Category Archives: vouchers

Helping Students Heal

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. CANCEL THE TESTS

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

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

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

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

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

2. INTRODUCE A HEALING CURRICULUM

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

A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do

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

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

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

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

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

3. DIVERT MONEY BACK TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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

Research | Public Funds Public Schools

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

Private School Vouchers Don’t Improve Student Achievement…

Private School Vouchers Divert Needed Funding from Public Schools…

Private School Voucher Programs Lack Accountability…

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

Private School Vouchers Don’t Help Students with Disabilities…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Protect Against Discrimination…

Private School Vouchers Exacerbate Segregation…

Universal Private School Voucher Programs Don’t Work…

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

Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Says

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

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

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

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

2020 Medley #7

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

IT’S STILL POVERTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A TEACHABLE MOMENT?

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

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

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

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

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

STANDARDIZED TESTS — A LOW PRIORITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So don’t give them.

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

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

ONLINE INSTRUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

CHARTERS — A BAD RISK

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

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

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

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

VOUCHER PROGRAMS UNDERMINE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

School Voucher Programs Undermine Religious Liberty, Misuse Taxpayer Funds

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

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

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

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

TALK TO WHITE KIDS ABOUT RACE

White Fragility in Students

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

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

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

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Will Teachers Listen to Their Own Message?

A STATE THAT HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Last year around this time I listed a short (recent) history of the ways the Indiana Republican-dominated legislature and governors hated Indiana’s public schools.

In Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years I discussed how the legislature, under the leadership of Governors Daniels and Pence restricted collective bargaining for Indiana’s teachers, refused to acknowledge with economic support the value of experience and education among Indiana’s teachers, supported rules making it easier for unqualified non-professionals to teach in Indiana’s schools, withdrew due process from teachers’ rights as employees, and stalled funding.

At the end of 2019, Indiana teachers finally got the message and took it to the streets. On November 19th, 2019, fifteen to twenty thousand (depending on who’s writing the report) teachers and public education supporters marched on the Indiana Statehouse asking for more money for Indiana’s schools.

MORE MONEY FOR PRIVATIZATION

The legislature, under the leadership of Governors Daniels, Pence and Holcomb, has steadily increased economic support for vouchers since the first voucher plan became law in 2011. Similarly, support for charter schools has expanded since 2011. Meanwhile, support for public education has lost ground to economic downturns and to inflation.

The pro-privatization forces in the legislature decided to end the practice of electing a state Superintendent of Public Instruction. In the future, Indiana will be one of only a few states where the governor and the legislative majority have complete control over the state’s educational system from the Superintendent to the fully appointed State Board of Education. The people no longer have a direct voice in education policy in Indiana. (At this link to the Education Commission of the States note that Indiana will move from Model III to Model I with the exception that leaders of each legislative house will also appoint one member of the State Board of Education)

Indiana’s current Governor, Eric Holcomb, and the supermajority-based houses of the Indiana General Assembly have made it clear that the Red for Ed rally in November didn’t convince them that teachers actually mean business.

Teacher pay, according to the Governor, is still being studied, and according to the Republican leadership in the legislature, since 2020 isn’t a budget year, spending more money on public schools or teachers won’t happen. Teachers and public schools are going to have to wait for next year when the entire state budget is examined.

But they didn’t hesitate to dump more money-making deals on charter and voucher schools!

Today the Senate will discuss and vote on a bill that has an amendment that will allow charters to grab a share of public school money acquired through referenda. That same day last week that the Senate passed that amendment, they also ok’d a bill that refused to force the state audits of charters. Never mind that we, the taxpayers of Indiana, just lost more than $85 million on two fraudulent virtual charters.

Blogger Shane Phipps called the charter-school-sharing-referenda-cash bill villainous…

It’s hard to think of a more villainous move than the state stealing from the funds that desperate school corporations have to go begging for because the state is starving them of funding. If school districts were properly funded in the first place, there would be no need for any referendums. But in order to stay afloat, many districts have done the incredibly difficult work to get the extra money they need from their communities who are so generous to give a little extra for the cause of public education. And now you see your elected officials trying to rob public schools of even those funds. It makes me shiver to think what might be coming next.

