"Don't label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test...You didn't devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do." -- Candidate Barack Obama, Summer 2007

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

More Random Quotes - August 2015

THIS JUST IN: REPUBLICANS STILL HATE TEACHERS...

Republicans' deep hatred for teachers can't be denied and they're not trying
from Steven Thrasher

If you've been listening to the Republican candidates you've probably heard some nasty things about teachers. Thrasher tells us why.
Teachers’ unions are made up of groups Republicans always love to bash: government workers with lady parts.
Just to be fair, the author also wrote about Democrats...
Republicans have always hated teachers’ unions for obvious reasons. They reliably support the Democratic party, even though Democrats routinely go to war against teachers as well, particularly alumni from the Obama administration.


...AND DEMOCRATS ARE NOT MUCH BETTER

Teacher evaluations at the schools that Obama, Duncan picked for their kids
from Valerie Strauss

Democrats are just quieter about it. All states have to comply with Arne Duncan's proclamations about VAM...they could lose their federal funds or get stuck having to deal with No Child Left Behind. If using test scores to evaluate teachers was such a good idea you'd think that the Secretary of Education, and his boss, would send their precious children to a school run by "reformers."

Think again...

These comments were delivered when Duncan sent his children to Arlington public schools. They are now going to attend the University of Chicago Lab School...which is full of unionized teachers and devoid of "reformer" education. When they lived in Chicago, the Obamas sent their daughters to the Lab School. They now attend Sidwell Friends.
“What did the president and the secretary seek and obtain for their own kids, where the important issue of teacher evaluation was concerned? The answers recently arrived in two e-mails:

“Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011: ‘We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.’

“Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011:

“ ‘We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.’ ”


IT'S THE "OTHER" SCHOOLS THAT ARE "FAILING"

Groundhog Day: Parents Again Rate Local Schools Higher than Schools of the Nation
from Stephen Krashen

Year after year parents rate their own children's schools high...but it's "those other public schools" that are bad.
Seventy percent of parents said they would give the public schools their oldest child attended a grade or A or B, but only 19% would give public schools in the nation an A or B.

An obvious explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been presenting a biased view. 

WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
from a teacher friend

Contrary to "reformer's" beliefs, teachers don't like to make excuses. The charge of "making excuses" gives "reformers an "out." When teachers cry "poverty" "reformers" and their legislator friends can claim "excuses" instead of actually dealing with a very real problem. As the late Gerald Bracey said,
Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.
The school administration blames the central office...who blames the state DOE...who blames the legislature...who are only doing what their donors demand.

Teachers must speak out!
Part of the problem is that teachers are caught in the proverbial “Rock and a Hard Place’ scenario. We can’t really turn to the public because in many cases they really don’t want to hear about it, and the state and administration simply blame someone else for the current state of affairs.

One of the things I remind my coworkers who aren’t outspoken...that if we remain entirely submissive and say yes, yes, yes to everything without defending students and teachers, we are just signing up for more of the same treatment.


TEACHER SHORTAGE

Blackmon: In Georgia, 'reform' aims to destroy public schools
from Myra Blackmon

Here is a pretty good summary of what "education reform" is all about...
This is how the self-selected “education reformers” operate. Their motive is profit and personal advancement. They love the idea of schools run by private organizations, staffed with uncertified teachers, cherry-picking the easy students and leaving the most vulnerable students behind. Unproven, invalid standardized tests drive every decision.

It is disgusting. It is immoral. It is repugnant to every American ideal of community, mutual support and benefit and democratic rule. It defies the values of local control in favor of centralized, easily managed power — all the while claiming “it’s for the children.”

It’s high time we kicked them all out and made them earn an honest living — as far from our schools as we can get them.

Education Roars Back
from Bob Grundfest

If you keep telling the nation that teachers are to blame for everything bad in our society...and you continue to cut salaries and benefits...and you close schools, cut staff, and, in general, trash public schools in favor of private charters and private parochial schools...and if you publicize all of this so high school and college students see how poorly teachers, and public schools are treated...

...why would a young adult, right out of high school, choose to make education his or her career...and why would anyone think that young adults would want to go into teaching?
Given the years of blame and economic hardship that teachers have had to endure, it's no wonder that there's a shortage. And given the attitude that many national and state leaders have about teachers, it's no wonder that qualified students are looking at other fields of endeavor. The truth is that we pay a great deal of lip service to wanting a highly qualified, well-trained teaching staff at every school, but the best and brightest are not stupid; they see what's going on in education and are increasingly turned off to it. And since we don't have the best and brightest going into government, the solutions will be doubly difficult to come by.

MONEY FOR EDUCATION OUGHT TO GO TO EDUCATION

It's common for legislators to complain that so much money is spent on education, but an important question is how it is spent. We use billions of tax dollars nationally to support testing and test prep and that's money that should be going to instruction, materials, and student support.

...and what about all the money diverted from public schools to for-profit charters and voucher accepting parochial schools?

@TCBGP



TEACHERS ARE MORE THAN JUST TEST-JOCKEYS

'Teachers want to change the world'
from John Kuhn
Relationships are greater than pedagogy. If you deliver flawless instruction but haven't nurtured relationships with your students — even the challenging ones — then you might as well teach to an empty room.

