Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, Racism, SchoolFunding, Segregation, Testing

2017 Medley #27

Accountability, School Funding,
Students’ Rights, Charters and Segregation, Closing Schools, Racism, Testing

ACCOUNTABILITY

Unqualified billionaires gaining too much influence on public education

Have you ever noticed how important accountability-for-public-schools is to politicians and “reformers?” But where is the accountability for others?

  • for religious and private schools taking public money through vouchers?
  • for corporate run charter schools?
  • for state and local school boards when certain schools are neglected over others?
  • for state governments to provide full and adequate funding for public education (see FUNDING, below)?

Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.

Over the past 20 years, education policy has increasingly been enacted not to satisfy the needs of the students and their families, but the wants of the wealthy and powerful who are converting public education from a civic enterprise to a marketplace for edu-vendors: the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has paid to expand charters and lobby for the use of Common Core standards in all 50 states; real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad now leads a group of corporate funders pushing a plan to move half of all K-12 students in Los Angeles into charter schools; the Walton family has initiated a new $1 billion campaign to promote charters nationwide; Trump financier Carl Icahn has established a chain of charters in New York City.

No one elected these billionaires, and they are accountable to no one.

FUNDING

While the rest of the world invests more in education, the U.S. spends less

The current federal administration…the administrations of more than a few “Red” states…and a substantial number of American citizens…hate government and assume that everything the government does is bad. With the rise of Trump and his “hate-government-cabinet, we see a vacuum in governmental services (except for the military).

Republicans are still arguing that lower taxes for the wealthy will trickle down and improve the economy even though that “voodoo economics” hasn’t worked for the last 40 years, but the truth is, many Republicans are attempting to defund the government.

The U.S. has one of the lowest tax rates as a portion of our GDP in the developed world (32nd out of 35 OECD nations). If we don’t have tax revenue, then we can’t support necessary government services. I’m not a hater of government, and I believe that government services are important. Taxes are necessary to pay for those services. The government needs an income to keep things running…infrastructure, health care, defense, social services, and education. When we don’t invest in ourselves we sacrifice our future.

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

STUDENT’S RIGHTS

MI Teacher Suspended for Assaulting Student Refusing the Pledge

September 17th was Constitution Day in the U.S. The Constitution guarantees free speech and a teacher, as the agent of the local government, does not have the right to manhandle a student who, for whatever reason, chooses not to recite the pledge to the flag.

Students do not give up their first amendment rights when they enter the classroom.

A teacher here in Michigan is suspended pending an investigation for allegedly physically assaulting a 6th grade student by violently yanking him out of his chair for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, something that is the student’s absolutely protected right to do.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION

With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation

Race and ethnic relations in the United States is at a dangerous point. The recent reemergence of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and ultra-nationalists, along with a general willingness of many in white America to admit to their bigoted beliefs, has left those who hope for peaceful relations among racial groups, ethnic groups, and immigrants feeling disappointed.

As a reflection of our society, it’s probably no surprise that American schools are now more segregated than ever as tribal impulses cause people to separate. The American “melting pot,” if it ever actually existed, is fading.

Thus, one of the big problems with school choice is the peer-reviewed research demonstrating the finding that “Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools.” Peer-reviewed research has also demonstrated that the choice of African American and white families for schools with homogenous racial compositions “helps to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.”

The same study found that choice was also bad for achievement on average as, “the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of African America students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left.”

In contravention of Brown, charters are influencing and intensifying racial segregation across the nation. After several decades, the promise of charter schools to foster integration and a less balkanized society is clearly not being realized.

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS

Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

[Note: Just after I wrote this I read that Indianapolis has decided to close three high schools…ostensibly for enrollment reasons. I’m curious if we’ll see the addition of charter high schools soon. See It’s final: Indianapolis Public Schools Board approves plan to close high schools]

In 2013 Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced the closure of 50 public schools. Later that same year, the Chicago Public Schools posted a document requesting that charter schools open in the city during the following two years.

