Category Archives: US DOE

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

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

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

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

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

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

How to Guarantee School Improvement – September 2009

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

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

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

 

Teaching is Doing – January 2014

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

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

 

American Schools are Not Failing – October 2014

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Where Are All the Failing Schools – August 2010

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

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

 

Time For Some Therapy – March 2011

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

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

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.

 

The Status Quo Hasn’t Changed – April 2011

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

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All – March 2009

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Follow the Money – March 2010

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

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

 

Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day – April 2010

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

 

Due Process: Not Anymore – May 2010

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

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

 

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2018 Medley #16

Not Our Kids, Merging DOE and DOL,
Rising Above, My Youthful Promise,
The AMA and Gun Control, Fomenting Hate

SELFISHNESS IS THE NEW RELIGION

Fox Nails The Problem: These Aren’t Our Kids

Brian Kilmeade, one of the vilest humans on TV, reminded us what Fox News and the Trump Universe was all about when he explained that immigrant children aren’t worth getting all bent out of shape about since they’re “not our kids.” This is just another example of the “F**k you, I’ve got mine” attitude in the U.S. It’s an unfortunately common attitude about immigrants…and a common attitude about some of our fellow citizens as well (see The Price of an Incompetent President).

It’s also the same attitude which sends billions of tax dollars to voucher and charter schools at the expense of neighborhood public schools.

…understanding this aspect of tribalism explains a huge number of our problems in education.

We are happy to spend money on our kids. But those other ones, the children of Those People– these aren’t our kids, and we don’t want to spend money on them.

It’s not a new problem. Segregated schools were all about white folks saying, “I don’t want to spend my tax dollars on schools for these black kids, because these are not our kids.” They don’t belong to our group, our tribe, our family. If they want money for decent schools, then let them get that money from their own people.

These aren’t our kids. We have to take care of our own. I’ve got mine, Jack.

EDUCATION IS FOR CHILDREN

Why Merging DOE with DOL is Wrong! Education is for Children, NOT Corporations

Republicans have been trying to get rid of the US Department of Education since the day it was formed…one more way they show their hatred of public education.

Their view of education is as a pipeline for corporate workers. Contrast that with schools in Finland (go to minute 4:00) where students achieve at a much higher rate,

But school is about finding your happiness, finding a way to learn what makes you happy.

In the U.S. the schools are about passing the test, and getting a job. Individual teachers are concerned with their students finding happiness, of course, but the current test-and-punish status quo makes that difficult.

That’s sad, because, as a fellow teacher once told me, “Children are 25% of our population, and 100% of our future.”

While a good government should forecast the kinds of jobs that will be available in the future, its focus should be on the students themselves, and what will help them make the best career choice. It should be about helping students realize their interests and their hopes for the future.

That focus should include how to help young people get to college without incurring terrible debt.

We should quit trying to fund two education systems, charters and public schools, and shore up one dynamic public school system that serves the diverse needs of everyone.

Helping children find their way in a difficult and changing world is reasonable. Steering children into jobs that meet the needs of a corrupt government, that does not treasure the dreams of its children, is not the America we believe in.

RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO LOWER YOURSELF

Some Suggestions on How to Engage People Online Without Losing Your Mind

I discovered Michelle Martin’s blog last week. In this post she gives some hints on how to treat others with respect, even when we disagree. Be better than what you despise.

[emphasis in original]

“The Left” is not a monolithic group of God-haters, who despise the military and cops, and seek to destroy the American way of life. And “the Right” is not a monolithic group of white supremacists who hate all immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities. But (and this is an important but) many politicians want us to think that. In this sense, we all need to become resisters.

    • Resist the temptation to demonize.
    • Resist the temptation to demoralize.
    • Resist the temptation to stereotype.

I NEVER FULFILLED MY YOUTHFUL PROMISE…THANK GOODNESS

“You’re a Doctor? I Thought You Were Stupid”: Stellar Grad Speech by Indy ER Physician

I can’t imagine anyone in my high school or college classes who would have mistaken me for someone who was smart. I was a poor student, unmotivated, and not likely to be on anyone’s list of most likely to succeed. In high school I was told that I needed to try harder…put forth some effort.

I was only accepted in college because I was a passable musician, but even that didn’t last and I barely made it through my first year, and was told that once I graduated (assuming I got that far) I should find something else to do.