DREAMS OF THE FUTURE

Neil DeGrasse Tyson quoted a young man in his book, Space Chronicles
There are lots of things I have to do to be an astronaut. But first I have to go to kindergarten -- Cyrus Corey, age four.

~~~

The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Medley #28

Reform, Read-aloud, New Orleans, Teacher Shortage, Privatization, Pushing Children, TFA, The Danger of Choice


AGAINST REFORM

Why Conservatives Should Not Support Our Current Education Reform

Something to think about when you listen to Republican candidates talk about public education policy...
Education reform does not really mean smaller government: it has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of the power and influence of the Federal Department of Education. Education reform has resulted in the Federal government interfering with local decision-making, using top-down edicts to drive what happens in districts, in schools, and in individual classrooms. No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and the Common Core State Standards (which were heavily promoted, if not used as a bribe) were all examples of federal overreach...

...the free-market theory of education states that if only parents could choose schools for their children, we would quickly see "bad" schools close when parents took their children elsewhere, and we would soon be living in an educational utopia. First, a true free-market would not be government- funded...

...Public schools are often criticized as being full of teachers who are only there for the money, for an easy paycheck. Money is seen as being a bad motivator. Yet no one seems to question the money-making motivation of testing companies, charter schools, or for-profit private schools. The question becomes, is money the best motivation for education?

READ ALOUD

Study says reading aloud to children, more than talking, builds literacy

Reading aloud to children continues to prove its worth. Thank you Jim Trelease!
Reading aloud is the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding, which form the basis for learning how to read, said Massaro, who studies language acquisition and literacy. He found that picture books are two to three times as likely as parent-child conversations to include a word that isn’t among the 5,000 most common English words.


YET ANOTHER MIRACLE PROVES FALSE

The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover

First we had George W. Bush's "Texas Miracle" which brought us No Child Left Behind and the statistically impossible goal of 100% proficiency by 2014.

Then Arne Duncan told us about the "New Orleans Miracle"...and gave thanks for the destruction caused by Katrina.

It turns out, however, that the "New Orleans Miracle" is no more successful than the "Texas Miracle."
...the New Orleans miracle is not all it seems. Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation. The new research also says little about high school performance. And the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana.

There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.
The author also responds to critics of this article. Read here.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Crisis hits Oklahoma classrooms with teacher shortage, quality concerns

The teacher shortage is finding its way across the country.
A host of other things made her life as a teacher more difficult, including bigger class sizes, rates of teacher turnover and student discipline problems, plus she feared repercussions for speaking out about those problems.

Tart said she and her colleagues would sometimes stay at school as late as 9 p.m., grading papers and finishing lesson plans. She would also take work home, some nights working past midnight.


Education reform caused teacher shortage

Robert Behning began his career in the Indiana House as a florist, but apparently, collecting donations from school "reform" proponents is adequate training in education because now, all of the sudden, with no additional schooling whatsoever, Behning has become an "educational consultant."

Behning, and State Senator and auctioneer, Dennis Kruse, have led their respective houses of the Indiana General Assembly, along with the Pence dominated State Board of Education, on a 5 year campaign to destroy public school teachers and public schools. With the Governor's blessing, the General Assembly and SBOE have overseen the loss of revenue to more and more testing, diversion of public funds for vouchers and charter schools, teacher evaluations based on test scores, the end of due process for teachers, lowering the qualifications for teaching, and severe reductions in collective bargaining rights. During the legislative sessions the battles for and against public schools are widely publicized and reported around the state.

Yet Behning and Kruse don't understand why there is a teacher shortage.
As chairmen of the Indiana House and Senate Education Committees, Rep. Robert Behning and Sen. Dennis Kruse have announced formation of a study committee to determine why there is a pending teacher shortage. They seem surprised. They shouldn’t be.

They and Gov. Mike Pence need to look into the mirror...

PRIVATIZATION

Pearson to become the gate-keeper for student teachers in Illinois.

There's no longer any pretense in the quest to privatize everything to do with public education. In the first of what will likely become a national trend, Pearson, the giant textbook, test prep, and test publisher will now be responsible for licensing teachers in Illinois.

Student teachers will be evaluated by Pearson's "edTPA" and, without regard for their supervising teachers' opinions, be granted, or not granted, certification.

Oh...and it will cost student teachers an extra $300 above the tuition (and the thousands of dollars of debt) to the teacher preparation institution they might be attending.

While high achieving nations reduce the cost for teacher candidates...and in many cases pay them during their internship...we are going in the opposite direction.
Starting this fall Pearson will be in the business of deciding who becomes a teacher in the state of Illinois.

The Illinois State Board of Education has adopted a rule that designates Pearson’s “edTPA” as the means by which student teachers will be evaluated and granted certification.

As the fall semester begins, all student teachers in the state will be required to pay an extra $300 (on top of the tuition they are already paying) and arrange for videotaping so that they can submit a lengthy narrative that covers the planning, execution and evaluation of a series of lessons with one of their classes as well as a ten-minute video of themselves carrying out their lesson with a class.

Student teachers are required to get parent permission for their children to be video-taped.

Pearson owns the video.

Once submitted to Pearson, an “evaluator” will apply rubrics and 2-3 hours of their time to decide whether or not the student teacher “passes” and can be licensed to teach by the State of Illinois.

That’s right—no longer will the evaluations of cooperating teachers, university field instructors and education professors determine the success of a student teacher.

Sounds like a nightmare?


TOO MUCH, TOO EARLY

Why pushing kids to learn too much too soon is counterproductive

In this and the following articles we see once again, that the United States ignores the lessons of research and the best practices which high achieving nations use. We ignore developmentally appropriate practices. We are going backwards with the training of teachers; We're pushing for less training instead of more. And we're steadily, surely, moving our schools back to a segregated, inequitable, and unequal system.
Given the nationwide push to teach children more and more complex concepts at earlier and earlier ages, you’d think that there surely must be an extensive scientific literature to support these efforts. Not only does no such data exist, but an emerging body of research indicates that attempts to accelerate intellectual development are in fact counterproductive.

TFA

The Teach For America Bait and Switch: From 'You’ll Be Making a Difference' to 'You’re Making Excuses'

