Posted in Burris, Constitution, NPE, Quotes, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

Listen to This #2

Random Quotes…


Tests Can’t Measure the True Strength of Schools And Other Reasons Your Kids Aren’t Numbers

Datamongers don’t seem to understand that schools are more than just test-prep facilities. When “reformers” claim that public schools are “failing” they referring to the poverty-related problems which cause low test scores…not the quality of the education students receive.

If we really want to improve the education of our children, we might consider importing ideas from successful countries (most of whom imported ideas from American researchers). One of the most useful ideas would reverse a trend in the U.S….that of spending more of our education money on wealthy children than on poor children.

From Stu Egan at Caffeinated Rage

The fact that West Forsyth is recognized as a high-performing school and that our students pursue worthwhile post-secondary endeavors speaks incredibly well, but our students are more than achievers in academics. It’s because they succeed in being good people that helps set this school apart.


We don’t have to do this, you know

“Reformist” legislators are anxious for highly qualified, well-trained, and therefore, expensive, educators to quit. The destruction of the profession of education means no more unions and lower wages.

From Peter Greene at Curmudgucation

We do not have a teacher shortage. We have a shortage of states and districts willing to make the job attractive enough to recruit and retain teachers.


When “Big Data” Goes to School

When was the last time you saw an actual public school teacher get excited about giving a standardized test and analyzing the data?

Most teachers get excited about seeing the “light” of understanding in their students. Most teachers are excited when they pique their students’ interests.

Data is for computers. Relationships are for people.

From Alfie Kohn

An individual’s enthusiasm about the employment of “data” in education is directly proportional to his or her distance from actual students.

…Those scores may be lousy representations of learning – and, indeed, egregiously misleading. But, by gum, they sure are readily available.


The Horace Mann League Honors Carol Burris as Outstanding Friend of Public Education: This is What She Said

Carol Burris is the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education.

…and yeah, Jeb Bush, she’s talking to you!

From Carol Burris

When I hear someone define a system of community schools, governed by unpaid volunteers elected by their neighbors as a “government-run, unionized, politicized, monopolies”– there is one thing I know for sure about the speaker—he does not want to improve that system, he does not want to compete with that system, he wants to destroy it.


Bang Bang Sanity

Jim Wright has written a series of twelve blogs entries about school shootings. The latest is Bang Bang Crazy, Part 12: Excuses, Excuses.

Bang Bang Sanity, on the other hand, is his single post about what we ought to do about gun violence. He wants us to require gun owners to act responsibly or pay the consequences. There are no “gun accidents,” he says. There is only negligence. Is it an accident when a four-year-old shoots his two-year-old brother with a gun left on the kitchen table? No, it’s negligence on the part of the gun owner.

Negligence and irresponsible behaviors need consequences. I agree.

He thinks that background checks, gun-free zones, banning high-capacity magazines or assault weapons, won’t “do a damned thing.” That horse, he said, “is out of the barn.” I disagree. Part of responsibility includes society’s responsibility to take steps to correct the mistakes of the past. We have bans on drunk driving, but it still happens. We have bans on using illegal drugs, yet they are still being used. The fact that people will break the laws is no excuse not to put them in place…and that should include consequences for gun owners, manufacturers (including the NRA, the lobbying arm of the gun industry), and sellers.

From Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station

We hold people who sell alcohol responsible, at least in some aspects, for enabling drunken driving. We hold auto manufacturers responsible, at least in some aspects, for the safety of their product. We hold state licensing agencies responsible for administration of standards. We hold the drivers themselves responsible for their actions. We set rules and limits and we work to improve them every single day.

And we, both left and right, drivers and non-drivers, drinkers and non-drinkers and reformed drinkers, engage in reasonable dialog and conversation without hysteria or accusations that the other side is coming to take either our booze or our cars.

But what we don’t do is say stupid shit like, well now you retards, there’s just nothing we can do about drunk people and/or crazy drivers who kill people with cars, uh, uh, uh. Hey, every once in a while crazy people drive buses through pre-schools. Dead kids, that’s just the price you pay for freedom to drive…

More than half of U. S. gun owners do not safely store their guns

This quote means that 45% of gun owners with children under 18 years old DO NOT store their guns safely (in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked in a gun rack, or secured with a trigger lock)!

What are the consequences for this behavior?

Slightly more than half, or 55 percent, of gun owners with children under 18 reported storing all of their guns safely.

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

The satirical site, The Onion, posts the article, “No Way to Prevent This,” Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” whenever there’s a mass shooting. The title is the quote.


