Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, CommonGood, SchoolFunding, Taxes, Teaching Career

2018 Medley #12

The Common Good,
(Lack of) Teacher Appreciation Week,
The Cost of Charters,
How Would You Change Public Education?

“THE TREADMILL AND THE POOR LAW ARE IN FULL VIGOUR, THEN?” – Ebenezer Scrooge

Republicans are paying for teacher raises with taxes and fees that hit working- and middle-class taxpayers

Ebenezer Scrooge believed that the poor should be sent to prison or poor houses paid for by the state. He believed that he had his fortune, and others could, if they were able, get their own. On the other hand, even Scrooge, at least according to Dickens, paid taxes to support facilities for the poor…

Most people are willing to pay more in taxes to support their public education systems so it makes sense for states to raise more funds to pay for public schools.

Politicians in Arizona have found a way to increase funding for schools without raising taxes on their wealthy donors. As punishment for teachers daring to ask for more money for themselves and their students, Gov. Ducey and his cronies are raising the money through regressive taxation which disproportionately impacts the poor and middle class. For example, one of the new taxes is a new $18 registration fee for cars, which represents a larger percentage of annual income for low wage earners.

There will also be a change in how the state pays for desegregation of public schools, paid for by higher property taxes in low-income school districts.

Similar types of revenue plans are on the table in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Corporate taxes are untouched, with the poor and middle classes carrying the load for the increased spending.

The concept of the “public good” is lost on these people.

Arizona teachers returned to class on May 4 after ending a six-day strike that closed nearly all of the state’s 2,000-plus schools. Educators returned to work after the state legislature gave them a 20 percent salary raise over three years and some extra funding for public education.

But there’s a catch: Lawmakers are going to make them and other middle- and working-class Arizonans pay for the raise.

(LACK OF) TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

This letter, written during Teacher Appreciation Week of 2012, is still current. Politicians and pundits talk a good game, but when it comes to actually appreciating what teachers do, they come up short.

The Indiana legislature, for example, is set to take over two public school systems. Included in the law which takes away the right of the people to elect their local school boards, are provisions rescinding rights for teachers.

This week is the annual celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians of every stripe and school superintendents everywhere will write letters and make proclamations stating how much they value the service and dedication of teachers everywhere. All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these ”leaders” have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation’s children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.

Finn’s Trouble with Teacher Strikes

How dare teachers ask for decent working conditions, up-to-date materials, and a professional salary. Just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week, Chester Finn wishes teachers were more compliant.

Finn’s argument against the strikes range from the creatively misguided to old-school insulting. He has, of course, completely ignored the part of this that is flummoxing many conservatives– the strikes are not simply about teacher wages but about teaching conditions. When you say teachers should suck it up and teach classes of forty kids, you are saying that parents should be happy to put their kids in forty-student classes. When you argue that teachers should stop whining about moldy rooms, you are saying that students should gladly sit in those rooms as well. When you argue that teachers should not get fussy about forty-year-old textbooks, you are saying that students should be happy with those books as well. Teachers work conditions really are student learning conditions, and when those conditions have been deliberately degraded by people who want to save a buck or leaders who want to drive more families into charter schools– in short, when those lousy conditions are the result of deliberate bad choices made by legislators, then all the teacher shaming in the world isn’t really going to help.

Finn says that if we want to ameliorate these conditions, “a great many things need to change in very big ways.” He’s correct, but those many things are less about teachers being uppity and more about state leaders actually committing to support public education.

CHARTERS – GREED IS NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN

Are charter schools private? In Texas courts, it depends why you’re asking

When it comes to taking public tax money, charter school operators shout, “Charter schools are public schools!” On the other hand, if there are requirements required of public schools that charter operators don’t like, then charter schools are “private companies.”

It’s not just Texas, either. See here, here, here, and here.

In 2006, in Dallas, a construction company sued a charter school, alleging that the school stiffed workers on a building contract to the tune of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Eight years later, in Houston, a third grade teacher sued the charter school where she worked, alleging that it had falsified test scores, that it failed to properly provide for students with disabilities and that mold in her classroom had made her sick.

Their claims did not make it very far.

The teacher couldn’t sue the charter because, the Texas Supreme Court said, it’s not a government entity. The construction company couldn’t sue, the same court said years earlier, because it was.

Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

How exactly do charter schools drain money from public schools? In the Public Interest has a report.

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, In the Public Interest has found that public school students in three California school districts are bearing the cost of the unchecked expansion of privately managed charter schools.

The report, Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts, calculates the fiscal impact of charter schools on Oakland Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District.

  • Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school.
  • The annual cost of charter schools to the San Diego Unified is $65.9 million.
  • In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.

FUND OUR FUTURE

If You Could Make ONE change….

