"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

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Musical Interlude: A Door Opened. A Door Closed

DECEMBER 8, 1943

On this date in 1943 door opened...Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida.

Morrison is best known as the driving force behind The Doors.
There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.
Morrison graduated from UCLA with a degree in Film, but only stayed in college till graduation to avoid the draft and real-life work (1965). After college he formed the Doors.

He was uncomfortable with the "mainstream" success of The Doors, and would become more and more outrageous in his lyrics and behavior as their popularity grew. And their popularity grew. The Doors became the first American rock band to earn eight consecutive gold LPs.

Morrison was well known for his violent temper and eventually quit The Doors and moved to Paris, where he died at the age of 27.
This is the strangest life I've ever known.
Jim Morrison on Biography.Com

The Rolling Stone Interview: Jim Morrison


Light My Fire is #35 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.It was also included in the Songs of the Century list and was ranked number 7 in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

DECEMBER 8, 1980

On this date in 1980 a door closed...John Lennon was shot in New York.

John Lennon was arguably one of the most important musical figures of the last century. He was a prolific composer, writing or co-writing more than 300 pieces of music with people like Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, and David Bowie.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
At around 11 PM on December 8, 1980, Lennon and Yoko Ono were entering their apartment. Mark David Chapman shot Lennon (not long after getting his autograph) four times. Lennon died on the way to the hospital.

John Lennon's ashes were scattered in Central Park.
Love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep on watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.


Imagine ranked number 30 on the Recording Industry Association of America's list of the 365 Songs of the Century bearing the most historical significance. It earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

John Lennon on Biography.Com

Strawberry Fields

Top 50 John Lennon Quotes

In My Life: Words and Music by John Lennon

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 Medley #30

Politics, The Teaching Profession,
Privatization, Testing, Libraries

POLITICS

My Letter to President-Elect Trump

Your entertainment for today consists of a teacher from Oklahoma, with no political or diplomatic experience, who has never traveled abroad, yet claims he is qualified to be the next US Secretary of State. How is this possible? If Betsy DeVos is qualified to be the US Secretary of Education, with no public education experience as a student, a teacher, an administrator, or a parent (has she ever even visited a public school classroom?), then the qualifications for other Cabinet positions should have similar requirements.

Maybe I could be appointed as the Attorney General. I'm not an attorney...never written a brief...never even appeared in court (although I have watched Lawyer shows on TV). Sounds like I'm perfect for it.
I know you are a busy man so I will get right to the subject of my letter. I would like to formally announce my strong interest in your administration’s open cabinet position as U.S. Secretary of State.

I think you will find my qualifications and experience to be exactly what you are looking for.


Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

There are so many articles and blog posts being written about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education (see above), that I thought it would be nice to collect them in one place. This is undoubtedly not all of them, but so far (as of noon ET on Nov. 29) I have listed about 80 and arranged them by date.

Full disclosure: Most of them are opposed to her selection as Secretary of Education. Someone else will have to collect those posts and articles which are in favor.
A collection of articles and information, sorted by date, about President-elect Trump's choice for US Secretary of Education. Check back frequently for additional articles.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION

When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools

"Reformers" frequently claim that the US is "behind" the rest of the world in education. Finland, because of the high scores of its students on international tests, is often held up as an example of good education...until anyone suggests that we do the same sorts of things that the Finns do in education: no standardized testing, no privatization, 15 minutes of recess for every hour of school, teacher collaboration, and an investment of time. Then, "we can't" duplicate it because education in the US is too decentralized and the population too diverse.

That is true. We also have four times the child poverty rate, less effective social safety nets for our children, and the future of our country, based on our interest in educating everyone in a free, uniform, public education system, is a low priority.

Learning about the Finnish school system is an eye-opening experience for anyone who understands public education in the United States. The experience of these teachers, who came to the US from Finland, was certainly eye-opening to them. They "don't recognize this profession."
“I have been very tired—more tired and confused than I have ever been in my life,” Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school students this autumn, said in an email. “I am supposedly doing what I love, but I don't recognize this profession as the one that I fell in love with in Finland.”