A Lesson On Know-Nothingness

From Sheila Kennedy

When knowledge and expertise are devalued, when empirical evidence is scorned, when the weighty and complex search for meaning that characterizes serious religiosity is replaced with superstition, rejection of reason and fear of the Other, the know-nothings have won.


Military Families Deserve Fully Funded Public Schools, Not Harmful Voucher Schemes

This bill, introduced by the U.S. Congressman representing my district, doesn’t surprise me. He is as far right in his politics as you can be without actually taking up a torch and marching with David Duke in Charlottesville, Va.

According to Politics the Work, his votes in congress consistently oppose…

  • taxing businesses
  • environmental protection
  • financial sector regulation
  • gun control
  • public health
  • increasing revenues
  • taxing the wealthy
  • women’s rights.

With this bill we can add that he also opposes…

  • support for public education

The sad thing is that, in this part of the country, Jim Banks (R-IN) is representative of the majority of his constituents.

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The bill provides relatively no accountability or oversight mechanisms. For families wishing to participate, it requires only that parents state that they will use the funds to “provide the child with instruction in, at minimum, the fields of reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies.” And the funds can be used for a wide variety of programs, including for an unaccredited private school or for homeschooling expenses.

The bill also explicitly prohibits the federal or state government from exercising any oversight over the program. Basically, this bill sends the message that federal dollars should be given to families and then the government should back off and have no say over how those taxpayer dollars are actually spent.

Posted in Darling-Hammond, IREAD-3, ISTEP, Testing

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

It’s (almost) Spring. Time for baseball, longer days, and, of course…

Right now most grade 3 through grade 8 students here in Indiana are taking ISTEP+…or more correctly, ISTEP+ Part 1. ISTEP+ Part 2 is given in April, less than a month after Part 1. At least, that’s how it is for most students. Third graders aren’t quite as lucky.

Indiana is a member of the “Learn or be Punished” club, so third graders also get to take the high-stakes IREAD-3. IREAD-3 is an additional reading test (yes, reading is also tested on the ISTEP+ Part 1 and Part 2). IREAD-3 immediately follows ISTEP+ Part 1 and their scores on IREAD-3 determine if they get promoted to fourth grade for the next school year. [See Research on Retention in Grade for why this is a terrible idea.]

Tenth graders take ISTEP+, too. Secondary students also take ECAs (End of Course Assessments).

There are other tests from the state as well…the alternate assessment, ISTAR…the Kindergarten readiness test, ISTAR-KR…the English proficiency, WIDA….ACCUPLACER. Next year ISTEP+ will be replaced with ILEARN, which promises to be somewhat different, but also somewhat the same.


…on tests in Indiana? We’ve spent $300 million since 2002 and $38 million for the last two years of ISTEP+ alone. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction hopes to spend $26.3 million for the next two years. Such a bargain!

But the cost of testing is much greater than just the cost of the test booklets. Personnel costs…the loss of instructional time…the cost of paying teachers, administrators and others to fiddle around with testing chores instead of actually working with students…and the cost in emotional and physical stress related to the tests.

The money (and time) we have wasted could surely have been put to better use in classrooms…lowering class sizes perhaps with an additional 200 teachers statewide…updated technology…textbooks…classroom sets of books…building repairs…science equipment. Perhaps that money could have helped the people of Muncie and Gary retain their democratic right to elected school boards.

If you include the millions of dollars dumped into private pockets through charters and vouchers we would have enough to build a pretty solid system of common schools in Indiana.


What are we doing with all those different test scores? Test scores are used to (among other things)…

  • evaluate teachers
  • determine grade placement for children (IREAD-3)
  • rank and grade schools
  • rank school systems

In Rise Above the Mark, Linda Darling Hammond said,

The problem we have with testing in this country today is that, number 1, we’re using the wrong kinds of tests, and number 2, we’re using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

Standardized tests are developed to determine how much students know about the tested material. They are not made to evaluate teachers, schools, and school systems. Using them inappropriately is invalid and a misuse of the test.

The entire country misuses and overuses tests…and we do it with the blessing of the U.S. Education Department and all 50 state Departments of Education at a cost of nearly $2 billion (The last study I could find was done in 2012, and the cost, at that time, was $1.7 billion. I think I’m safe in assuming that it’s more than that now).

[UPDATE: As I was getting ready to post this, I saw this video from NPE. It’s worth your time. Watch it…


Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test…You didn’t devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do.Candidate Barack Obama, 2007

Testing is not teaching and a child (or a school/state/nation) is more than a test score.

So what can one teacher do?

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re administering tests this month — or at any time during the school year.

