Posted in books, DeVos, NPE, Quotes, Racism, vouchers, YohuruWilliams

From NPE 2017 – Wrap Up

The NPE conference ended on Sunday, October 15. Below are some quotes made, or referred to on the last day, some books I heard about at the conference and now have on my to-read list, and some articles about the conference, or referred to on the last day. My comments, included.

QUOTES

From Garrison Keillor

When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.

From President John Adams

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll note the following quote is at the top of this page.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.

From Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director Pastors for Texas Children

Pastors for Texas Children were instrumental in preventing the passage of a voucher bill in the recent Texas legislature.

Vouchers divert money from the public schools to religious schools (98% of voucher accepting schools in Indiana are parochial schools). We don’t do that with any other public good. We don’t divert money from the public library for vouchers to privately owned book stores. We don’t divert money from public parks for private country club vouchers. Why is public education different?

If you don’t believe in the public trust, leave your car in the parking lot and don’t drive home on the roads paid for by the citizens of the community.

From Nikole Hannah-Jones, Investigative Journalism, New York Times.

The last time the black/white achievement gap lowered nationally was when cities and states were required, under Brown v. Board of Education, to integrate schools. The current voucher/charter “reform” movement has resulted in the resegregation of public schools.

The fight for public schools must be a fight for integration. Period.

and

The longer a black child stays in a segregated school, the wider her achievement gap grows and the further she falls behind her white peers.

Nikole Hannah-Jones speaking at the NPE Conference, 2017

BOOKS

Here is a list of books I’ve added to my to-read list…publisher’s descriptions are included.

United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Education Agenda

Quite a few familiar names in this book. This collection of essays includes as authors some folks who I have been reading for years, including Steven Singer, Russ Walsh, P. L. Thomas and George Lakoff. It also includes a selection by NPE Conference Keynote speaker, Yohuru Williams.

In United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Agenda – Essays on Protest and Resistance Garn Press has gathered together essays by great scholars and renowned teachers who oppose the direction in which President Trump is leading the country. These are essays, to quote George Lakoff, which frame American values accurately and systemically day after day, telling truths by American majority moral values.

These are essays of protest against and resistance to Trump’s presidency, to his billionaire cabinet, to the privileging in the White House of white supremacists, the promulgation of “alternate facts”, the denigration of media sources, the purges of State Department personnel, the gag orders at the EPA and scientists placed on “watch lists”, the travel bans on people from wide swaths of U.S. society and on refugees … the list is long.

The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time by Gordon Lafer

In an era of growing economic insecurity, it turns out that one of the main reasons life is becoming harder for American workers is a relentless—and concerted—offensive by the country’s best-funded and most powerful political forces: corporate lobbies empowered by the Supreme Court to influence legislative outcomes with an endless supply of cash. These actors have successfully championed hundreds of new laws that lower wages, eliminate paid sick leave, undo the right to sue over job discrimination, and cut essential public services.

Lafer shows how corporate strategies have been shaped by twenty-first-century conditions—including globalization, economic decline, and the populism reflected in both the Trump and Sanders campaigns of 2016. Perhaps most important, Lafer shows that the corporate legislative agenda has come to endanger the scope of democracy itself.

For anyone who wants to know what to expect from corporate-backed Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., there is no better guide than this record of what the same set of actors has been doing in the state legislatures under its control.

Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education by John Merrow

I first heard about this book in a podcast interview of John Merrow by Will Brehm on FreshEd. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to get the book at the NPE conference last weekend. You can listen to the podcast here.

This insightful book looks at how to turn digital natives into digital citizens and why it should be harder to become a teacher but easier to be one. Merrow offers smart, essential chapters—including “Measure What Matters,” and “Embrace Teachers”—that reflect his countless hours spent covering classrooms as well as corridors of power. His signature candid style of reportage comes to life as he shares lively anecdotes, schoolyard tales, and memories that are at once instructive and endearing.

Addicted to Reform is written with the kind of passionate concern that could come only from a lifetime devoted to the people and places that constitute the foundation of our nation. It is a “big book” that forms an astute and urgent blueprint for providing a quality education to every American child.

Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean

Gordon Lafer, author of the One Percent Solution (above), recommended this book during his conference session.

Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan’s work in teaching others how to divide America into “makers” and “takers.” And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy.

ARTICLES/BLOG POSTS

A Brief Overview of the NPE Conference in Oakland

Diane Ravitch gives her overview of last week’s conference. She refers to posting the videos of some of the sessions as well as the keynote addresses. I urge you, if you weren’t at the conference, to watch however much you can once they’re published…especially the two keynote addresses by NPE Board Member, Yohuru Williams, and by Nikole Hannah-Jones, investigative reporter for the New York Times, and 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award.”

The most important things that happened at the conference were not on stage, but in the hallways, where people from across the country met others they had only heard of. We had parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, local school board members, state school board members, journalists, students. The conversations were buoyant.