I did graduate, eventually, and began my career selling sheet music. Then things changed, but that’s a story for another time.

In contrast to my unremarkable beginnings, I finally found some success at the other end of the classroom…as a teacher. Perhaps it’s because I was able to understand those who were unmotivated and not likely to succeed…

I found this graduation speech oddly reminiscent of my own academic history.

I got an F in high school chemistry, and an F in algebra and a bunch of C’s, a couple D’s and if it weren’t for gym and kings court singers, I doubt I would have gotten any A’s. Any kings court singers here? I was the jester in the madrigal dinner. I did a few other things. I was in junior spec, Reviewing the Situation, 1981 baby. I played trumpet in band — actually I was second to the last trumpet — which means I played exactly two notes in every song. Blaaamp blaaammp. Nobody ever saw my name on some academic kudos report sent out by the school and no parent ever uttered the words:

“Louis Profeta made honor roll, why can’t you?”

And if I had to apply to college today at Indiana University, I would not get in.

THE AMA’S COMMON SENSE PROPOSAL

Frustrated AMA adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence

Yet another professional group which has to deal with gun violence has come out with a list of rational gun-control proposals which the NRA will probably claim is trying to “take away your guns!”

Actually, that’s true. The AMA’s proposals will take away your guns if you’ve been found guilty of domestic violence or stalking, if you’re suicidal or if you’re someone who has threatened violence.

In the same way you can lose your drivers license if you’ve become a danger behind the wheel to society at large, you should lose your right to own a gun if you’re a danger to society.

AMA delegates voted to adopt several of nearly a dozen gun-related proposals presented by doctor groups that are part of the AMA’s membership. They agreed to:

— Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

— Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

— Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

— Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

— Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers.

ORGANIZED RELIGION — STILL FOMENTING HATE

Global Uptick in Government Restrictions on Religion in 2016

Lest you think I believe that it’s only Americans who are selfish and tribal, here are results from a recent Pew Survey reminding us how much humans hate “the other.”

Restrictions on religion around the world continued to climb in 2016, according to Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion. This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study.

The share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – rose from 25% in 2015 to 28% in 2016. This is the largest percentage of countries to have high or very high levels of government restrictions since 2013, and falls just below the 10-year peak of 29% in 2012.

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2017 Medley #31

Teachers Unions, U.S. ED,
Poisoning Our Children, Teacher Shortage, Early Childhood Education, Hate in America, Creeps

Sometimes there’s just too much going on in the U.S. to even try to keep up with everything. The constant Trumpian attack on things like schools and health care…the blatant attempts at diverting more money from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy and oligarchy…the depth of sexual sickness on our entertainment and politics…the nationalism (not patriotism) that has emerged as a force for evil and hatred…

I could have included another dozen articles in this medley…

GUILTY OF POISONING OUR CHILDREN

New testimony alleges Gov. Snyder lied under oath about lead in Flint water

Why are the politicians who poisoned the children (and families) of Flint, Michigan (and elsewhere) still in office and still getting paid? Why haven’t they been fired and prosecuted? Shouldn’t they at least be on House Arrest like Paul Manafort? Shouldn’t they lose all their power like Harvey Weinstein? Shouldn’t they be publicly humiliated like Roy Moore?

Harvey Hollins, the man Gov. Snyder appointed to handle the Flint Water Crisis, testified Wednesday that he told the governor about increasing lead in Flint water months before Snyder told Congress he learned about it.

TEACHERS UNIONS

Union talk. Protecting and defending the good teachers.

How about if we blame teachers and their unions for low student achievement due to the highest rate of childhood poverty in the advanced industrialized world?

(I’m going to have to stop including the U.S. when I talk about “advanced” nations.)

Over the course of my career teachers have been turned into scapegoats by political opportunists of all stripes and by both political parties. Urban schools in particular were declared failing and the teachers were the reason. Teaching was among the few careers open to professionals of color and women, easy targets for racism and gender bias. And teaching became viewed as a technocratic exercise. No longer was it understood as a complex combination of science, artistry, subject matter knowledge along with a concern for the well-being of children.

As private sector unions represented a smaller and smaller percentage of the population, public sector unions – like teacher unions – became the last ones standing.

TEACHERS UNIONS: WISCONSIN

Gutting Wisconsin teachers unions hurt students, study finds

Governor Walker, how is your anti-union plan working out…kids doing better?

