Category Archives: Testing

Listen to this – 2020 #2 – Do We Open School or Not?

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Schools and teachers are faced with a no-win situation because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What it could cost to reopen schools with COVID-19 safety measures

Read this, from someone who never attended a public school, never worked in a public school, and never sent her children to a public school, yet is tasked with running the nation’s public schools…

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made clear on Wednesday she is not impressed with hybrid models and wants students in school full time. “They must be open, and they must be fully operational,” she said Wednesday at the Education Department.

On Tuesday, she said at the White House: “It’s clear our nation’s schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs the students, not to mention taxpayers, of their futures.”

Secretary DeVos insists that all students attend school full time in the fall because the schools that she previously referred to as a “dead-end” are now so important that staying home to avoid an illness “robs the students…of their futures.”

She followed her remarks with a ten-page set of instructions on how to keep schools safely open during a pandemic which the US Education Department will provide to every teacher in America.

…Just kidding. She offered nothing…except the “musts.”

THERE’S ANGER IN THE LAND

No matter what schools do some people will be angry. If schools open, some parents will be angry. If schools stay closed and use distance learning some parents will be angry. If schools require masks and ppe some people will be angry. If schools don’t require masks and ppe some people will be angry.

We live in a country where one person’s “stupid superstitious uninformed opinion” is just as good as another’s expertise and experience. Schools and teachers, as usual, will take the blame no matter what happens.

WHAT TO DO?

Here are some thoughts about the challenges facing public schools as they figure out how they’re going to open during a pandemic. They include ideas and questions like…

  • Where will schools get the money for ppe, cleaning supplies, extra staff, more buses, and the unexpected, yet guaranteed things that arise when going into a completely unknown situation?
  • How will we keep masks on our smallest children? Speaking of smallest children, what happens when a kindergartner or first grader can’t tie his schools, skins her knee, loses or breaks his mask, or starts crying because she was afraid to ask to go to the bathroom? Is this the nurturing school experience you want for your child?
  • What will happen when an asymptomatic COVID-19 positive child shows up in the class of an elderly teacher? or a teacher with an elderly parent at home?
  • How can we reduce class size to allow for social distancing?
  • If students stay home and do online learning, who will pay for the infrastructure needed for students who don’t have computers, other devices, or internet access?
  • How will the lunch staff feed the kids who are in attendance as well as the ones who are at home?

There is still one question, however, that seems to have slipped from our consciousness…

  • How will schools run school shooter drills when students are supposed to be masked and socially distant from each other. Yes. This is how we live now.

Announcing that schools need to start, yet ignoring the obvious questions about how to make sure that students and staff are safe and healthy, is irresponsible.

LISTEN TO THIS

Schools Are Not the Problem

Doesn’t it bother anyone that we have once again blamed K-12 schools as the national scapegoat for our enormous failings in health, housing, child care, and economic policy?

by Mitchell Robinson

If children are at more risk out of school than in school, then the problem isn’t school.

  • If kids who aren’t in school are hungry, then increase funding to food pantries and community kitchens. (BTW–many public schools have been feeding kids all summer.)
  • If kids who aren’t in school are in greater danger of abuse, then improve child protective services, counseling, and intervention services.
  • If kids who aren’t in school don’t have a safe place to stay, then build more shelters for families in need.
  • If kids who aren’t in school are more likely to suffer from mental health problems like anxiety and depression, then let’s spend more money on mental health care and increase access for young people to social workers, mental health counselors, and child psychologists.

Thoughts on “opening” schools

Where will the money come from?

by teacherken

…let’s just start with teachers. To limit the number of students in classes requires probably doubling the number of teachers, when in many states there is already a shortage of qualified teachers (very true in AZ for example). Where to schools and school systems get them? Where could they get the funds to pay them and provide benefits? Remember that states and local governments are usually banned from running deficits, and those with rainy day funds are already draining them.

24 WRONG Reasons to Reopen Schools

End the wasteful test-and-punish culture of American education. Save money. End testing.

by Nancy Bailey

10. Students need testing to find academic losses.

Students have only missed some school. Education reformers are already assuming they have fallen behind. More testing is a ridiculous reason for students to go back to school.

The AAP’s school guidance principles don’t align with Trump/DeVos mandated reopening.

by Mike Klonsky

But the AAP guidance goes on to present an extensive list of key principles that should be considered in the course of any reopening. The list includes elements like physical distancing requirements, protective equipment, cohort crossovers, school visitors, common and outdoor space (playgrounds and hallways), on-site health and counseling, special education services, block scheduling in high schools, cleaning and disinfection, and virologic testing and screening and much more.

So, What Happens If A Teacher Gets COVID-19 While At School?

Why are these decisions always made by people who have no idea what it’s like to teach?

by Caffeinated Rage

…the people who are doing the funding and policy making are mostly people who have no idea about the day to day operations of a public school.

They think they know what it entails and how much it should cost. Now we are in unchartered territory.

Want Schools Open In The Fall? All The Money In The World Can’t Solve These Problems

Remember the protesters at the Michigan State House? Would you like them to visit your child’s school?

by Peter Greene

Family compliance with protocols. At this point we have all seen plenty of video footage of anti-maskers vocally and violently objecting to masking requirements in stores. Imagine that those folks, and others like them, have children to send to school. How do you think they’ll react to school demands that their students observe all safety protocols?

What it could cost to reopen schools with COVID-19 safety measures

Betsy wants the schools open. Is she willing to fight for funding?

by Valerie Strauss

…the Association of School Business Officials International and AASA/School Superintendents Association did an analysis on costs for an average school district: 3,659 students, eight buildings, 183 classrooms, 329 staff members and 40 buses, transporting at 25 percent capacity.

It found the cost for opening up completely under new safety guidelines could amount to $1,778,139. For larger districts — New York City schools, for example, have more than 1 million students — the costs would be dramatically higher.

The case against reopening schools during the pandemic — by a fifth-grade teacher

by Rose Levine

Sharing a classroom allows our elementary cohorts to become like family. We play games, exchange smiles, sit in circles on the rug and tell stories. We taste each other’s food and whisper in each other’s ears. We have casual exchanges during downtimes at recess or transitions between subjects. We share supplies, collaborate and take turns, and in so doing we build a model of accountability to one another and our community.
None of this is possible with six feet of social distancing. If we attempt to maintain this distance in the classroom — an impractical feat on its own — community building would be challenging.

COVID School: Breathing the Air, Staying Apart, and Shortening the Day

by Mercedes Schneider

Can you imagine a first-grade class in which students must remain six feet apart all day? No free play? No hands-on, physically-close assistance or encouragement at all from the teacher?