In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools (MA) has written an insightful piece about turning lemons into lemonade. The end of the piece, however, is where his comments really had an impact on me.
...it seems that every time those discussions arise the end results rarely align with what educators in the field believe is important to improve our system.
American educators are kept out of the room when public policy for public education is discussed. A mere three out of the eleven US Secretaries of Education (DeVos included) have had K-12 experience as a teacher. Most decisions are made by state legislators, governors, and school board members, only a few of whom have likely had public school experience. Medical decisions are made with the input of medical professionals. Legal decisions are made by those with experience in the US Legal System. Why is it different with education?
...all that educators are looking for is an accountability system that gives a fair and accurate picture of the health of a district. I still assert that standardized testing alone will not accomplish this goal and that we need a more comprehensive accountability system that takes a holistic approach based on more than test scores...

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Steven Singer, edu-blogger at Gadflyonthewallblog, has presented as good a case as I've ever read against school "choice."

We have a large, functioning, public school system in the US which serves every child. If there are problems we need to fix them, not just throw the system away.
...school choice is essentially selfish. Even in cases where kids do benefit from choice, they have weakened the chances of everyone else in the public school system. They have increased the expense and lowered the services of children at both types of school. They have allowed unscrupulous profiteers to make away with taxpayer money while taxpayers and fiscal watchdogs are blindfolded. And when students return to their traditional public school after having lost years of academic progress at a substandard privatized institution, it is up to the taxpayers to pay for remediation to get these kids back up to speed.

Choice advocates talk about children being trapped in failing schools, but they never examine what it is about them that is failing.

Almost all public schools that are struggling serve impoverished students. That’s not a coincidence. It’s the cause. Schools have difficulty educating the poorest children. Impoverished children have greater needs. We should be adding tutoring, counseling and mentor programs. We should be helping their parents find jobs, providing daycare, healthcare and giving these struggling people a helping hand to get them back on their feet.

But instead we’re abandoning them.
See also


The Problem with Choice

We should improve our public schools, not close them.
If parents truly want choice, this is where we as parents and educators need to concentrate our efforts. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” should be taken literally and used to fix public education for all, not to give choice only to the wealthy and the fortunate.

If we want true education reformation, we need to make sure the public tax dollars are being used correctly to create an actual choice movement within the public school system itself: Increase money being spent on public education to improve ALL schools, regardless of location; increase teachers’ salaries to create a true competition for quality teachers; increase public school autonomy so that principals and teachers can use their knowledge and experience to innovate and create the right learning environment for their students.

Scores drop when students move to private, magnet schools

What's the purpose of "choice?"
The Indianapolis study suggests more choice won’t boost achievement and may hurt it. But Waddington notes that families choose schools for a variety of reasons. Some may find a private or magnet school a better fit. Evidence from Indiana’s voucher program suggests parents choose private schools for religious instruction, raising questions about whether the state should support sectarian education.

Berends and Waddington said the Indianapolis study provides more evidence that the key to improving student achievement doesn’t lie with a particular type of school. They said research suggests we should get past the “horse race” question of whether public, charter or private schools are better and seek a better understanding of the characteristics that make some schools more effective than others.


PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Recent Research Shows Vouchers Fail Children
The two most recent studies indicate that students do worse with vouchers.

TESTING

Feds say Indiana can drop its A-F system. But does it want to?

We're still misusing standardized tests. Standardized tests are developed to evaluate the achievement of students, not teachers. Not schools. Not school systems. Not nations.
If Indiana wants to make changes to its A-F school grading system, new rules from the U.S. Department of Education announced today could make it much easier.

The question is: Does Indiana want to make a change? And what would an overhauled school rating system look like?


LIBRARIES

The value of reading and our neglect of libraries

Does your neighborhood public school have a library for its students? Did you know that there are schools in the US, the richest nation in the world, without a library or a full-time librarian for its students?
Isaac Asimov was right in 1995 and his insight is still valid: "When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."
See also:

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

And the Winner is...

BETSY DEVOS

Billionaire President-elect chooses billionaire amateur to lead the US Education Department.


REACTIONS AND COMMENTS

My reaction:
The losers are the 50.4 million children attending America's K-12 public schools.