No one was paid to attend. Almost everyone paid their own way. The speakers were not paid. This was truly a grassroots effort, run on a shoestring, but a very beautiful, unencumbered shoestring. Nearly 500 people came together to find comfort, fellowship, solidarity, and hope.

Michelle Gunderson on Teaching in the Time of Trump

…One of our students who has been struggling to learn was sitting with his reading partner sharing a book when his partner came running over to us. “He read it! He really read it! All by himself.” In the field, this is sometimes referred to as “breaking the code,” or the time a child launches as a reader. When young students begin to read at first they break down each sound and word. Then, suddenly, the walls collapse, and reading becomes smooth.

I am here to tell you that it is one of our miracles, and the reason I teach first grade.

So, how do we teach in the time of Trump? We wake up and be our best selves, and everything we do has meaning and importance. There are no small things right now…

Yohuru Williams at the NPE Conference, 2017

An Interview With Yohuru Williams about Betsy DeVos

This is a must-read blog post by Mercedes Schneider. She interviewed Yohuru Williams and included a link to his powerpoint presentation which accompanied his keynote address to the NPE Conference. I hope to post the video of his presentation at a later date.

Schneider: What do you consider the major threat of the placement of B DeVos as US ed sec?

Williams: There are essentially two major problems with Betsy DeVos. The first is her overall lack of qualification for the position. The second is her open hostility to public schools. We have never had an Education Secretary in the history of the United States History who has exhibited such hostility toward public schools.

Schneider: What do you perceive to be DeVos’ “Achilles heel”?

Williams: Secretary DeVos’ Achilles heel might very well be her singular focus on school choice as the panacea for what she and other Education Reformers have problematically labeled as a “failing system of education” in America. Her arrogance may very well prove her undoing.

Schneider: Arrogance?

Williams: By arrogance I mean her deep sense of entitlement and privilege and her inability to see beyond her own experience.

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Posted in NPE, Privatization, Quotes, Ravitch, reform, Teaching Career, vouchers

From NPE 2017 – Listen to this #13

Memorable quotes from Saturday at the Network for Public Education 4th Annual Conference. Check out the live streaming and video, here (Facebook link) for much, much more.

#NPE17CA

NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

From Colleen Wood

Now More Than Ever – it’s not just a theme, it’s what we do.

From Diane Ravitch

In the coming election [our organization] will not endorse anyone who supports charters or vouchers…

…We want to improve education, not monetize it.

From Yohuru Williams

We reject Betsy DeVos. We reject Donald Trump. We reject Race to the Bottom. We reject privatization. We reject vouchers. We reject inequality. We reject alienation. We reject your narrative of inequality. We stand for justice.

Yohuru Williams at #NPE17CA

TEACHING

From an Arkansas legislator/teacher

How is shutting the door and saying ‘Just let me teach’ working out for you?

Jonathan Foley in United We Stand Divided We Fall

[Teachers, as first responders, are] willing to risk it all for the next generation.

PRIVATIZING AND REFORM

From Michelle Gunderson

Kindergarten is the new Second Grade, and a really, really bad Second Grade.

From Frank Adamson

This is not an evidence battle. This Is an ideological battle.

From Steven Singer

We invest the majority of our educational funding in rich white kids. The poor and minorities are left to fend for themselves.

From Tanya Clay House

[When speaking with a pro-voucher privatizer,] Every child deserves the benefit of a quality education. That’s why we have public education that you’re not funding.

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Posted in Competition, NPE, vouchers

From NPE 2017 – Winners and Losers

We traveled on the train from Chicago to the San Francisco area for this year’s Network for Public Education (NPE) National Conference which will take place in Oakland in a few days.

We’ve done the train from Chicago to the west coast several times. We enjoy the relaxed pace, and the scenery of the Desert, Plains and Mountains. We had the time…so we decided to do it again.

This year we encountered a new problem. Amtrak is working on the track between Denver and Salt Lake City so our train was diverted north to Wyoming and then west to Salt Lake City.

During the time we were on the alternate track, our train had to yield (and by “yield” I mean, sit and wait) often to “freight traffic.” The alternative route was owned by the companies operating the freight routes (this, according to our sleeping car attendant) , and dispatchers from those companies chose who had the right of way on single tracks. They chose their own trains every time. After repeatedly waiting for those other trains, we arrived at our destination about 4 hours late.

In theory, I don’t object to the track owners calling the shots on their own track. It’s theirs, after all. They should get to give their own trains priority when there is a conflict. It was inconvenient, and it would have been nice if the dispatchers had given us priority now and then, but I can understand it.

On the other hand, Amtrak, a government subsidized rail corporation, is paying for the use of that track. They’re giving the track owners public funds for the right to use the track. Doesn’t that count for something?

This reminds me of the public funding currently going to private schools in the form of vouchers. Private schools get public money to teach students yet are allowed to choose which students they accept and which they deny. They can choose what curriculum they use…and why not (as long as the students are able to pass “the test”)? They’re a private corporation and are not obligated to follow the same rules as public schools.

