"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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Insanity is...

...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The above quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, or Mark Twain, is a good representation of the American educational practice of "retention in grade."

For the past 100 years the "common sense" concept of "retaining," "flunking," or "holding students back" has been a mainstay of American education. It seems to make sense that if a child doesn't achieve the required learning during his/her year in a particular grade, repeating the grade to reinforce the learning would help. Unfortunately for the child, the "common sense" is wrong and retention in grade usually doesn't work.

It may seem reasonable to give a child an extra year to "catch up," however, research has consistently shown that retention in grade is less effective than other forms of remediation.

Despite the research, however, the current trend is for states to require students to read "at grade level" by third grade or face retention. The mayoral controlled city school systems of Chicago and New York have also tried it and found that it didn't work. Florida does it. North Carolina does it. Indiana does it. It's also being used in Texas, Ohio, Iowa, and Arizona. (FYI see Chapter 7, Section 2 of the A-Plus Literacy Act by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC)

Rather than simply expecting schools to bring all children to a Lake Wobegon standard of "at grade level" by third grade, Americans, and their legislators must understand that not all children learn at the same rate. Rather than wasting money retaining children at third grade, states ought to invest in early childhood education, early interventions like Reading Recovery and smaller class sizes.

Holding Kids Back Doesn't Help Them by Deborah Stipek and Michael Lombardo
A majority of peer-reviewed studies over the past 30 years have demonstrated that holding students back yields little or no long-term academic benefits and can actually be harmful to students...

Moreover, there is compelling evidence that retention can reduce the probability of high school graduation...

Instead of giving children the same treatment that failed them the first time, alternative strategies provide different kinds of learning opportunities.

Interventions should also begin long before 3rd grade. Research has provided compelling evidence that investments in preschool can reduce retention and have positive long-term payoff for individuals and society, in contrast to the negative long-term effects of holding a student back later.


Jeb Bush's reading rule loses ground

Not mentioned in the article below, but included in the one above, is the fact that the gains of "retention in grade" are lost in about 2 years, and by 8th grade Florida students are still below the national average in reading proficiency.
Many students could use the extra help: Nationally, 32 percent of fourth-graders were reading at below basic levels in 2013, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

But it’s unclear whether the retention policies work as intended.

One study from Florida shows that after two years of implementation, third-graders who were retained made significant reading gains relative to their socially promoted peers.

But other studies have shown that retention leads to loss of self-esteem, a decreased feeling of belonging at school and negative effects on college attendance. A Harvard University study found that any positive effects of retention fade out over time.

Data from Florida show that about a third of students held back for a year in 2003 never became proficient at reading. But a state official also noted that fewer students have been retained over the years because they’re getting more intensive instruction, thanks to the law.

A benefit of the Florida law that further denies the effectiveness of grade retention is
...retention plus being assigned to a highly effective teacher and receiving 90 minutes of additional literacy instruction per day is more effective than being promoted with no such guaranteed, high-dosage interventions.
The Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy at the University of Denver reviewed the research on retention.

They concluded that Florida had improved test scores according to some studies specifically because...
Florida also has universal preschool, class size limits, and guaranteed high-quality literacy coaches, among other well-financed innovations.
In other words, when money is provided for proven interventions, student acheivement improves.
...since 2006 Florida has legislated a separate education fund guaranteed to be spent on literacy. This year that fund has $130M to distribute across its districts to be spent on highly qualified literacy coaches, intensive summer reading camps for lagging readers, among others. Although Florida’s unique combination of reforms and financial backing is likely largely responsible for some test score gains seen there, the effects of retention itself are not possible to isolate.


Until the United States finally decides to place a high priority on our early learners, especially those who are at risk due to poverty and English language learners, we'll have an economic and linguistic learning gap. Forced retention at third grade won't change that.
There are sufficient data to conclude that retention in the absence of well-funded, guaranteed, and high-dosage interventions is ineffective or harmful. This includes the most recent research using the most rigorous methods to control for pre-retention differences.
Forced retention in grade, the overuse and misuse of testing, closing schools instead of supporting them, charter schools, vouchers, invalid teacher evaluations, reducing teacher benefits, lowering requirements for educators -- None of those "reforms" will help children.