The law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for veteran teachers and especially in health insurance and retirement benefits, according to one paper. There was also a spike in teacher retirement immediately following the law’s passage.

As compensation drops, it may become harder for district and teachers to recruit and keep teachers. An increase in retirement also reduces teacher experience, which has been linked to effectiveness.

PRIVATIZATION: U.S. ED

Trump’s Latest Department Of Education Nominees Are School Voucher Advocates

The amazing thing is that they don’t even try to hide it any more. George W’s first Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, touted his Houston Miracle (that turned out to be a hoax). Margaret Spellings tried, weakly, to claim competence because she was a mom. Arne Duncan learned everything he knew about public education from watching his mother teach.

But Betsy DeVos doesn’t even pretend to care about public schools…she doesn’t even pretend to know anything about public schools, and neither do new appointments to high ranking positions in the U.S. Education Department. They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

They don’t know anything about education, yet they want to control the education of our children.

Zais was questioned about whether he was familiar with recent research into the impact of vouchers on student achievement. He responded: “To the best of my knowledge, whenever we give parents an opportunity to choose a school that’s a good fit for their child, the result is improved outcomes.”

This answer is surprising considering that voucher programs show the exact opposite. When faced with the truth – that recent studies in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., found not only do vouchers not improve student achievement, but in many cases they harm it – he admitted he was unaware of these studies and that he had based his answer on anecdotes, not on facts.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

FL: What?! A teacher shortage??!!

Please go to the link above and read this article by Peter Greene. I included all the links to every single bullet point below…follow them.

He lists 16 items for Florida. How many of these are happening in your state? I count at least 10 for Indiana.

Okay, not shocking. Utterly predictable, given Florida’s unending efforts to create the worst atmosphere for public education in the country. Here are some of the things they’ve done, in no particular order:

* They have tried to make it possible for parents to stamp out the teaching of science.
* They have given charters the unchecked ability to steal local tax dollars.
* They have made an absolute disastrous amateur-hour hash out of their Big Standardized Test.
* They have made successful students repeat third grade for failing to love the BST
* They have declared– in court– that teacher-prepared report cards are meaningless
* They have demonstrated how badly teacher merit pay can fail
* They made a dying child take the Big Standardized Test 
* They turned recess into a political football.
* They based a strategic plan based on bad retail management.
* They abolished tenure, and fired teachers for advocating for students.
* They’ve allowed racist underfunding of schools to flourish.
* They have provided ample proof that an A-F school rating system doesn’t work.
* They host experiments in computerized avatar classrooms.
* They have charter legislation hustled through the capital by lawmakers who profit from it.
* They allow more charter misbehavior than you can shake a stick at.
* They have created a charter money grab law so onerous and obnoxious they have actually moved public schools to sue the state government.

All of this over and above the continued drip, drip, drip of starving public schools of resources and finding new ways to treat public school teachers with disrespect. And the pay stinks.

WHAT OUR CHILDREN NEED INSTEAD OF TEST AND PUNISH

A 19-Year Study Reveals Kindergarten Students With These 2 Skills Are Twice as Likely to Obtain a College Degree (And They Have Nothing to Do With Reading)

Indiana and other states are currently increasing early childhood education opportunities (for some). What kind of preschools and kindergartens are we going to have, though? Will they be developmentally appropriate, or are we just going to push test and punish down to younger and younger children?

Here’s an idea…

For every one-point increase in children’s social competency scores in kindergarten, they were twice as likely to obtain college degrees. They were also more likely to have full-time jobs by age 25.

But the kids who had trouble cooperating, listening, and resolving conflict were less likely to finish high school–let alone college. They were more likely to have legal problems and substance abuse issues.

For every one-point decrease in social competency at age 5, a child had a 67 percent higher chance of being arrested in early adulthood. A one-point decrease also meant a child had a 52 percent higher rate of binge drinking and an 82 percent higher chance of living in public housing (or at least being on the waitlist).

HATE IN AMERICA

Communities hit by rising hate crimes say Trump’s rhetoric is having a devastating impact

The hatred of “the other” has been a part of America since its founding. It started in Europe and came here under the guise of “bringing Christ to the natives.” Instead, the Christians who came here from Europe used their power to steal the treasures of the Central and South American natives, overrun the land of the North American natives, set up theocracies in New England, and import slaves from Africa as chattel labor.