The analogy between public education and publicly supported rail travel doesn’t really work 100%. Amtrak, while privately subsidized, is a for-profit company, operated by a single entity. Public schools, on the other hand, are all non-profit and are owned and “operated” by their communities.

Still, should a private company which receives public funds be obligated to follow all the government regulations and requirements that public companies follow? Private freight companies do, of course, have to follow the laws and requirements of U.S. and the states in which they do business. But they do have some latitude in some areas – for example, prioritizing the trains traveling their tracks.

Likewise, Indiana’s voucher law requires private schools to follow some of the laws regarding education if they accept public funding. The adults working in their schools must pass criminal background checks. Their students must take “the test.” The schools will be “graded” on those tests, attendance, and growth, just like public schools. If they don’t fulfill these and other, selected, requirements, then they may not continue to receive public funding.

However, private schools still get to “prioritize their own trains” by rejecting students who are behavior problems, or who function at a lower academic level. They still get to teach that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and that the Earth is 6000 years old.

And in Indiana, thanks to the privatization-owned super-majority in the legislature, any or all of those requirements may – and sometimes have been – waived so that private schools can continue to get public funds even when they fail to fulfill the requirements of the state.

Competition in the freight and transportation industries drives improvement. Travelers can weigh the pros and cons of train travel versus air or car travel, and make their own choices. Failure means loss of business. Companies come and go. The market creates winners and losers.

Competition in education, however, is counterproductive and dangerous. Failure of a school isn’t like the failure of a business. Children’s futures, the futures of their communities, and the future of the nation, are at stake. When we create winners and losers in the education of our children, we guarantee that some people will be successful and others will not, yet the more people who are successful, the better it is for our society. If we continue to prioritize some children over others, the whole nation loses.

The goal of public education is excellence for everyone, but competition produces excellence for only a few, and sometimes not even that. It’s a lousy metaphorical framework for education. Better, say, to talk about a garden on which we focus the full resources of the community to plant and water and tend living things to grow and mature without worrying about which one is tallest, sweetest or most vibrantly colored, or how we could best deprive one flower of water so that another can win a greenery contest. Education is not a race, and competition will not improve it. – Peter Greene, in Competition vs. Quality

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Constitution, DeVos, Lead, Pence, poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, Religion, vouchers

2017 Medley #28

Public Education, Poverty,
Privatization: Vouchers and Charters, 
Free Speech

PUBLIC EDUCATION: A PUBLIC GOOD

The Public Good

Do privatizers believe in “the public good” or is their philosophy, “I’ve got mine. Get your own?”

It’s selfishness. We see it in the Republican plans to lower corporate and wealth taxes, restrict health insurance and destroy Medicaid. They seem to want, as it has been since the Reagan Administration, the rich to get more while the poor, near-poor, and ever-diminishing middle class, make up the difference in taxes and labor.

It’s the same in education. Jersey Jazzman recently taught us that School “Reform” is a Right-Wing Movement. Vouchers, charters, and ESAs are selfish answers that don’t do anything to help the vast majority of American children who attend out nation’s public schools. On the other hand, they do provide a way to move public tax dollars into corporate pockets and religious institution bank accounts.

Our public schools are a “public good” which must be supported, improved, and strengthened, because the impact of public education is felt everywhere in the nation.

In this post, Sheila Kennedy argues for medicine-as-public-good, supported by public tax money and public investment. She uses education as an example of a public good at the same time that the “public” in public education is under threat from privatizers.

Stop treating medicine as private property—and start treating it as a public good, like education or infrastructure.

THE WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

Here are two excellent articles which discuss the purpose of public education…

Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake.

Why do we have public schools? What role does public education play in the “making of citizens?”

Our public-education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance not just themselves but society. Unfortunately, the current debate’s focus on individual rights and choices has distracted many politicians and policy makers from a key stakeholder: our nation as a whole.

Civics knowledge is in an alarming state: Three-quarters of Americans can’t identify the three branches of government. Public-opinion polls, meanwhile, show a new tolerance for authoritarianism, and rising levels of antidemocratic and illiberal thinking. …

We ignore public schools’ civic and integrative functions at our peril…

…In this era of growing fragmentation, we urgently need a renewed commitment to the idea that public education is a worthy investment, one that pays dividends not only to individual families but to our society as a whole.

DISPARAGING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Is the Purpose of Public Education No Longer Self-Evident?

The Trump Administration prefers private education.

Trump and DeVos freely disparage the institution of public education—with DeVos persistently extolling privatized charter schools and various private school tuition voucher schemes. The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss describes the damage being inflicted by Trump and DeVos on the very government institution for which they are responsible. After Trump once again disdained, at a recent Phoenix, Arizona event, “the failures of our public schools,” Strauss wrote: “But the larger effect of Trump’s remark is not that it is wrong but rather that it is part of a pattern of his — and of DeVos’s — to disparage public education as they promote programs that take resources away from public school systems…Such sentiments by Trump and DeVos, consistently expressed publicly, reinforce the myth that traditional public education is broadly failing students and that the answer is using public money for privately run and/or owned schools.”