1. You have already prepared them as much as you can. No matter what you do you can’t (legally) add more to their knowledge once a testing session begins.

2. Standardized tests measure knowledge, but you have provided your students with growth opportunities, experiences and skills which aren’t (and can’t be) tested such as (but not limited to):

creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, a sense of beauty, a sense of wonder, honesty, integrity

3. 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 were 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.

4. People who make rules and laws about teaching, from legislators to billionaires to presidents, don’t understand the teaching and learning process. For most of them, their understanding of teaching comes from the point of view of a learner.

They don’t understand what it means to be a teacher in a classroom.

They don’t know the planning that takes place before the first day of school. They don’t understand the thought behind creating an entire year’s worth of lesson plans. They don’t know the emotional responses a teacher feels when a class leaves her care at the end of a school year. They don’t know all the time and effort spent preparing at night, on weekends, and during “vacations.”

They have never helped a child decide to remain in school only to lose him to a drive-by shooting. They have never gotten a letter from a former student thanking them for supporting her during a family crisis. They have never tried to explain to a class of Kindergartners why their classmate who had cancer is not coming back. They have never felt the joy of watching a student who they helped all year long walk across the stage to accept a diploma.

State legislators who come from jobs as attorneys, florists, or auctioneers don’t know what preparing for a class — or half a dozen classes — of students, day after day, for 180 days, is like. They have an image of what a classroom teacher does based on their childhood and youthful memories, but they don’t know how it really works.

Understand that. Remember that you are much more valuable to your students than what is reflected on “the test.”

5. Do what you have to do to survive in today’s classroom. Make sure your students are, to the extent that you are able, ready to take “the test.” Then, let it go and return to being the best teacher you can be. Keep in mind that the most important thing you will do for your students is to be a person they can respect, learn from, look up to, emulate, and care about.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. — Carl Jung

Posted in Testing

Resolution #2: Teach Your Students, Not “The Test”

A series of resolutions for 2018…


  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”


I taught third grade in the mid-1970s. At that time the State of Indiana didn’t require standardized testing for evaluation of teachers or promotion of third graders. Nevertheless, my school system used standardized tests in grades three, six, eight, and ten. The purpose of the test was to see how our students were progressing, and to diagnose any specific problems. Oh, and we were specifically told by the administration not to teach to the test. It just wasn’t professional!

When the results came back (always within a couple of weeks) we were able to see how each of our students was doing in particular areas, and plan our instruction accordingly.

10 years later, Indiana started the ISTEP. We were still told to remain professional and not to teach to the test.


In 2001 everything changed. No Child Left Behind shifted the attention from students to test scores. No longer were we told not to teach to the tests. Teaching to the tests was now encouraged because, of course, the test covered everything the students needed to learn (No, it didn’t). The school’s success depended on the test scores. Individual students were only important insofar as they contributed to the success of the school. It was time to teach so that test scores rose. Nothing else mattered. Teach test taking skills. Teach test-like questions. Teach skills the students wouldn’t normally get to until later in the year because it will be on the test. Focus on the “bubble” kids. Why are you teaching kids about dinosaurs…it’s not on the test!


What happens when you teach to the test, instead of teaching to your students’ needs?

1a. It skews the curriculum.

When you spend your day (or most of it) teaching to the test, other content gets lost. Elementary teachers, especially, teach all subjects. If, in a 6 or 7 hour instructional day, most of the instruction is how to take a test and drilling on presumed test content, then there won’t be much time left for non-tested content such as social studies, science, health, or read aloud (see Resolution #1). If the goal of public education is a well-rounded education, then a well-rounded curriculum is the logical route to take. Focusing only on test content is not the way to get there. FairTest says,

High-stakes testing often results in a narrow focus on teaching just the tested material (test preparation). Other content in that subject as well as untested subjects such as social studies, art and music are cut back or eliminated. High-stakes testing also produces score inflation: scores go up, but students have not learned more. Their scores are lower even on a different standardized test. This undermines the meaning of test results as well as education.

1b. It redirects a teacher from curriculum-teaching to item-teaching (aka it skews the curriculum).

Testing expert James Popham defines this as follows

In item-teaching, teachers organize their instruction either around the actual items found on a test or around a set of look-alike items…

Curriculum-teaching, however, requires teachers to direct their instruction toward a specific body of content knowledge or a specific set of cognitive skills represented by a given test…In curriculum-teaching, a teacher targets instruction at test-represented content rather than at test items.

1c. It creates a one-size-fits-all curriculum instead of allowing teachers to focus on students’ individual interests and abilities (aka it skews the curriculum).