How do we get the "great teachers" that "reformers" claim we need to make our schools great again, when we let our most vulnerable students go to classes taught by poorly trained novices?
TFA staff ignored the life circumstances of many of my students. I could not change the circumstances that led Jerome to bring a roach-infested notebook to school, or the fact that Peter’s mother told him to “get his lick back,” meaning that if someone hits him, he should hit back. Whenever I tried to bring up the lived realities of my students’ lives and the real challenges they faced, once again, I was told I was “making excuses.” Despite my having personal knowledge of my students and their families, my voice and ultimately my potential to use alternative methods and ideas for creating a more learner-centered, productive environment was repeatedly pushed aside, as it contradicted TFA talking points.

CHOICE = INEQUITY

Opinion: National experiment in school choice, market solutions produces inequity

A look at Chile's educational system will give you a glimpse into our future...a two tiered system with well funded, high quality schools for the rich, and deteriorating, underfunded, crowded classrooms for the rest. Milton Friedman's legacy is tragic.
Imagine a country that was once committed to quality public education, but began to treat that public good like a market economy with the introduction of charter schools and voucher systems.

Imagine that after a few years, most students in this country attended private schools and there was public funding for most of such schools, which must compete for that funding by improving their results. Imagine the state fostered this competition by publishing school rankings, so parents were informed of the results obtained by each institution.

Imagine, finally, that school owners were allowed to charge extra fees to parents, thereby rendering education a quite profitable business.

But let’s stop imagining, because this country already exists.

After a series of policies implemented from the 1980s onward, Chilean governments have managed to develop one of the most deregulated, market-oriented educational schemes in the world.
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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Intention of Unintended Consequences

UNINTENDED?

Are the unintended consequences of the overuse and misuse of standardized tests really unintended? The misuse of standardized tests seems designed specifically to "prove" that public schools are "failing" so that "reformers," both corporate and religious, can continue with the business of privatization.

We know that standardized test scores correlate to the economic level of a school population rather than the quality of their teachers, but "reformers" say that "poverty is just an excuse" (unless of course their favorite charter school discovers that students from high poverty homes score lower on tests. Then it becomes a real factor). "Reformers" demand that education be the driving force behind the fight against poverty. Unfortunately for this approach, we know that the effects of poverty make learning more difficult, and poverty must be eliminated first.

We know that standardized tests, scored by temps with no experience in teaching children, are not a true or complete reflection of a child's learning.


We know that children learn at different rates and the rigid requirements of "standards" are developmentally inappropriate for many children. The standardized tests based on those standards are misused when they are the basis for teacher evaluations, student promotions, and other high-stakes decisions.

The point of the tests, however, seems to be not the evaluation of student learning, but rather to show that public schools are somehow "failing." Privatizers seem intent on closing public schools (see here and here), in order to divert public tax dollars to corporate and religious pocketbooks. Apparently "choice" isn't an option for parents who want to keep their public schools open.

Linda Darling-Hammond said in Rise Above the Mark,
The problem we have with testing in this country today is that...we're using the wrong kinds of tests, and...we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.
The use of the "wrong kinds of tests" in "the wrong kinds of ways" have consequences damaging to public education, the teaching profession, and worst of all, our children.

Valerie Strauss posted an article recently by Susan Moore Johnson, an education professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Johnson listed four unintended consequences of high-stakes testing for teacher evaluations.

CONSEQUENCES

Four unintended consequences of using student test scores to evaluate teachers
1. Making It More Difficult to Fill High-Need Teaching Assignments

Teachers’ confidence in VAMS as an evaluation method ultimately depends on whether these measures adequately control for demographic differences among students. Many experts report that VAMS do not yet do so. Although teachers may not have read these scholarly critiques, they generally are not convinced that VAMS are evenhanded. Thus, heavy reliance on VAMS may lead effective teachers in high-need schools and subjects to seek safer assignments, where they won’t risk receiving low, unwarranted VAMS scores.
If teachers are evaluated judged by the high-stakes tests of their students, then it's reasonable to assume that those teachers who have the choice will choose to work in schools with higher achieving students. This incentivizes teachers to avoid schools with students who need high quality teachers the most...schools with hard to educate students in general, and students who are English language learners or in special education specifically.

I'm reminded of the story of "the worst teacher in New York City" published by the New York Post. The post wrote,
When it comes to teaching math, she’s a zero.

Pascale Mauclair, a tenured, $75,000-a-year sixth-grade teacher in Queens, placed at the bottom of the heap of New York’s schoolteachers, according to rankings released by the Department of Education yesterday.

Mauclair got a cumulative score of zero, with a zero margin of error, for the 2009-10 school year.
The problem with the rating Mauclair received is this...
"Mauclair is an ESL teacher, and over the last five years she has had small, self-contained classes of recently arrived immigrants who do not speak English. Her students arrive at different times of the school year, depending upon that date of their family’s migration; consequently, it is not unusual for her students to take the 6th grade exams when they have only been in her class for a matter of a few months.

"The Post gets its share of the blame," he continued. "It engaged in the calculated effort to destroy the good name of a teacher whose sole crime was her vocation to make a difference in the lives of children. It set out to brutally strip her of her personal dignity, and paraded in public an egregiously false ‘naked’ portrait of her life’s work."
Why would a teacher who had a choice knowingly set themselves up to be professionally mistreated like this?
2. Discouraging Shared Responsibility for Students

Often teachers within a grade level capitalize on one another’s strengths by regrouping their students for better instruction in each subject. For example, an excellent math teacher will teach math to all students in the grade, while others specialize in their area of expertise. Using VAMS to determine a substantial part of teachers’ evaluations threatens to sidetrack such collaboration by providing a perverse incentive for the most effective teachers to concentrate solely on their assigned roster of students.


I have spent more than 40 years in elementary schools as an intern, student teacher, paraprofessional, classroom teacher, reading specialist, and volunteer...and during all that time I have found that no matter what my position, I could count on my colleagues (and they could count on me) to share their expertise and ideas.

Teaching in a public school must not be a competition. I have shared the responsibility of students' education by teaching science while another teacher taught social studies, by supplementing classroom reading instruction, by tutoring students, and by diagnosing learning problems. The goal was to give the children the best education we could...as a team, rather than to make sure that my students passed the test with no regard for anyone else.