Betsy DeVos-- Secretary of Education
...it was always only a question of what form the shafting of American public education would take.

...* She is a leader of the American Federation for Children, a dark money group that works school privatization. AFC is also a trustee-level member of ALEC, which means when you see ALEC pushing privatization, you will find the DeVos fingerprints on their work.

...* While it may seem that DeVos is a charterization fan, what she would really like is vouchers, with the prospect of shuffling public tax dollars to private religious schools, new for-profit charters, and pretty much anything except public schools.

...* In keeping with her Station in Life, DeVos has never held down an actual job.

...* It will be no surprise that DeVos has never worked in education, and her children never attended (as near as I can discover) public school.

...she would rather privatize public education than help it, she would like to make teachers unions a thing of the past, and she has a deep sense of her own rightness.

Betsy DeVos, billionaire donor and school privatizer, is the new EdSec.
The attack on public schools, teachers and unions will continue.

The union-haters and charter lovers can break out the champagne.

Trump Chooses Betsy DeVos For Education Secretary
President-elect Donald Trump has picked billionaire Betsy DeVos, a Michigan Republican activist and philanthropist who is a strong supporter of school choice but has little experience with public education, as his secretary of education.

Washington Post: Meet Betsy DeVos
The story says that some studies find that voucher students are more likely to go to college. Those studies show that voucher schools have high rates of attrition. The students who don’t transfer back to public schools are slightly more likely to go to college. The studies typically don’t factor in the students who leave when calculating the graduation rate. In Milwaukee, for example, 44% of the kids who started in voucher schools in 9th grade dropped out before graduation.

Trump selects DeVos as education secretary
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement that DeVos' efforts have undermined public education.

"She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education," Eskelsen Garcia said. "By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”


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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Amateur Hour in the Cabinet

Update: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Luke Messer was an Indiana state legislator. He is, in fact, the U.S. Representative for Indiana's 6th district.

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Has there ever been an Attorney General who didn't have a law degree?

Have we ever had a Surgeon General who wasn't a medical professional?

Why has one administration after another installed non-educators – amateurs – as their Secretary of Education?

Since Jimmy Carter first appointed Judge Shirley Hufstedler in 1979 most subsequent Secretaries of Education had never seen the inside of a K-12 classroom since their childhoods. An educator as the Secretary of Education has been the exception instead of the rule.

How is it justified? One example is Margaret Spellings (B.A. Political Science, Univ. of Houston), Secretary under George W. Bush. She claimed that she was qualified for the position because she was a mom. [Apparently North Carolina thinks that is a good enough qualification and has made her head of the University of North Carolina system.] It's the same mentality that presumes that "anyone can be a teacher" – the same mentality that has perpetrated the low status, poor pay and working conditions, and disrespect of the teaching profession for decades.

President-elect Trump is promising to continue this unfortunate tradition.


A BASKET OF AMATEURS

The people who have been rumored as candidates for the position of Secretary of Education in the new administration have all been not only unqualified, but every one of them is a "reformer". Anyone of them would be, as the President-elect of Superlatives would say, "a total disaster."

We began with Ben Carson. The fact that he's not an educator and has never been an educator isn't enough to reject him any more than it has been for any other President. However, in a moment of uncharacteristic clarity, Dr. Carson recognized his own lack of credentials for the job and removed himself from consideration. The parade of educationally challenged candidates for the most important education position in the country followed.

There's Williamson Evers, a Libertarian turned Republican, and an "education expert" at the Hoover Institution. He has a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in political science. His only experience in public education is as a political activist working against public education.

The name of Tony Bennett was mentioned, probably on a recommendation from VP-elect Pence. Bennett is an authentic educator, trained at an actual university's education school, and former head of the Education Departments in Indiana and Florida. He doesn't, however, care much about public education, preferring to get campaign contributions from private and charter school operators. Of all the candidates mentioned, Tony Bennett is, at least on paper, qualified to do the job. However, his history of incompetence and alleged criminal activity during his tenure as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction would should disqualify him.

Luke Messer, is an Indiana congressman, who sits on the Education committee in the U.S. House. Messer formed the Congressional School Choice Caucus and has supported measures to allow federal funds to be used for "choice." Messer is an attorney, not an educator.