In addition, the House has a plan to increase the taxpayer cost of vouchers by $6 to $12 million…because the increase to vouchers (which was several times larger than the increase to public schools) during last year’s budget isn’t apparently enough.

Both bills will be heard this morning, Monday, March 9.

WHERE ARE THE TEACHERS?

Where are the teachers in all of this?

Local teachers in Allen County are staging a Red for Ed day Walkin on Wednesday, March 11. This means that teachers will gather at the front door of their schools, wearing red, and walk into the building together.

Will the legislature hear that?

The proof will come in November. Will teachers hear the same message they sent to the legislature?

Will teachers and public school advocates join together to get rid of the privatizers in the legislature and work for those who support public education?

Will Republican public education supporters convince their Republican candidates that it’s time to support public schools and stop favoring charter schools and voucher accepting schools?

Or are the Governor and legislators correct in their assumption that the teachers who wore Red for Ed care more about the culture war issues that currently divide the nation than they do about their careers and students?

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2020 Medley #6: Public Schools Week

Public schools for the public good,
The failure of “choice”,
Where will we find teachers for tomorrow?

PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Public Schools Week ends today, though for ninety percent of American schoolchildren the celebration of public education takes place every day during their local school year.

Why do the vast majority of our K-12 students choose public schools? Because public schools don’t choose their students. Every child has a place in public schools. No child is turned away. All children are welcome: children with different gender preferences, children of any color, any or no religious affiliation, rich, poor, athletically or academically gifted, or physically or academically challenged.

We support public schools because it’s important for us to have a society in which everyone is educated. Educated citizens make informed citizens. Informed citizens make informed choices. Informed choices make for a better society. Jefferson wrote (perhaps naively)…

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be…Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.

John Adams envisioned a public school system that provided for publicly supported schools across the nation.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must 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 expense of the people themselves.

Public Schools Serve The Public Good

The public good is a concept that has always had to fight for survival against human selfishness and it’s no different in today’s world. Tribalism has replaced a shared public responsibility. We have become a nation in conflict, not cooperation.

Vouchers were born out of a desire to avoid integrating schools. When so-called “separate but equal” schools became unconstitutional in the United States proponents of segregation chose to close public schools and set up private schools using voucher programs. Today’s voucher programs benefit mostly religious schools that have the option to choose their students. Only certain students are allowed.

During Public Schools Week, we must recommit ourselves to defend the educational system that serves 90 percent of America’s children: our public schools. One way to do that is by opposing private school voucher schemes.

Reasons to oppose vouchers abound: The plans violate church-state separation and individual conscience because they force taxpayers to pay for private religious education. Voucher schools don’t improve academic performance. Many private schools engage in discriminatory hiring and admissions policies. Vouchers don’t require schools to be accountable to the public.

But there’s another equally compelling reason to oppose vouchers that often gets overlooked: Voucher plans subsidize private schools that serve a private interest, not the public good.

Five Threats To America’s Public School System

Those who feed the forces of tribalism distrust the concept of the public good. Since privatizers are in power, they are a very real threat to public schools.

President Donald Trump…

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos…

Private school lobbying groups…

Anti-government extremists: The simplistic idea that anything the government does is bad has a powerful hold on conservative thought in America. Because public schools are a very common manifestation of a public, government-provided service, they’re a high-profile target for ideologues who favor privatization of as many public services as possible…Never mind that public schools educate the vast majority of American schoolchildren and serve the public good.

Millionaires looking to make a profit: In her new book Slaying Goliath, education writer Diane Ravitch focuses on a band of millionaires (in some cases billionaires) who have decided to make education “reform” a priority. The problem, Ravitch writes, is that these would-be reformers don’t have backgrounds in education and naïvely insist that “market solutions” from the business community can be applied to a public service like education…

National Poll Shows Strong Voter Support for Public Schools

Americans support their public schools and are willing to pay for them, while most are unwilling to pay for private schools. That’s why voucher plans usually fail when put to a popular vote. States rely on legislators to fund voucher programs. [emphasis in original]

We surveyed likely voters. Here’s what they said:

Funding for Public Schools

  • 64% think funding for public schools should be increased
  • 26% think funding should be kept the same, and only 6% thinking funding should be decreased
  • Of those who believe funding should be increased, eight out of ten would support an increase in funding even if it meant they would pay more in taxes.