Recently, CREDO, a research group supportive of “reform” strategies, presented the results of a new study which showed that simply closing schools was ineffective. Furthermore, the students who needed school improvements the most, poor students and students of color, were the ones who were most negatively impacted by school closings.

The results of the CREDO study confirm that the most common cause of “low performing schools” is poverty and its impact on student achievement. Without addressing the out-of-school-factors which affect student performance or the general lack of support for public schools serving poor students and students of color, closing a school will do nothing but shuffle the problems around to other schools – or to the streets.

It doesn’t matter where a student attends school if he has been damaged by lead poisoning, traumatized by neighborhood violence, weakened by lack of health care, or disadvantaged by food and shelter insecurity. Out-of-school-factors which lower achievement will follow a student to whatever school he or she attends.

Instead of closing schools and hoping for a miracle, school systems ought to improve achievement through wraparound services for students who come to school exhibiting the effects of poverty. Support for services like social workers, instructional specialists, and increased teacher training should be included. Schools should provide whatever services are needed to support students. States and municipalities should support schools systems with funding necessary to deliver the services as well as support for the communities. Closing schools – essentially blaming them for the failures of society to deal with the problems of poverty – is unfair and counterproductive.

…a new study found that closing schools where students achieve low test scores doesn’t end up helping them learn. Moreover, such closures disproportionately affect students of color.

What’s surprising, however, is who conducted the study – corporate education reform cheerleaders, the Center for Research on EDucation Outcomes (CREDO).

Like their 2013 study that found little evidence charter schools outperform traditional public schools, this year’s research found little evidence for another key plank in the school privatization platform.

SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT

…on Racism

I swore never to be silent…

Todd Garza, Superintendent of Ludlow (MA) schools has a blog in which he speaks out on current education topics. This post discusses his personal obligation to speak out against bigotry and racism. It’s important, he believes, for educators to be role models for their students as well as teaching academics.

However, it is the duty and responsibility of every educator to loudly and with one unified voice state unequivocally that racism, hatred, and bigotry cannot be tolerated and have no place in our national dialogue. Failure to denounce such speech and actions every time we are confronted amounts to tacit approval and that is unacceptable.

…We have very little control over the battles being played out on the national stage. However, we can control what happens in our communities, our schools and our classrooms. As adults we can model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit. If we start small it will spread. There will always be a diversity of opinions in our communities and that is the beauty of our system. However, we must never give in to the fear that opens the door for hate, racism and bigotry to intrude. We are not perfect, but we are Americans with all that that stands for and we can be better than we have been in recent times. Remember, our children are watching.

…on Testing

NACS outlines for parents irrelevance of ISTEP

Superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Indiana, Chris Himsel, has written an op-ed letting parents know how useless and wasteful the Indiana ISTEP test is.

Yesterday, ISTEP scores were released to the public across the state. Compared to other districts, Northwest Allen County Schools performed well. However, the information is not relevant to us. Why? Because (1) the events that yielded these scores took place over four months ago and (2) the results provide zero information about why students passed or why students did not pass. Therefore, the recently released data do not offer useful information designed to help us meet the individual learning needs of our students. Why is it important to receive information designed to meet the individual learning needs of students? Because the test results themselves are not an indicator of school or teacher quality; school and teacher quality is a result of how learning data, including test results, are used to improve learning among individual students.

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

Blogoversary #11: A Review

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

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

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

On beyond thirty…

September 14, 2006

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

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

“That” time of year…

September 10, 2007

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

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

All the Way with Pearl Jam

September 27, 2008

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

Duncan’s Background and Duncan’s Plans

September 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

Tenure and Unions

September 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are SAT Scores So Low?

September 23, 2011

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

Which Future Awaits our Grandchildren?

September 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

Play is More Important Than Tests

September 9, 2013

Sadly, kindergarten is the new first grade.