At the end of every school year we would gather as grade level teams to divide our students up in the most equitable manner possible so that the makeup of the next year's classrooms was balanced. So-called "teacher accountability based on student test scores" leaves the door open for back room manipulation of class composition. Principals could damage a teacher's career by packing their classroom with hard to educate students, or provide a favorite teacher with a higher number of high achievers. The possibility for corruption is increased by the importance of the test.
3. Undermining the Promise of Standards-Based Evaluation

Those who recommend using VAMS for personnel decisions often contend that this approach is superior to the “counterfactual”— evaluations conducted by administrators. Admittedly, those evaluations had a poor track record in the past. Recently, however, many districts have adopted sophisticated and informative standards-based assessments. Recent research demonstrates that teachers’ instruction improves in response to standards-based observations and high-quality feedback (e.g., Taylor and Tyler 2012). But how will administrators respond when discrepancies between VAMS and observations arise? If they are uncertain about judging instruction or think that VAMS are more precise than their own professional judgment, value-added scores may unduly influence how principals rate teachers’ instruction.


Education is not an exact science. Teaching is more than standards and test scores. In a recent article for the Houston Chronicle, John Kuhn, wrote,
[Relationships are more important than pedagogy.] If you deliver flawless instruction but haven't nurtured relationships with your students — even the challenging ones — then you might as well teach to an empty room.
...or let the students sit in front of programmed learning on a computer all day long.

Evaluations must reflect the ability of the teacher to develop relationships with students as well as their ability to teach standards. The interaction between adult and child is an important aspect of education which cannot be reproduced on a computer.
4. Generating Dissatisfaction and Turnover Among Teachers

Those who promote the use of VAMS to make decisions about rehiring, firing, or awarding tenure often suggest that the best teachers will be more satisfied and decide to remain in their school once ineffective teachers have been dismissed. However, if the dismissal process requires more testing or diverts teachers from collaborating, skilled teachers—who arguably have the most to offer the school—may lose confidence in administrators’ priorities and decide to go elsewhere, even if that takes them out of education.
If teachers in a school see their colleagues mislabeled as failures then morale will (continue to) plummet. They will leave the school...and maybe even the profession. Perhaps "reformers" find this to be a plus...out with the old, expensive teachers...in with the new, cheaper teachers.

I would add a fifth unintended consequence.

5. Making it more difficult to place a student teacher

If a teacher's value is determined by the test scores of her students, what teacher is going to want to trust "test prep" to a student teacher? Mentoring and student teaching are important. If master teachers avoid taking on student teachers because it might have an impact on their students' test scores, then those student teachers will lose out on the opportunity to learn from the best.

TESTING IS THE VEHICLE - PRIVATIZATION IS THE DESTINATION

Are the unintended consequences of "reform" really unintended or are "reformers" just not interested in anything other than profit? Are students and teachers simply innocent casualties in the war for privatization of public schools, or are they targets?

The movement to privatize public schools is multi-pronged...it's coming from rich hedge fund edupreneurs bent on profit, Milton Friedman free market true believers who want to privatize every government service, and the religious right who see public education as a secular evil. For many in those groups, the consequences of public school privatization are not only intended, but celebrated.

More...

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Campbell Brown Hearts NOLA Charters

Campbell Brown was on C-SPAN yesterday (August 18, 2015) talking up her new school "reform" web site, The Seventy Four. Her discussion focused on the usual "reformer" talking points...choice, failing schools, and most of all, how much better New Orleans schools are now, compared to what they were pre-Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina


Before I get to some of her comments, though, it's important to note that this month marks the tenth anniversary of the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

In 2010, Arne Duncan famously commented...
"...I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.' And the progress that they've made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable.
Just last week, Chicago Tribune writer Kristen McQueary echoed Duncan's sentiment when she wrote,
I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops...That's what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.
The backlash against Duncan forced his boss to make him "not-apologize" for his remarks. Likewise, the backlash against McQueary forced her to write a "not-apology" a few days later (see here and here for two responses to McQueary's article).
School reform vastly expanded in New Orleans after the hurricane. Dozens of schools were added to the Recovery School District. Whether you approve of charter schools or not, it was a revolutionary change in education, and it would not have happened without Hurricane Katrina.

Many readers thought my premise — through my use of metaphor and hyperbole — was out of line. I certainly hear you. I am reading your tweets and emails. And I am horrified and sickened at how that column was read to mean I would be gunning for actual death and destruction.
She said she didn't actually want hurricane-level damage to hit Chicago. Her point was that Chicago needed a "disaster capitalist" excuse to tear things down and rebuild from scratch because nothing would have gotten accomplished otherwise.

Is it true that nothing was done to improve the New Orleans public schools till they were wiped out by Katrina? How hard did individual teachers work to help their students in the struggling, likely underfunded, New Orleans public schools before Katrina? How much time was spent by administrators in lobbying for more funding, better facilities, and up-to-date materials for their schools?

The plight of public schools in high poverty areas are easily ignored by politicians because the parents of the community are often too busy working two or three jobs, or are unfamiliar with the hoops they must jump through get full, equitable funding for their children. Sometimes there are educational and language barriers that parents can't overcome. Sometimes there are racial barriers as well. Note the number of schools on the south side of Chicago which have been or are targeted to be closed and replaced with charters while schools on the north side are well stocked and successful.

I'm not going to reproduce all the information which shows how the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans has failed to improve the education of New Orleans children. There are others who have done that...Mercedes Schneider, for example has discussed it in great detail in dozens of posts which you can find here...and especially here, here, here and here. It would take hours to go through it all...so here's a taste...
...the term “school choice” could well mean that it is the school that exercises greater leverage when it comes to choosing, not the parents.
One-third (10 of 30) of schools selected or excluded students by, for example, counseling students who were not thought to be a good fit to transfer to another school, holding invitation only events to advertise the school, or not reporting open seats. This number included five OPSB schools and five RSD schools. [Emphasis added.]
And another taste...