That is the basis of the European Culture that the nationalists, nazis, and white supremacists claim to be protecting from black and brown people who live here or have come here from other lands. Has Euro-America ever done anything good? Of course. We’ve been an innovative and (mostly) welcome place for the world’s refuse. Underneath the innovation and open arms, however, has lurked hatred for anyone different…and the election of Donald Trump has empowered that hatred to ooze out from under its rock and pronounce itself ready to do battle against “the other.”

It doesn’t matter that nearly every white nationalist, nazi, and racist lives here with an immigrant past.

Other nations will now have to take over the mantle of moral leadership. We have lost it.

“We think that there is a clear connection between the rise in visible [anti-Semitism], virulent Islamophobia and xenophobia, and racism and the policies and rhetoric of the political right,” wrote Leo Ferguson, who works with the organization Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, in an email to ThinkProgress. “State violence against Black people, Muslims, undocumented people and others sets the stage and gives permission for hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination.”

Advocates emphasized that the violence facing minority communities is nothing new. As rising hate crimes indicate, however, it is becoming more prevalent — something many say is clearly linked to the president.

CREEPS COMING OUT

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part VI

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station gives us some instruction in morality.

Sexual assault isn’t relative.

Franken’s shitty behavior isn’t made less by Donald Trump’s shitty behavior.

There may be degrees of heinousness, but sexual assault isn’t a game of comparison.

But that is exactly what happens when politics are involved.

It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to diminish the failings of our own by pointing out the egregious actions of those we don’t like. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing.

…Democrats should be held to high standards.

In fact, they should be held to higher standards than they are right now.

AND. SO. SHOULD. REPUBLICANS.

So should the president. So should the Judges. So should every Congressman and Senator. So should every office holder. So should every cop and Priest and dog catcher.

So should we all.

You want a better nation? A better world? Then you have to be better citizens.

It starts right here.

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2017 Medley #16: Privatization – Leaving Some Students Behind

Special Needs Students, Segregation,
U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The “Free Market,” Ben Franklin

SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND

Indiana’s School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students

Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.

I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don’t qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don’t need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don’t deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?

Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.

…NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne’s public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.

Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it’s just 7 percent. It’s the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here’s Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.

Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.

CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION

School Choice: Designed To Fail

How do we define “good” schools? What does a “failing” school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When “choice” advocates tell parents that they should have the right to “choose the best school for their children” they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.

With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we’re witnessing the return to the “separate and unequal” schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a “public good” is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.

By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”

CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and “educational savings accounts.”

The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that “the market” will eventually eliminate “bad” or “failing” schools because patrons will “shop with their feet.” According to the “market-based” orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.

An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are “failing” and schools with high test scores are “good.” As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools, America’s schools aren’t failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.

A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

School Privatization in the Age of Betsy DeVos: Where Are We in Mid-May?

…this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.

The Network for Public Education has made available short explanations of all three school privatization schemes: vouchers, tutition tax credits here and here, and education savings accounts.

EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS

The Free Market Does Not Work for Education

In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of “market-based” education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs…not to students who live in rural areas…not to students who live in low population areas.

The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.

All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald’s could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don’t do it…

…Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It’s because it’s harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald’s in the desert– the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.

Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, “We’ll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn’t make economic/business sense for you to serve.” But now it’s not a free market any more, is it?

BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION

Ben Franklin in a letter to Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780

Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.

In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn’t support itself without government support didn’t deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the “civil power.” Substitute “parochial school” for the word “Religion” in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.

“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

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2017 Medley #14

Class Size, Testing,
The Federal Role in Education, Privatization, Indiana General Assembly, Walmart

CLASS SIZE

Trump’s Education Budget Will Undermine Teaching and Schools

Thirty-five percent of America’s school districts – especially high-poverty districts – use federal money to reduce class sizes. The Trump budget will result in larger class sizes in exactly the locations where smaller class sizes are needed the most.

Once again, it is America’s high poverty students who are shouldering the burden so the wealthy can have a lower tax obligation.

Why is this important? Class size reduction is not only extremely popular among parents and teachers – it is one of the very few reforms proven to work through rigorous evidence, and to provide especially large benefits for children from low-income families and students of color, who see twice the academic gains from small classes. Indeed, it is only one of a handful of educational policies that has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap between economic and racial groups.

TESTING: PISA

Is PISA Data Useless?