Public Funds for Private Schools

  • 73% agree with the statement we should NOT take away public funds from our public schools to fund private, religious, and home school education
  • 64% of voters are…less likely to vote for an elected official who supports taking away funds from public schools to give to private schools, including 47% who would be much less likely to do so

Schools And Other Shared Public Spaces

Curmudgucation’s Peter Greene is a fan of public education, the public good, and shared public spaces…

I remain a fan of public education in no small part because it is one of the last shared public places left, even as it is being whittled away. It is a space that reflects the big unruly mess that is a democratic-ish country, and yes that means conflicts and negotiations and an unending clash of conflicting values and goals. But the proposed alternative–these people want something different so they’ll just go over there by themselves–requires a continued breaking of relationships, a repeated running away from conflict in place of resolutions. In fact, a worsening of conflict, because once separated into private slices, everyone can just create cartoon strawman versions of Those People Over There to revile and deride.

I’ve been reading about the ideal for years–if you want to send your kid to a private school for left-handed druids who don’t believe in evolution but do believe in global warming, and who want to play in a marching band, well, then, you should be able to make that choice. Everyone should have their own choice of a hundred separate different school systems. But we already know how well “separate but equal” works out. And by demanding that such a ecosystem of parallel schools be organized by free market forces, we guarantee failure, because the free market is great for picking winners and losers, terrible for creating equity among disparate groups.

THE FAILURE OF “CHOICE”

National School Choice Week is actually about promoting certain choices over others

Those who are privatizing our public education systems are creating a system of winners and losers.

Surely some well-meaning parents and students celebrated. But they were joined by powerful people who, despite what they say, don’t believe that every child deserves a great school. Instead, these people believe in a certain kind of choice over all others. In their worldview, market choice is more important than democracy, parents are consumers rather than members of a broader community, and education is a competition between students, with winners and losers.

School choice costing taxpayers

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include information about the charter school scandal now swirling in Indiana…where virtual charter school operators paid themselves and their own businesses $85 million. The money came from state tuition support and included funds for students who were never enrolled in the so-called schools.

The legislature blames the Department of Education, despite the fact that the privatization laws passed in the Indiana General Assembly were lax enough to allow such cheating and conflicts of interest to happen.

This is not unique to Indiana. Privatizers around the nation regularly steal tax money from public schools. The Network for Public Education has been tracking charter school scandals. The current list includes more than two dozen scandals from across the nation in January 2020 alone.

For further reading: Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste

Blaming the Department of Education for the abuses of charter school operators is like blaming the BMV for the actions of a drunk driver. Responsibility for lax regulations and oversight for both charter schools and voucher schools falls squarely on Bosma and the GOP supermajority. In cozying up to the deep-pocketed school-choice community, they ignored glaring examples of corruption here and elsewhere. It was almost 11 years ago when The Journal Gazette first reported on the suspicious real estate deals surrounding two Imagine Inc. charter schools in Fort Wayne – schools that eventually shut down with $3.6 million in outstanding state loans.

Charter school scandals are so common that the Network for Public Education began collecting them on a website and tagging them on Twitter: #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal.

WHO WILL BE TOMORROW’S TEACHERS?

The Number Of People Who Want To Teach Has Dropped By More Than Half This Decade

Public schools are being starved by privatizers diverting tax money to charters and vouchers. Teaching in underfunded schools isn’t easy, so it’s no wonder that young people are turning their backs on careers in education.

Federal data shows during the 2008-09 school year, 18,113 people were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in [Indiana]. But in 2016, that number was cut by more than half; the programs training future teachers saw only 7,127 people enrolled.

What message are we sending to the future?
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2020 Medley #4: Vouchers, choice, and the misuse of tax dollars

School choice fails, Students give up rights,
Tax dollars for discrimination,
Choice and segregation,
Pilot “choice” programs are a trap

“…to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical…” — Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

INDIANA’S VOUCHER PLAN

Indiana’s voucher program began as a plan for low-income students to “escape” their “failing schools” and go to the private schools that wealthier people have always been able to afford. In order to qualify, then-governor Mitch Daniels insisted, a student must have spent at least one year at a public school.