John Merrow asks, “If YOU had the power to make ONE major change in American public education immediately, what would you choose to do?”

Unfortunately, ONE change won’t fix the problems associated with public schools since they reflect the society in which they exist. Schools need funding for more than simply one important resource. They need…

  • a well rounded curriculum including physical education and the arts
  • support services including school nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists, transportation, and academic specialists
  • early childhood education
  • special education
  • bilingual education
  • a stable, diverse, well-trained teaching force
  • teaching assistants
  • well maintained school facilities

In other words, all schools need the resources given to wealthy students, like those who attend Scarsdale Union Free School District, New York, or Weston School District, Connecticut.

The choices made by Merrow and his dinner companions were important, but only two of them acknowledged that the key to any change that stood a chance of having an impact on students was money. To his credit, Merrow’s suggestion, eliminating standardized testing, was the only suggestion of the five which would be free, and in fact save money. I would agree that, among other things, eliminating the waste that is the standardized testing program in the U.S. would be a benefit for all public school students and teachers.

Nothing will change, however, until the United States decides that its children are as important as, for example, its military.

“More money is a great idea, and so are equity and universal pre-school,” he said, “But I would want to do something that would make society commit to quality education.” He paused. “If I had the power, I would require every state to pledge to support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it states that education is a fundamental human right. That would move the needle.”

Later that evening I looked up the 1948 document, which has been translated into more than 500 languages. Sure enough, Article 26 states:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

At that point everyone turned to me, and, even though I am much more comfortable asking questions than answering them, I plunged ahead. “I would eliminate standardized testing.”

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Posted in ADHD, Personal History

What’s Bugging Me Today: Things Heard by an ADHD Kid

STOP THE ROUNDABOUT, I WANT TO GET OFF

A roundabout (aka traffic circle, road circle, rotary, rotunda or island) is a good metaphor for an ADHD life. When you approach a roundabout you need to note the entire traffic pattern in one glance. You must pay attention to all sides of the circle, watch for cars already in the circle and those which haven’t yet entered the circle. You also must make sure that you’re in the correct lane to exit the circle.

In life, as in a roundabout, events, objects, and people come at you randomly from all different directions at the same time and you must decide which ones to notice…which ones to pay attention to…which ones to listen to…and which ones to act upon. If you can’t navigate entering the roundabout of life, or can’t figure out how to get off, your stress level will rise, your ability to function decreases, and you get stuck. That’s life in the ADHD world.

As an example, let’s look at a discussion I had with my insurance company a few years ago about ADHD medications.

ADHD is considered a childhood disorder. This is changing slowly, but when this particular conversation took place most insurance providers balked at covering treatment for adults with ADHD. Therapy had to be described as treatment for depression or anxiety and medication was difficult to get since stimulants were rarely prescribed for any other medical problems. The latter issue was the basis of the problems with my insurance company.

My doctor had prescribed an ADHD medication for me and my insurance company required that he inform them of my diagnosis every six months in order to continue the medication. At one point, I tried to refill my prescription only to be told that it wasn’t covered. I called my insurance company.

ME: I tried to refill my prescription for [ADHD medication] and was told it wasn’t covered. I don’t understand. It was covered last month.

INSURANCE INDUSTRY: You must remember to have your doctor send us an update every six months to keep your prescription current.

ME: If I could remember that, I wouldn’t need the [ADHD medication]!

Similarly, many children and adults with ADHD have difficulty remembering to take their medication (assuming they can get it). This difficulty is a common symptom of ADHD…and would be alleviated if they took their medication…

Round and round and round…

FAILURE SHAME LOW SELF-ESTEEM ➔ FAILURE…

Academics is an area where the impact of ADHD is often felt the strongest.

The trigger for this post was the following story. It is representative of the experiences of many, if not most, children and adults with ADHD.

Uniquely Different

In 3rd grade, my mother was once again called to the school to speak with my teacher who told her “Buddy should be removed from normal class and maybe put into special education. He’s quite stupid and I don’t think he has the mental capacity to learn.”

That did it!

Needless to say, my mother lost her temper with the teacher. A school psychologist was called in and I was rigorously tested for the next 3 months.

I was given reading tests, writing tests, interest assessments, personality tests, IQ testing, and weekly visits for counseling.

When it was all said and done, the psychologist called a meeting with me, my teacher, and my mother.

Not only …

He told them “You’re right that Buddy should be pulled from your class, but not because he can’t learn. Your class probably bores him.”

Then he informed them that I was reading at a high school level, I was registering 136 on his IQ testing (which apparently meant something), and that I was a visual/active learner that would always have issues with memorizing things that I didn’t find interesting.

More negative

In typical fashion, my teacher’s commentary changed at that point from “He’s stupid” to “He is just not applying himself”. I was given the opportunity to participate in some advanced activities, but I was still required to learn the things that I was struggling with at the start. No one at that time ever mentioned ADD or ADHD and there was no talk of medication.

