frustration has been allowing myself to do things in the classroom which, while mandated by federal, state and/or local authorities, were things that I knew were not in the best interests of my students.

 

Where Are All the Failing Schools – August 2010

This quote refers to the PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitude Toward the Public Schools. The most recent poll put the respondents who grade their school an A, B, or C, at 81%. Local schools continue to poll well, and even higher for those who know the schools best – parents of public school students.

A majority of 82% of the respondents to the poll do NOT see their local schools as failing giving them a grade of A, B or C. 49% scored their local schools as an A or a B. In other words, the school we know best we score higher than the schools we don’t know. We’re very negative about the quality of schools nationwide. But if such a high percentage of people are giving their own schools average to above average ratings where are all the schools that are doing so poorly?

 

Time For Some Therapy – March 2011

We’ve become a nation of cruel, angry, screamers. The national discussion has become nothing less than a national tantrum.

There’s no room for compromise…no room for discussion. There’s no time for sadness at the death of another human being. There’s no place for cooperation…no desire to work towards a common goal or define a common good.

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.

 

The Status Quo Hasn’t Changed – April 2011

When the so-called reformers — the Gates’s, the Broads, the Duncans — rail against the status quo they’re referring to nothing that exists today. The real status quo is a killing curriculum based on mindless bubbles on a test. That’s today’s status quo…and that’s no way to educate children.

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All – March 2009

For the last three days, I have been administering the Indiana state standardized tests or ISTEP+ to students with learning disabilities. These tests are not valid for these students because they do not measure what they claim to measure.

The test maker, McGraw Hill, claims that the test shows what students have learned and provides diagnostic information for remediation.

However, for these students the tests in their disability area are so difficult that they have 1) no hope of passing, 2) little chance of doing well enough to get a score that would provide anything more than a generalized list of their weak areas.

Students with learning disabilities are enrolled in special education because they are not able to perform at “grade level” in their area of disability. The purpose of special education is to provide extra support for the students so that they will be able to learn as much as they are capable of.

Simply put, the standardized tests that we are giving are not appropriate for all students. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum or test.

 

It’s Time For an Educated Secretary of Education – January 2010

For the last 34 years, I’ve searched for ways to improve my teaching and for ways to reach hard to reach students. The challenge is always there and what we as teachers do affects the lives of children in ways we can’t imagine. It’s frustrating that the people who control what goes on in the public schools of America (in the form of standardized tests, funding, etc) don’t have a clue. Am I self-righteous about my quest to improve my teaching? Yes…of course I am. I have worked hard to learn what I have learned about education and children. To have a basketball player with a degree in Sociology, who NEVER ATTENDED OR WORKED IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL and who is NOT a teacher, lead the nation’s public schools is, dare I say it, irresponsible on the part of the federal government.

 

Follow the Money – March 2010

When you scratch the surface of the current attacks on public education you’ll find big corporations (e.g. Pearson, McGraw-Hill) and wealthy businessmen (e.g. Bill Gates, Eli Broad). There’s money to be made in the new education industry – charters and private schools, vouchers programs, and the re-segregating of the American public school system.

Poverty is still the main issue that WE as teachers have to deal with nationwide.

 

Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day – April 2010

If you don’t read aloud to your students EVERY DAY you’re not doing enough. Every elementary teacher…no matter what grade…should read aloud to his/her students each day. See Jim Trelease’s Web Site and the Read-Aloud Handbook.

 

Due Process: Not Anymore – May 2010

In 2011 the Indiana General Assembly removed due process which gave teachers some job protection.

There’s no doubt that there are inadequate teachers in our schools…and there’s no doubt that teacher’s unions protect their members (which is what unions are supposed to do). However, in Indiana, at least, unions can only guarantee that teachers receive due process. It’s the responsibility of the school leaders, the administrators and school board, to prove just cause that a teacher is incompetent. Believe it or not, teachers unions do not want bad teachers teaching. Tenure in Indiana means that a teacher has to have a hearing in which their inadequacies are proven…they get their day in court to defend themselves against the accusations of those who would fire them. A fair hearing…day in court…confronting the accusers…that’s how we do things in the US.

 

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Filed under Due Process, PDK, Personal History, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, Teaching Career, Testing, US DOE