Since its inception in 2011, it has changed into a middle-class entitlement program. Most students who get Indiana “scholarships” are students who have never attended a public school. A third of students who get Indiana “scholarships” are students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches. Less than one percent of Indiana’s “scholarship” students are “escaping” from a “failing school.”

Since private schools aren’t better than public schools, vouchers don’t improve academic outcomes for students.

The purpose of Indiana’s vouchers has changed. Supporters in Indiana no longer talk about helping poor kids get a better education. Instead, taking DeVos talking points, it’s all about “choice.” Parents will choose the best school for their children.

Finally, Indiana schools that accept vouchers don’t have to be accountable for the tax money they are given. At an education forum last month, my local state senator said that this was intended. They don’t have to be accountable. They get the money with no strings attached. Perhaps they’ll use the money they get for their school to fix the church steeple…or pay for the new football field. It doesn’t matter. The taxpayers shouldn’t care about accountability for tax dollars paid to religious institutions.

See also: James Madison’s 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” was written in 1785 in opposition to a proposal by Patrick Henry that all Virginians be taxed to support “teachers of the Christian religion.”

To this day, the “Memorial and Remonstrance” remains one of the most powerful arguments against government-supported religion ever penned.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Constitution (Article 1, Section 6), which seems to agree with Presidents Jefferson and Madison, states,

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

SCHOOL CHOICE

The current administration, supported by Mike Pence as VP and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, hates public education. In the State of the Union Address on February 4, 2020, the President sneered about “failing government schools.” DeVos, who purchased her job with political contributions, has called public education “a dead end.” Neither the President, the Secretary, nor any of their children, ever attended a public school.

Despite the lack of evidence, the administration chooses privatization over public education.

School Choice Fails Students and Parents

Ultimately, the school choice debate is a distraction from a sobering fact: the U.S. has failed public education by never completely committing to high-quality education for every child in the country regardless of their ZIP code.

There is no mystery to what constitutes a great school, high academic quality, or challenging education, but there is solid proof that almost no one in the U.S. has the political will to choose to guarantee that for every child so that no one has to hope an Invisible Hand might offer a few crumbs here and there.

STUDENTS GIVE UP THEIR RIGHTS WHEN THEY LEAVE THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights

When students participate in a voucher program, the rights that they have in public school do not automatically transfer with them to their private school. Private schools may expel or deny admission to certain students without repercussion and with limited recourse for the aggrieved student. In light of Secretary DeVos’ push to create a federal voucher program, it is crucial that parents and policymakers alike understand the ways that private schools can discriminate against students, even while accepting public funding. Parents want the best education possible for their children, and voucher programs may seem like a path to a better education for children whose families have limited options. However, parents deserve clear and complete information about the risks of using voucher programs, including the loss of procedural safeguards available to students in public schools.

SHOULD TAX DOLLARS BE USED TO DISCRIMINATE?

Anti-LGBT Florida schools getting school vouchers

Suzanne Eckes, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University asks, “Hey citizens of the state of Florida … Do you want your taxpayer money used in this way?”

Do the citizens of Florida want private schools that receive state dollars to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? Do they want private schools to be able to refuse service to certain groups of people? The article authors don’t come out and say it, but the answer is, apparently, “yes.”

All of the schools the Sentinel found with anti-gay policies were Christian, with the largest group — about 45 percent — Baptist, not surprising given that the Southern Baptist Convention says Christians must “oppose” homosexuality.

Nearly 40 percent of the schools were non-denominational and a smattering were affiliated with Assemblies of God, Catholic, Lutheran, Nazarene, Pentecostal and Presbyterian Church in America denominations, among others.

There could be more campuses with discriminatory policies, as some private schools that take the scholarships do not publicly post their rules, and a small number don’t have websites.

The schools with these anti-gay rules are found across Central Florida, in suburban DeLand (Stetson Baptist Christian School), near downtown Orlando (Victory Christian Academy) and in historic Mount Dora (Mount Dora Christian Academy). They are in Florida’s rural communities from Okeechobee to the Panhandle and its cities from Miami to St. Petersburg to Tallahassee.