After reading this story, especially the final paragraph, I thought about two of my teachers…

Mrs H, my eighth grade math teacher who frequently and publicly shamed me for my failure to pay attention and achieve. When I started my own teaching career I vowed never to be anything like her. I met with mixed success on that…much to my own disappointment.

Mrs. G, my high school English teacher who recognized that I had, at least some ability, but kept harping on the fact that I didn’t try hard enough. I’ve often wanted to find her and talk to her…to tell her, “See, I was successful and it had nothing to do with not trying hard enough.” Sadly, I waited too long and she passed away last year.

NEGATIVE VOICES…FAILURE TO LIVE UP TO EXTERNAL EXPECTATIONS

Throughout their years of growing up, children with ADHD are fed constant negative messages: sit still, pay attention, you’re just not applying yourself, you just don’t give a damn.

Those negative messages are reinforced throughout our lives and feed a pattern of failure and shame in a vicious circle – a roundabout – of frustration.

this negative chatter, the inner critic, that voice inside our head that creates doubts and worries, saying things like “you’ll never be able to complete this”, “this isn’t good enough”, “you aren’t smart enough”. However, the inner critic may be stronger in people with ADHD due to childhood struggles.

If you grew up with ADHD you probably grew up with negative messages like these

You’re lazy.
You’re not good enough or smart enough.
You’re stubborn.
You can’t do anything right.

You also probably grew up with many hardships, including a poor academic record, parental disapproval and frequent punishments

I heard them all…and others like…

What were you thinking?
You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on!
You could do better if only you would try harder.

TRY HARDER

The advice to “try harder” is understandable. If you don’t have trouble with ADHD symptoms, then it seems like it’s only a matter of effort to keep you focused, keep you awake when you’re supposed to be studying, and keep you sitting still when you’re in class.

But it takes more than just effort, and the constant negativity, the constant feelings of failure, the constant inability to measure up, takes its emotional toll. As a result, ADHD is often accompanied by other mental health issues like depression or anxiety disorders. The difficulty of overcoming the emotional and social deficits caused by ADHD and it’s accompanying problems makes the suggestion to “try harder” seem silly at best…insensitive and cruel at worst.

A child with ADHD might sit down to do homework and find themselves distracted by various visual or auditory stimuli or they might fall asleep while working only to awake hours later with the work undone.

A child with ADHD might enter their classroom promising themselves to pay attention and then find their mind wandering to the sound of the teacher’s voice, the light from the sun reflecting off of passing cars outside the classroom, the noise of shuffling feet, or the hum of the fluorescent lights above their head.

Trying harder isn’t the problem. Saying “pay attention” won’t help. Shaming the child for “drifting away” only adds to the roundabout of failure.

OVERCOMING THE NEGATIVE VOICES

For some children – and adults – the only way to learn to navigate entrance and exit from the roundabout is with treatment, either with therapy, medication, or both.

ADHD is like any other condition, but because it is unseen and hard to diagnose…because it’s a neurological disorder, there’s a tendency to feel embarrassment and to deny that it exists.

But denying that ADHD is a real disorder can be as damaging as it would be to deny that a vision or hearing impairment exists…as damaging as ignoring a diagnosis of diabetes or  kidney failure.

Parents of ADHD children should get treatment for their children.

Teachers of ADHD children should educate themselves about the disorder, practice patience and understanding, and treat children with ADHD the same as they would any child with a condition affecting their learning.

Adults with ADHD need to get treatment and learn how to overcome the voices of criticism and shame.

Most of all, anyone who is, or works with a person with ADHD, would do well to heed the advice of Terry Matlen, a psychotherapist specializing in ADHD.

“Surround yourself with people who celebrate who you are, and let go of toxic relationships,” Matlen said. Initially, you might’ve picked people who tear you down, because that’s what you thought you deserved, she said. Again, remember ADHD is not a deep-seated flaw, but a real neurobiological disorder. “[F]ind a team of professionals, a group of loving, caring individuals who want to see you succeed.”

Once people with ADHD get the support they need from medical and mental-health professionals, family, and friends, they can learn to navigate the ins and outs of life’s roundabout.

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Posted in Gadflyonthewall, reform, SchoolShootings

Sabotage and Hypocrisy

We have two awards to present today. First, a positive one for language usage.

WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING AWARD

It’s NOT Education Reform – It’s School Sabotage

Steven Singer (Gadflyonthewall Blog) has found the perfect label to describe what’s happening to America’s public education system. So-called “reformers” aren’t reforming anything. They’re destroying public education through starvation. Singer’s title, “School Sabotage” is perfect.