New Orleans charters opened longer did not show better 2014 AP outcomes.

What is clear is that with only a couple of exceptions, the results are not impressive.

My spreadsheet of the data can be found here:

New Orleans Charter High School May 2014 AP Results

Once again, there is no miracle here.

To the districts nationwide that are watching the New Orleans Charter Circus with wide eyes, know that any reported New Orleans charter *miracle* patently contradicts its consistently unimpressive outcomes.
For another look at New Orleans RSD schools read these posts by Crazy Crawfish. Check out the post, The RSD and New Orleans miracle (of cheating), for some information about test scores in New Orleans.

New Orleans Schools

Let's now turn to Campbell Brown and her appearance on C-Span, August 18, 2015, Education Policy.

Studying the material at the two blogs I mentioned above ought to be enough to rebut the following...

At 7:25 in the program she said...
It's such an incredible story of the progress that's been made in New Orleans since Katrina when they have revamped public schools...
Innovation

At about 33:55 she announced in a Chris Christie sort of way about how America's public schools today are no different than the public schools that her grandparents and great-grandparents went to.
Just think over the last century how our lives have changed in so many ways because of technology. I mean...for a hundred years we're living vastly different lives except in how we educate our kids. We are educating our kids today -- and our grandkids -- exactly the same way we educated my grandparents...my great-grandparents. We have not had innovation or advancement in the same way in education. And it's...you know...we've failed to see real gains because of that.
First, she's wrong because achievement has improved. Diane Ravitch, in Reign of Error, documented the increase in NAEP math and reading scores from 1973 through 2008. The trend is upward.



Second, anyone who has spent time in classrooms recently knows that they are fundamentally different than classrooms of the past in a variety of ways. Can we improve classroom education? Of course. But we need research based innovations. As we have learned from schools' experiences around the country, integrating technology like Smart Boards or iPads into the curriculum doesn't change anything unless teachers are trained in their use.

Finally, innovation just for innovation's sake, like technology for technology's sake, doesn't help children learn. Research into new teaching methods and best practices ought to drive innovation...not bells and whistles.


At about 41:40 she responding to a caller who said we ought to reward kids with money for learning. After acknowledging that "good idea," Brown said,
...because we haven't been able to innovate as quickly as we need to...one of the things that happens in our schools is that the kids in the middle...you know a teacher can't teach everybody...right? There's just...she doesn't have the tools or he doesn't have the tools to have the flexibility to let those kids who are learning more quickly continue to be challenged, or the kids who need extra help...you know, how does one person take the time to give those kids the extra help they may need...and then deal with everybody else. There are lots of cool, really interesting technologies that are trying to...you know...individualize lesson plans. So that these kids can move forward at their own pace...and...and we're giving them more of the kind of individual attention that they need to progress so that the kids on the higher end can be more challenged and the kids on the lower end can take their time and get the extra help that they need and hopefully free up time for that teacher to be able to help those kids more and spend a little more time with them.
Her points seem to be that 1) teachers can't teach everyone in their classrooms because the ranges of achievement and abilities are too wide, 2) high achieving kids are held back while low achieving kids aren't getting their needs met and 3) innovation with "cool" technology is the way to solve that problem.

This is a perfect example of why actual real life, currently practicing educators ought to be included when education policy is discussed and made. It's obvious that Brown has never heard of "differentiation" (or if she's heard of it she doesn't understand what it is). Good teachers understand and use differentiated instruction...and those who are adept at it can gear instruction to children at the level they need. Understanding and using differentiation is not something you can do with just 5 weeks of training (after graduating from a high-status college with a degree in business administration). Like other pedagogical tools, it takes study, practice, and a long term commitment to a career in education.

Fully staffing schools with specialists who have advanced certification or degrees in reading (like me!), special education, and gifted education, can also help teachers deal with the wide range of achievement levels in a general education classroom.

Finally, as long as standards, and standardized tests based on those standards, have high-stakes attached to them, students will not be allowed to progress at their own rates. Requiring all students, except those with the most severe academic disabilities, to pass the same test at the same time, and then using those test scores to label schools and teachers, is educational malpractice. Brown said that children should be allowed to "move forward at their own pace." On that point, she is right.


The Chartering of New Orleans

Beginning at about 43:50 Brown extolled the wonderfulness of New Orleans' charter schools.
...[In New Orleans] after Katrina...they were trying to figure out how to rebuild that school system...they made a choice to basically take almost all the schools in New Orleans and make them charter schools. You know, take the handcuffs off, and put the union contracts aside, and give the schools the flexibility to be innovative, and to do different things than they had been doing before.
Now the real truth comes out. Disaster capitalism depends on a catastrophe to make it successful. The catastrophe of Katrina had to destroy everything so that the vultures edupreneurs could swoop in and start all over. And one thing which had to be destroyed was the teachers union.

"...take the handcuffs off, and put the union contracts aside..." The goal of charters in the "reform" movement is to get public dollars for educating students in the cheapest way possible. Teachers unions stand in the way of that.

Politicians and education "reformers" will tell you over and over again about how much they love teachers...but how much they hate teachers unions (except, of course, Chris Christie who makes no bones about how much he hates teachers and their unions). The fact is, however, that teachers unions are made up of teachers...millions of them. All over the country average, dedicated classroom teachers negotiate contracts with duly elected school boards. Those contracts protect children as well as teachers. The conditions under which teachers work...class size, availability of special services, preparation time...are the conditions under which students learn. Individual teachers unions can sometimes pressure school boards to do things that they wouldn't normally do, but on the whole states with strong teachers unions achieve at higher levels than states with weak or non-existent teachers unions. Charter school takeovers of public schools, like in New Orleans, will not change the conditions of children's lives. The poverty level of children in America and the refusal of those who run our nation, states, and cities to acknowledge poverty as a factor in student achievement is the number one problem facing public education today. It's not "bad teachers," teachers unions, or teacher contracts that are damaging public education...it's elected officials like Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Rahm Emanuel...it's political appointees like Arne Duncan and his predecessor Margaret Spellings...and it's people who don't know anything about education acting like they do...like Campbell Brown.