What will help is early and intensive research-based interventions for students at risk of failure.

Unfortunately, "reformers" haven't figured out how to make money from actually helping students.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Case Against "reformers"


Three recent articles did a nice job of summarizing the problems facing public education in the U.S. They add to the already strong case against the so-called "reform" movement.
The ultimate goal of most "reformers" is, apparently, the privatization of America's public schools rather than improved student achievement. "reformers" use a variety of tools to achieve that goal...tools like union busting, overusing and misusing tests, transferring funds from public to private hands through vouchers, charters and virtual charter schools, political manipulations -- such as the recent takeover of the responsibilities of the Indiana school chief, Glenda Ritz (and her DOE) by the Indiana State Board of Education and Governor Pence (see HERE and HERE), funding cuts, school closings, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession by inserting untrained amateurs like Teach For America temps into public schools, general political propaganda, and buying state and federal politicians.
  • They starve schools of needed resources, raise class sizes, eliminate libraries and the arts, deny that the poverty which runs rampant throughout our cities has any effect, and then blame students, parents and teachers when achievement is low.
  • They close schools or turn them over to private corporations with no public oversight.
  • The low achievement of our most economically deprived students is blamed on teachers...yet there's rarely a comment about teachers when it comes to the high achievement of our nation's wealthy students.
  • They demand accountability of teachers and use student test scores to grade teachers and schools, but dismiss any accountability for the failure of the states and nation to deal with its huge child poverty levels and segregated schools.
  • They want to lower the qualifications for entry into the teaching profession (In what universe does less training make better teachers?).
  • They obsess over student achievement on tests rather than recognizing that a child is more than a test score.
  • They blame unions, but don't explain why the presence or absence of teachers unions in a state has little effect on student achievement. (Hint: It's poverty)
  • They want to deny employee protections to teachers, blame "bad teachers" for low achievement, and then (apparently) expect to have legions of expert teachers clamoring for low paying, high stress jobs.
The one thing that the "reformers" don't have is a research basis for the changes they champion.


Stephen Krashen...

The Vergara decision: The big picture
Our unspectacular international test scores are the result of poverty, not teaching quality: The US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (23%, compared to Finland’s 5%). When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American scores on international tests are at the top of the world.

There is no evidence that Teach for America teachers do better, no data supporting flipped classrooms, and no data showing that less experienced teachers are better. Evaluating teachers using test-score gains is inaccurate: Different tests produce different ratings, and a teacher’s ratings often vary from year to year.

Firing teachers based on unreliable measures, eliminating tenure (really due process), and devaluating experience will reduce the number of teachers. They will be replaced with unproven technology, a boondoggle for computer companies but a disaster for students.
Paul Buchheit continues the assault on the "reformers" misrepresentations...

Five Facts for the Dangerously Deluded Education Reformers
1. Privatization takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
...The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year...Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history...Spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago.

2. Testing doesn’t work.
..."The tests that are typically used to measure performance in education fall short of providing a complete measure of desired educational outcomes in many ways"...With regard to teacher evaluation, the American Statistical Association reported that Value-Added Assessment Models "are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes."...

3. The arts make better scientists.
...A comprehensive study at Michigan State University found that "success in science is accompanied by developed ability in other fields such as the fine arts."...

4. Privatization means unequal opportunity for all.
...A National Education Policy Center study found that charter schools, in comparison to nearby public schools, were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities."...

5. Reformers are primarily business people, not educators.
...Billionaires like Bill Gates and Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family, who have little educational experience among them, and who have little accountability to the public, are promoting education reform with lots of standardized testing. As already noted, the writers of the Common Core standards included no early childhood educators or experienced classroom teachers. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a joint statement rejecting the standards as inappropriate for children in the early grades...[emphasis added]
People like Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan and Bill Gates, who don't know anything about education are having a huge impact on America's public schools. Unfortunately they rarely listen to, or purposely ignore, actual practitioners and researchers.