Here’s an internet definition of sabotage. It reads,

n. Destruction of property or obstruction of normal operations, as by civilians or enemy agents in time of war.
n. Treacherous action to defeat or hinder a cause or an endeavor; deliberate subversion.
v. To commit sabotage against.

The second meaning is the one that’s most apropos for what’s happening to public education. It’s deliberate and treacherous. It’s aim is to destroy public education.

The saboteurs of public education

  • claim that public schools are failing and that teachers are at fault.
  • then, use the false narrative of failing public schools to pass laws which damage public education further and make the teaching profession less attractive.
  • then, because of the resulting teacher shortage, lower the qualifications for teachers in order to find enough bodies to fill classroom positions.
  • then, redirect tax dollars from public schools to private and privately run schools, further starving public schools.
  • then, support tax cuts which benefit the wealthy and reduce the amount of money available for public services, like public education.
  • then, blame the decimated and demoralized teaching force for not increasing student achievement in underfunded and under-resourced schools.

“…Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.”

From Steven Singer

Henceforth, “Education Reform” shall be Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.

It is about deliberately obstructing goods and services that otherwise would help kids learn and repurposing them for corporate benefit.

Likewise, I propose we stop using the term “School choice.” Instead, call it what it is – School Privatization.

HYPOCRISY AWARD

The second award goes to the NRA…for flagrant and unadulterated hypocrisy.

NRA Convention Bans Guns To Protect Mike Pence. Parkland Survivors’ Jaws Drop: Parkland teens are calling out the gun group for hypocrisy.

The NRA Convention, set to convene this week in Dallas, has gone along with the Secret Service requirement to ban weapons during Vice President Pence’s visit.

The teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have called them out for their hypocrisy.

Teens who survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed, are wondering why the NRA fiercely resists extending the same safety considerations to other areas to safeguard children. The NRA wants “guns everywhere” when it comes to kids, tweeted Matt Deitsch, a Parkland student who helped organize the March for Our Lives rally for stricter gun laws in Washington.

Arming teachers seems to be the most popular NRA-backed “solution” to mass school shootings. The Trump administration wants to “harden school security” with

“rigorous” firearms training for “specially qualified” school personnel

The NRA blames mass shootings on the media and thinks that armed school personnel is the answer to school shootings. As Wayne LaPierre has so famously said,

The only way to stop s bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

Did anyone in the NRA notice that they’re not allowed to take guns into their own convention? The children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School noticed.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Lead

2018 Medley #11: What’s In Your Water?

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

In a recent blog post, I noted that Governor Snyder of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over. The state has stopped distributing bottled water.

Unfortunately, the state’s record of truth-telling on the condition of Flint’s water is suspect and the residents aren’t sure they’re safe from poisoning.

The Flint Water Crisis Isn’t Over

But many of the city’s residents don’t much believe the water’s safe. Who can blame them? Because of decisions made by state-appointed emergency managers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, they were forced to use water laced with dangerously high levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin, and contaminated by bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease, which claimed at least 12 lives during the 18 months the city used the Flint River as its municipal water source. Despite the concerns voiced by residents and mounting scientific evidence that a massive problem existed, those same officials repeatedly offered assurances that the water was safe and attacked the credibility of those attempting to reveal the truth.

Gov. Snyder’s termination of the free bottled water program has met intense resistance. Flint mayor Karen Weaver has threatened legal action. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who proved blood lead levels in children dramatically increased after the switch to the river, tweeted that bottled water should continue to be provided until all the city’s lead service lines are replaced. Residents agree, with many expressing concerns that unfiltered tap water can still pose a significant risk.

They are right. Lead testing done by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in February found 28 water samples in elementary schools that registered above the federal lead limit of 15 parts per billion.

A Slow Death for Our Children.

Flint, a city of around a hundred thousand where nearly two-thirds of the citizens are people of color, has a child poverty rate of more than sixty percent. This alone would account for low school achievement given the correlation between poverty and achievement. We know that the stresses of poverty have an impact on brain development. When the effect of lead poisoning is factored in, the conditions for learning become even more at-risk.

Is Flint’s Water Crisis Leading to Lower Test Scores?

“Even the very lowest levels of exposure, we know that lead erodes a child’s IQ, shortens attention span and disrupts their behavior,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and the dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The New Republic. “We know when we do follow-up studies that children exposed when they were kids are more likely to be dyslexic, have behavioral problems and get in trouble with the law. There’s no question about that.”

There’s no scientific proof, as yet, that the lead-in-the-water-crisis has lead to lower achievement, but it certainly hasn’t helped, and the future of the children whose development has been compromised by both poverty and lead-poisoning is in jeopardy.