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

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

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

Retention Wars: Blaming Children

September 25, 2014

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

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

Teacher Shortage? When All Else Fails Blame the Union

September 18, 2015

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

#%@! Adults Should Quit Punishing Children

September 7, 2016

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

FLORIDA STILL REQUIRES THE PUNISHMENT OF 8 AND 9 YEAR OLDS

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

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

*All quotes are my words unless otherwise noted.

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, DeVos, Politics, poverty, Quotes, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

Listen to This #11

IDIOCRACY IN ACTION

In 2009, Don McLeroy, then Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, said, “Somebody’s got to stand up to experts that…I don’t know why they’re doing it…”

Stand up to experts…because they have “expertise.” Why on Earth would we listen to people who are trained in a particular field and who, through research and study, have learned more than the rest of us?

McLeroy was railing against scientists who had the gall to suggest that they knew more about science than he did. And McLeroy’s attitude, which has been drifting through America for centuries, is on the rise again, and is responsible, at least in part, for the election of President Donald (“I love the poorly educated”) Trump.

Jim Wright says we’ve traded our moon ships for the Creation Museum. Carl Sagan was prescient in his 1996 interview.

The Later Days of a Better Nation, Part IV

From Jim Wright

Somewhere in the last half a century, we Americans traded Apollo moon ships for the Creation Museum and the ugly truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is a reflection of who we’ve become as a nation.

Trump is the utterly predictable result of decades of an increasingly dumber and dumber electorate. A deliberately dumber electorate, Idiocracy in action, a society that dismisses intelligence and education and experience as “elitism” while howling in drunken mirth at Honey Boo Boo and lighting their farts on fire.

…Trump is the result of a nation that glories in ignorance, manipulated by conspiracy theory and a primal fear of the dark, that embraces monkey violence and cowers from the unknown future with bluster and bared teeth and a gun clenched in one fist, instead of looking forward with quiet courage, head up, feet wide, braced and ready with curiosity and confident they are prepared to handle anything that might come along.

Trump is the result of a nation that traded the moon for the Creation Museum.

Carl Sagan’s last interview with Charlie Rose (Full Interview)

From Carl Sagan

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

Senator from Louisiana spends summer recess substitute teaching in home state

Speaking of experts…who are America’s education experts? The media and general public apparently believes that the answer to that question is “billionaires” and “textbook publishers.” Here’s a politician who disagrees. This Louisiana Senator has discovered that education is not just “telling them what they need to know.”

From Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana)

Every single person who makes policy for elementary and secondary education needs to substitute teach once a year.

Teaching the heart as well as the mind: Caring, kind adults can make all the difference

Instead of damaging the teaching profession with punitive laws which lower salaries, reduce teachers’ control over their classrooms, and allow anyone with 5 weeks (or less) of training to stand up in front of students, we ought to be improving the working conditions of teachers in order to attract those people who are willing to devote their lives to preparing the nation’s future.

From Phyllis Bush in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Those who want to fix teachers and kids seem to forget that all of the testing and all of the online learning and all of the latest technology and all of the moronic plans of those who have no idea about what is instructionally or developmentally appropriate have little to do with children.

NO MONEY WITHOUT SUPPORT

A Message to the Democratic National Committee

How would Democrats respond if the two largest teachers unions asked for something in return for their political support? Diane Ravitch has the answer we should all give when asked to donate to a political campaign.

From Diane Ravitch

Not a dime until you support public schools and oppose privatization.

OPPORTUNITY

Lily Eskelsen García: Education is not Uber

In my last post, I wrote,

Would a wealthy family send their child to a public school without a library? Would you be able to find a white suburban school without a playground or gymnasium? How about a music program?

Why do we expect poor families to accept poor facilities and understaffed schools?

From Lily Eskelsen García

Anyone could do this without a federal grant. Go in to the best public schools in your state…Go in. Walk around and see what they’ve got there to help those kids: gifted programs, athletics, arts. They’ve got a library. They’ve got a librarian…and they’ve got the staff and they’ve got the programs. Kids have access and opportunity.