Not possible, and not healthy.

In many schools, in-person teaching and learning will take a distant back seat to managing the COVID-19 school day.

We underfunded schools for years — and only now are leaders realizing how much we need them

Have we actually discovered that teachers and schools are “essential?”

by Jeff Bryant

What’s sadly ironic about all this sudden newfound appreciation for teachers as essential to the economy is that government leaders and policy makers, from both major political parties, have spent years attacking the economic well-being of public schools and teachers.

School districts have never recovered from budget cuts states imposed during the Great Recession that started at the end of 2007…”When COVID-19 hit, K-12 schools were employing 77,000 fewer teachers and other workers—even though they were teaching two million more children, and overall funding in many states was still below pre-2008 levels.”

Teachers now make 4.5 percent on average less than they did more than 10 years ago, according to the National Education Association, and public school teachers earn 17 percent less than what comparable workers earn, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Pediatricians, Educators, and Superintendents Urge a Safe Return to School This Fall

from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.

How President Trump Politicized School Reopenings

quote from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of NEA, in Time.

“There are 3 million teachers and support staff out there who desperately want to hug their kids,” says Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association teacher union. “But we will not be complicit in standing by and letting politicians cavalierly warehouse those kids without caring about their safety because, oh, we need their moms and dads to go back to work. We could do this in a safe, medically sane way, but it’s going to take money. Why was that not even a question when it was Shake Shack that might have to lay people off and go bankrupt?”

🎧🎤🎧

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Filed under DeVos, Pandemic, Public Ed, Quotes, Testing

2020 Medley #13 — Scientific Ignorance and American Anti-Intellectualism

A vaccine for conspiracy theories, 
COVID-19 and masks, No more testing, Scientific literacy,
Schools as child care centers,
Anti-science/Anti-intellectualism,
Sagan: We’ve been bamboozled

A VACCINE FOR CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Conspiracy Theories

The internet has opened the door for Americans to gain wide-ranging expanded knowledge…but, as Isaac Asimov wrote, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

With that expanded knowledge comes expanded falsehood…conspiracy theories. Teachers are tasked with teaching students how to read critically…to sift through massive amounts of information and learn how to tell truth from falsehood. The state of the nation today would indicate that we have failed. Conspiracy theories abound.

Take the current worldwide health crisis. According to conspiracy theories…

  • the virus is spread by 5G towers,
  • masks will starve your body of oxygen,
  • Bill Gates is going to use the coronavirus vaccine to inject us with microchips,
  • coronavirus is a Chinese bio-weapon

[For debunking information see Debunking COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories]

The National Center for Science Education offers a way to combat conspiracy theories with critical thinking…with the help of an acronym CONSPIR.

John Cook, a frequent NCSE collaborator who focuses on combating misconceptions, recently co-authored The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. During a recent conversation with Cook, he noted: “While we do not have a vaccine for COVID-19 at this time, we do have a vaccine for misinformation and conspiracy theories — critical thinking.”

So how do we guide our students to critically think? Isn’t that the million-dollar question? In the case of conspiracy theories, just remember the acronym CONSPIR.

By analyzing information using these seven traits, students — or any concerned citizen — can easily pick out the red flags of conspiratorial thinking. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions when reading articles about COVID-19, chances are you have stumbled across an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory or intentional disinformation…

THE TROUBLE WITH MASKS

Palm Beach County residents express outrage over mask requirement: ‘Devil’s laws’

Even though medical professionals wear masks for hours at a time (think of a heart or brain surgeon performing an 8- to 10-hour surgery…as well as the doctors and nurses who assist) mask-wearing as a preventative for passing the coronavirus is being accused of “killing people” for lack of oxygen. Others claim that having a municipal ordinance requiring mask-wearing is a violation of our constitutional rights — even though many of those folks accept the laws requiring wearing seat belts in cars, car seats for children, and protective helmets while motorcycling.

Witness…

A Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners public comment session went viral Wednesday after residents denounced mandatory masking laws as “devil’s laws” that would “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.”

One attendee, Sylvia Ball, said she was “very sad to see the authorities stomping on our constitutional rights,” adding, “They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.

NO MORE TESTS?

New coronavirus spike alarms Republicans, but not Trump

Does the President’s statement below mean that the U.S. Education Department will no longer require annual achievement tests for children?

“If we didn’t have standardized reading tests, we wouldn’t have poor readers. We only have poor readers because we test…”

“If we didn’t test, we wouldn’t have cases,” he said later at a shipyard in Marinette, Wis. “But we have cases because we test…”

TYSON ON SCIENTIFIC LITERACY

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why Science Matters During COVID-19

In this episode of Star Talk, Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us that science matters…

There comes a time when really the public needs to listen to scientists, in this case, to medical professionals…not only people in public, but people in power of legislation and policy, had the ear of scientists and elected not to take the warnings seriously.

K-12 SCHOOLS AS CHILD-CARE CENTERS

“Parents Need to Go to Work” Does Not Stop COVID at the School Door.

Side note…one of the reasons politicians are so anxious for children to return to school is for babysitting.

When I hear discussions about schools reopening in the fall, I already know what two chief reasons will be offered.

One is that students need to be educated. Of course they do, and as a career teacher, I desire to educate. I have dedicated my professional life to educating generations of children, and I miss being at school, in my classroom, with my students.

The second reason, which seems to follow quickly on the heels of the first, is that “parents need to get back to work”– the implication being that schools need to open so that parents once again have the built-in child care that the K12 school day (and its auxiliary programs) offers.

ANTI-SCIENCE AS ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM

Franklin Graham Thinks Science And Religion Must Fight. As Usual, He’s Wrong

Anthony Fauci has the credentials and experience. We ought to listen to him.

“One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are – for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable – they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority.”

Fauci added, “So when they see someone up in the White House, which has an air of authority to it, who’s talking about science, that there are some people who just don’t believe that, and that’s unfortunate because, you know, science is truth.”

Americans need to learn that science is a process, not a list of facts. It involves continuing observation and exploration, multiple hypotheses, and then more observation and exploration. Rarely does it end. For example, the Germ Theory of Disease (just a theory?) can be traced back to the 11th Century A.D. and was updated in the 14th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. We’re still learning about the “germs” that infect us…today.

Scientists are the original fact-checkers. If you claim you have made a scientific discovery, dozens of your scientist colleagues will try to prove you wrong.  Sometimes, even when there’s a scientific consensus, someone comes along and changes everything. The fact that scientific information changes is a feature, not a bug.