Peter Greene asks some questions about the PISA test. Privatizers and “reformers” love to quote America’s “low scores” on the PISA and other international tests (see The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools), but new information about the PISA indicates that analyses of the results might not be accurate. What then?

The Testocrats have been quietly assuming that taking a Big Standardized Test on a computer is exactly like taking it on paper. But what if that’s not true? What if taking a math test involves not only math skills, but test-taking skills. And what if computer test-taking skills are not the same set of skills as pencil-and-paper test-taking skills?

What if the Big Standardized Tests aren’t really measuring what they purport to measure at all, and the whole test-centered education model is built on a sham?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION

Don’t Trash the Department of Education. Fix It.

In education, just like other areas of our society, the federal government has an important role to play. In the current education atmosphere, the federal government needs to make sure that equitable funding exists for all schools.

The nation is slowly but surely moving back to segregated schools and as Earl Warren put it in 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It’s the job of the federal government to make sure that states don’t revert to the illusion of “separate but equal.”

…it’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.

The department has a vital and important role to play in making sure our system of public education serves everyone. Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.

Separate but equal?

FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION: VOUCHERS

Save Our Schools! Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is ignorant about public education. Like other Trump cabinet and administrative appointees, she has spent her life trying to do damage to the very aspect of society her department is charged with supporting. During her confirmation hearing she proved to America that she is woefully ignorant of how public schools work.

The last thing that America needs is for the nation’s schools to contribute to increased segregation by race, ethnic group, or economic status.

Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation who researches public policy to address educational inequality, examined DeVos’ comment during her Senate confirmation process that “empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”

To the contrary, Potter found that “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at the status quo.” Potter considered not only racial diversity, but religious diversity as well: “(D)ata suggest that there is a strong risk that voucher programs will be used by white families to leave more diverse public schools for predominantly white private schools and by religious families to move to parochial private schools, increasing the separation of students by race/ethnicity and religious background.”

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Latest D.C. Voucher Study: Program Harms Students’ Academic Achievement

When the Indiana General Assembly, along with then-Governor Mitch Daniels, demanded a voucher program for Indiana’s private schools, the argument was that children who live in poverty should have the same access to “high-quality” schools as wealthier students. The error in that logic is clear. A “high-quality” school is defined by higher test scores and greater support from economically affluent communities. When you segregate students economically, you’ll see schools with lower test scores in economically depressed areas.

Over the last few years we’ve learned that voucher accepting private schools and privately run charter schools are not guaranteed to give children a better education. So the reason for providing tax money to private and privately run schools has changed. No longer are we diverting tax dollars away from public education in order to help poor children “escape” from so-called “failing” schools. Now it’s for “choice.” Every parent should have the right to choose the best school for their children. This is reasonable, but private choices shouldn’t be tax supported.

People don’t get subsidies from the government for other “choices.” We don’t get a voucher to move into any neighborhood we want to move to. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” a private country club over public parks. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” books at a book store instead of the public library. Like other public benefits, public schools are, and should be, the tax supported option. The cost of other options are the responsibility of the tax payer.

Instead of underfunding and closing public schools filled with struggling students, we should improve the quality of the school and its teachers. We need to invest in our public schools, and we need to invest more where more support is needed.

The Department of Education just released a new study of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program. And the findings confirm what we’ve known for years: The program doesn’t improve students’ academic achievement. In fact, it has resulted in statistically significant negative impacts on student test scores.

The study found that students using a D.C. voucher performed 7.3 percentage points worse in math than their peers. The program especially hurts students in elementary schools, which comprise 68 percent of the voucher students in the study and are the largest demographic in the program. These students performed worse in math and reading: 14.7 percentage points lower in math and 9.3 percentage points lower in reading.

This conclusion isn’t a surprise considering similar results were reached in recent studies of voucher programs across the country. The studies have found negative impacts on student achievement for voucher students in Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana.

PRIVATISATION: CHARTERS

PolitiFact Florida: How not-for-profit are charter schools, really?

Are non-profit charter schools a better use of tax dollars? Not necessarily.

The management company does not manage the governing board; rather, it handles certain aspects of the operations of the school under a contract with the governing board.

The Miami Herald’s examination of South Florida’s charter school industry found several instances of for-profit management companies controlling charter schools’ day-to-day operations.

The Herald found examples of charter schools relinquishing total control of their staff and finances to for-profit management companies. In Miami-Dade County, the Life Skills Center paid 97 percent of its income to cover fees incurred by a management company.