TESTING

Retiring Monroe Schools superintendent blasts education officials

We’re still wasting millions of dollars annually on useless tests…

From Phil Cagwin in the Journal-News (Ohio)

“There also seems to be the expectation that our teachers should focus more on the common core standards and test results than on our children. Our teachers are not threatened by accountability, but when they are expected to teach to tests that have no value to instruction, and that change constantly, it seems such a waste of valuable time for quality student and teacher interaction, not to mention the millions of taxpayer dollars that funnel to the test making and scoring companies,” said Cagwin.

MONEY TALKS

Betsy DeVos: Trump’s illiberal ally seen as most dangerous education chief ever

DeVos is what happens when money runs the country instead of the people.

From David Smith, in The Guardian

What DeVos – a 59-year-old entrepreneur, philanthropist and former chair of the Michigan Republican party – lacks in expertise or charisma, she makes up for in money…

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Posted in Indiana, Indiana DOE, ISTEP, retention, Testing

Society’s Commitment is Reflected in Tests

We continue to punish students, teachers, and schools with punitive standardized testing. One could argue that all this testing is worth it if it actually made a difference, but the truth is, testing only makes things worse.

A valid purpose for standardized testing might be for determining what students have learned. Yet despite the arguments against it such as the limitations of its content (reading and math, and not much else) and the cultural limitations putting some children at a disadvantage, we judge students, teachers, and schools, by this inadequate and often inappropriate measure.

For the most part, standardized tests are an excellent tool for determining students’ economic backgrounds.

As for invalid purposes…we have those as well.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate schools and to give them grades A through F and call it “accountability.” Yet there’s rarely “accountability” for the adults in legislatures and policy groups around the country who don’t seem to understand that public schools don’t choose their students. A school which is filled with poor children will have lower test scores. That doesn’t mean they’re not learning. It means that there’s likely neglect on the part of the governing body (the city or state) to adequately fund and maintain the school. It means that standardized tests don’t measure the arts, physical education, emotional development, and strength of character. It means that standardized tests don’t take into account trauma, hunger, lack of medical care, environmental toxins, and housing insecurity. It means that one size does not fit all.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate teachers calling them “effective” or “ineffective” based on a child’s score. Schools filled with wealthy students have “effective” teachers. Schools filled with poor students have “ineffective” teachers. Why? If a school doesn’t use test scores to evaluate teachers, then ignorant politicians will question how “failing schools” could have “effective” teachers without the slightest understanding that the “failure” is as much their fault as anyone else’s. Instead, we continue to punish the teachers who work with the children who are the most difficult to teach.

Invalid: We use tests to punish students for not learning at the speed we want them to learn. How many eight and nine year olds around the country are retained in grade because they haven’t mastered reading? How many policy makers have ever read the research on retention and its damaging effect on children? This is institutional child abuse based on faulty data.

ISTEP+ tossed for hundreds

Now comes the incompetent testing industry draining billions of tax dollars from public schools every year…using the wrong kinds of tests…in the wrong kinds of ways.

The company charged with administering Indiana’s standardized tests, and sucking millions of dollars from already minimal budgets, has failed in its task…putting the burden on schools to beg the state not to hold them “accountable.”

“It’s so discouraging for the children. It’s discouraging for everyone,” said Lori Vaughn, assistant superintendent at DeKalb Central United School District. “It is what it is. I hate that expression, but we’re going to move on. It’s a black eye when DOE puts (scores) out.”

She said 34 students in third grade at Waterloo Elementary and 19 students in fourth grade at the school will receive “undetermined” scores. This results in passing rates of less than 1 percent for third grade and 17 percent for fourth.

“It’s horrific,” Vaughn said. “And that’s what’s going to be put out with no explanation. It will impact our participation rate and our accountability grade.”

Test scores are a large factor in the A-to-F accountability grades that schools will receive later this year.

Department of Education officials told Vaughn there is nothing that can be done now but schools can appeal those A-to-F grades when they are issued.

Discouraging? It’s discouraging that after all this time we’re still using these tests to punish students, teachers, and schools.