To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap

Linda Darling-Hammond is an experienced educator with more than 40 years of experience in public education and educational research. She maintains that teachers in the U.S. are prevented from doing their jobs. High achieving nations treat teachers with more respect, allow teachers to do what they were trained to do, give teachers time to collaborate, and provide sufficient resources.

In addition, the fact that nearly a fourth of America's children live in poverty creates special difficulties that higher achieving nations don't have. Our high poverty children are more at risk because our social safety nets are less adequate than in other developed countries. We have more children without health care. We have more children living with food insecurity. We have more homeless children. We spend less money on our students who live in poverty than we do for our wealthy students. Teachers who work with high poverty students have enormous challenges to overcome and are given fewer resources.
...American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society -- an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement...

...Address inequities that undermine learning: Every international indicator shows that the U.S. supports its children less well than do other developed countries, who offer universal health care and early childhood education, as well as income supports for families. Evidence is plentiful that when children are healthy and well-supported in learning in the early years and beyond, they achieve and graduate at higher rates. The latest PISA report also found that the most successful nations allocate proportionately more resources to the education of disadvantaged students, while the United States allocates less. It is time for the U.S. finally to equalize school funding, address childhood poverty as it successfully did during the 1970s, institute universal early care and learning programs, and provide the wraparound services -- health care, before- and after-school care, and social services -- that ensure children are supported to learn....

Value teaching and teacher learning: Countries where teachers believe their profession is valued show higher levels of student achievement....

Redesign schools to create time for collaboration: OECD studies show that higher-performing countries intentionally focus on creating teacher collaboration that results in more skillful teaching and strong student achievement. U.S. researchers have also found that school achievement is much stronger where teachers work in collaborative teams that plan and learn together....

Create meaningful teacher evaluations that foster improvement: All U.S. teachers stated that formal appraisal is used in their schools, based on classroom observations; feedback from parents, guardians, and students; and review of test information. This is not very different from the TALIS average. What is different is the nature of the feedback and its usefulness. American teachers found the feedback they received to be less useful for improving instruction than their peers elsewhere...

We cannot make major headway in raising student performance and closing the achievement gap until we make progress in closing the teaching gap. That means supporting children equitably outside as well as inside the classroom, creating a profession that is rewarding and well-supported, and designing schools that offer the conditions for both the student and teacher learning that will move American education forward.
We have lost our way as a society. We've lost the ability or the desire to do what's right for the children of our nation, and our nation is, and will be poorer for it. Susan Zimmerman, in Comprehension Going Forward, said it best.
"Somewhere along the line we've forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It's about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It's about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It's about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can't imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring."


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, July 7, 2014

CALL TO ACTION: Tell the Governor, State Board of Education, and your legislators to allow Superintendent Glenda Ritz to do her job

Reposted from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana
When over 1,300,000 Indiana voters of both parties elected Glenda Ritz for state superintendent of public instruction it was a clear message that we wanted change in education. However, Gov. Pence, his appointed state board and the supermajority in our state legislature have spent the last two and a half years denying that mandate and throwing roadblocks in Ritz’s way.

We have watched in amazement as our state legislature continued the attack on public education and even introduced bills to take away Ritz’s authority. When these bills failed, we were outraged to see our governor use his executive power to create a second, shadow department of education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, using millions of our taxpayer dollars.

This blatant usurping of Ritz’s authority and continual disrespect to the voters is now to be compounded by new rules being put forth tomorrow, July 9th, which replaces responsibilities of the chair (Ritz) with the “board staff” or CECI for creating agenda items and procedures.

Granted, it is a difficult situation to have a publicly elected superintendent and her department of education try to work effectively with a state board of education and a SECOND department of education who are tasked with the corporate reform agenda of the governor. The addition of an expensive, unnecessary education department chaired by Claire Fiddian-Greene (who is not an educator) further complicates the situation. All concerned claim to be “for the kids” yet one side represents a democratic process; the other represents an undermining of that process.

It would seem that our legislators who sit passively by and allow our children to be pawns in this political game are ignoring our message in allowing the governor and many of his state board members to void our votes.