It forces teachers to focus on state (or national) standards instead of the needs of his/her students. Standards are important, but sometimes individual students need something else.

1d. It excludes the affective domain (aka it skews the curriculum).

A child is more than a reading and/or math test score. The school day, and instruction, should reflect that. A well-rounded curriculum includes the arts, civics, play, and other content.

2. It promotes convergent, rather than divergent thinking – excludes higher order thinking skills.

How much creativity is extinguished by focusing on one right answer? How is problem-solving improved?

3. It makes the test an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.

Not all students learn at the same rate. Some students take longer. When a standardized test-based curriculum is forced on a classroom there will be some students who aren’t ready for some of the content. This is why many states have required the educationally unsound practice of in-grade retention to punish third graders who cannot pass the test.

Instead of a test-based curriculum or in-grade retention, students should receive high quality instruction and, when needed, intervention using best practices at their instructional level.

Student learning, not a test score, should be the goal of education.

4. When teachers are evaluated by test scores, it incentivizes a conflict of interest.

Ethical and professional problems can occur when a teacher’s livelihood is dependent upon student achievement.

New Year’s resolution #2 depends, of course, on where and what you teach. It might be easy for one teacher (an art or foreign language teacher, for example) not to teach to the test, since there aren’t state required tests for all subject areas. English and Math teachers might have more difficulty. If you’re a classroom teacher who is forced to “teach the test” you’ll have to adjust this resolution to meet your own circumstances.


  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.


  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”
Posted in A-F Grading, EdWeek, PDK, Public Ed, Testing, Uncategorized

It’s Those Other Schools

How good are the public schools in your community? If you’re a parent/guardian of a school child, or a teacher in the local schools, chances are you think your schools are pretty good.

If you don’t work in a local school, or don’t have children who attend local schools, how do you judge the quality of your local schools? Should you rely on news media reports? How about state test scores, or state A-F grades?



In the annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Towards Public Schools, published last September, seventy-one percent, almost three-fourths of public school children’s parents/guardians, gave their local schools a grade of A or B. Parents of children who attend public schools are among the people who know the schools the best.

Local parents know that their children are more than test scores. They know the teachers, administrators, and staff. Their neighbors work in the cafeteria or on the custodial staff. They appreciate the hard work of school employees.

Why, then, do they ignore the same concepts when it comes to the quality of schools nationally? Only 24% give the nation’s schools a grade of A or B. Those same parents who understand that the news media, or test-based school grades don’t tell the whole story when it comes to their local community’s school, believe the opposite when it comes to schools nationally.


Earlier this month, another survey was published. In this survey it was educators who were asked about the quality of public schools. The results were reported in Education Week’s Educator Political Perceptions: A National Survey.

And, surprise! The educators responses were nearly identical to those of parents and guardians of public school students. American educators gave their local schools, the ones they worked in and knew the best, high grades, but nationally, not so much. Seventy-two percent gave their own school systems an A or B. Only 35% graded the nation’s schools as an A or B.

From Education Week

Across the board, educators give the public schools in their district better grades than those in the nation as a whole. While 25 percent assign A’s to public schools in their districts, just 3 percent allot that grade to schools in the nation as whole. Clinton and Trump voters assign similar grades both to their own schools and the nation’s schools. Compared to teachers and school-based leaders, district leaders are slightly easier graders of both their districts’ schools and schools in the nation as whole. For example, 34 percent of district leaders assign their districts’ schools an A as compared to 24 percent of teachers and school-based leaders.

In other words, the folks who have the closest contact with schools, either as parents or professionals, grade their local schools high, but their opinions about schools nationally are much lower.

Mathematically, of course, this doesn’t make sense. How can the majority of parents and educators “know” that the nation’s schools are poor, when that same majority “knows” that their local schools are excellent? Where are all the “failing” schools if not in local communities nationwide? Where are all the “excellent” schools, if not in other people’s local communities as well as ours?

There is, of course, a logical answer. People hear about all the “failing” public schools across the nation from the news media, pundits, and politicians. At the same time, they experience relief that their own public schools aren’t anything like “those other schools.

Those people whose children attend public schools and those who work in local public schools know more about how the schools are run. They see the work that goes into them. They are the stakeholders. They realize that schools are not perfect – no human institution is – but they understand that schools are more than the sum of their parts.

  • children are more than test scores
  • teachers are more than their students’ test scores
  • local schools are more than state grades

But, thanks to politicians, pundits, and policy makers, that understanding doesn’t seem to extend to the public schools of the nation, as a whole.