Politicians and policy makers will denounce public schools as “failures” blaming parents and teachers for low test scores. They don’t realize that what standardized tests truly measure is a society’s commitment to its children.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, NAEP, Politics, Privatization, Testing

2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools’ test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for “parents to have choices.” Most refuse to allow “choice” when it comes to opting out of a state’s standardized test, but that’s another story.

The idea behind “school choice” is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it’s not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides “vouchers” to divert money to privatization. We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don’t get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don’t receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn’t receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good…for the community…for all of us.

Is the drive for “choice” in public education just another symptom of America’s growing selfishness? It’s framed in a selfish way focusing on “what’s best for me no matter what it does to the community.” I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can’t blame parents for trying to find a good “fit” for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,

They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either…They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That’s compassion.

But there’s common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation’s future.

The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo…

That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

…So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.

THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven’t been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education “reform” in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton…took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller…and doubled down with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top…all Democrats. There’s a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don’t actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,

…Don’t label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. 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. We know that’s not true…

President Obama’s Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as “failing” and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an “arbitrary” test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their “privatizing” ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.

Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are “failing.” The fact that it’s not true hasn’t seemed to matter.

Here’s a study showing that charter schools don’t do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the “reformers” say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don’t tell the whole story when it comes to student learning…I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from “failing” public schools. Now it’s about “choice” for “choice’s” sake…just because.

In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.

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Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, Finland, kindergarten, poverty, Racism, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn…

Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes…

SCHOOL IS ABOUT FINDING YOUR HAPPINESS…

In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland’s education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, “If you don’t have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?” She responded…

The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.

Equity.

In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,

…the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.

Equity.

Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done…and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.

But, whine the contrarians, “Finland is not the U.S. We can’t just import their whole education system. They’re a smaller country…not so diverse!”

True.

In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and…

  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation’s slave past. We can’t build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize…to close the schools and replace them with charter schools…instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren’t the cure to low achievement.

See also…

  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be “haves” and “have nots.” There will be inequity.

…INSTEAD WE BLAME TEACHERS

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. “Reformers” love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn’t result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

…INSTEAD WE LOWER STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS

In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that “we have to get more ‘good people’ into the classroom,” so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach…

New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.

ALEC: ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION ACT

ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, “certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession.” That’s true, and that’s as it should be.

They say, “comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals.” What is their definition of “improved teacher quality?” What is their definition of “qualified?”

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you’re ALEC, the answer is “they don’t.”

Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC…

I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.

…INSTEAD WE OBSESS OVER TESTING

An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on…better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.

Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I’m afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there’s a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.

…there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten…

…Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose…[emphasis added]

INSTEAD…

…of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty.

…of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

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Posted in Choice, John Kuhn, poverty, Quotes, Teaching Career, Testing, US House, WhyTeachersQuit

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #6

REMINDER

John Kuhn is a strong voice in the fight for public schools. He understands that public education is not just for parents and children who participate in the public school system…public education exists to enrich and preserve our nation, just like public parks, museums, roads, street lights, and water systems.

This is one of my favorite quotes…

POVERTY

Can Schools Cure Poverty?

In order to heal the plague of poverty in America, schools would have to be equipped with medical facilities, counseling services, social workers, and psychologists, as well as all the necessities of a fully funded school like libraries staffed with trained librarians, specialists for students with special needs, specialists in the arts and physical education, nutritionists providing healthy food offerings, administrators with experience in the classroom and in management, and highly trained professional educators in every classroom.

Schools can’t be expected to solve a problem which politicians and policy makers have either failed or ignored for centuries. Even with all the amenities listed in the above paragraph (and any others I might have forgotten), schools would find it difficult to heal the national illness of poverty. Poverty has roots in racism, class structure, economics, a financially ruinous health care system, and a ubiquitous drug culture. Schools can’t repair this societal affliction alone.

Until we, as a people, develop the skill and desire to provide a decent standard of living to all our citizens, poverty will continue to be a major cause of school failure.