Finally, the fact that scientists sometimes disagree about a certain topic is a sign of health and vitality in that discipline, not a weakness. Eventually, the scientific method, including the use of double-blind experiments, leads to a consensus. It’s all right for a scientist to challenge a prevailing theory, but he or she had better be able to produce some research and back it up with experiments that can be replicated by others under the same conditions – or those ideas will fall by the wayside.

Fauci is right about resistance to science being an undercurrent in American society…

SAGAN: WE’VE BEEN BAMBOOZLED

📡🔭⚗️🔬

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Helping Students Heal

The education blogosphere, as well as the general media, is full of articles dealing with opening schools in the fall, keeping students safe, social distancing by lowering class size, doubling the number of buses, and other, expensive fixes. Additionally, schools will have to take into consideration the mental and emotional health of students and deal with the multiple traumas they will carry with them.

As of this writing (June 3, 2020), the death toll from COVID-19 in the US is over 105,000 which has left hundreds of thousands of Americans grieving for their lost loved ones. Many have had to postpone or forego funerals and memorials in order to stay safe themselves. Among those who have lost family members are thousands of children who, already traumatized by the fear of illness or the loss of contact with their friends and teachers, are further hurt by the very real loss of parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, or friends.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic trauma, too…and with economic trauma comes social upheaval as families living from paycheck to paycheck start to panic when the food runs out…when the rent or mortgage is due…when the insurance coverage ends.

And we can’t talk about social upheaval without acknowledging the excessive number of deaths of Black Americans and the damage to communities of color by the racism present in Amerian society…racism which is exacerbated by economic trauma and political cowardice. The current political upheaval around the country will also traumatize students before they return to school in the fall, no matter how much their parents try to protect them from it.

Public schools have always been a stable force in students’ lives and when the next school year begins — whenever that is — they will have to take on the additional role of helping students heal from multiple traumas.

How can teachers and schools help their students and likely their families, too, heal after the pandemic and the societal upheaval?

1. CANCEL THE TESTS

First, cancel the state (and other) standardized tests. We already know that standardized test scores reflect the economic conditions in which a child is raised. We can just as easily rank schools and children using their family income if ranking must be done; the results will be the same. In any event, subjecting children to the added stress of standardized tests which for some determines whether they go on to the next grade is too painful to even consider.

Why shouldn’t high stakes testing be abandoned next year?

It would also waste precious instructional time, waste resources, and provide meaningless bad data. Look– if testing really worked, if it really told us all the things that guys like Toch want to claim it does, don’t you think teachers would be clamoring for it? If it were an actual valuable tool, don’t you think that teachers, struggling with spotty resources against unprecedented challenges, would be hollering, “If I’m going to try to do this, at least find a way to get me those invaluable Big Standardized Test!”

But no– in the midst of this hard shot to the foundations of public education, a lot of professional educators are taking a hard look at what is really essential, what they really need to get the job done. The Big Standardized Test didn’t make the cut. We don’t need the “smart testing,” especially since it isn’t very smart anyway. We just need smart teachers with the resources they need to do the work.

Note the last sentence, “…with the resources they need to do the work.” Canceling the tests will save money, too…millions of dollars. With the likelihood of budget cuts coming, that’s money that we can’t afford to spend on wasteful tests.

2. INTRODUCE A HEALING CURRICULUM

Second, build the new curriculum around healing…and that starts with recess and free time.

A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do

Play is urgently relevant to the new education world that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. “Play can mitigate stress,” Dr. Yogman tells us. “The executive function skills that kids develop through play can promote resilience, and play can restore safe and nurturing relationships with parents, teachers and other children, which also promotes resilience. That’s got to be our goal when kids get back to school. At every level, in our schools, homes, and communities, our social structures have to acknowledge the magnitude of stress all families, especially those with young children will experience, and design programs that mitigate that, including lots of physical activity and play.”

Schools should focus on developing good relationships between teachers and students. My 2020 Teachers New Year’s Resolution #4 was Develop Positive Relationships. In it, I quoted Educational Historian Jack Schneider,

But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.

Now, more than ever, students need consistent, caring adults in their lives. Teachers can be among those adults.

To paraphrase Schneider, above, yes, it matters that we teach reading, math, science, and history. But it also matters that teachers know their students and can spot children in need. It matters that teachers can relate to young people — see them, hear them, and care for them. Learning improves when teachers and students form personal relationships.

3. DIVERT MONEY BACK TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Stop sending needed public funds to unaccountable private institutions. We can’t afford to support three competing school systems (public, charters, and vouchers) with one pot of public funding. It’s time we direct our focus on investing in our public school system.

Research | Public Funds Public Schools

A wide range of research shows that private school voucher programs are an ineffective use of public funds…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Improve Student Achievement…

Private School Vouchers Divert Needed Funding from Public Schools…

Private School Voucher Programs Lack Accountability…

Absence of Oversight in Private School Voucher Programs Leads to Corruption and Waste…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Help Students with Disabilities…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Protect Against Discrimination…

Private School Vouchers Exacerbate Segregation…

Universal Private School Voucher Programs Don’t Work…

Charters, as well, have proven to be an experiment that has not lived up to its promises.

Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Says

The evidence on the effectiveness of charter schools in raising student achievement is, at best, mixed. There is no consistent evidence that charter schools are the answer to our education problems. A research literature that focuses on finding and studying “high-quality” charter schools naturally misleads the public about the average impact of all charter schools and demonstrates that academic performance in most charter schools is underwhelming.

At best, charters do no better than real public schools. It’s time to move the funding back to public schools where it belongs.

And yes, this means that there needs to be a change in leadership in Indianapolis and Washington. In order to divert public funds back to public education, and make sure there’s enough money for our public schools — aka our future — we need to throw out the anti-public education politicians. Elections matter.

🙋🏻🚌🙋🏽‍♂️

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Filed under Charters, Pandemic, Play Kid's Work, PositiveRelationships, Public Ed, Recess, SchoolFunding, Testing, Trauma, vouchers

2020 Medley #10: Thoughts on Reimagining Public Schools

Thoughts on Reimagining Public Schools

GOV. CUOMO CALLS ON BILLIONAIRES

Screen New Deal: Under Cover of Mass Death, Andrew Cuomo Calls in the Billionaires to Build a High-Tech Dystopia

When it’s time to fix society’s problems — with established ideas or innovations — politicians call on billionaires even if they have no training or experience in the area needing help: economics, education, government, whatever.