Campbell Brown ought to throw her support to the teachers who struggle in public schools every day, not hedge fund managers, politicians, or other "reformers." If she truly wants to help the children she claims to care so much about, then she needs to change her tune and fight for more equitable funding of public schools, wrap-around services for children in need, more and better training for teachers, and the end to test and punish policies. Here's a good place for her to start...


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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, August 14, 2015

What Really Matters in Public Education

I was reading Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and came across this story...
I happen to have enough money so that if there's a dime lying on the sidewalk and I'm in a hurry, I won't bend down to pick it up. But if I see a quarter, I stop and get it. You can do laundry with quarters, you can put them in parking meters, plus they're big. So, even given my net worth, I'm still picking up quarters -- but not dimes. So let's do a ratio of my net worth and what I don't pick up to Bill Gates's net worth and what he won't pick up. How little would have to be lying in the street for Bill Gates to feel it wasn't worth bothering to pick up? Forty-five thousand dollars.
My guess is that, with his expertise, popularity, frequent appearances on television and radio, Neil DeGrasse Tyson's net worth is quite a bit higher than mine. Relative to my net worth, Bill Gates would probably ignore about $100,000.

Ok. Let's look at another comparison...

Because of his wealth, Bill Gates has influenced American public education quite a bit over the past few years and he continues to influence policy by supporting charter schools, funding projects, and financially supporting different organizations.

But what actual public school experience does Bill Gates have that provides him with the expertise to influence American public education the way he does? Did he attend a public school? Did he teach in a public school? Gates entered a private school at the age of 13 and continued attending private schools till he dropped out of Harvard. If he started kindergarten at age 5 then he would have been in public schools for grades K through 7, a total of 8 years [See Biography.com]. As far as I know, Bill Gates never taught in a public school.

I, on the other hand, attended public schools from Kindergarten through graduate school for a total of 19 years. Following that I taught in four public elementary schools and have volunteered in three for an additional total of 40 years working as an adult in public schools.

So, I have spent 59 years in public schools compared to his 8. I've worked with a dozen principals, hundreds of teachers, and taught nearly 1,000 students from grade Kindergarten through university graduate students. I've read hundreds of textbooks, books, and journal articles and spent hours studying about teaching and learning and practicing teaching techniques.

Question: Why then, does he have more to say about the education of America's public school children than I do?

Answer:

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

2015 Medley #27: Surprise! There's a Teacher Shortage

Surprise! There's a Teacher Shortage

Why are there teacher shortages in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana...

Over the past few years, I've written about the local and nation-wide impending teacher shortage and why teachers quit. It should come as no surprise to anyone...it has been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. Teachers have been blamed for all the ills facing public schools especially low achievement...even though we know that low achievement accompanies low income. Poverty implies lower achievement -- no other in-school or out-of-school factor is as consistent. Republican politicians are quick to blame teachers unions, and some Democrats have joined in with that song as well, but blaming unions doesn't explain why there is such low achievement in a state like Mississippi with very few unionized teachers. It doesn't explain why achievement is higher in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey -- states with high union membership and strong unions. Poverty does.


"Reformers" don't seem to be willing to discuss poverty as a factor in school achievement. They don't seem to be willing to expend as many resources and as much energy "fixing" poverty as they do destroying public education. Yet, killing the teaching profession has only made things worse.

On the other hand, is it possible that "reformers" want to destroy the teaching profession along with public schools? No teaching profession means cheap labor as states pass laws allowing anyone to teach...it means no professionals who understand the teaching and learning process and who will call out the practices that get in the way of student learning. It means no pensions...and more profit.

Below are articles about Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Florida...and one final punch in the face to Chris Christie.

MICHIGAN

Another One Bites the Dust

A Michigan middle school math teacher (and Facebook friend of mine) wrote a piece which was picked up by Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, mlive, Common Dreams, and the Huffington Post. We originally posted it on the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) blog and Facebook page.

The teacher, Stephanie, wrote a heartfelt letter explaining why she decided to leave public education and take a job at a private school. In her letter she reported on what Michigan "reformers" have done to damage public education and hurt public school teachers.
...I have been forced to comply with mandates — from the Republicans at the state level and the Democrats at the national level — that are NOT in the best interest of kids. I am tired of having to perform what I consider to be educational malpractice, in the name of “accountability”. The amount of time lost to standardized tests that are of no use to me as a classroom teacher is mind-boggling. And when you add in mandatory quarterly district-wide tests, which are used to collect data that is ignored, you get a situation that is beyond ridiculous...

...due to a chronic, purposeful underfunding of public schools here in Michigan, my take-home pay has been frozen or decreased for the past five years, and I don’t see the situation getting any better in the near future...
Starve the public schools, then blame the teachers for not performing miracles. Drive career teachers out and replace them with cheap temps.

Stephanie explained that she didn't want to leave public education. She was a product of public schools, a public school mom, a public school teacher, and a public school advocate. She has supported public schools throughout her career. Leaving is heartbreaking and difficult for her, but she, like so many others have had enough.

Reactions

Aside from the comments of support...and a few from the usual trolls claiming that teachers are overpaid and have it easy...

...there was an interesting reaction (which also wasn't a surprise) from a public school supporter.

After reading her letter, Jim Horn at Schools Matter focused on the fact that Stephanie attended the last two Network for Public Education (NPE) conferences, and, since he drools in anticipation whenever he has an opportunity to badmouth anything to do with Diane Ravitch, he minimized Stephanie's commitment to fighting for public education as "endless cheerleading." Yes, because she attended the NPE conferences.

Perhaps he wanted her to organize and rally at the state capital. Wait...she's done that.

Perhaps he wanted her to confront legislators and publicly go on record against anti-public school legislation. Wait...she's done that, too.

I've mentioned his Ravitch-bashing before...Anything relating to Diane Ravitch is fair game for his attacks. I think it's clear he's jealous that Diane Ravitch has actually done something productive by forming the NPE to help support public education. Then there's the fact that she has a large following...whereas all he can do is complain that we all don't agree with him 100% of the time.

I'm not going to link to his blog. If you want to read what he wrote you can google it.

INDIANA

Indiana’s got a problem: Too many teachers don’t want to work there anymore