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Quick takes on the 2017 legislative session

What did the Indiana General Assembly give us this year?

  • Large budget increases for charters and vouchers, not so much for public schools
  • No voter input for state education policy making
  • Continued emphasis on expensive and wasteful testing policies
  • Another voucher expansion, this time it’s attached to a minimal pre-K increase
  • Lower professional requirements needed to teach in charter schools

This is a state that (still) really hates its public schools.

A session of the Indiana General Assembly is kind of like a tornado. When it’s over, you crawl out of your shelter, look around and assess the damage.

Lawmakers finished their business and left the Statehouse on Saturday morning. Here’s a quick look at some of the wreckage they left on the education front.

Voucher program gets outsized share of K-12 funding increase

Students who receive tuition vouchers to attend private religious schools will get nearly 10 percent of the K-12 education funding increase that Indiana lawmakers included in the 2017-19 state budget.

That’s an outsized share given that voucher students make up only about 3.5 percent of the students who receive funding from the state.

WALMART

The Walmart Tax

I’m tired of subsidizing Walmart employees so the Waltons can retain their position as America’s richest family. With a family net worth of $130 billion, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage so the public doesn’t have to fork over $6.2 billion in welfare…

In essence, when a Walmart employee must rely on food stamps or other safety-net benefits, taxpayers are paying a portion of that employee’s wages.

Walmart (including its Sam’s Club operation) is currently the largest private employer in the country–and one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. Walmart employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year. Money not paid out in salary goes directly to the shareholders’ bottom line.

Not only is this greedy and despicable, it is bad business. For one thing, as awareness of this subsidy grows, the numbers of people shopping at Walmart declines. But there are other costs incurred.

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Random Quotes – February 2017

ON DEVOS

A More Qualified Secretary of Education

DeVos is just the latest, most extreme example at the end of a long line of woefully ignorant Secretaries of Education.

From me at Live Long and Prosper

…knowing anything about K-12 public education has rarely, if ever, been a requirement for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education.

Why then, is it a surprise that President-elect Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, knows nothing about K-12 public education?

Don’t Confirm Betsy DeVos

From John Merrow at The Merrow Report

I have concluded that Ms. DeVos is stunningly unqualified to serve as United States Secretary of Education. In her testimony and her subsequent letter, she demonstrated her unfamiliarity with IDEA and the federal commitment to special needs children. Moreover, both her testimony and her track record demonstrate an ideologue’s zeal for a single-minded approach to education. Neither her words nor her deeds show a commitment to the concept of public education for all children or any understanding of the importance of well-educated citizenry to our economic security and our democratic society.

Two former Secretaries of Education. They didn’t know anything either.

THE STATUS QUO

Don’t Fall For The “Status Quo” Fallacy Concerning Public Education

“Reformers” have been denouncing the “status quo” for years, but at least since NCLB, and probably earlier, the “status quo” has been the reformist strategy of test and punish.

From Stu Egan at Caffeinated Rage

What I would consider the “status quo” is the commitment to flux and change to the variables that measure student achievement and school success by people outside of the actual education process. And in that regard, I do agree that the status quo should change.

“FAILING” SCHOOLS

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World

American public schools are not failing.

From Steven Singer at GadflyonthewallBlog

As ever, far right politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether they be Democratic Neoliberals or Republican Tea Partiers, are using falsehoods about our public schools to sell an alternative. They say our public schools are beyond saving and that we need to privatize. They call it school choice but it’s really just an attempt to destroy the system that has so much going for it.

We should strengthen public education not undermine it. We should roll up our sleeves and fix the real problems we have, not invent fake ones.

IGNORANCE IS DANGEROUS

Are the Ignorant too Ignorant to know they’re Ignorant?

“True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know” – Confucius

From Rob Miller at View from the Edge

…Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to us. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can all be confidently ignorant about a wide range of topics. Yet, it is often difficult to fathom just how close and how pervasive these unknowns are, precisely because they are invisible to us.

As Dunning writes:”People are destined not to know where the solid land of their knowledge ends and the slippery shores of their ignorance begins.”

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice Week’s Alternative Facts

Millions of public dollars are diverted from public schools to corporate and religious schools using vouchers creating a two-tiered education system.  Taxes are meant to be used for the public good…parks, libraries, roads, first-responder services, and public schools.