The schools see the proposed legislation as an unconstitutional attack on their religious rights, and many likely wouldn’t change their policies, even if the scholarship law gets amended.

Subsidizing Bigotry

Columnist Sheila Kennedy points out the necessity of public schools.

As the country’s diversity and tribalism have grown, America’s public schools have become more necessary than ever. The public school is one of the last “street corners” where children of different backgrounds and beliefs come together to learn–ideally–not just “reading, writing and arithmetic” but the history and philosophy of the country they share.

Today’s Americans read different books and magazines, visit different websites, listen to different music, watch different television programs, and occupy different social media bubbles. In most communities, we’ve lost a shared daily newspaper. The experiences we do share continue to diminish.

Given this fragmentation, the assaults on public education are assaults on a shared America.

DESPITE BROWN v. BOARD, SEGREGATION CONTINUES UNDER “CHOICE”

Report: Where Parents Have More Choice, Schools Appear To Become More Segregated

Another not-so-hidden “feature” of school “choice” is economic and racial segregation.

…(families) are making judgments about school quality … but they’re basing those judgments often on poor data, on average test scores at a school, which is not a good indicator of school quality. And sometimes all kinds of biases can get in the way too. It looks like, from other research, that white advantaged parents often make decisions based on the number of other white advantaged parents at a school, not based on any real research about school safety or school quality or these kinds of important indicators.

DON’T GET FOOLED LIKE INDIANA

Don’t Be Fooled! Voucher ‘Pilot’ Programs Are A Trap

Legislators use “pilot” programs as ways of getting their pet projects started. Once a program is funded — even as a “pilot” — funding is easier to continue. Changes to the “pilot” program can come later, as in the all-inclusive changes to the Indiana voucher plan. It might begin as a restrictive plan, for certain students “in need.” Given the nature of political donations, however, it will undoubtedly expand…just as Indiana’s plan has expanded.

Last week a South Carolina Senate Education Subcommittee debated SB 556, which would create a new private school voucher program. Before the hearing, Americans United sent a letter to the committee telling its members to reject the bill because vouchers have been shown to harm students’ academic achievement, fail students with disabilities and violate religious freedom.

Sensing that a statewide voucher would be unpopular, some senators offered to make the program a temporary “pilot” or to limit its eligibility to a “narrow” population of students. Hopefully, South Carolina’s legislators won’t buy this false compromise.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Choice, Constitution, DeVos, Indiana, Jefferson, Madison, Privatization, Trump, vouchers

2020 Medley #3: Are we planning for the future?

Our Message to the Future,
Privatization: Church-State and Charters,
Literacy development,
The Opportunity Gap and Poverty

WHAT MESSAGE ARE WE SENDING THE FUTURE?

U.S. appeals court tosses children’s climate lawsuit

I won’t be here to see the next century when today’s infants will be “the elderly.” It’s my responsibility, however, to do what I can to help keep the Earth habitable for my children, and for their children.

…and for their children…and for their children.

Currently, the world’s adults have been unable to let go of fossil fuels and the political and social control that billions of dollars of oil and gas money provide.

Some of our children have become aware of this, so they are trying to take control of the fight against fossil fuels in a quest to save the Earth’s life-friendly climate. It was disappointing, then, to read the ruling that children — who will live on the Earth long after the Koch brothers and the current administration are gone — could not show “standing” to sue to protect their own future.

The term, “standing,” in its legal sense, is “the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.”

I’m not a legal scholar, but if anyone should have “standing” in a suit about the livability of the Earth in the future, it should be our children.

Judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “reluctantly” ruled in favor of the government in the kids’ climate case today, thwarting the young people’s historic legal fight while acknowledging the “increasingly rapid pace” of climate change.

The arguments presented by the 21 young people in Juliana v. United States proved too heavy a lift for Circuit Judges Mary Murguia and Andrew Hurwitz, who found that the kids failed to establish standing to sue.

“The central issue before us is whether, even assuming such a broad constitutional right exists, an Article III court can provide the plaintiffs the redress they seek—an order requiring the government to develop a plan to ‘phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2,'” Hurwitz, an Obama appointee, wrote in an opinion issued this morning.