Following in quick succession, we heard that Trump was considering...
  • Eva Moskowitz, a charter charlatan who's trying to take over New York City's schools one building at a time. She has a B.A. and a Ph.D. in History.
  • Michelle Rhee, who bullied her way into, through, and out of the D.C. schools leaving a poorly investigated testing scandal in her wake, and who has been the champion of charters and the Common Core. Rhee, who taught for three years under Teach For America, has a B.A. in Government, and a Masters in Public Policy.
  • Kevin Chavous, a former personal-injury lawyer turned politician who cofounded DFER and is intent on turning public schools into profit mills.
  • Betsy DeVos, a right wing, anti-union, anti-public education, religious right zealot who has spent millions trying to kill public education. DeVos attended a parochial school in high school, followed by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI where she graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration and Political Science.
Two of the previous eight candidates have actual public school teaching experience (Bennett and Rhee), and only one (Bennett) has a degree in education, but all eight of them are advocates for school privatization under the guise of "choice."


HISTORICAL INTERLUDE

The latest threat for the position is Jerry Falwell Jr.

Before we talk about him, I just want to mention that his father, Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and blamer of terrorism on abortionists, feminists and gays, once said of public schools,
I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
Contrast that with Founding Father John Adams who said,
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.


TEACHERS NOT PREACHERS

So, Jerry Falwell Jr. is the latest rumored candidate for the Secretary of Education. He, like most of the others has no experience in K-12 education, except as a student, but even that was not in public schools. Falwell Jr. went to parochial schools, then attended his father's Liberty University where he earned a B.A. in Religious Studies. He then went to law school at the University of Virginia.

Trump Considering Creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. For Position In Department Of Education
Those “passions” include teaching creationism instead of evolution, teaching that being gay is a sin, promoting the idea of taxpayer money funding religious schools via school vouchers and repealing the Johnson Amendment so that tax-exempt universities such as his, alongside houses of worship, can endorse political candidates.

...So it comes as no surprise that Trump, who bases a lot of his decisions on who’s blindly loyal to him, is likely to make Falwell Jr. a part of his administration. However, it should worry anyone who cares about the future of our public school system.

Falwell and his gang have a plan for public schools: If they can’t turn them into fundamentalist Christian academies, they’d like to drain their funding away and move to a voucher system of taxpayer-funded private schools, most of them religious in nature.
Placing Falwell, or for that matter, any of the above candidates, in the office of Secretary of Education, would be a direct attack on public schools, and public school children.

Brace yourselves...

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 Medley #29: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 3

The Education Plan: Teaching Our Children

See Part 1 HERE.
See Part 2 HERE.

BIGOTRY IN THE CLASSROOM

The bullying, bigotry, and harassment that permeated the recent campaign season has filtered down into our classrooms. One-fifth of the incidents described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, happened in K-12 settings.

Our children are watching us...

Update: More Than 400 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since the Election
Between Wednesday, November 9, the day after the presidential election, and the morning of Monday, November 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment.

...A Gwinnett County high school teacher said she was left a note in class Friday telling her that her Muslim headscarf "isn't allowed anymore." “Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself with it...,” the note said, signed "America!"


Teaching in the Era of Trump
Our kids are going to need a lot of resilience to weather the storm of hate and divisiveness we’re experiencing. This resilience can be cultivated by teachers who celebrate their students. It won’t happen by pretending we don’t see race (or gender or religion) or that everyone’s the same.

But, we don’t just want to build resilient young people, we want to dismantle the harmful forces around them. Anti-bias education teaches students they are powerful. It teaches them they can take action against injustice in their community. If we want to live in a world different than what we’re seeing in the news this week, it’s clear we’ll have to show the next generation another way.

Ultimately, culturally relevant pedagogy is one name for one part of a larger approach to teaching that celebrates diversity. When looking for resources you might also look for “anti-bias education” or “culturally responsive teaching”. These are not interchangeable, but they all work together to help teachers create a classroom environment where all students can succeed.

PRIVATIZATION

What Will a Trump Administration Mean for Supporters of Public Education?