Senate Education Committee Chair, and State Senator Dennis Kruse and his House counterpart, Representative Robert Behning want to "study" why there is a teacher shortage in Indiana. Behning has spent the last 15 years bashing teachers and trashing public schools. He entered the House of Representatives in 1992 as a Florist...but now he runs an "educational lobbying company." Both have worked to make public education less public.
The teacher shortage in Indiana is becoming such a problem that some state lawmakers want a legislative committee to study the issue and come up with solutions. According to the Indianapolis Star, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees have asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.

For one thing, they can look in the mirror. The Republican leadership of the state — including Gov. Mike Pence — showed their respect for teachers by working very hard this year to strip power from Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a veteran educator who won election to the post in 2012 (by defeating Tony Bennett, the incumbent who was a protege of former Florida governor Jeb Bush). Oh, by the way, she is a Democrat. David Long, the Republican president of the Indiana Senate, said while explaining why the legislature would want to remove Ritz as chairman of the state Board of Education: “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?”


Why a teacher shortage? Try asking a teacher

A former principal understands what is driving student failure. He also understands that giving wealthy schools and poor schools equal per pupil funding is inherently unequal.
...To take inner-city resources (Indianapolis, Gary, etc.) to reward “A” schools (Carmel, Zionsville, etc.), which already have abundant resources, is immoral. In other words, the competitive model of accountability does not fit in a democratic institution that cannot afford to have winners and losers.

Everyone should have the opportunity to grow and learn. Since not every child is blessed equally, it is incumbent upon policy makers to help overcome this difference by allocating resources where they are needed most. Current policies do just the opposite. Is it any wonder why inner-city schools will have the hardest time filling teaching positions?

Your solution, offering monetary rewards based on a test, is insulting to those who know the vagarious nature of such tests, and it falsely assumes teachers just need to work harder. Such extrinsic rewards miss the point. If the goal is to attract people to the profession, we should start by realizing teachers are motivated by something much more meaningful than money.

...A teacher shortage? It was inevitable. It seems everyone saw it coming but the ones who tried making policy in a vacuum devoid of solid, authentic research and educational expertise.

So, chairmen Kruse and Behning are forming a committee to study the cause of a shortage they helped create. I have a suggestion: call a teacher — any teacher — and ask them. They’ll give you the answer.


KANSAS

Kansas Underfunded Education And Cut Tenure. Now It Can't Find Enough Teachers To Fill Classrooms.

Kansas has joined with other states in the process of destroying their own public education system. Do they wonder what's causing the teacher shortage?
Teachers are being forced to do more with less, and not necessarily getting appreciated for it, said Dean Katt, superintendent of Hays Public Schools.

“Teachers are working many more hours, much harder. They’re doing it on their own and don’t have the support we should be giving them,” said Katt.

He continued, “[They face] constant bashing from the governor and legislature, [who] in my opinion are trying to privatize education and just destroy it.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding the teacher shortage.

A Memo To States: This Is How You Create A Teacher Shortage

A satirical, but accurate look at how to destroy a profession. The links were included in the original. With very little effort we could also provide links to the same sorts of sites for Indiana...
The How To Create A Teacher Shortage Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup of rhetoric against teachers

2 pounds of bills and programs that attempt to de-professionalize teaching (specifically, a proposed bill that would make it easier to jail teachers for teaching materials deemed offensive and a new program that lifts teacher licensure requirements in certain districts)

3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers

½ cup of finely diced repeated budget cuts amid a state revenue crisis

1 stalk of a new school funding system that is currently being challenged in state court

2 grinds of growing child poverty throughout the state

3 tablespoons of low teacher pay

1/3 cup of large numbers of teacher retirements

FLORIDA

Brevard teachers leave ‘in droves’ for other jobs

Jeb's legacy is still strong.
Teachers in Brevard County have cited low morale as their main concern about teaching here — and many are leaving the district for greener pastures.

Four pages worth of resignations and retirements filled part of the last school board’s agenda, citing personal reasons, relocations and other employment. On this agenda item, 73 teachers resigned and 80 retired.

According to human resources information from Brevard Public Schools that is just one fragment of the group of teachers leaving. Data show that 368 teachers voluntarily resigned this year, the biggest number in the past five years — however that is not too far off from the 365 who voluntarily resigned or retired over the 2014-15 school year.


The Single Most Destructive Force in Public Education

Chris Christie said that he wanted to punch the "national teachers union in the face" and teachers unions were "the single most destructive force in public education." Apparently Christie doesn't know that states with strong teacher unions have higher student achievement than states with weak or non-existent unions.

Russ Walsh turns the tables on Christie.
...The single most destructive force in public education is income inequity. Poverty has a devastating impact on a child’s educational achievement. With 25% of school children living in poverty, it is small wonder public education is struggling in impoverished areas.

The second most destructive force in public education is politicians and corporate education reformers who wish to ignore income inequity and blame teachers unions for the problems in public education. Teachers and their unions, want a strong viable system of public education. We would like politicians and well- financed reformers to work with us and stop threatening to punch us. [emphasis added]

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015 Medley #26: Charters

Privatization: Charters

CHARTERS

Charter Schools Are… [Public? Private? Neither? Both?]

Disclaimer: Not all charter schools are bad. There are some good charters, run by non-profits (which aren't fronts for for-profits), which work hard to accept all students, even the hard to educate.

However, the charter industry on the whole, is poorly regulated and generally lacking in public oversight -- unlike real public schools.

The reason I use the term real public schools when referring to what other folks call traditional schools is because charter schools are not public schools in any way other than their funding. When faced with public accountability for the money they've received, or public regulations, charters often claim that they are private entities and thus are not bound by the same laws that real public schools are bound by. Bruce Baker explains it clearly in this article from 2012.
...these legal debates over whether charter schools are state actors or private entities only come about because, when an issue is raised regarding open records or meetings, or employee or student rights, it is the lawyers for the charter school that invoke the claim that they are private entities. Like here! or here! I surely hope those invoking their private status when legally convenient are not among those proclaiming their public status when politically convenient. You just can’t have it both ways.


Public or Private: Are RI Charter Schools Trying to Have it Both Ways?