The goal of the current administration seems to be to continue to bash public education in order to privatize it as much as they can before they’re (hopefully) thrown out of office.

If our purpose is a democratic and equitable society, test scores take us off-purpose. They distract our attention. Rather, our success is measured by how well we enhance health in our society, manifest civic virtues, behave as a society, and dedicate ourselves to the common good…

Is our purpose a democratic and equitable society? Do privatizers want a democratic and equitable society or are they satisfied with inequity and oligarchy? Is this who we are now?

We need to decide.

➥ For further reading on public education:

AMERICA’S CHILDREN IN POVERTY

America’s Dirty Secret

For too long we’ve been told not to “use poverty as an excuse” for low achievement, as if academic achievement was independent of, and unrelated to, children’s lives outside of school.

Punishing a school for its high poverty rate by closing it or charterizing it doesn’t change the fact that nearly one-quarter of American children grow up in poverty. Punishing a school for failing to cure children of PTSD, food insecurity, or homelessness, doesn’t improve achievement.

Why don’t we punish legislators for allowing so many American children to grow up in poverty?

The struggles of poor children have been omitted from our two-decades’ discussion about school reform as well. No Child Left Behind said we would hold schools accountable, instituted a plan to punish schools and teachers unable quickly to raise scores on standardized tests, and failed to invest significantly in the schools in poor communities. The failure to address the needs of poor children and their schools has been bipartisan. President George W. Bush and a bipartisan coalition in Congress brought us No Child Left Behind. President Obama pushed education policy that purported to “turnaround” the lowest scoring and poorest schools by closing or charterizing them. And Obama’s administration brought us the demand that states’ evaluation plans for teachers incorporate their students’ standardized test scores—without any consideration of the neighborhood and family struggles that affect poor children’s test scores or of the immense contribution of family wealth to the scores of privileged children. Neither Bush nor Obama significantly increased the federal investment to help our nation’s poorest urban and rural schools. The topics of rampant child poverty and growing inequality—along with growing residential segregation by income—have been absent from of our political dialogue.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

Two years ago today Gov. Snyder admitted to the #FlintWaterCrisis and people STILL cannot drink the water

Politicians are eager to blame teachers for “failing schools,” yet they often don’t accept responsibility for their own failures.

Why are children in Flint (median family income $31,424) still living with lead-poisoned water? Would children still be waiting if there was a problem with the water system of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan (median family income $104,000)?

Why will it take over five years to replace the lead and galvanized water lines in Flint? It’s because Flint is not a wealthy city. It’s an aging, former manufacturing boom town that has been forsaken by the industries that once made it great and by a state government that seems to have no idea at all what to do to revitalize these carved out husks with large geographical areas to serve on an ever-dwindling tax base. Most importantly, it’s full of poor people of color with little to no political capital.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

State’s plan could go national

Betsy DeVos, along with Vice-President Pence, love the Indiana voucher program, which drains tax money from public schools and gives it to religious schools with virtually no public oversight.

They like the fact that

  • tax-exempt religious schools are given tax dollars.
  • “failing” private schools can get a waiver to continue receiving tax dollars.
  • the vast majority of private schools (at least in Indiana) teach their favored religious tradition.
  • private schools can discriminate against expensive to educate students with disabilities, behavior issues, or academic difficulties.
  • religious schools can change tax dollars into converts.
  • religious schools can teach that the Earth is 6,000 years old, humans lived with dinosaurs, creationism explains all the living species on the planet, and God will protect us from climate change.
  • Indiana vouchers are now available to families earning more than $90,000 a year.
  • vouchers increase segregation

They don’t care that public schools are underfunded, or that private schools don’t perform any better than public schools.

This article is part of a series sponsored by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and Huff Post.

“The way it was rolled out was perceived to be more of a focus on our most at-risk students – to get them out of situations where public schools weren’t performing,” said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick. She is also a Republican, but this is one area on which she and her colleagues disagree.

“Now when you look at the data it has become clear that the largest growing area is suburban white students who have never been to public school.”

The latest report on Indiana’s Choice program shows less than 1 percent of those with vouchers were from a failing public school. And most of those using vouchers have never attended an Indiana public school.

There is no clear picture for what metrics should be used to gauge whether Indiana’s experiment has been a success. Yet, the program has exploded – from 3,900 the first year to more than 34,000 students.

➥ See also:

Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

“Reformers” insist that public schools are failing. They claim that privatizing schools will improve everything. So when charter schools “fail,” which they often do, they find another way to divert money intended for public schools.

…Originally a private Catholic school, Padua had become a “purely secular” charter in 2010, under an unusual arrangement between the local archdiocese and the mayor’s office. The school initially performed well, but soon sank from a solid A-rating to two consecutive F-ratings.