Andrew Cuomo has handled the coronavirus pandemic in his state of New York with what many people believe to be high-quality governance. He’s helped his state through the toughest parts of the pandemic with poise and confidence. Now it’s time to plan for the future…so what does he do? He calls on billionaires.

One of the billionaires is Bill Gates. Cuomo has asked Gates to help develop a “smarter education system.” This directive assumes that Gates and his foundation have the ability to create such a system. Unfortunately, Gates’s ideas for school reform haven’t worked in the past, and there’s no indication that they will work on the other side of the pandemic. Gates has no experience in public education. He didn’t attend public schools. He has no teaching qualifications and never worked in a public school. His only experience in education is throwing money into his inexperienced and often poorly thought out educational programs. [For some information on the failures of Bill Gates’s education “innovations” see here, here, here, here, and here. See also Anthony Cody’s book, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation]

Naomi Klein writes…

Just one day earlier, Cuomo had announced a similar partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop “a smarter education system.” Calling Gates a “visionary,” Cuomo said the pandemic has created “a moment in history when we can actually incorporate and advance [Gates’s] ideas … all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?” he asked, apparently rhetorically.

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

The School Year Really Ended in March

This New York Times “Economic View” calls for investing millions of federal dollars to help those kids who have been left behind by the pandemic to catch up. The idea of helping students learn…and helping students catch up is a good one. The idea of increasing federal funding to help the students is also good. Beyond that, there’s not too much innovation in this other than in paying underqualified and unemployed college graduates to tutor students who fell behind during the pandemic. Teach for America, anyone?

The federal government can tap unused energy and talent by funding a big domestic volunteer effort for our schools, in the style of AmeriCorps. There will be far too many unemployed college students — and graduates — in the coming years, because recessions always hit young workers the hardest.

Young people could be paid a stipend to tutor, troubleshoot technology for online classes, assist teachers (virtually or in person) and disinfect classrooms. High school students who typically work during the summer and after school could be paid to attend classes themselves.

IDEAS FROM ACTUAL STAKEHOLDERS

Instead of billionaires might Governor Cuomo (and the rest of the nation) do better to ask people who actually have a stake in the public schools? Shouldn’t we rely on people who attend, work in, or send their children to the public schools? Why do we insist that so-called “business leaders” make decisions about public education with little or no input from teachers?

Ask Moms How to Reimagine Public Schools!

Nancy Bailey asked moms how they thought schools should be “reimagined.” I don’t know the economic status of the moms who were asked…Cuomo might discount their responses because some might not be billionaires, but these are the people whose kids go to public schools.

Bailey listed 23 ideas. Federal funding would be better directed towards these instead of more screen time and more “test and punish.”

For Mother’s Day, I asked Moms what they wanted from their public schools. I collected their comments and added a few of my own. Feel free to add to the list.

1. The Arts. All schools must provide arts education. Music, painting, dance, acting, students thrive with exposure to a rich arts program.

2. Assessment. Drop the high-stakes standardized testing! Mothers know these tests were never about their children. Moms started the Opt-Out Movement! Have less assessment and more teacher-chosen tests to determine student progress.

3. Cafeterias…

4. Career-Technical Education. Students benefit from classes in Career-Technical Education (CTE).

5. Communication. School officials and teachers must stay in touch. Politeness and positivity in forms and business information go a long way with parents.

6. Community. Schools are the hub of the community. Moms want the community to get behind their public schools.

7. Curriculum. Students deserve a rich variety of classes. Elementary students need social studies and science. Civics must be addressed in high school. Many mothers want to see the return of classes like Home Economics and business education. Their students need to understand personal management and life skills.

8. Diversity. Laura Bowman, who’s on the Board of Directors of Parents Across America, reminded us of the need to recruit more teachers of color. Classes should reflect cultural differences. We will never become a better nation if we don’t bring children together.

10. Individuality…11. Joy!…12. Libraries…13. Play…14. Physical Education…15. Safety…16. School Boards…17. School Buildings…18. Socialization…19. Special Education…20. Teachers…21. Technology…22. Reading…23. Recess…

One More Question…..

When John Merrow graduated from Harvard with an Ed.D he applied for a job as a school superintendent. They asked him…

“Dr. Merrow…If we hire you to be our School Superintendent, what’s the biggest change you would want to make in our schools?”

His answer was to keep all third graders in place until they could all read. A shocking answer…and one I don’t think he meant literally. On the other hand, he has several more ideas to add including some Nancy Bailey’s collection of moms suggested.

1) Suspension of all high stakes machine-scored bubble tests for at least two years. Use the savings for teaching materials and teacher salaries.

2) Frequent measurement of academic progress, led by teachers, guided by an “assess to improve” philosophy. That is, lots of low-stakes assessments.

3) End-of-year testing of a randomized sample of students, which would produce a reliable analysis of how the entire student body is doing. Sampling is done in every other aspect of society (including when your doctor withdraws a sample of your blood!). It’s far less expensive and highly reliable.

4) A rich and varied curriculum that includes at least five short breaks for recess every day in all elementary schools. Play is essential!

5) A strong commitment to project-based learning, preferably involving students from other schools (perhaps in other states and countries).

6) A school environment that celebrates accomplishments of all sorts–and not just athletics!

7) A school environment that promotes inquiry, one in which it is safe to say “I don’t know” and praiseworthy to be curious. It’s not enough for schools to be physically safe for students. They must also be emotionally and intellectually safe.

8) A public rejection of the philosophy of ‘sorting’ because our economy and our democracy need everyone to be educated to their fullest capacity. 

TESTING, TESTING, TOO MUCH TESTING

Why Johnny Can’t Read? It’s Complicated, Ms. Hanford.

As long as we’re reimagining education, let’s take a look at reading…my particular interest.

When I reimagine reading instruction in public education I imagine a system without wasteful and damaging standardized tests. I imagine a school where students have choices in their reading. I imagine a school where students are not punished if they learn to read more slowly than their peers.

It’s past time to end standardized testing. The tests don’t provide much help to teachers and are part of a massive system of misuse. A standardized test shouldn’t be used to punish a child who takes more time to learn, evaluate a teacher, or grade a school system. Using tests in that way invalidates them. On the other hand, standardized tests do a good job of identifying a child’s race and economic status.

Reading is a big issue in the U.S. The “reading wars” have been bouncing back and forth from “whole language” to “intense phonics” for decades. Many states have third-grade reading laws designed to retain children in third grade until they can pass a reading test showing that they can read “at grade level.” As usual, the reading test is one that is standardized. As usual, the test divides children based on their racial and economic status.