Michigan governor says Flint water crisis over, educator says fallout just beginning

We have no idea what the future holds for the children impacted by the toxic levels of lead in the water, but don’t limit expectations for these students. I go to work every day and I know that Flint kids are smart and creative and talented, but they may have special needs related to their long-term exposure to toxic levels of lead. We want to lift them up, listen to their frustrations or anxieties and implement restorative justice practices to provide them with the support they need. Educators can check out lesson plans on how we talk about this crisis and how we help our students have this conversation at any grade level.

Educators have developed a web site, Flint Cares, which “provides information on what to look for and links to help students experiencing the emotional and physical effects of lead poisoning,” but will that be enough?

  • Will the state provide enough money to support the education of large numbers of students whose lives have been affected by lead poisoning?
  • Will test scores of students who have been poisoned by lead cause school closures?
  • Will teacher evaluations be lowered for those teachers who choose to work with difficult-to-educate students?
  • Will schools be punished for the low test scores of lead-impacted students?

In other words, will schools and children be punished for the damage done to them by state neglect and mismanagement?

From Eclectablog, as of April 29, 2018. Click for link to Eclectablog.

FUTURE IMPACT

I’ve discussed the relationship of lead exposure to school achievement, but there’s also a correlation of lead poisoning to crime.

Will the State of Michigan take responsibility for an increase in crime as lead-exposed children grow up?

An Updated Lead-Crime Roundup for 2018

The lead-crime hypothesis is pretty simple: lead poisoning degrades the development of childhood brains in ways that increase aggression, reduce impulse control, and impair the executive functions that allow people to understand the consequences of their actions. Because of this, infants who are exposed to high levels of lead are more likely to commit violent crimes later in life. There are three types of research that confirm the connection between lead and crime…

Lead Exposure and Violent Crime in the Early Twentieth Century

In the second half of the nineteenth century, many American cities built water systems using lead or iron service pipes. Municipal water systems generated significant public health improvements, but these improvements may have been partially offset by the damaging effects of lead exposure through lead water pipes. We study the effect of cities’ use of lead pipes on homicide between 1921 and 1936. Lead water pipes exposed entire city populations to much higher doses of lead than have previously been studied in relation to crime. Our estimates suggest that cities’ use of lead service pipes con- siderably increased city-level homicide rates.

WHAT’S IN YOUR WATER?

Lead exposure in the U.S. is widespread.

Chicago’s drinking water is full of lead, report says

Toxic lead has been seeping into Chicago’s drinking water, and the city is dragging its feet to fix the problem, according to an analysis published Thursday by the Chicago Tribune.

Lead was found in 70 percent of the 2,797 homes the Tribune sampled across the city since January of 2016. And three in 10 of those had lead concentrations higher than 5 parts per billion (ppb), the Food and Drug Administration’s upper limit for lead in bottled water.

Unsafe Lead Levels in Tap Water Not Limited to Flint

Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in Durham and Greenville, N.C., in 2006; in Columbia, S.C., in 2005; and last July in Jackson, Miss., where officials waited six months to disclose the contamination — as well as in scores of other places in recent years.

The State of Michigan has yet to take full responsibility for the water crisis in Flint. Chicago is slow to respond to the lead in its water. Do you think that the EPA, under Scott Pruitt will take any action? Do you think Betsy DeVos is going to help?

We’ve known about the damage caused by lead exposure for a long time, yet we’re still slow to clean up lead in our environment. Lead poisoning and its related human damage is preventable…but only if we choose to prevent it.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, FirstAmendment, NAEP, retention, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

2018 Medley #10

Teacher Activism, Retention-in-Grade,
Charters, Testing,
First Amendment, Science

TEACHER ACTIVISM

The 9 states where teachers have it worst

According to CBS teachers have it pretty good, specifically because of pensions,  which they imply make up for low salaries…a debatable proposition at best. Why, if pension programs are so great, did we stop providing them?

In the meantime, Indiana teachers have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings drop by nearly 16 percent since 2000. Have Indiana legislators seen the same drop? What about the CEOs of Indiana’s Fortune 500 companies – Eli Lilly, Anthem, Cummins, Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, NiSource, and Simon Property Group? Have they seen the same loss of income? Would you like to hazard a guess?

As a sample, click here for the salaries of Eli Lilly’s executives.

So Indiana is having trouble finding enough teachers. What a surprise.

From CBS News

Pay for Indiana teachers has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since 1999-2000, according to the Department of Education. They now earn almost 16 percent less.

Average annual pay is about $50,500, slightly lower than the national average.

Indiana is having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill its classrooms, with some pointing to pay as a culprit.

“People won’t be as interested in going into a field where they will have to take a huge lifetime pay cut,” said Partelow of the Center for American Progress’. 