“These performance issues sounded alarm bells at the mayor’s office,” said Brandon Brown, who led the mayor’s charter office at the time. Leadership issues with the school’s board and at the archdiocese, he added, caused the school to falter. After receiving $702,000 from a federal program that provided seed money for new charter schools, the school’s board relinquished its charter.

In the meantime, Indiana had established a voucher program. So, instead of shutting down, the school rebranded itself as St. Anthony Catholic School, nailing its crucifixes back onto the walls and bringing the Bible back into the curriculum. Last year, more than 80 percent of its students were on vouchers, from which the school garnered at least $1.2 million.

➥ For further reading on segregation and charters

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

A chilling study shows how hostile college students are toward free speech

Do today’s Americans understand the First Amendment guarantee of free speech?

A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

That’s one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor.

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Teachers Unions, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #23

De-Professionalizing Teachers,
Anti-Intellectualism, Vouchers,
The Destruction of Public Education in Indianapolis

DE-PROFESSIONALIZING TEACHERS

The Many Ways We Are De-Professionalizing Teaching

De-professionalizing teaching is just one front of the war on public education. Nancy Flanagan addresses the confusion of privatizers claiming that becoming a teacher is too easy through the traditional routes…colleges and university schools of education. She talks about the difficulty of the new Florida test that teachers must pass in order to become a licensed teacher…and then goes on to remind us that the same privatizers want to allow anyone to teach in private and charter schools…easier paths to teaching.

Here in Indiana, for example, the EdTPA which pre-service teachers must complete, requires intense attention to, and hours of investment in, teaching and planning lessons…and at the same time, REPA III allows anyone with a content area degree to start teaching in a high school with no experience in actual teaching.

The point? De-professionalize teaching. End the existence of the career teacher who has the best interest of the students at heart. Instead, fill classrooms with idealistic young college graduates on their way up the corporate ladder, who don’t really know anything about teaching and will accept minimal pay for parroting direct teaching scripts…and who will leave after two years, thereby making room for other minimal pay teachers.

Drive out the career oriented teachers by making the requirements for teaching onerous and expensive. Bring in the unqualified and inexperienced who won’t ask for benefits or pensions.

The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of “community-minded” candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can’t support a family or buy a home on a teacher’s salary.

Emphasis on the word cheap. This is about profit and control, not improving education.

In addition to shutting out promising candidates by stringent testing or changing policy to allow virtually anyone with a college degree in the classroom, policymakers, spurred by ALEC and a host of education nonprofits, are also de-professionalizing by:

  • Messing with pension, retirement and insurance packages to encourage young teachers to move in and quickly out of a job that has no financial future.
  • Bringing community-based artists, musicians, sports trainers and library aides into classrooms that used to be staffed by certified teachers.
  • Confiscating teachers’ professional work–instruction, curriculum, assessment, collegial mentoring, etc. Decisions that were once a teacher’s prerogative are now outsourced to canned curricula designed to raise test scores, or standardized assessments that don’t take knowledge of students and their context into consideration. Who should determine the curricular frameworks, design lessons and set goals for students? Teachers and school leaders who know the students and community where they work? Or a Gates-funded, agenda-driven organization?
  • Defunding the schools where the vast majority of professionally prepared teachers are working.
  • Borrowing from the success universities have had, by designing “part-time” jobs (think: K-12 “adjuncts”) with pro-rated benefit packages, a lure to get good teaching for even less money than base pay.

Do You Think Every Child Deserves a Qualified Teacher?

New York is considering allowing anyone to teach…because, after all, it really doesn’t require any special skill set to stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and drill them on test prep materials.

The charter school committee of the State University of New York will soon decide whether charter schools will be allowed to hire uncertified teachers.

Forbes Says 18 Dumb Things

The Forbes article, Teacher Certification Makes Public School Education Worse, Not Better, by University of Chicago Law Professor, Omri Ben Shahar, announces that certified teachers are actually a detriment to our education system.

Peter Greene takes him to task on 18 of his statements which make no sense…to someone with any K-12 teaching experience, that is. Before you read Greene’s breakdown of Bar Shahar’s ignorant pontificating on a subject he knows nothing about, consider this…

Ben Shahar has three law degrees and two economics degrees. He’s spent his more than 20 year professional career working in higher education as a professor of law and economics. One look at his CV gives one a picture of a man who has spent decades perfecting his understanding of economics and law.

But nowhere in his experience has he spent time living and working with K-12 students and teachers. His claim that teacher certification makes public school education worse, is based on standardized test scores. One wonders if he would allow himself to be judged by the bar exam success rate of his students. He wrote…

…America has excellent higher education. Yet primary and secondary school students have long performed poorly on tests compared with students from many industrialized countries.