My own local schools, for example, are excellent. I know this is true because my children and grandchildren have attended them…and I have worked in them. I know the teachers, administrators, families, and children. I know that the teachers who work there spend more than just their contracted working hours in order to make the schools responsive to the needs of the children who attend them.

But you might live on the other side of the county (or state, or country)…and you might see that my local schools are not perfect. Sure, this school in the district received a grade of A from the state, and that one got a B, but there’s one on the other side of the district which got an F…and one with a D [and you might also notice that the school grades correspond to the neighborhood economic status!]. There are students who struggle, teachers and administrators who fail in their responsibilities, and administrators who have been out of the classroom too long. You might see my local schools’ A-F grades and conclude that, at least some of them, are failures.

If these were your local schools, what criteria would you use to determine their quality? Would you listen to the parents and teachers who know what goes on in the school? Or would you rely on the test scores and state A-F grades?

How do we really know how the nation’s schools are performing? Are student test scores the most reliable criterion upon which to judge a school?


Further Reading:

For a good discussion of the political perceptions in the Education Week Survey, see Curmudgucation’s The Teacher in the Next Room

Are America’s public schools “failing?” – The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools

The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, Part 2

Posted in Comprehension, DeVos, Facebook, Politicians, poverty, Privatization, reading, special education, Taxes, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #33

Republicans, Facebook, Testing, Poverty, Reading Comprehension, Vouchers, IDEA


The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools

Incentives for parents who send their children to private schools, but none for public school parents.

That means that the “school tuition” that parents of public school kids are paying, in the form of state and local taxes, isn’t deductible from their federal taxes, and public schools themselves will have less money to spend on kids. But rich families who can afford private school get a brand new tax break. That’s a win for the 10%.

The Republican War on Children

No health insurance for poor children…tax incentives for wealthy children.

Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.


The False Paradise of School Privatization

Why did Facebook suspend Steven Singer’s (Gadfly On The Wall Blog) Facebook account for the second time in two months?

The first time was when he published School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less. This time it’s for The False Paradise of School Privatization. Could it be there’s someone working for Facebook who doesn’t like the politics of public education?

If you haven’t had a chance to read Singer’s post, The False Paradise of School Privatization, be sure to do so. Then, when you’ve finished that, check out Two Theories Why Facebook Keeps Blocking Me When I Write About School Privatization.

One person’s paradise is another person’s Hell.

So the idea of designing one system that fits all is essentially bound to fail.

But doesn’t that support the charter and voucher school ideal? They are marketed, after all, as “school choice.” They allegedly give parents and children a choice about which schools to attend.

Unfortunately, this is just a marketing term.

Charter and voucher schools don’t actually provide more choice. They provide less.

Think about it.

Who gets to choose whether you attend one of these schools? Not you.

Certainly you have to apply, but it’s totally up to the charter or voucher school operators whether they want to accept you.

It is the public school system that gives you choice. You decide to live in a certain community – you get to go to that community’s schools. Period.


PIRLS: The effect of phonics, poverty, and pleasure reading.

The last half of my 35 year teaching career was spent working with students who had difficulties with reading. I worked in rural schools with small, but significant numbers of low-income students. We knew then, and we know now, that child poverty is the main factor in low school achievement. We also know that factors associated with poverty, like low birth weight, poor nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of health care, have an impact on a child’s learning. These out-of-school factors are rarely discussed when politicians and policy makers blame schools and teachers for low student achievement.

You may have read about the recent release of the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) scores along with much pearl-clutching because of the nation’s poor performance. Most reporters focus on comparing scores of American students with students in other countries (We fall somewhere in the middle). Rarely is the impact of poverty noted.

Stephen Krashen continues to educate.

Kevin Courtney is right about the negative influence of poverty on PIRLS tests; two of our studies confirm this. He is also right in rejecting phonics instruction as the force responsible for the recent improvement in PIRLS scores: Studies show that intensive phonics instruction only improves performance on tests in which children have to pronounce words presented in a list. Heavy phonics does not contribute to performance on tests of reading comprehension. In fact, several scholars have concluded that knowledge of phonics rules, beyond the simplest ones, is acquired from reading.

For Further Reading: 

Valerie Strauss has a guest post from James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable which gives the PIRLS tests a more nuanced analysis.

Also from Valerie Strauss – Ten things you need to know about international assessments


The Reading Achievement Gap: Why Do Poor Students Lag Behind Rich Students in Reading Development?

This article was published in 2015 by Richard Allington. Here he reinforces the need for access to books for low-income children.