Bill Maher Zings Eric And Donald Trump Jr. As He Comes Out Fighting For Teachers

Perennially obnoxious Bill Maher comes up with a commentary in honor of the teachers on strike…

From Bill Maher

We pay such lip-service to kids…they’re the future, our greatest natural resource, we’ll do anything for them. And then we nickel and dime their teachers?

If we really think children are our future, shouldn’t the people who mold their minds make more than the night manager at GameStop?

…Here’s an idea. Don’t give the teachers guns, give them a living wage. 

‘I need a college degree to make this?’ asks Arizona teacher who posted salary online

Arizona teacher Elisabeth Milich reminds us that teachers are underpaid because school systems are underfunded. In what other job would you be forced to buy your own paper clips and tape? Do the CEOs in the article, above, have to buy their own sharpies?

From Elisabeth Milich

I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip i use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.

HOW DOES RETENTION HELP TEST RESULTS

Reforms that work: Worldwide data offer useful hints for US schools

Education “reform” in the United States requires us to use unfounded and even damaging education practices such as retention in grade. Dozens of U.S. states require third graders to pass a test in order to move to fourth grade. Research has found that retention in grade is ineffective in raising student achievement and retention in grade based on a single test is tantamount to educational malpractice.

In Indiana, however, retention of children in third grade is grounds for celebrating. With the lowest achieving third graders removed from the pool, those who did move to fourth grade scored a higher achievement average on the NAEP. High enough to brag about…

Want your students to score higher on standardized tests? Simply remove the low achievers.

From the Editorial Page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The IREAD 3 exam, which third-graders must pass to be promoted to grade 4, went into effect in 2012. As a result, 3 percent of Indiana students were retained that year.

“Those who weren’t held back took the fourth-grade NAEP tests in 2013, and got positive attention for how well they did,” Hinnefeld noted. “Advocates credited Indiana reforms like expanded school choice and limits on teacher collective bargaining. But a more likely explanation is that removing the lowest-performing students gave the 2013 fourth-grade scores a boost.”

CHARTERS AND TESTING

Indiana students’ scores lag after transferring to charter schools, new study shows

Another Educational “reform” popular in Indiana is the expansion of charter schools. When a district’s poverty levels rise too high, resulting in lower achievement on tests, the state moves in and hands the school over to private charter operators.

The only problem is…the charter schools are, as we’ve said so many times before, no better. In fact, a recent study shows that kids lose achievement points after transferring to charter schools.

From Shaina Cavazos at Chalkbeat

“Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

Never one to miss tossing in an excuse for privatization, Chalkbeat uses an excuse despite the fact that “no excuses” is the cry used by “reformers” to declare public schools “failing.”

ISTEP scores during this time, the researchers note, were not the most reliable. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, test glitches and scoring problems invalidated thousands of students’ scores. Also during this time, the academic standards on which the tests were based changed, as did the test itself and the company that administered it.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

DHS to Track Thousands of Journalists

Where are the people who were marching to protect the Second Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From Ed Brayton

Mr. Orwell, please report to your office immediately.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”…”

SCIENCE DEFIERS

Gang of Foxes

The science deniers in the current administration are trying to remove the barriers protecting us from poisoned air and water.

From Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama for Strategy and Communications.

We do sort of gloss over the f-ing insanity of the fact that one of our [political] parties not only doesn’t believe in climate change, but is actively trying to make it worse.

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Posted in Article Medleys, CommonGood, Lead, reading, reform, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers, writing

2018 Medley #9

Lead, Trump’s Spelling Problem,
Vouchers, Testing, School Funding,
The Common Good, Bi-partisan Privatizers

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

Less than a month after tests show elevated lead levels in Flint, state stops distributing bottled water

The State of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over even though some elementary school water tests still show high lead limits.

Long term effects of childhood lead exposure include learning disabilities, speech disorders, lowered IQ, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity. The city of around 100,000 is more than 50% African-American. 41% of its residents live below the poverty line.

Nestlé, on the other hand, gets all the crystal clear Michigan water it wants.

“Recent water tests at elementary schools in Flint have found an increase in samples showing lead levels above the federal action limit.”

That’s the opening line in an article in The Detroit News less than one month ago. Despite this, the state of Michigan, just days after turning control over the city back to local elected officials, declared the Flint Water Crisis over and announced that it is discontinuing providing bottled water to the city’s residents.

…the decision was announced a mere three days after the Snyder administration announced that it was approving a permit for Nestlé Waters North America to increase its withdrawal of ground water to produce Ice Mountain bottle water from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — 576,000 gallons per day.

…as of April 11, 2018.

IMPROOV YUR SPELING

Trump would be better at spelling if he read

Stephen Krashen has some advice for our president. Less tweeting. More reading.