His understanding of what goes on in a traditional public school is based on what? His own experience? His children’s experience? What he reads in the media? It seems obvious that he based his entire argument on the fact that “many industrialized countries” have higher test scores than we do. The very fact that he uses test scores as the measure of K-12 public education success or failure underscores his ignorance. There are several reasons why the average test scores of American students are below those of some other OECD nations…and none of them have to do with teacher certification.

For example…

In other words, if you want to compare the achievement of America’s public school students to students in other countries, standardized test scores are probably the worst way to do it.

When Bar Shahar can match my 40 plus years of experience as a paraprofessional, teacher, and volunteer in K-12 schools, then I’ll listen to his reasons why teacher certification doesn’t work…

This is the final line of the article, and nothing in it has been proven in any of the lines that came before. Great teachers are somehow born and not made, and they alone can fix everything, and they are apparently distributed randomly throughout the population. Somehow by lowering standards, lowering pay, destabilizing pay, and removing job security, we will attract more of them and flush them out.

That’s 18 dumb things in one short article. I suppose Forbes could get better articles if they paid less and let anybody write for them.

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICA

Elevating Ignorance

It seems to be a source pride among some Americans, to be ignorant.

It’s irrational.

What is worth thinking about, however, is what has been termed “America’s Cult of Ignorance.” An article addressing that issue began with my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

VOUCHERS DON’T WORK, BUT THAT DOESN’T MATTER

Indiana Legislators Don’t Care About Negative Results of Vouchers

Here are some reasons that Indiana’s legislators don’t care about the negative results of vouchers.

Legislators don’t care. They want to send more money away from public schools. The results don’t matter. They have stopped claiming that vouchers will “save” poor kids from failing schools. No one was saved.

They don’t care. They want to do harm to the schools that enroll the vast majority of students.

Why? I don’t know. What do you think can explain their determination to throw more money into vouchers now that they know they are ineffective?

Betsy DeVos Is Not My Secretary of Education

There’s no academic reason for vouchers. Politicians and policy makers ought to quit pretending that they’re pushing the privatization of public education “for children.”

Then there is DeVos’s promotion of tax cuts for the wealthy under the guise of vouchers. Vouchers are another avenue for school choice. Students take the money allotted to educate them in a public school and move it to a private school in the form of a scholarship. Yet even voucher supporters must reckon with research showing vouchers don’t work. If the most recent studies show that vouchers don’t work, how does that create equity for our students? If equity isn’t the goal, then why the need to pretend we need vouchers for our most marginalized families?

INDIANAPOLIS: THE “DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION” (DPE) MOVEMENT

A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

This excellent post by Diane Ravitch explains how the Indianapolis public schools are being destroyed and privatized. The quote below is from a commenter…

Comment from “Retiredteacher

Privatization is like a creeping virus that slowing erodes the immune system and the ability to fight the infection. We have seen similar patterns at work in numerous cities. Privatization is the result of collusion between the local government and a variety of foundations backed by dark money, and it is supported by members of both major political parties. Supporters of public education must organize to fight back in the media, the courts and the voting booths. We should remind people that no system of privatization has ever solved society’s problems. The big byproducts of privatization are destruction of public education, increased misuse of local tax dollars, loss of democratic power, and increased segregation. Privatization is a massive shift of wealth from the working class to the wealthy.

Recognized charter school shuts down two Indianapolis locations

The last sentence below clearly states the bottom-line for charter schools…

According to charter school admission documents, the Shadeland Carpe Diem’s funding was composed of the following:

$245,000 Philanthropic Donation
$90,000 Federal Start-up funds (1st year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
The charter also gets $500/student from the Charter School Grant Fund. (This is a property tax replacement fund. Charter schools do not get property tax dollars.)

Like Indiana public schools, the Charter also received funds from the Common School Loan Program.

“In retrospect, it was really too fast, too soon,” said Carpe Diem Board President Jason Bearce. “We just weren’t able to get the enrollment to make the budget balance.”

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Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, DAP, ESSA, SBOE, vouchers

2017 Medley #22 – ESSA, A-F, and DAP, oh my!

ESSA, Private Schools, A-F, SBOE, DAP

FEDS MAKE A-F WORSE, STATE FAVORS PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Grad rates, grades to fall

A decision by the U.S. Education Department will result in thousands of Indiana students’ diplomas not being counted in graduation statistics causing dozens of schools to score lower on the A-F Grading System.

The fact that the USED can, with the backing of the federal ESSA law, lower the value of diplomas and thereby a school’s grade without any change in the actual achievement of the students is an indication that there is something wrong here.

The A-F grading system in Indiana has been wrong from day one. It’s been riddled with confusion and corruption. The original metrics weren’t adequate, said the State Board Of Education, so they “fixed” them. A former State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, manipulated them to increase the scores of favored schools. The mathematical manipulations have done nothing to improve student achievement or give patrons a better understanding of a school’s effectiveness. It has simply become a way to label schools and neighborhoods as “failing” (read “poor”).

This time, however, it’s the USED which is screwing things up.