Expansion of charters is a concern for many in Rhode Island and some of the discussion has centered on the "public" status of charter schools.
Officially, charters are considered public schools by the Rhode Island Department of Education, according to spokesman Elliot Krieger. “They are entirely public schools; they are not private or nonpublic schools in any respect. We generally refer to them as ‘charter public schools,’” Krieger said yesterday.

But others say it’s not as black-and-white as that.

State Sen. James Sheehan prefers to call them “quasi-public schools.” “They like to pretend they are a new form of traditional public education. In reality, they are not,” said Sheehan, a North Kingstown Democrat who is a history teacher at Tollgate High School in Warwick.

“I characterize charter schools as privately operated but publicly funded schools,” said Jim Parisi, an organizer for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.
Arguing for charters is Justin Katz, the research director for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity (RICFP). RICFP is a free-market think-tank with ties to ALEC.

And by "free-market" I mean those who believe "government is bad unless I can get some tax money for my personal use" and "everything which is run privately and subject to market-pressures is better than anything run by public bureaucrats (unless I can get public money as welfare for my huge, multinational, energy [or other] -sector corporation)."
Katz applauds charters for putting the competitive pressure on districts. But he questions whether they are the best way of doing that.

“For the benefit of our children, the public school system is crying out for competition. The problem with doing it by means of charter schools is that it creates waste by building whole new schools to free them from problems of district schools, rather than just tackling the problems of the district schools,” Katz said.
Katz is wrong. Competition doesn't work in education. See here...
If we REALLY encourage competition in education — if we really ARE committed to letting private companies drive our public school systems — businessmen will bring...profit-making practices to our communities. Tapping into an affluent marketplace with a ton of disposable cash to burn, some entrepreneurs will develop Subzero schools with all the bells and whistles. There will be small class sizes, highly skilled teachers, and a heaping cheese-load of resources spilling out of every classroom storage closet.

But make no mistake about it: The entrepreneurs developing schools for “those people in the poor section of town” will take Joe’s approach to making a buck. Their buildings will be stocked with cheap supplies and unqualified teachers. The only thing spilling out of their classrooms will be kids. Like the good businessmen that they are, they’ll stick worn out Kenmores into poor communities — cutting their expenses to the quick regardless of the quality of the product they are producing because they know full well that the marketplace they are serving can’t afford anything better.
and here.
Competition, which simply means that one person can succeed only if others fail, is one of those things [which is inherently destructive]. It’s always unnecessary and inappropriate at school, at play, and at home.

Think for a moment about the goals you have for your children. Chances are you want them to develop healthy self-esteem, to accept themselves as basically good people. You want them to become successful, to achieve the excellence of which they’re capable. You want them to have loving and supportive relationships. And you want them to enjoy themselves.

These are fine goals. But competition not only isn’t necessary for reaching them — it actually undermines them.
Competition is damaging to the children in public schools. Those of us who support real public schools don't want winners and losers. We want full support for all schools in the public school system run for the betterment of everyone. We want public oversight and public accountability for the legislators who pass laws about schools, and the school board which runs the schools, as well as the teachers and students.

In one respect, Katz was right. We need to improve our public schools...not close them and farm our children out to for-profit edupreneurs.

More Loans for Charter Schools

Not having learned anything from the past, Indiana has offered more charter schools cheap loans. Our tax money which should be going support real public schools is being diverted to private companies with little or no public oversight.
$140 million here, $140 million there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money. Let’s invest in our public schools...

...there is still the possibility that, like the $90 million loan that came before, this new $50 million loan will be forgiven by the State...

Green Woods Charter School And Others In Philadelphia Boast Questionable Application Processes

Some charters find ways of getting around the public requirement requiring them to accept all students...
...Green Woods made its application available only one day each year. Even then, the application was only given to families who attended the school’s open house – which most recently has been held at a private golf club in the Philadelphia suburbs.


No Accountability? 30 Percent of Detroit's Charter Schools Have Closed

The writer of the following article, Tom Gantert, likes the fact that nearly two dozen charter schools have closed in Detroit because they couldn't make it either academically or financially. He believes that's good because the schools failed...and unlike the neighborhood public schools' "semi-monopoly," the almighty market has spoken and poor products (the bad charters) are not being supported by the customers.

Gantert is wrong. Public education is not a monopoly or even a semi-monopoly. There are private schools which, if parents choose to pay for, children can attend.

Someone who is wealthy might build their house on acres and acres of land, hire gardeners and landscape architects to beautify the grounds, and spend their days walking through beautiful gardens. The rest of us, though, take advantage of public parks build by local, state and national, governments with public funds. The parks are maintained at public expense for everyone...

Wealthy folks might want to purchase and collect huge numbers of books and resource materials. The rest of us have the benefit of public libraries...built and maintained at public expense.

Public schools are the same and they are no more a monopoly (or semi-) than public parks or public libraries.

Furthermore children need stable public schools. Closing schools because they have "failed" is poor education policy. See here and here to learn why closing schools frequently is not good for children. Instead, real public schools, supported by the community, which have stability, should be improved if there are problems, not abandoned.

[Note: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, mentioned below, is a right-wing think tank (the largest state-level think tank in the nation) supported by the Koch Brothers and with close ties to ALEC.]
Unlike conventional public schools, charters have no semi-monopoly on educating children who live within a certain ZIP code. Instead, they must build their enrollment by appealing to parents who want something better for their children than what the local conventional public school provides. If a charter school fails to deliver, then parents are free to send their children somewhere else. If enough parents at a charter school do this, the school may be forced to close.

Also, if a charter school fails to meet the standards and conditions stipulated by the institution that chartered it — usually a state university — the school can lose its charter, and must then close.

“Unfortunately, there is a myth that charter schools don't close in Detroit,” said Audrey Spalding, the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “But it's not true. A large number — 22 — of Detroit charter schools have closed for academic or financial reasons.”
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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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