Students from lower-income families experience summer reading loss because they don’t read much, if at all, during the summer months. Students from middle-class families, on the other hand, are far more likely to read during this same summer period. Low-income students don’t read during the summer months because they don’t own any books, and they live in neighborhoods where there are few, if any, places to purchase books. Middle-class students have bedroom libraries and live in neighborhoods where children’s books are readily available, even in the grocery stores where their parents shop. Middle-class kids are more likely to live in a neighborhood where one can find a child-friendly public library than is the case with children living in low-income areas. These children live in neighborhoods best described as book deserts.

Historically, low-income students relied primarily on schools as sources for the books they read. Ironically, too many high-poverty schools have small libraries, and there are too many classrooms that have no classroom library for kids to select books to read. Too many high-poverty schools ban library books (and textbooks) from leaving the building (fear of loss of the books, I’m usually told). However, even with fewer books in their schools and more restrictive book-lending policies, these kids do get most of the books they read from the schools they attend. But not during the summer months when school is not in session!


How To Get Your Mind To Read (Daniel Willingham)

Reading teachers understand that students’ comprehension improves when teachers activate prior knowledge before having students read a passage (or before they read aloud). What happens, however, when students don’t have the knowledge they need?

…students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.


Voucher Programs and the Constitutional Ethic

Acceptance of a voucher by a private school should be subject to that school’s compliance with certain basic requirements. At a minimum, school buildings should meet relevant code requirements and fire safety standards; teachers should be able to offer evidence that they are equipped to teach their subject matter; and the school should both teach and model foundational constitutional values and behaviors. Ideally, schools receiving public funds should not be permitted to discriminate on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation (religious schools have a constitutional right to discriminate on the basis of religion in certain situations, although they do not have a right to do so on the taxpayer’s dime) and should be required to afford both students and staff at least a minimum of due process. At present, we are unaware of any voucher program that requires these commitm


DeVos Won’t Publicize a School Voucher Downside, But It’s Leaking Out Anyway

DeVos admits that students who attend private schools lose their rights under IDEA.

DeVos seems to forget that she’s the Secretary of Education for the entire United States, not just for private and privately owned schools.

There’s another key issue at stake in the conversation about vouchers for students with disabilities — one Jennifer and Joe asked DeVos about during their private conversation.

Do students with disabilities lose their rights to a fair and appropriate education — a guarantee under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — if they use vouchers to attend private schools?

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, NPE, OECD, PISA, SchoolFunding, Segregation, special education, Testing

A Report on Reports

Need something to do this weekend?

Here is a chance to get dig deeper into some issues important to public education. Below are links to reports about school inequity, special education, vouchers, segregation, charter schools, and other topics of interest.

You can learn how

  • the election of 2016 has caused stress and conflict in the nation’s high schools
  • public investment in education has declined
  • international test scores don’t tell the whole story about public education in the U.S.
  • charter schools drain money and resources from actual public schools
  • socio-economic status continues to be the most accurate predictor of academic success


Education inequalities at the school starting gate

Economic inequities abound in the U.S. and schools are not equipped to address all the issues facing children alone. Policy makers and legislators must work with schools by providing funding for wraparound services, a fully funded school curriculum, and strategies to improve economic development in communities. Ignoring inequity, or asking schools to perform miracles without necessary resources is a guarantee of failure.

From Emma García and Elaine Weiss, the Economic Policy Institute

What this study finds: Extensive research has conclusively demonstrated that children’s social class is one of the most significant predictors—if not the single most significant predictor—of their educational success. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that performance gaps by social class take root in the earliest years of children’s lives and fail to narrow in the years that follow. That is, children who start behind stay behind—they are rarely able to make up the lost ground…

What can be done about it: Greater investments in pre-K programs can narrow the gaps between students at the start of school. And to ensure that these early gains are maintained, districts can provide continued comprehensive academic, health, nutrition, and emotional support for children through their academic years, including meaningful engagement of parents and communities. Such strategies have been successfully implemented in districts around the country, as described in this report, and can serve to mitigate the impact of economic inequalities on children’s educational achievement and improve their future life and work prospects.

A Punishing Decade for School Funding

We are ignoring the underfunding of schools and services for our children and the future of the nation is at stake. Instead of planning for the future with an investment in our children, we’re living “paycheck to paycheck” and ignoring the fact that we are limiting the future of a huge number of our children…which limits the future of our nation.

From Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, and Eric Figueroa, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade. Worse, some of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools

Yet another study which shows that diverse school populations helps children and segregation harms them. Have we given up trying to abide by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling?