Instead of testing we should help children learn to read by taking them from where they are, to where they can be, using all the techniques available…not just phonics.

There are numerous reasons that some children have trouble reading. It’s not just phonics; it’s not just poor instruction; it’s not just poverty. Here is just the first of a series of posts on why some children have trouble learning to read by Russ Walsh — make sure you check out the later entries as well. Not all children have the same needs. Can we reimagine a public education where all children get what they need?

My old history professor, George Turner, used to warn me away from simple explanations in history. He said that historical events were best understood through the concept of the multiplicity of inter-causation: Lots of things conspire to make something happen or not happen. We might remember that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo led to the First World War, but that is an oversimplification. Various alliances, increasing militarization, imperialism, and nationalism were all contributing factors. We may remember the Watergate break-in precipitated Nixon’s downfall, but Nixon’s arrogance, pettiness, racism, mendacity, and paranoia all played a role.

So, it is with reading difficulty. The answer to why some children do not learn to read is complex. And, therefore, the solutions must match that complexity. Until we recognize this fact, we will continue to search for simple solutions that will inevitably fail.

Reimagine Public Education: A place where all children get what they need.
🙋🏻🚌🙋🏽‍♂️

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Listen to this – 2020 #1 – Wearing a Mask Edition

Meaningful quotes…

KIDS LIVING IN POVERTY DON’T HAVE ANY LOBBYISTS

Schools have closed for the coronavirus pandemic and most will likely not open again this school year. Many school systems have gone to online learning, but because a significant percentage of students have little or no access to the internet, some students are not being served.

How can schools best serve all students (including students with special learning or physical needs) and what happens next year when some students have had the benefit of online learning experiences and others have not? Do we test all the kids to see where they are? Do we retain kids? (answer: NO!) The coronavirus pandemic, like other disasters and disruptions, hurt most, the kids who need school the most and have the least.

From Steven Singer
in Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

This just underlines the importance of legislation. Special education students have IDEA. Poor students have nothing. There is no right to education for them at all.

From Steve Hinnefeld and Pedro Noguera
in Time for ‘educational recovery planning’

…the massive and sudden shift to online learning is exposing huge gaps in opportunity. Some communities lack reliable internet service. Many families are on the wrong side of the digital divide. As Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said, a parent and three school-age children may share a single device, often a smartphone.

“The kids who have the least are getting the least now,” UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera told Hechinger Report. “They will, in fact, be behind the kids who are learning still.”

From Peter Greene
in Should We Just Hold Students Back Next Year?

Retention in grade doesn’t help — even in the face of nation-wide disruption.

…We have been suffering for years now under the notion that kindergarten should be the new first grade; next fall, we could give students room to breathe by making first grade the new first grade. In other words, instead of moving the students back a grade to fit the structure of the school, we could shift the structure of the school to meet the actual needs of the students.

From Nancy Flanagan
in If Technology Can’t Save Us, What Will?

Most important of all…kids need their teachers. They need human interaction which improves learning — and positive teacher/student relationships, even more. See also A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, below.

It turns out that technology cannot, will not replace the human touch, when it comes to learning that is worthwhile and sticks in our students’ brains and hearts. We already knew that, of course. But it’s gratifying to know that school—bricks and mortar, white paste and whiteboards, textbooks and senior proms—is deeply missed.

Public education is part of who we are, as a representative democracy. We’ve never gotten it right—we’ve let down millions of kids over the past century or two and done lots of flailing. There are curriculum wars that never end and bitter battles over equity, the teacher pipeline and funding streams.

But still. We need school.

IT’S TRUE WHETHER OR NOT YOU BELIEVE IN IT

From Rob Boston
in The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now

Science is a process, not an outcome. We must improve our science education so students understand science. We ignore science at our peril.

The rejection of science and refusal to see facts as the non-partisan things that they are have consequences, as Jerry Falwell Jr. – and his students at Liberty University in Virginia – are painfully learning. Put simply, viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They will wreak their havoc either way. 

REMOVE TESTING FROM THE HANDS OF PROFIT

From Diane Ravitch
in Noted education scholar says parents now more aware of vital role of schools, by Maureen Downey.

The profit motive won’t create better tests. Teachers who know their students will.

If federal and state leaders gave any thought to change, they would drop the federal mandate for annual testing because it is useless and pointless. Students should be tested by their teachers, who know what they taught. If we can’t trust teachers to know their students, why should we trust distant corporations whose sole motive is profit and whose products undermine the joy of teaching and learning?

IT’S POVERTY — STILL

From Jitu Brown, National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance
in One Question: What Policy Change Would Have the Biggest Impact on Alleviating Poverty?

The fact that poor children are suffering more during the current world crisis than wealthy students should not be surprising. We have always neglected our poor children.

According to the United Nations, America ranks twenty-first in education globally among high-income nations. When you remove poverty, the United States is number two. This tells me that America knows how to educate children, but refuses to educate the poor, the black, brown, and Native American.

NO MATTER WHAT THEY CALL IT, IT’S NOT PRESCHOOL

From Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC,
in Making Connections. There’s No Such Thing as Online Preschool

Using public dollars intended for early childhood education to give children access to a 15-minute-per-day online program does not expand access to preschool. It doesn’t address the crisis in the supply of quality, affordable child care. It doesn’t help parents participate in the workforce. And it doesn’t help families choose an “alternative” option for or version of pre-K because it is something else entirely. To what extent we want to encourage parents to access online literacy and math curricula to help their 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for school is a conversation for another column. In this one, the only question is whether these technology-based programs can be “preschool”—and the answer is no.

ACCESS TO BOOKS

From P.L. Thomas
in Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)

Proponents of whole language and balanced literacy have never said that phonics wasn’t important. What they do say, however, is that other things are important, too.

Test reading is reductive (and lends itself to direct phonics instruction, hint-hint), but it is a pale measure of deep and authentic reading, much less any student’s eagerness to read.

Because of the accountability movement, then, and because of high-pressure textbook reading programs, we have for decades ignored a simple fact of research: the strongest indicator of reading growth in students is access to books in the home (not phonics programs).

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

From Russ Walsh
in Hula Dancing, Singing and a Teacher’s Impact

Over the years I’ve had several former students relate to me what they remembered from my class. I had a student tell me how important an art project was as a connection to his father. Another student thanked me for helping her during a difficult time in her family. A student who grew up to be a teacher and taught in my district told me that she was reading the same book to her students that I read to her class. Many students, in fact, talked about my reading aloud to them as the most important thing they remember. And a student remembered how I had trusted her to clean off the top of my desk every day after school.