From Jersey Jazzman

…I’m willing to have a conversation about school vouchers. There might be some positive effects from private school enrollment that aren’t found in test scores. But we have to weigh those against the harm vouchers programs might do to public schools, particularly since there’s at least some evidence that voucher students would have attended private schools even without taxpayer funds — which means vouchers create an extra financial burden on the system. And that money’s got to come from somewhere…

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Nevada’s Voucher Fail

The same is true for Indiana. The legislature and governor need to quit draining money from public education for corporate profit and religious advantage and return it to the system of “Common Schools” – public schools.

ARTICLE 8. Education Section 1. Common school system: Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.” – Indiana Constitution

From Peter Greene at Curmudgucation

In the meantime, if Nevada really wants to get out of 51st place, their leaders might consider focusing on how to actually help schools be better instead of trying to figure out ways that education tax dollars can be used to enrich businesses and absolve the state of any responsibility for its school system.

THE GOOD THING ABOUT SCIENCE IS…

The Week in Quotes (Jan. 29 – Feb. 4)

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Kathy Miller, President of Texas Freedom Network

Teachers are practically begging the board to stop forcing them to waste classroom time on junk science standards that are based mostly on the personal agendas of board members themselves, not sound science. But these politicians just can’t seem to stop themselves from making teachers’ jobs harder.

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A More Qualified Secretary of Education

UPHOLDING A TRADITION

It’s been a tradition for American presidents – since Jimmy Carter – to nominate unqualified people to the office of U.S. Education Department Secretary of Education. A quick glance at past Secretaries would give you enough information to understand that the position is not reserved for educators, but for political hacks.

Of the ten past and current Secretaries of Education, and the one nominee and future Secretary, only a handful have had any experience in public education.

John King, the current Secretary, taught for 3 years (yep…three whole years) and became the hated state education chief in New York. Terrell Bell, who got fired from his job as Secretary after one term because he knew too much about education, was also a high school teacher and administrator. Rod Paige, who equated teachers who belonged to their teachers union with terrorists, also had education training, and earned his stripes as the Superintendent of Schools in Houston during the “Texas Miracle” which turned out to be no miracle at all.

Arne Duncan was the “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools – because “CEO” means that we’re running a school system like a business so it’s all good – and he got that job because…why? His mom was a tutor and he watched her.

The rest of the pack’s knowledge of public education was either as a parent, such as Margaret Spellings whose web page at the U.S. ED said that she was qualified because she was a mom, or because they might have been a student in a public school…once.

In other words, knowing anything about K-12 public education has rarely, if ever, been a requirement for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education.

Why then, is it a surprise that President-elect Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, knows nothing about K-12 public education?

And like other aspects of the President-elect’s superlative-laden campaign and transition, DeVos is the most unqualified of all. If other Presidents have nominated for Secretary of Education someone with minimal knowledge of public education, then he, Trump, had to nominate someone with the most complete lack of knowledge of all.

CHOOSE ME INSTEAD

I would make a better Secretary of Education for the United States than Betsy DeVos. Like DeVos I have no experience at running any organization the size of the the U.S. ED. And I don’t have her millions of dollars to purchase politicians. On the other hand…

  • I know the difference between growth and proficiency.
  • I understand that federal laws apply to all schools receiving federal dollars.
  • I believe that all children are entitled to a free, appropriate, public education.
  • I believe that public education is a public responsibility which, if fully supported, benefits all citizens, and provides for a more productive society.
  • I believe that if private or privately run schools accept public dollars then they should be held to the same standards and restrictions as public schools.
  • I believe that all schools accepting public funds should accept and provide an appropriate education for all students no matter how expensive they are to educate.
  • I don’t think that grizzly bears are a sufficient reason for arming school employees.
  • Finally, I have 60 years of experience as a student, teacher, and volunteer in public education. I have been a teacher for students from age 4 through adult at the elementary school, community college, and university levels. In fact, I have more K-12 teaching experience than any previous Secretary of Education.

But it’s not just me.

Most public school teachers know more about public education than most of the previous Secretaries of Education, and it’s likely that any public school teacher in America knows more about public education than Betsy DeVos.

The nation’s children would be better served with an education professional as the U.S. Secretary of Education, than with someone like Betsy DeVos, who has no understanding of teaching and learning, and whose only interest in public education is to destroy it.

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