PRIVATIZATION: CHURCH-STATE

Do you want your tax dollars to fund religious education? You shouldn’t.

Here is some food for thought while the Supreme Court ponders the fate of public education dollars going to private schools…

No taxpayer should be forced to fund religious education. This bedrock principle alone should convince you — and the court — to leave Montana’s constitution undisturbed. But if that’s not enough, consider the fact that a ruling in favor of the voucher program would also compel taxpayers to fund discrimination, religious and otherwise.

Private religious schools don’t adhere to the same nondiscrimination laws that public schools do. As a result, we have seen them turn students away because their families don’t share the school’s religious beliefs. They have barred admission because a student or parent is LGBTQ or a student has a disability. They have expelled students who engage in sex outside marriage. And some have fired teachers for being pregnant and unmarried, for undergoing in vitro fertilization or for advocating for the right to terminate a pregnancy. While not all private religious schools conduct themselves in this way, too many do, and taxpayers should not have to underwrite such discrimination.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charter Schools Have No Valid Claim to Public Property

Charter schools run by private companies have no right to claim public property as their own…even if they pay $1 for it.

Communities invest in their future by building and staffing schools for their children. The state shouldn’t have the right to give that property away to a private entity for nothing…or nearly nothing.

Charter school owners-operators have never stopped piously demanding that public school facilities worth millions of dollars be freely and automatically handed over to them. They righteously declare that they have an inherent right to public facilities produced by the working class. The consequences, of course, are disastrous for public schools and the public interest. For example, a new report shows that in 2018 more than $100 million was spent by New York City alone on charter school facilities.1 This is wealth and property that no longer belongs to the public that produced it; it is now in private hands, essentially for free. Even worse, existing institutions and arrangements provide the public with no recourse for effective redress.

LITERACY DEVELOPMENT

I decided to become a teacher in the early 1970s after listening to and observing my eldest child learn to communicate. The process of language development fascinated me.

I’m retired, but it’s still a fascinating subject.

Reconsidering the Evidence That Systematic Phonics Is More Effective Than Alternative Methods of Reading Instruction

Note the qualifying sentence in this research report: “The conclusion should not be that we should be satisfied with either systematic phonics or whole language, but rather teachers and researchers should consider alternative methods of reading instruction.”

After teaching language skills to children for more than 4 decades, I have learned that one size does not fit all. A mixed approach to literacy skills is important. All children learn differently.

Despite the widespread support for systematic phonics within the research literature, there is little or no evidence that this approach is more effective than many of the most common alternative methods used in school, including whole language. This does not mean that learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences is unimportant, but it does mean that there is little or no empirical evidence that systematic phonics leads to better reading outcomes. The “reading wars” that pitted systematic phonics against whole language is best characterized as a draw. The conclusion should not be that we should be satisfied with either systematic phonics or whole language, but rather teachers and researchers should consider alternative methods of reading instruction.

The Power of Using Writing to Enhance Reading

When you read, you convert symbols to meaning. When you write, you convert meaning to symbols. The two processes should be used together to improve a learner’s skill in both.

Currently, many educators take the stance that the biggest impact on literacy can be made by teaching reading and writing simultaneously.

Literacy researcher, Marie Clay, defines reading as a “message-getting, problem-solving activity,” and writing as a “message-sending, problem-solving activity (p. 5).” Essentially, reading and writing are two different avenues to help students learn the same items and processes. When working with struggling readers, taking advantage of the reciprocity of reading and writing can drastically speed up their progress. Teachers can use the strength in one of these areas to help build up the other.

Since reading and writing share much of the same “mental processes” and “cognitive knowledge,” students who partake in copious amounts of reading experiences have shown increased gains in writing achievement and students who write extensively demonstrate improved reading comprehension (Lee & Schallert, p. 145). When researching the impact of reading on writing achievement and writing on reading achievement, Graham and Herbert found, “the evidence is clear: writing can be a vehicle for improving reading. In particular, having students write about a text they are reading enhances how well they comprehend it. The same result occurs when students write about a text from different content areas, such as science and social studies (p. 6).”