I never had a student come to me and thank me for teaching them how to multiply…or spell “terrible”…or take a standardized test…or count syllables in a word. I take that as a compliment.

The messages we send to kids last a lifetime and they are not often about the times table or coordinating conjunctions or how many planets are in the skies. It is the personal messages and connections that are remembered. It is the belief a teacher instills that we can do that resonates through the years. It is that one book that made a special impression that we remember. That is a lesson we all must take into every interaction we have with a child.

SAY HELLO

From John Prine
in Hello in There

Thanks, and good night, JP.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

🎧🎤🎧

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2020 Medley #9: Hunkered Down at Home Edition

Dumping the tests, Some things don’t matter, Social Distancing, Focusing on students,
Beating Coronavirus Capitalism, Disasters

DUMPING THE TESTS IS A GREAT IDEA

Why Scrapping School Testing This Year Is a Good Idea

Before I retired, I had the difficult task of serving as one of my school’s co-test coordinators. It was my job to count, secure, distribute, secure, package up, secure, and prepare our state’s Big Standardized Test (h/t Curmudgucation) for shipping. Sadly, I have been trained in tests and measurements so I understood why, for so many years, the Big Standardized Tests were being overused and misused.

Now that the overuse and misuse of testing pendulum is, hopefully, swinging the other way, my fervent hope is that perhaps we can limit the damage done by the tests.

In the meantime, this year’s Big Standardized Tests are being canceled. Jersey Jazzman explains why that’s a good idea and in the process, also explains why the tests aren’t so good for students anyway. They are extremely accurate in assessing the economic status of students, but that’s about all.

Start with the obvious: a “standardized” test has to be administered in a standard way. If some students receive the test in different platforms, or in different environments, the test is no longer standardized. Of course, there were already huge differences between students in these factors… but Covid-19 has made things far worse. There’s just no way to even come close to standardizing the conditions for testing in the current environment. Will the students be at home, in school but “social distancing,” in regular school, somewhere else… we just can’t say.

Next, we have always had big differences in students’ opportunity to learn — but now the differences are greater than ever. Again, there are huge variations among students in their access to qualified educators, high-quality facilities, adequate instructional materials, well-designed curricula, and so on. The best use of test results was to make the case that the variation in these things was creating unequal educational opportunities, and that public policy should focus on getting resources where they were needed the most.

But in a quarantine, we now have to add all sorts of other inequalities into the mix: access to broadband, parents who have the ability to oversee students’ instruction, schools’ ability to implement distance learning, etc. Why implement these tests when inequities within the same classroom — let alone between schools — have grown so large?

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

Dear Teachers: There Are Many Things That No Longer Matter

A pandemic puts things in perspective. The health and safety of our students, and their families, are more important than the tests.

If you are attempting virtual learning with your students, now is the time to teach what you have always recognized are the crucial topics in your curriculum. Throw out the state requirements and embrace your professional decision-making skills. The state requirements do not matter. There will be no formal observations. No one will give you some annual professional performance review (APPR). We have known all along that those measures are bullshit. I am continuing to cover the most important content, but I am also asking my students to act as historians through recording a daily diary of this extraordinary time. This time will shape them forever, and we are their guardians.

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

Top 10 Things I Want My Students to do During the Coronavirus Quarantine

Steven Singer, who blogs at Gadfly on the Wall Blog, lets his students know that there are things to do during “social distancing.” The first is to read a book. For those without access to books, there are the library apps Libby and Hoopla to get digital books.

He wisely includes writing, immediately after reading. Reading and writing are reciprocal. “Reading is the inhale; writing is the exhale.”

2) Read a Book

I ask all of my students to have a self-selected book handy for sustained silent reading in class. Hopefully, you brought it home. If not, take a look around the house. Maybe you’ve got a dusty tome hanging out in some corner. Or – hey – if you have Internet access, you probably have the ability to get an ebook.

Read something – anything you want.

It will while away the hours, relax you and maybe get your mind to thinking about things above and beyond how much mac and cheese you’ve got stored in the cupboard.

3) Keep a Journal

Do you realize you’re living through a moment of history? People will look back on this and wonder how people got through it. You could fill in the blanks for some future researcher. Just a description of your everyday activities, what you’re thinking and feeling, your hopes and dreams – all of it has historical value. Plus, you’ll get some practice expressing yourself in writing. And just think – a simple story about how you survived the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 could end up being taught in the classrooms of the future!

Make it a good one!

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STUDENTS

Our Students Need Us Now More Than Ever

Are you keeping in touch with your students during this extended coronviracation? You should.

If anything, we teachers and support personnel are needed now more than ever.

Close a school for a while and the community instantly feels the effects. Shut them down across the state and everybody has to adjust.

Our students look to us for guidance, direction, assistance, validation, answers, and the ability to use voice. Nothing has changed in that respect.

Educators advocate for students and schools. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We collaborate with each other and remove obstacles for our students. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We will adapt. We will overcome this obstacle. No one adapts to situations and change like we do.

Because it’s all about the students.

BEATING CORONAVIRUS CAPITALISM

Coronavirus Capitalism — and How to Beat It

Last week, in my post, Public Education, Disaster Capitalism, and COVID-19 (expanded into an op-ed in our local paper here), I discussed how “edupreneurs” will be likely to swoop in and take advantage of public education to further their dreams of privatization. I quoted author Naomi Klein from her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Today, I saw this post by Ms. Klein talking about the exact same thing.

The COVID-19 disaster is exactly the sort of disaster that disaster capitalists exploit. Klein wrote…

This crisis — like earlier ones — could well be the catalyst to shower aid on the wealthiest interests in society, including those most responsible for our current vulnerabilities, while offering next to nothing to the most workers, wiping out small family savings and shuttering small businesses. But as this video shows, many are already pushing back — and that story hasn’t been written yet.

DISASTER UPON DISASTER

Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown

While we’re worrying about COVID-19, we can’t forget that the Earth is still reacting to human-induced climate change.

As an upsurge in coronavirus infections stretches thin the capacity of health care workers and emergency managers nationwide, the Midwest is bracing for another battle: a potentially devastating flood season.

😷🚑🩺

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2020 Medley #7

Poverty, COVID-19 and school, Testing,
Online instruction, Charters = risky business, Undermining religious liberty,
Talking to students about race

IT’S STILL POVERTY

We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids

We know that student achievement is based largely on out of school factors yet we continue to try to “fix” the schools. Changing curriculum, blaming schools or teachers, privatizing, or overtesting won’t solve the problem of low student achievement. The main link to low school achievement is poverty.