From David E. Kirkland and Joy L. Sanzone, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of School

Diversity along lines of race and socioeconomic status seemed to modestly close achievement gaps (i.e., opportunity gaps), while hyper-segregation seemed to greatly exacerbate them (i.e., opportunity barrier). 

Deconstructing the Myth of American Public Schooling Inefficiency

Betsy DeVos continues to use international rankings in order to criticize, blame, and demean our nation’s public schools. Rarely, if ever, does she include the fact that poverty has been, and continues to be, the societal problem which contributes the most to our average achievement. She rarely discusses the fact that American students from low-poverty schools score higher than any students in the world. She only uses the “failure” of public education as a tool to transfer the billions of education dollars into private pocketbooks.

The following report discusses some of the apples-to-oranges problems of comparing the U.S. to other advanced nations.

From Bruce D. Baker and Mark Weber, the Albert Shanker Institute

The United States is faced with a combination of seemingly high education expense, but noncompetitive compensation for its teachers, average to large classes, and high child poverty. Again, it’s hard to conceive how such a combination would render the U.S. comparable in raw test scores to low-poverty nations like Korea or Finland, or small, segregated, homogeneous enclaves like Singapore or Shanghai…

Finally, it is equally important to understand the magnitude and heterogeneity of the U.S. education system in the context of OECD comparisons, which mainly involve more centralized and much smaller education systems. Lower-poverty, higher-spending states that have been included in international comparisons, like Connecticut and Massachusetts, do quite well, while lower-spending higher-poverty states like Florida do not. This unsurprising finding, however, also tells us little about relative efficiency, and provides little policy guidance for how we might make Florida more like Massachusetts, other than by waving a wand and making it richer, more educated and perhaps several degrees colder.


Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America’s High Schools

During the years I taught I often stopped to reflect upon how politicians and policy makers seemed intent at making the job of teaching harder.

Today’s political climate is no different. The election of 2016 has had an impact on our public schools beyond policy…

From John Rogers, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access

VI. Educators can mitigate some of these challenges, but they need more support. Ultimately, political leaders need to address the underlying causes of campus incivility and stress.

  • 72.3% of teachers surveyed agreed that: “My school leadership should provide more guidance, support, and professional development opportunities on how to promote civil exchange and greater understanding across lines of difference.”
  • 91.6% of teachers surveyed agreed that: “national, state, and local leaders should encourage and model civil exchange and greater understanding across lines of difference.” Almost as many (83.9%) agreed that national and state leaders should “work to alleviate the underlying factors that create stress and anxiety for young people and their families.”


Charters and Consequences: An Investigative Series

The Network for Public Education reports on charter schools and their impact on real public schools, public school systems, public educators, and our nation’s students, the vast majority of whom attend public schools.

[Full disclosure: I contribute to, and am a member of, the Network for Public Education.]

From the Network for Public Education

• An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools
• The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters
• The transformation of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations
• All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline
• Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff
• Complete transparency in all expenditures and income
• Requirements that student bodies reflect the demographics of the served community
• Open meetings of the board of directors, posted at least 2 weeks prior on the charter’s website
• Annual audits available to the public
• Requirements to follow bidding laws and regulations
• Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes
• Requirements that all charter facilities meet building codes
• Requirements that charters offer free or reduced-price lunch programs for students
• Full compensation from the state for all expenditures incurred when a student leaves the public school to attend a charter
• Authorization, oversight and renewal of charters transferred to the local district in which they are located
• A rejection of all ALEC legislation regarding charter schools that advocates for less transparency, less accountability, and the removal of requirements for teacher certification.


Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents Are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities

Two things in this section, first, an article discussing the GAO Report. Then a short blurb from the report itself.

From Elise Helgesen Aguilar, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

A New Government Report Shows Private School Voucher Programs Fail To Provide Information, Especially To Families Of Students With Disabilities

Specifically, it found that most private school voucher programs do not provide necessary or even accurate information to parents of students with disabilities about the rights those students forfeit by enrolling at a private voucher school.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that students with disabilities are provided with certain rights and services in public schools, including a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.

But students who leave the public schools with a voucher forfeit many of those protections because they are considered parentally placed in private schools. For example, students accepting vouchers are not entitled to FAPE or to the due process rights that students in public schools have.

Many parents are not aware that they are giving up those rights when enroll their child in a private school voucher program. In fact, the report found that one-third of all voucher programs across the country do not provide any information to parents about the loss of procedural safeguards and due process protections under IDEA.