The March 26 letter “B-I-A-S” suggested that The Post has reached a “new low” in commenting on President Trump’s spelling errors. I don’t think The Post went deep enough. Mr. Trump’s poor spelling reflects problems far more serious than a failure to proofread. My research on language acquisition shows that poor spelling is often the result of not having a reading habit. Studies also show that those who read a lot know more about history and science. They also have greater empathy for others and understand that the world is complex. Mr. Trump is a perfect example of a nonreader, and his lack of a reading habit has hurt all of us.

VOUCHERS

Cumulative effect: Individual district budgets don’t fully reflect vouchers’ drain

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1780 letter to Richard Price, wrote

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

The same is true of religious schools, which is why tax dollars should be reserved for public schools.

98% of schools receiving vouchers in Indiana are parochial schools. The other 2% are non-religious private schools.

The impact of the voucher program is not based on how many vouchers are used in your district. It is based on each year’s voucher program cost to the Tuition Support budget across the state, regardless of the number of vouchers used within the district. For example, Lebanon Schools lost more than $530,000, Plainfield Schools lost more than $770,000, and Carmel Schools lost more than $2,365,000 this year. Currently, there are 23 school districts where no vouchers are used. They are small districts and the voucher program costs them more than $4 million this year combined. Peru Schools is the largest of these districts and it lost more than $321,000.

Here are this year’s losses in Allen County: East Allen County Schools, $1.38 million; Fort Wayne Community Schools, $4.47 million; Northwest Allen County Schools, $1.13 million; and Southwest Allen County Schools, $1.08 million.

To make this complicated issue much simpler, and in honor of Fiona and Pi Day (March 14), think of a loganberry pie. Indiana has baked a smaller pie and expects it to feed a larger number of people. More kids, fewer dollars.

TESTING

The Testing Thermostat

A standardized test is like a home thermostat. A thermostat measures one thing – the temperature in one room. It doesn’t measure the quality of the roof construction, though that may have an impact on the temperature. It doesn’t measure the quality of the kitchen appliances, though that, too, might have an impact on the temperature.

Standardized tests should be used, like thermostats, to measure that for which they were designed. Using tests for measuring other things is a misuse of the test, and, if done for an entire school or state, educational malpractice.

Likewise, we will fail if we try to use the thermostat read-out to evaluate the efficiency of the power generating and delivery capabilities of our electric company, or evaluate the contractor who built the house (in my case, almost a hundred years ago), or evaluate the health and well-being of the people who live in the house– or to jump from there to judging the effectiveness of the doctor who treats the people who live in the house, or the medical school that trained that doctor.

At the end of the day, the thermostat really only measures one thing– the temperature right there, in the place where the thermostat is mounted. To use it to measure any other part of the house, or any other aspect of any other part of the house, or any aspect of the people who live in the other parts of the house– well, that just means we’re moving further and further out on a shaky limb of the Huge Inaccuracy Tree.

In this way, the thermostat is much like the Big Standardized Test– really only good at measuring one small thing, and not a reliable proxy for anything else.

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn argues against tests…any tests.

Even allowing for variation in the design of the tests and the motives of the testers, however, the bottom line is that these instruments are typically more about measuring the number of facts that have been crammed into students’ short-term memories than they are about assessing understanding. Tests, including those that involve essays, are part of a traditional model of instruction in which information is transmitted to students (by means of lectures and textbooks) so that it can be disgorged later on command. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to find teachers who are proud of their student-centered approach to instruction, who embrace active and interactive forms of learning, yet continue to rely on tests as the primary, or even sole, form of assessment in their classrooms. (Some conflate the two ideas to the point that when they refer to “an assessment,” they never mean anything more than a test.)

SCHOOL FUNDING

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

Some students cost more to educate than others. That’s why charter schools and private voucher receiving schools work the system to avoid enrolling them.

Even among public schools however, there are some students who need more resources, specialized teachers, or specialized equipment. Those students will cost more to educate.

Students who grow up in high-poverty schools are often among those who are more expensive to educate. They need wraparound services not usually found in wealthier suburban schools. Their schools will need more teaching assistants, transportation options, nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. States which fund schools equally are short-changing their students who grow up in poverty. Equality does not necessarily mean equity.

The majority of states have unfair funding systems with “flat” or “regressive” funding
distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional funding in high-poverty
districts. In 2015, only eleven states had progressive funding systems, down from a high
of twenty-two in 2008.

THE COMMON GOOD

If Not Now, When?

The common good stems from “promote the general welfare.” Government has a responsibility to take care of all the people, not just the wealthy. Public water systems, government maintained roads, highways and bridges, public parks, public libraries, and public schools are benefits for all. Even if you don’t drive the roads provide a way for goods and services to reach your home. Even if you don’t have children the public schools support the growth of the next generation of citizens. The common good, by definition, is good for everyone.

Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

CORPORATE ED REFORM IS BIPARTISAN

Would Democrats Really Do Better Than Betsy DeVos on Education?

Are the Democrats in Indiana against the Republican privatization agenda because they believe in public schools, or just because they’re the opposition party? If the Democrats ever become the majority will they be able to resist the lure of corporate/privatization campaign dollars?

So THAT’S their game!

CAP is playing the long con here. They are putting forward a bunch of puppy dog and teddy bear proposals to contrast with Trump and DeVos.

These aren’t policies as much as they are advertisements for the Democratic party. It’s the equivalent of saying, “We promise we’ll do good things like THESE if you elect Democrats – despite the fact that we mainly focused on standardization and privatization when we were in power.”

Look. Maybe I’m being too cynical.

Maybe the Democrats really, really are going to do a better job this time, cross their hearts and hope to die, if we give them just one more chance.

But words aren’t nearly enough.

I like many of these policy suggestions. But I just don’t trust the Democrats.

The brand has been tainted for me by the Clinton and Obama administrations – by leadership from the same people who are making these suggestions.

In short – I’ll believe it when I see it.

Former Secretaries of Education Duncan (Obama) and Spellings (G.W.Bush)
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Posted in DeVos, Oklahoma, SchoolFunding

DeVos Doesn’t Understand “what’s right for kids.”

[This post is being republished. The original post had an erroneous quote. I appreciate all the “proofreaders” among readers who keep me focused and offer corrections when I make an error.]

Teachers in Oklahoma (and Kentucky, West Virginia, perhaps Arizona, and maybe your state, next), are up in arms about low pay, poor working conditions, and the general lack of support for public schools. Tax breaks for the wealthy means reduced state revenues and less support for public schools, public school teachers, and public school students.

So teachers have walked out.

Cue Betsy DeVos, the billionaire who never worked a day in her life, who knows nothing about public education (having never experienced it as a student, teacher, or parent), and who bought her job as Secretary of Education by bribing senators with campaign contributions.

Betsy DeVos to Oklahoma teachers: ‘Serve the students’

“I think about the kids,” DeVos said Thursday, according to The Dallas Morning News. She had been touring a middle school and meeting with leaders of an anti-violence initiative in Dallas. “I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.”

DeVos is conveniently able to compartmentalize adult and child…to keep them separate. If she had any experience with public education, however, she’d understand that separating the needs of children and adults in an educational setting is damn near impossible.

She seems to think, for example, that adults who work in a school work in a vacuum into which the outside world doesn’t reach. She fails to understand that every cut in funding, every increase in testing (and accompanying costs), every job lost, every incident of gun violence, every increase in ICE detentions, every dollar lost to corporate tax breaks, has an impact on our classrooms.

Perhaps she believes, like Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, that teachers are just striking so they can get a better car.

IT’S MORE THAN JUST SALARIES

Most news reporting, while sometimes mentioning the lack of school funding, focuses on teachers salaries, because, in the past, when a group of workers has gone on strike, it’s been for higher wages and better working conditions. Workers have rarely, if ever, gone on strike to improve conditions for their clients.

So it’s hard for selfish, “I’ve got mine, get your own,” anti-common-good, no-more-taxers (on the rich) to understand that there are reasons for the current teacher actions that go beyond teacher salaries.

Teachers across the country have finally had enough of the teacher pay penalty

Teachers are concerned with a range of issues, from books and supplies to safe buildings.

These crumbling textbooks show why Oklahoma teachers are walking out

Scarberry is one of several teachers and parents in Oklahoma who have shared photos and stories via social media of crumbling, outdated textbooks as part of their plea for more education funding. Some are posted on the “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout — The Time Is Now!” Facebook page.

The state of the textbooks go a long way toward explaining why thousands of teachers in Oklahoma left their classrooms and rallied at the state capital on Monday and Tuesday, asking for teacher and support staff raises, as well as better funding for their schools and students.

Would you want your child sitting on one of these broken desks?

…or using these Government and History books circa 19?? and a dozen books doesn’t seem like it’s enough for a whole class, does it?

Teachers know it’s not just about salaries.

  • Teachers want clean, up-to-date textbooks – enough for an entire class.
  • Teachers want to stop spending an average of $500 a year on classroom supplies (that’s a national average, so the actual amount spent in high-poverty schools, and schools without adequate funding, is probably more).
  • Teachers want to work in schools where they – and their students – have clean, working bathrooms.

Teachers are not the only ones affected if schools don’t have supplies, adequate facilities, up to date learning materials, and safe classrooms.

It has an impact on our children…the children who will make up the citizenry of the future…so, by extension, all of us.

On the other hand, perhaps DeVos understands this all too well. Improvements in public education would sabotage her efforts to have all public schools labeled as “failing” which would, in turn, sabotage her dream of nation-wide school privatization.

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