About a fifth of American students live in poverty (the same as child poverty in Indiana) and millions of those children live in food-insecure households.

As long as we, as a nation, refuse to address the growing inequality among our students, we’ll continue to have high child poverty levels. Since high poverty correlates with low school achievement, we’ll continue to have a large number of our students who fail to achieve.

World-class education nations don’t do what seems to be our main strategy: Insist schools compete against one another, use toxic accountability measures to control and measure what schools do, and hold teachers as scapegoats for plunged education rankings…

Half a century of systematic research has shown that teachers account for about 10 to 15 per cent of the variability in students’ test scores. A similar amount of variability is associated with other school factors, such as curriculum, resources and leadership. This means that most of the influence on students’ educational achievement lies outside school — in homes, communities, peer groups and students’ individual characteristics.

Make no mistake, teachers are the most influential part of school. We should stop thinking that teachers have the power to overcome all those inequalities that many children bring to school with them every day.

Schools Alone Cannot Save Children from Economic Inequality. Public Policy Must Assist Families in Deep Poverty

Public policy can ameliorate child poverty without being revolutionary. However, programs need to be redesigned and targeted to alleviate instability, privation and misery for the more than 2 million children living in America’s poorest families. Child poverty overall was reduced in the decade between 1995 and 2005, but during that same period, the number children living in the deepest poverty rose from 2.2 to 2.6 million children. These are the conclusions of a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) defines deep poverty as families living below half of the federal poverty level—below $14,000 per year for a family of four. Who are these children? “Children living in deep poverty are a diverse group…. In 2016, 37 percent were white, 30 percent were Latino, 23 percent were Black, and 6 percent were Asian; 45 percent lived in suburban areas, 32 percent in urban areas, and 11 percent in rural areas; 51 percent lived in a single-mother family, 37 percent in a married-couple family, and 6 percent in a single-father family; 16 percent lived in a family where someone had a work-limiting disability; and 89 percent were U.S. citizens and 31 percent lived in a family with a non-citizen.”

A TEACHABLE MOMENT?

Listen to Trusted Expert Advice: Coronavirus, Schools, Fear, and an Uncertain Future

Children all over the country are getting an unplanned vacation from school because of COVID-19. Their schools are moving to “virtual instruction” (more on that below). The virus seems to be the perfect “teachable moment” as explained by Ed in the Apple. Students who are still in school could also benefit.

I was speaking with a school supervisor yesterday: he was teaching a kindergarten class: how to wash their hands. The lessons should be replicated in all classrooms across the city.

Science lessons, by grade, should explain what a virus is; English classes should be reading non-fiction about viruses and epidemics.

When I mentioned this I was told, “We don’t want to unduly scare children.” Knowledge is power: the more we involve the children, teach children, we all know that the “teachable moment” is at the heart of impactful instruction.

STANDARDIZED TESTS — A LOW PRIORITY

Public Schools Can Recover from the COVID-19 Quarantine by Skipping High Stakes Tests

What should schools do when they come back from the forced COVID-19 layoff? Skip the test!

First, debrief your students. They will all have stories to tell about how their family survived, who got sick, who might still be sick, what they did to amuse themselves, and how they coped.

Then, get back to the curriculum. We should not waste time on tests. Remember that the greatest impact on a child’s standardized test is what happens outside of school (see also We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids, elsewhere in this Medley).

The question remains – what do we do when we get back to class?

We could extend the school year, but families have vacations planned and other obligations. This wouldn’t solve much and frankly I don’t think it will happen unless we’re out for longer than expected.

I anticipate being back in school by mid April or so. That would leave about a month and a half left in the year.

This really leaves us with only two options: (1) hold our end of the year standardized tests and then fit in whatever else we can, or (2) forgo the tests and teach the curriculum.

If we have the tests, we could hold them shortly after school is back in session. That at least would give us more time to teach, but it would reduce the quality of the test scores. Kids wouldn’t be as prepared and the results would be used to further dismantle the public school network.

Much better I think is option two: skip the tests altogether.

How Can K-12 Schools Make Up Time Lost To The Coronavirus? Scrap High Stakes Testing.

There will simply be no way to know how much of this year’s test data is the result of coronavirus disruption. They will be a waste of time.

So don’t give them.

Schools can not only recoup the time lost for giving the tests, but all the time spent preparing for the tests (plus, in some cases, all the time spent on zippy test pep rallies).

Cut the test. Reclaim the instructional time and use it to patch the holes that the coronavirus is going to blow in the school’s curriculum. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes far more sense than wasting a bunch of time and money on a meaningless standardized test.

ONLINE INSTRUCTION

Ohio’s Charter School War fails us when we could really use them.

If online charters are worthy of education dollars from the state, shouldn’t they be taking the lead in teaching students “laid-off” from school during the COVID-19 crisis? This article is specifically about Ohio but is appropriate for any state with public money going to online charter schools.

With all this COVID-19 talk, every Ohio Public School District is planning to move to online instruction through the end of the year. While that seems like a heavy lift, it really shouldn’t be. Why?

Because no state has more students already attending virtual schools than Ohio.

Yet in no instance has the Ohio Department of Education or any school district — despite this emergency crisis — said, “Hey, we have a lot of online schools already, why don’t we ask them for help?”

CHARTERS — A BAD RISK

Credit Ratings Agency: U.S. charter school sector “inherently risky and volatile”

Will higher risk relieve us of the charter school scourge which diverts public funds from real public schools?

5) National: Standard & Poor’s has issued an assessment of the charter school sector’s creditworthiness as part of an overview of public finance. “The charter school sector is inherently risky and volatile, relative to other public finance sectors, as reflected in our ratings distribution, and charter nonrenewal or revocations can affect credit quality swiftly. However, despite these intrinsic risks, the majority—82%—of S&P Global Ratings’ ratings in the sector carried stable outlooks as of Dec. 31, 2019. While the sector is facing increasing political support for stricter charter laws or oversight in some states, federal government support for school choice remains strong, per-pupil funding is generally stable to growing, and demand for charter schools continues to grow. From a financing standpoint, charter schools’ opportunities and options have expanded and interest rates remain low…

“Our rated universe increasingly reflects more established charter schools, which generally have completed several successful charter renewals, maintain steady academics, and experience less credit volatility than newer schools. While there are inherent credit risks that can affect schools throughout the year, such as failure to meet authorizer standards, charter nonrenewal due to factors such as academics, or enrollment shortfalls, we believe the sector’s outlook for 2020 will continue being stable due to continued demand and growing per-pupil funding levels. However, should charter law and policy changes of significant impact occur in states where we hold a large number of ratings, or some of the broader risks (such as a slowing national economy or recession) transpire during this calendar year, charter schools could face more credit stress.” [Registration required]

VOUCHER PROGRAMS UNDERMINE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

School Voucher Programs Undermine Religious Liberty, Misuse Taxpayer Funds

The following is from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Vouchers aren’t good for anyone…

Yes, “choice” sounds like it is associated with “freedom,” but by funneling government funds to religious schools, vouchers actually undermine the religious freedom of both the taxpayer and the religious institution receiving the payment.