As has been the case for the last couple of decades, the U.S. (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) seems hell-bent on making it more difficult for teachers and schools to do their jobs, and for students to learn. The only goal seems to be to humiliate students, schools, and neighborhoods where students struggle.

Local schools will see a drop in graduation rates – and related controversial A-F school grades – under a new interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education.

…McCormick lamented that the new Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to be more flexible yet the feds aren’t bending.

She warned that some schools might see their graduation rates drop into the 30 percent to 40 percent level.

…[NACS Superintendent, Chris] Himsel said, “I don’t even pay attention to the A to F stuff. It’s so not related to what we do for kids it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

While…many have lost confidence in that system it is still reported in the media and can cause harm to districts – especially along borders with competing schools allowing transfer students.

But, of course, we can’t let those nasties at the USED damage Indiana’s favored private schools. They’ll still get public tax money for teaching religious doctrine, fixing church steeples, and expanding parochial school buildings, even if their students don’t “measure up.”

After unsuccessful first attempt, private voucher schools use new Indiana law to win reprieve from A-F consequences

Four private schools with repeated years of D and F grades from the state will get to accept new voucher students next fall.

The Indiana State Board of Education today approved Central Christian Academy, Turning Point School, Lutheran South Unity School and Trinity Lutheran School’s requests for waivers after a failed vote last month would have denied them.

The requests take advantage of a new Indiana law passed in April that allows the state board to consider such waivers for private schools that can still show their students have improved academically.

Today, six board members voted in favor of the waivers. Gordon Hendry and Steve Yager were still opposed. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who also voted no last month, was out sick.

[Note: This method of ignoring “failure” for private schools while punishing the same “failure” in public schools is not unique to Indiana or voucher schools. It happens with charter operators, too. For another example, see Philadelphia: KIPP Gets Whatever It Wants, Despite Poor Performance.]

AND THE STATE DOUBLES DOWN

Test scores could get more important as state board looks to reverse course on A-F grades

To make a bad situation worse, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has decided that getting the right answer is more important than learning.

In an educationally indefensible reversal, the SBOE has chosen to give more weight to “proficiency” than to “growth” in figuring a school’s grade. The discussion was reminiscent of Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing (although at least the members of the SBOE appeared to understand the concepts), and members of the SBOE agreed with board member David Freitas who said that “Proficiency is more important than growth.”

This means that inadequate standardized tests, which are biased, advantage the wealthy, provide minimal feedback to classroom teachers, penalize non-standard thinkers, and use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores, will become even more important leading to more teaching to the test, focusing on “the bubble-kids,” and outright cheating.

[emphasis added]

Board members Thursday, though, said they think it’s more important to know how students are doing on the ultimate goal: performing on grade level.

“Growth, to me, is much less important than proficiency,” said B.J. Watts, a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher in Evansville.

Board members Tony Walker, Byron Ernest and Kathleen Mote said they, too, would like to see more emphasis on achievement. Walker said that if schools receive an A letter grade, the public should be confident they are already high-achieving.

“Right now, you can be on the road to high-performing and get an A,” he said.

GRADE LEVEL, DAP, AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

I challenge those members of the SBOE to define grade level. Anyone who has been teaching for more than a few years has seen the definition of grade level change. What was third grade in 1997 isn’t third grade in 2017.

It’s perhaps beneficial that expectations for what students can do should rise as humans grow and knowledge increases and changes. However, there is such a thing as “development.” Students develop at different rates. Humans are not the same. Using a measurement to help identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses is different than using that same measurement to classify a child as “successful” or “failing.”

Meeting students where they are, academically and physically, and helping them reach challenging, yet achievable goals, is called Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines DAP as

…an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.

DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.

This applies to older children as well, since the human brain doesn’t reach full development until sometime in the 20s.

Our obsession with testing…our obsession with trying to make all students learn at the same rate is not developmentally sound and it’s a statistical impossibility.

Punishing students, their teachers, or their schools, for not being “developmentally equal” to others is insane. Stop it!

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Posted in Curmudgucation, Early Childhood, Florida, Gadflyonthewall, ICPE-MCSCI, Killion, Politics, poverty, Quotes, RiseAbovetheMark, vouchers, Walsh

Listen to This #8

MEN IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

Calling Nurturing Men to the Teaching Profession

Most of my 35 years as a teacher was spent with students in grades K through 3. The quote below from Nancy Bailey suggests that it was difficult because of the strong-willed women I worked with. I can think of only one or two cases where I was made to feel unwelcome at the primary level from my colleagues.

It was much more difficult to deal with parents who were skeptical that a man could give their child the nurturing education necessary in the primary grades. Even worse, were those (few times) when parents actually requested another teacher because they didn’t want their daughters in my class. I understand the fear that makes a parent do that. The news stories of teachers who betray the trust parents have put in them and abuse children are frequent enough that there are some parents who would be scared to take a chance. I understood the parent request…but it saddened me.

