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

2017 Medley #33

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

DO REPUBLICANS HATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN?

The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools

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

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

The Republican War on Children

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

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

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

TOSSED OFF FACEBOOK

The False Paradise of School Privatization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, this is just a marketing term.

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

Think about it.

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

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

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

READING: TESTING

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

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

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

Stephen Krashen continues to educate.

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

For Further Reading: 

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

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

READING: POVERTY

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

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

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

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

READING: COMPREHENSION

How To Get Your Mind To Read (Daniel Willingham)

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

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

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

VOUCHERS

Voucher Programs and the Constitutional Ethic

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

GIVING UP RIGHTS FOR PROFIT

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.

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

Listen to This #14

LEST WE FORGET

The Margaret Lambert Story

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

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

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

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

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

THE OVERUSE AND MISUSE OF TESTING. IT DOESN’T HELP KIDS

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

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

From The Hechinger Report

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

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

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

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

From Jenny Robinson

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

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

DEVOS: THE DAMAGE DONE

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

From Arthur Camins in Huffpost

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

A quarter of the schools Betsy DeVos has visited are private

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

From the Washington Post

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

The Hard Right’s Planning Document for Education

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

From Peter Greene

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

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

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

From Jan Resseger

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

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, dyslexia, OnlineLearning, Privatization, reading, special education, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #29

Teaching, Privatization: Vouchers, 
DeVos’s Attack on Special Education, Dyslexia, Screen Time as Textbooks

UNIQUE TO TEACHING?

Another Faux Teacher Memoir

Teachers are told how to teach by legislatures and are critiqued by pundits who apparently know everything about education because “they went to school.” Do we see this sort of behavior in other professions?

  • Are doctors told how to practice medicine by people who “know all about medicine” because they have been sick before?
  • Do you automatically know how to handle 150 high school math students just because you have a degree in math? Are you able to present content in a way that students can understand just because you know that content?
  • Would a chemistry major be allowed to dispense drugs at a pharmacy?
  • Would an anatomy major be allowed to practice medicine at a local hospital or clinic?
  • The majority of Americans know nearly 100% of the content taught by early childhood educators. Because you have internalized one-to-one correspondence or the concept of “story,” does that mean you can help preschoolers develop those skills and concepts? Since you know arithmetic are you automatically able to explain the process to 8 and 9 year olds in a way they will understand?

Teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. A teacher should understand learning theory, child development, and pedagogy. A college graduate with a degree in pre-law can’t hope to learn how to teach in a five week course as completely as someone who has had 3 and a half years of education training, plus a semester of student teaching.

It’s no surprise to Peter Greene, then, when a college grad with a pre-law degree, along with five weeks of TFA training found teaching difficult. I love his metaphor of Christopher Columbus…those who are lionized for “discovering” something that the professionals in the field already know.

…Is it the part where she puts in her two years and then leaves for her “real” profession (in this case, lawyer and memoirist)?

…I’ve seen all of these stories hundreds of times. The fact that Kuo tells a tale more nuanced than the infamous Onion TFA pieces doesn’t mean she isn’t working the same old territory. And while Kuo seems to be a decent writer, she doesn’t appear to have gleaned any insights that aren’t already possessed by millions of actual teachers (the majority of whom stuck around long enough to actually get good at the job).

…only in teaching do we get this. Students who drop out of their medical internship don’t get to write memoirs hailed for genius insights into health care. Guys who once wrote an article for the local paper don’t draw plaudits for their book of wisdom about journalism and the media. But somehow education must be repeatedly Columbusized, as some new tourist is lionized for “discovering” a land where millions of folks all live rich and fully realized lives. [emphasis added]

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Fla. Newspaper Exposes Host Of Problems In State’s Voucher Scheme

The problems with vouchers are similar nationwide. In Florida, for example, they have a problem with the lack of public oversight. Go figure…

…private schools in the state are accepting $1 billion a year in taxpayer funds with virtually no oversight. The result has been what you’d expect: a raft of fly-by-night schools, some of which use questionable curriculum, hire unqualified staff and place children in dangerous facilities.

Indiana school voucher debate continues

The Indiana State Supreme Court rule that vouchers don’t violate the state’s constitutional restriction on giving tax dollars to religious groups because the money goes to the parent. No matter how you look at it, however, tax dollars are going to churches which teach sectarian religion.

And, by the way, students in public schools are allowed to “speak about God,” too.

“I wanted an environment where my children were allowed to speak about God,” she said. Her daughter recently brought home artwork with a pumpkin that also included a picture of a cross.

…traditional public schools are subject to state Board of Accounts audits, while board meetings and budgets are public. Teachers must meet licensing requirements credentials. Also, private schools receiving vouchers also can be more exclusionary in who they admit.

DEVOS: ATTACK ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The Pharisaical DeVastation of Betsy DeVos

Remember, during her confirmation hearing, when DeVos was asked whether she supported the “federal requirement” protecting students with disabilities and it was clear that she had no clue what IDEA was?

Remember, during her confirmation hearing, when DeVos refused to say that all schools getting federal funds should be subject to the same accountability standards.

Why are we not protecting the lives of those who are already born? I feel that being “pro-life” is not a matter reserved for the issue of abortion and the unborn, but should include those who are living and need help.

Hubert Humphrey once said in 1977, “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

DYSLEXIA

Scientists May Have Found Out What Causes Dyslexia

I tend to be skeptical when someone says (or writes) that “the cause” has been found for something. People have a tendency to latch on to a “reason” and not let go. My guess is that the information in this study will be helpful for some students (and adults) with reading difficulties, but not all.

In my experience, the causes of reading difficulties – often labeled dyslexia, even when it’s not – are varied. As a layman (I’m a teacher, not a neuroscientist), I discovered early in my career that what works for one child, might not work for another, even though their symptoms might be similar.

I’m not suggesting that this line of research be abandoned. On the contrary, we need to continue to find ways to help children learn. We just need to be aware that there might not be one, single, identifiable, cause or remedy for reading problems.

It’s worth pointing out that this is just one study, and that plenty of other researchers view dyslexia as a neurological trait. Perhaps these visual differences are a consequence, rather than a trigger, of dyslexia. Additionally, people with dyslexia sometimes see it as not something that needs to be “fixed,” but a type of creative advantage.

Do We Need a New Definition of Dyslexia?

Some background information about Dyslexia…

1. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability…

2. …that is neurobiological in origin…

3. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities…

4. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language…

5. …that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities…

6. …and the provision of effective classroom instruction…

7. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

SCREEN TIME AS TEXTBOOKS

A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens

Special note to schools and teachers who have students read textbooks online…

…from our review of research done since 1992, we found that students were able to better comprehend information in print for texts that were more than a page in length. This appears to be related to the disruptive effect that scrolling has on comprehension. We were also surprised to learn that few researchers tested different levels of comprehension or documented reading time in their studies of printed and digital texts.

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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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