From Diane Ravitch

Poverty should be addressed by reducing poverty. No matter how high the standards, no matter how many tests, no matter how swell the curriculum is, those are not cures for homelessness, joblessness, and lack of access to decent medical care. This realization explains why I changed my mind about the best way to reform schools. It is not by turning schools over to the free market but by seeing them as part of a web of social supports for families and children. [emphasis added]

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Teacher: I love my job, but the chaos of urban school reform is wearing me out

I recently took part in a discussion with my Indiana State Senator. This man is not a friend to public education and regularly promotes bills which

  • divert funds from public to private and privately run schools
  • support sectarian practices in public schools such as school sponsored prayer or anti-science legislation
  • support abusive or excessive testing practices
  • encourage the de-professionalization of teaching

During the discussion (which was with other educators), the Senator stated that, “The Senate is suffering from education reform fatigue.”

His point, which I agreed with, was that education reform in Indiana needs to pause and reflect on the changes made. I would, of course, take it a step further and eliminate the damage that “reform” has caused in this state.

In any case, he indicated that members of his branch of the government were tired of focusing on ways to hurt public schools. He blamed the excesses on the Republicans in the State House of Representatives.

My response to him was something along the lines of, “Imagine what it must be like for teachers.”

I wish I had said, “If it’s tiring for you in the Senate to dump all these damaging changes on public education, imagine what it must be like to be a teacher at the end of the dumping.”

From Ryan Heisinger in The Answer Sheet

Lasting relationships with teachers and peers aren’t forged over just a few months. An amazing arts program takes years to build. It takes a long time to develop a wide variety of student-led extracurricular opportunities. School pride comes when students feel they are a part of a community in which they’re able to express themselves and show off their talents. But in a marketplace in which schools compete for test scores, narrowed priorities and school closures erode the stable soil teachers and administrators need to put roots down and grow an enduring culture of success and school community and pride.

TEACHING CAREER

Teacher photographed completing lesson plans while in labor

Every teacher knows the drill…it’s sometimes harder to miss a day at school than to go to school when you’re sick. I remember getting up at 4 AM to get to school and make up lesson plans in order to go back home and collapse into the bed waiting for the pain of some illness to pass.

Naturally, I’ve never been pregnant, but I’m not surprised that a teacher would do this…

From Jennifer Pope of Burleson, Texas

“Really, I’m no different than any teacher that I know,” Pope told ABC News. “They would’ve done the same thing. We think about our students like our own children. I’m grateful [people] are celebrating all teachers and working moms. Being a working mom is hard, but it’s also fulfilling. I can’t imagine not being a teacher.”

CHOICE

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

The “choice” crowd of “reformers” are adamant that parents know best and should have the tax-funded choice to send their children to any school they want – religious, corporate, or otherwise. They claim that it’s only fair that parents have “choice” in everything having to do with their children…

EXCEPT…testing.

No one should get to “choose” to opt out of state mandated testing.

How many ways can you spell hypocrisy?

From Mercedes Schneider

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

TESTING: INAPPROPRIATE USES

Anger doesn’t describe it

From rlratto at Opine I Will

Anger doesn’t describe my feelings. Our society is being driven over a cliff by an extreme ideology that will destroy our nation. When we look the other way when children are being forced to fulfill an agenda, when we allow school children to go hungry, when we refuse to provide health care, when we demonize a segment of our population, we are heading for a fall.

AHCA

Despicable and Inexcusable

Sheila Kennedy

Every Republican who voted for this abomination must be held accountable

Paul Waldman

The quote below is from Paul Waldman. He’s quoted in the excellent post by Sheila Kennedy. I’ve included both links.

Perhaps this bill will never become law, and its harm may be averted. But that would not mitigate the moral responsibility of those who supported it. Members of Congress vote on a lot of inconsequential bills and bills that have a small impact on limited areas of American life. But this is one of the most critical moments in recent American political history. The Republican health-care bill is an act of monstrous cruelty. It should stain those who supported it to the end of their days.

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