THE OPPORTUNITY GAP

In an early 2008 blog post, I put up the following video (note: the organization which produced the video is no longer around).

A few years later, I found this interview with the late Carl Sagan originally done in 1989. This quote comes from approximately 5:10 and following in the video.

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century, more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them? This is stupid.

Will 2020 Be the Year of acknowledging opportunity gaps?

How long will we neglect the issues of poverty and racism before we learn that we will only succeed as a society if we all succeed?

It might be ubiquitous, but it’s still a loaded term. When educators, policymakers, and parents emphasize the “achievement gap,” they’re focusing on results like disparate dropout rates and test scores, without specifying the causes. They are, often unintentionally, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the children themselves. Listeners adopt the toxic presumption that root causes lie with the children and their families. In truth, outcome gaps are driven by input gaps – opportunity gaps – that are linked to our societal neglect of poverty, concentrated poverty, and racism.

Yet placing blame on children and families is pervasive. A 2019 EdWeek survey of more than 1,300 teachers found that more than 60 percent of educators say that student motivation has a major influence on differences in Black and White educational outcomes. The survey also found that student motivation and parenting were cited about three times more often than discrimination as major influences on disparate outcomes of Hispanic versus White students.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, Charters, climate change, Literacy, reading, Sagan, vouchers, writing

2020 Medley #2

Vouchers, Environmental Toxins interfere with learning, NPE, Why kindergarten teachers quit, NAEP, Reading aloud

SHOULD YOUR TAX MONEY BE USED TO EXPEL KIDS WHO LIKE RAINBOWS?

Louisville Christian school expelled student over a rainbow cake, family says

Kentucky has no plan providing vouchers for students to attend religious schools. Why is that good? As of now, private schools in Kentucky that expel (or force out) a child because they like rainbows, like the one in this article, cannot receive any state funding.

Depending on what happens with the case currently before the Supreme Court, however, this could change.

Public money for public schools!

A Christian school in Louisville expelled a student last week after her family said school officials discovered the girl had celebrated her birthday with a rainbow-themed cake.

Kimberly Alford told The Courier Journal that until Jan. 6, her 15-year-old daughter had been a freshman at Whitefield Academy, a private school at 7711 Fegenbush Lane that serves students in preschool through 12th grade.

That’s when Alford said she received an email from Whitefield Academy’s head of school, Bruce Jacobson, explaining how her daughter was being expelled “immediately due to a post on social media.”

Alford had recently posted a photo on her Facebook page showing her daughter celebrating her birthday in late December at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. In the photo, the girl is wearing a sweater featuring a rainbow design and sitting by a colorful, rainbow-themed cake.

See also: Gerth: This just in … God expelled from Louisville Christian school for creating rainbow

VOUCHER PROGRAMS DON’T HELP LEARNING

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights

From last May…

More reasons not to divert public money to private/religious school vouchers.

More recently, evidence has shown that these programs are not effective at improving educational achievement. Recent evaluations of certain voucher programs have shown no improvement in achievement or a decline in achievement for students who use them. For example, a Center for American Progress analysis found that the overall effect of the D.C. voucher program on students’ math achievement is equivalent to missing 68 days of school. Voucher programs are also not a viable solution in many rural areas of the country because these programs can strain funding resources in communities that already have lower densities of students and schools. Public funding should be used to ensure that all students have access to a quality public education, but voucher programs divert funding away from public schools. There have been a number of reports detailing how voucher programs provide public funding to schools that can legally remove or refuse to serve certain students altogether.

POISONING OUR CHILDREN…CONTINUED

The learning effect of air quality in classrooms

Yet another environmental issue that interferes with student learning. We know that environmental toxins like mercury and lead can cause damage to students which impacts their learning. Recent research shows that air pollution can also cause problems.

We’ve known for quite some time that pollution is bad for your health but researchers are documenting how it affects our brains. A 2016 Israel study found that high rates of pollution on the day of an exam tamped down high school test scores. The same students scored higher on different test dates with cleaner air. Boys and low-income students were the most affected. A 2019 draft, working paper of a study on university students in London also found that exposure to indoor air pollutants was associated with lower exam test scores. Again, males were more affected than females and the mental acuity problems were triggered by particulate levels that were below current guidelines at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

FUNDING FOR NPE

The Dark Money Behind Union-Owned NPE: Time to Fess Up.