Not only do vouchers force taxpayers to support religious education they might disagree with, they also threaten religious autonomy by attaching government regulations that may compromise the religious mission of the school. Once dependent on voucher funds for its success, a church-based school can be even further pushed toward gaining favor with government regulators.

In other words, government neutrality toward religion is good for the state and good for religion.

TALK TO WHITE KIDS ABOUT RACE

White Fragility in Students

We should talk to all our students about race in America.

In our interviews with young people around the country for our Teaching While White podcast, we have seen firsthand an inability among white students to talk about race without exhibiting racial stress. We hear white children as young as nine years old express anxiety about being white and what they think that means. Often these white students, who mind you have volunteered to be interviewed, feel ill equipped and sometimes unable to engage in racial conversations. It seems that we are successfully raising the next generation of white people who, like too many in the current generation of adults, feel afraid and reluctant to talk about race.

There is a common cultural myth that racism is diminishing among youth today. In reality, not only are white students not talking about race, but incidents of blatant individual acts of racism are currently on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there has been a surge in reports of hate and bias in schools in the last three years. Racism appears to be the motivation behind a high percentage of these hate and bias incidents, accounting for 63% of incidents reported in the news and 33% of incidents reported by teachers in the SPLC survey. School responses to this uptick in racialized incidents has been disappointing. More than two-thirds of the educators SPLC surveyed had witnessed a hate or bias incident in their school. According to the report, “most of the hate and bias incidents witnessed by educators were not addressed by school leaders. No one was disciplined in 57% of them. Nine times out of 10, administrators failed to denounce the bias or to reaffirm school values.”

👧🏾🚌👦🏻

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2020 Teachers’ New Year’s Resolutions: 2. Teach your students, not “the test”

2020 Teachers’ New Year’s Resolutions
2. Teach your students, not “the test”

It’s a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while often broken, can be redefined as goals toward which we should strive.

[Updated and slightly edited from 2018]

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #2

  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”

NO, DON’T TEACH TO 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. We were specifically told by the administration not to “teach to the test.” It 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.”

NCLB — YES, 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, we were told, the test covered everything the students needed to learn.

Our 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!

WHY NOT TEACH TO 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 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.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #1

  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
✏️📓✏️

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Listen to This – Nineteen for 2019

Nineteen meaningful comments and quotes from 2019 from my blog and others…

JANUARY

Making Laws About Teaching

Speaker Bosma, Qualifications Matter!

Jennifer McCormick

Perplexing but not surprising- people who are most judgmental & outspoken about the qualifications necessary to perform a job are typically those people who have never done the job.

Hey Kindergarten, Get Ready for the Children.

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

Peter Greene

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem. The solution is not to declare, “We had better lean on these little slackers a little harder and get them away from their families a little sooner.” Instead, try asking how your kindergarten program could be shifted to meet the needs that your students actually have. 

FEBRUARY

Punishing third graders

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

Nancy Flanagan

Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason…

Blaming Teachers

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

Paul Murphy

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

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

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

MARCH

The Intent of Indiana’s Voucher Program

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Doug Masson

…that the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

Why is this even a thing?

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

Dan Holub, executive director of the ITSA

Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training…

Retention-in-grade Doesn’t Work (Still)

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

Stu Bloom

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

APRIL

Reading on Grade Level…

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

Mitchell Robinson

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

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

MAY

The Relationship Between Teacher and Child

It’s All About Growth

Stu Bloom

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

No test can ever measure that.

JUNE

Reading Aloud Instead of Worksheets

Father’s Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

Stu Bloom

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

JULY

Just say “NO!” to Online Preschool

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Matthew Lynch

Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens

AUGUST

Science in the United States

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.

Robert Gebelhoff

This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

Public Schools for the Common Good

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

Rob Boston

As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.

SEPTEMBER

Read Aloud to your Children

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Kelly at Happy You Happy Family

The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. (More on that in a minute.)

Misusing Tests

Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy

The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

The times they are a’ changin’.

Greta Thunberg’s full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit

Greta Thunberg

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

The Teacher Exodus

Educator: There’s A Mass Teacher Exodus, Not Shortage

Tim Slekar

When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It’s not. Conditions would get better. They’re not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It’s declining. That can’t be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don’t support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that’s why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren’t they coming.

NOVEMBER

Billionaire Busybodies

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

Nancy Bailey

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.

DECEMBER

It’s Poverty

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

Stu Egan

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

🏫🎓🚌

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Pearl Clutching Over PISA

IT’S STILL POVERTY

The latest PISA scores have been released and edu-pundits are clutching their pearls because “our scores are terrible.” Yet hardly anyone has mentioned that, just like in the past, the scores in the US are lower than many others in the OECD because the US has a high rate of child poverty.

I wrote about this after the last release of PISA scores

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren’t achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

North Carolina blogger Stu Egan (Caffeinated Rage) did notice it this time and posted…

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

Egan posted these graphs (along with others) from the latest PISA tests. They show that, within each quartile of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status, the US scores are near the average for the rest of the OECD. Check out his entire post.

In reading, the US 15-year-olds scored a little above the OECD average at each quartile.

In math, the US 15-year-olds scored slightly below the OECD average at each quartile.

We’re not number one. But we’re not “failing” either. If our child poverty rate was lower, we wouldn’t have so many more scores in the lower quartiles and our average scores would be higher.

Egan also includes a long quote from the Economic Policy Institute (from an earlier version of the PISA) which explains things very well. Here’s part of it…

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

  • Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.

We won’t be able to climb to the “top” of the PISA rankings as long as we are near the “bottom” of the OECD in child poverty. What we’ve been doing has actually been making things worse.

  • We spend too much time on testing and not enough on teaching.
  • We divert too much of our education funding to the privatization of public schools instead of supporting the common good.
  • We’re so focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy that we don’t have enough money to support our future.

Nothing has changed since I wrote the following in 2017

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

🚌📚📝

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