Republicans haven't been friends of public education since before Reagan pushed for both eliminating the US Education Department and private school vouchers. Today's Republicans are no different. President-elect Trump has bounced the idea of getting rid of the USED and has stumped for "choice" whenever he mentioned K-12 education – which wasn't very often.

For those of us in Indiana, a Trump Administration, coupled with the continued Republican control of the legislature and governor's office, will mean more of the same. There will likely be a continued misuse and overuse of testing, more "choice," more charters, more vouchers, and less for public schools and public school teachers.

One party rule in a two party system is dangerous.
One thing we do know for sure, however, is that every branch of our federal government will be dominated by Republicans—the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court.

A new President whose plans we do not know. The absence of checks and balances. Federal public education policy that has for years been undermining support for the institution of public education. Those of us who believe improving the public schools is important have good reason to be nervous, even afraid.

After all, in 2000 and especially after we were distracted in September of 2001 by the attacks on the World Trade Center, we were unprepared to speak to the federal test-and-punish education law, No Child Left Behind. We failed to connect the dots between an accountability-driven, poorly funded testing mandate and the destruction of respect for school teachers and the drive for school privatization that lurked just under the surface of federal policy. And in 2008, we didn’t anticipate the collusion of government technocrats and philanthro-capitalists that emerged when the federal stimulus gave billions of dollars to the U.S. Department of Education for competitive experiments with top-down turnarounds to close and privatize schools and attack teachers.


POSITIVE NEWS

Anti-Privatization Education Victories We Can Rally Around

The election was not all bad news for public educators. A few states dodged threats to public education.
First, in Massachusetts, voters rejected a referendum called Question 2 that would have forced the expansion of charter schools in the state. Charter schools, which receive taxpayer money but are privately operated, have come to represent another example of the creeping privatization blob rapidly absorbing public infrastructure – transportation, schools, sanitation, prisons, and other essential services – into business pursuits for the wealthy.

...In Georgia, another progressive victory for public schools shone bright through the cloud of misery up-ballot.

...In the state of Washington, the threat to public schools appeared on the ballot in the form of a race for state Supreme Court.

...In Montana, charter school advocates had targeted Democratic Governor Steve Bullock for defeat. Bullock had the temerity to express, according to a state-based news outlet, “I continue to firmly believe that our public education system is the great equalizer. Anyone who says public schools have failed isn’t seeing what’s happening.”

...Of course, support for public education did not win everywhere. There were bad outcomes in state legislative races in California and New York.

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION – MORE NAMES

Names Floated for Trump Ed Secretary: Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee

In the "She's baaaack" department, Michelle Rhee's name was mentioned in connection with the US Education Department. Of course it was. Former D.C. Chancellor Rhee used the same sort of bullying during her rule as chancellor as has been prevalent during the campaign.
Two of the names in the mix for Trump-nominated US Secretary of Education are Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee.

Moskowitz is the CEO of New York-based Success Academies charter schools. Rhee is the former chancellor of DC Public Schools.

Both are very controlling, with Rhee having a bonus dose of sociopathy.

According to the New York News, a source stated that a Moskowitz appointment “is not going to happen.” This makes sense; in order to become US ed sec, Moskowitz would have to relinquish her tight control over her Success Academies empire– an empire that is heavily dependent upon one person– Eva Moskowitz.

As for Rhee: Congress would have to confirm her appointment, which means Congress would have to dismiss Rhee’s unresolved past regarding the DC cheating scandal as well as a seemingly endless stream of sexual scandal issues related to her husband, Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson. Rhee is, however, supposedly a Democrat agreeable to the usually-Republican preference for vouchers.


TEACHING CIVICS

Lacking Civics Education and School Privatization

Why were so many people ready to believe Candidate Trump when he promised things which a US President cannot do unilaterally? A US President has a lot of power, but it's not unlimited. He can't restrict the free press, deny citizens the right to an attorney, mistreat prisoners, or ask the military to engage in torture. Maybe it's time to increase (or begin) the teaching of civics.
We have just come to the end of a long and contentious political season. Many of us are worried about America’s future. It’s never too late to ask how civics education is being addressed in our public schools.

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