From Nancy Bailey

Men who teach early childhood education have a lot of moxie. It can’t be easy to walk into an elementary school of strong-willed women who know the craft of teaching.

Some of my third grade students during recess on the last day of school, 1976-1977.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Why Churches Should Hate School Vouchers

Normally, I like to keep quotes short…one or two sentences, or a paragraph at the most. With this quote from Peter Greene, however, I felt like I needed to include two paragraphs.

Vouchers entangle Church and State, despite the ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court, and as such, are a danger to both the public schools and the church schools accepting vouchers.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State listed ten reasons for rejecting vouchers. At the top of the list…Vouchers Undermine Religious Liberty. They wrote,

…vouchers force Americans to pay taxes to support religion. This runs counter to the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. In America, all religious activities should be supported with voluntary contributions.

James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and other Founders strongly supported the separation of church and state and opposed taxation to support religion. As Ben Franklin succinctly put it: “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

From Peter Greene (Curmudgucation)

Somebody is going to try to cash in on voucher money or make a point or indulge in performance art, and taxpayers will be horrified to learn that their tax dollars are going to support a school that promotes satanism or pushes sharia law or teaches that all white folks are evil (I am confining myself to outrageous things that will outrage people– the list of outrageous things that people will happily put up with is a longer list).

So in the storm of outrage, taxpayers will demand that government make sure not to send voucher dollars to That School That Teaches Those Awful Things. Politicians will ride that wave, and before you know it, we will have a government agency whose mandate is to decide which churches are “legitimate” and voila– the Government Bureau of Church Regulation.

Op-ed: Myth busting Indiana’s voucher system

From Rocky Killion (See Rise Above the Mark)

Instead of throwing more money at this unproven two-system approach, Indiana legislators should use Indiana’s resources on proven strategies that will improve public education, including early childhood education, reducing class size, investing in professional development for educators, and assisting students who live in poverty. These are the strategies the best education systems in the world have implemented to become the best.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS: FLORIDA

FL: Death To Public Education

Indiana, North Carolina, Arizona, Ohio…all the states in which wealthy privateers are doing damage to public education…don’t reach the heights of damage done to the public schools and public school children of Florida, according to Peter Greene at Curmudgucation. And Florida is, frankly, a terrible place to be a public school student right now. In this post, Greene lists many of the things that Florida has done to support privatization while neglecting or punishing public schools. The third paragraph in the article contains a list of actions so despicable that only the most ardent “reformer” would fail to see the damage done to children.

The most recent legislation diverts millions of dollars from public schools to charter schools.

From Florida State Senator Linda Stewart quoted by Peter Greene (Curmudgucation)

The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

HYPOCRISY

More Truth in Teacher-Written Education Blogs Than Corporate Media

The entire “reform” movement – the obsession with standardized tests, the growth of charters and vouchers – has grown up and taken over as the status quo of American education with virtually no input from professional educators.

  • Have teachers been left out because teaching is a traditionally female dominated profession so the good-old-boys in state legislatures and board rooms across the country disrespect teachers as easily as they disrespect women in general?
  • Have teachers been ignored because “reformers” assume that going to school is enough “experience” to dictate how education ought to be?
  • Have teachers been silenced because millionaires and billionaires must be smart or they wouldn’t be rich, so we must listen to their “new” ideas for education?
  • Teachers comprise the last and largest labor unions left in the U.S. Are teachers shunned because destroying America’s unions in order to raise up the oligarchy won’t be complete until the NEA and AFT are relegated to the ineffectual level of other unions?

The hypocritical conflicts of interest within the political system are rampant, in which legislators and policy makers with economic and political ties to textbook and testing companies, charter management companies, and parochial schools, make policy for public education. Yet teachers aren’t consulted about public education policy because they might be “biased.”

From Steven Singer (Gadflyonthewall)

For some people, my position as an educator discredits my knowledge of schools. Yet getting paid by huge testing corporations doesn’t discredit journalists!?

POVERTY

School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

  • The status quo in American education is testing and punishing children, teachers, and schools. 
  • The status quo in American education is diverting public tax dollars from public schools to religious, private, and privately owned schools.
  • The status quo in American education is requiring “accountability” from public schools, while charters and voucher schools need not be transparent.
  • The status quo in American education is closing public schools and replacing them with charters instead of fixing them.
  • The status quo in American education is blaming teachers for student low achievement without society accepting a share of the responsibility for communities struggling with gun violence, drug and alcohol abuse, toxic environments, lack of health care facilities, and other effects of poverty.

From Russ Walsh

Those of us who continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education are accused of using poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Right up front let me say I am against the status quo and I have spent a lifetime in education trying to improve teacher instruction and educational opportunities for the struggling readers and writers I have worked with. To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.

POLITICS

About That Partisan Divide

From Sheila Kennedy

Today’s Republicans and Democrats do not share a belief in the nature of the common good. Democrats believe that government has a responsibility to ensure access to healthcare. Republicans don’t.

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