Just kidding…NPE doesn’t take “dark money.” In fact, NPE hardly has any money at all when compared to groups funded by billionaire privatizers.

The short answer is that NPE is not funded by the “dark money” effort of millionaires and billionaires doling out money to puppet-string a school privatization agenda.

However, let us see exactly who funds NPE and who (like Stewart) is rolling in the dough as a result.

TEACHERS ARE LEAVING

Kindergarten Teachers Are Quitting, and Here Is Why

Appropriate instruction is better for the children. Good teachers understand that…and many are leaving the classroom to avoid doing damage to 5- and 6-year-olds.

• “I had to retire in 2017 because I could not take the pressure of having to force my 5- and 6-year-old students to sit with books… no talking allowed. …. I taught for 18 years and in the last 3 years teaching this stuff to my sweet little kinders I heard students cry, talk about how they didn’t understand, say they hated reading time, and act out. We were basically regurgitating the curriculum script. It was awful. I hated going to work that last 2 years with all the stress of academic achievement expectations… All administrators want to hear is the exact same stuff from one room to another from school to school.

• “Teachers have been complaining about more testing every year. And every year we hear, ‘We’ll look into that,’ and every year someone higher up decides, ‘We need more data.’ That, in turn, means more testing, more seatwork, and less play. I personally couldn’t take it anymore and took early retirement.”

See also: Let the Children Play, by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle.

NAEP — MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND LACK OF PROGRESS

We’re Pressuring Students to Read Too Fast, Too Much, Too Soon

First, the disclaimer: On the NAEP test, a score demonstrating proficiency does not mean “grade level.” It means that the test taker can competently handle challenging material. There is some debate that the scoring levels are set too high. See Curmudgucation’s post titled, The One And Only Lesson To Be Learned From NAEP Scores for a discussion of this.

Second, our scores on the latest NAEP moved very little from the previous test. Maybe it’s because there’s too much pressure on students. The main takeaway is that the “reformist” status quo isn’t helping to improve children’s learning or lessen any racial or economic “achievement gaps.”

Recent reading tests report that students’ reading comprehension scores show that just over one-third of students in grades four, eight, and 10 are proficient at reading. Researchers and education policy makers ponder the significance of little to no improvement in reading scores for students as a whole and the widening gap between our high-performing and low-performing students. What many of these thinkers fail to consider is the way education has changed. The system ignores that developmental psychology says when we push students too much and too fast we do more harm than good. The reading pressures we put on students may be one major cause of the stagnant scores.

WANT TO IMPROVE READING SCORES? READ ALOUD

The Most Powerful Family Ritual? The Bedtime Story

As if we needed any more reason to read aloud to our children (and students), here’s an article about the benefits of reading aloud at bedtime. One thing the author neglects to mention in his article is that reading aloud to a child is thesingle most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading…

Teachers and parents, if you’re not reading to your children every day for at least 15 minutes, you’re not doing enough. It’s never too early…or too late to start.

There is simply nothing more powerful than the bedtime story—especially in this age of continuous screen time. As we go deeper into the discussion, we start to see how the bedtime story is the perfect ending to the day. So let’s rethink and reclaim this special decompression time for both parent and child.

It is not just something we are doing for our kids—the benefits accrue to us as well. We don’t just read to our kids, we read with our kids. Here are five reasons why the bedtime story is the most powerful family ritual…

Setting Children Up to Hate Reading

This article is from February, 2014. I’ve added it here to help with the understanding of the article above.

The best way to teach children to read is to increase their interest and enthusiasm in reading.

The best way to get children interested and enthusiastic about reading is to read to them. Every day.

Pick up any book about normal reading development and you will find that young children progress when they are ready—at their own pace.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.” They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.

Why are young children being made to learn at a faster rate? Why is there this mistaken notion that children’s brains have somehow evolved to a higher level where they are supposed to read earlier and earlier?

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Filed under Article Medleys, Early Childhood, environment, kindergarten, NPE, read-alouds, vouchers, WhyTeachersQuit