From the U.S. Government Accountability Office

Our draft report also included a recommendation for Education to require states to notify parents/guardians of changes in students’ federal special education rights, including that key IDEA rights and protections do not apply when a student with a disability is moved from public to private school by their parent. In response, Education stated that IDEA does not include statutory authority to require such notice, and suggested that the department instead encourage states to notify parents. However, as noted in our draft report, Education already strongly encourages states and school districts to provide such notice. Despite these efforts, we found that in 2016-17, more than 80 percent of students nationwide who are enrolled in private choice programs designed for students with about changes in IDEA rights, or provided some inaccurate information about these changes. We therefore continue to believe that states should be required, not merely encouraged, to notify parents/guardians about key changes in federal special education rights when a parent moves a child with a disability from public to private school. To this end, we have converted our recommendation into a Matter for Congressional Consideration to require such notice.

Posted in Choice, Curmudgucation, DeVos, JanResseger, Quotes, Testing, vouchers

Listen to This #14


The Margaret Lambert Story

19-year-old Jewish high jumper Greta Bergman left Germany for England in 1934 at the top of her career. Two years later the German government, by then under Nazi control, forced her (by threatening her parents) to return to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the end, however, she was not allowed to compete.

She moved to the United States, continued her career by becoming the American women’s high jump champion in 1937 and ’38, as well as the women’s shot put in 1937. She lived in the US with her husband Bruno Lambert until his death in 2013, and her death in July of this year at the age of 103.

This short documentary (23 minutes) is worth your time. Aside from the story of an athlete trying to compete under Hitler’s Germany, it has some very familiar, very disturbing images. Click the link above to sign up for the free Olympic Channel, and watch the documentary.

From Foul Play: The Margaret Lambert Story on The Olympic Channel (access with free account).

There was nothing worse Hitler and his people could imagine but a German athlete of Jewish belief winning a gold medal for Germany.


Better tests don’t lead to better teaching, study finds

What better way to introduce this quote…than with another quote. Here is what a local public school superintendent tweeted about this article…

From The Hechinger Report

…a more demanding test didn’t help improve the quality of the teacher’s instruction. A teacher’s test-prep lessons were generally of lower instructional quality than when the same teacher wasn’t prepping students for the test. More surprising, the researchers found that the quality gap between a teacher’s regular lessons and her test-prep lessons was largest in a school district where the teaching quality was the highest.


Stinesville: Can a small school in a quarry town survive Indiana’s school choice program?

Funding for public education gets diverted to private and privately run schools. Public schools and the students they serve suffer. Our priorities are misplaced.

From Jenny Robinson

As the voucher and charter programs were explained and advertised as “school choice” to the public, one corollary fact was not included: Indiana residents might lose a choice that many of us have taken for granted for decades: the ability to send our kids to a local, well-resourced public school. The kind of school that serves lunch and participates in the federal school lunch program. The kind of school that provides transportation. The kind of school that has certified teachers and a library and is in a district obligated by law to accept all children in the attendance area, including those with profound special needs, and to provide them a free and appropriate public education.

Reblogged at Alternet: In Rural America, School Choice Poses Agonizing Choices


School Choice: The Old Wolf in New Sheep’s Clothing

From Arthur Camins in Huffpost

During the term of President Obama, there was a push to expand funding for charter schools, despite evidence that they increased racial and socioeconomic segregation and were on average no more effective. The election of Donald Trump and his selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has energized demands for tuition vouchers for private schools. Taken together, these efforts represent a profound bipartisan shift in how we think about the purpose of public support for education and school governance, from meeting community needs and values to attending to the demands and proclivities of individual shoppers in a marketplace.

A quarter of the schools Betsy DeVos has visited are private

Twenty-five percent of the schools that Betsy DeVos has visited since she took over as US Secretary of Education have been private or religious schools. Ten percent of American children attend such schools. Her preference for private and religious schools is obvious.

From the Washington Post

Neither DeVos nor the Education Department have much say in what happens in the nation’s private and religious schools, which have wide latitude in selecting students and are not bound by federal education laws that require public schools to show how much their students are learning.

The Hard Right’s Planning Document for Education

Conspiracy, or long term plans? Peter Greene takes us on a scary ride.

From Peter Greene

…there’s a group with an explicit plan for destroying the Department of Education and installing theocratic control over US education, and the secretary of Education as well as key folks at the White House are directly tied to that group.

Orlando Sentinel: Betsy DeVos’s Dream Is Really a Nightmare

Accountability is appropriate for every tax supported school – public school, charter school, and voucher accepting school. Every school that accepts public money ought to follow the same rules, and have the same level playing field.

From Jan Resseger

The limited oversight of Florida’s scholarship programs allowed a principal under investigation for molesting a student at his Brevard County school to open another school under a new name and still receive the money…