Let us be clear:

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we believe that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy.

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we believe that public tax dollars belong in public schools.

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we believe in the profession of teaching and that educators, not politicians, should make policy decisions.

We voted for Glenda Ritz because we know that testing does not equal teaching and that our children are suffering under the use of tests as punishments to schools, teachers and kids within.

We voted for Glenda Ritz most of all because we know that these politicians, fed by their donors, care more about turning our schools into a for-profit venture where the dollar, not the child, is the bottom line.

How can we support Glenda Ritz and reinforce our votes and get our message across? Vote wisely this fall. In the meantime:

Contact Governor Pence: http://in.gov/gov/2333.htm

Contact the SBOE members: http://www.in.gov/sboe/2527.htm and http://www.in.gov/sboe/2423.htm

Contact your state legislators: https://capwiz.com/nea/in/home/

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Baseball Interlude: Leroy "Satchel" Paige


July 7th is the "estimated" birthday of Leroy "Satchel" Paige (see www.satchelpaige.com/bio2)

Paige played professional baseball in the Negro Leagues and, after Jackie Robinson broke the "color barrier," the Major Leagues. He was elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1971.

According to some biographers, historians, and himself, Paige was the winningest pitcher in baseball history.

Satchel Paige by Larry Tye
Satchel Paige threw his first pitch in professional baseball in 1926 for the Chattanooga White Sox, an inappropriately-named team in the lower levels of the segregated Negro Leagues. He played his last game in organized baseball in 1966 – a full 40 years later – for a Virginia club called the Peninsula Pilots. In between, the Hall of Famer pitched more baseballs, in more ballparks, for more teams, than any player in history. It also is safe to say that no pitcher ever threw at a higher level, for longer, than the ageless right-hander with the whimsical nickname.
Satchel Paige
According to some accounts, Paige compiled 31 wins against just four losses in 1933, and also accumulated streaks of 64 consecutive scoreless innings and 21 straight victories. Paige insisted that he kept his own records and reported pitching in more than 2,500 games and winning 2,000 or so, as well as playing for 250 teams and throwing 250 shutouts, staggering numbers when compared to those of Major League pitchers.


Paige joined the Cleveland Indians in 1948 helping them win the World Championship, and pitched for 5 years in the major leagues (plus 3 innings in 1965). He ended his Major League career with an ERA of 3.29. He had a losing record in the major leagues -- 28-31, but keep in mind that he started his Major League career as a 42 year old rookie.

He wasn't happy about not being the first black player in the Major Leagues. He had been vocal about the segregated game for most of his career. Still, he eventually accepted that, as an older player, he wouldn't have been the best choice to break the barrier.
When Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson, a former teammate of Paige, Paige realized that it was for the better that he himself was not the first black player in major league baseball. Robinson started in the minors, and had a major league team started him in its minor league affiliate, Paige would have probably seen this as an insult. Paige eventually realized that by integrating baseball in the minor leagues first with Robinson, the white major league players got the chance to "get used to" the idea of playing alongside black players. Understanding that, Paige said in his autobiography that, "Signing Jackie like they did still hurt me deep down. I'd been the guy who'd started all that big talk about letting us in the big time. I’d been the one who'd opened up the major league parks to colored teams. I'd been the one who the white boys wanted to go barnstorming against." Paige, and all other black players, knew that quibbling about the choice of the first black player in the major leagues would do nothing productive, so, despite his inner feelings, Paige said of Robinson, "He's the greatest colored player I’ve ever seen."
Biographer, Larry Tye, wrote
The truth is that Satchel Paige had been hacking away at baseball’s color bar decades before the world got to know Jackie Robinson. Satchel laid the groundwork for Jackie the way A. Philip Randolph, W.E.B. DuBois, and other early Civil Rights leaders did for Martin Luther King Jr. Paige was as much a poster boy for black baseball as Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong was for black music and Paul Robeson was for the black stage – and much as those two became symbols of their art in addition to their race, so Satchel was known not as a great black pitcher but a great pitcher. In the process Satchel Paige, more than anyone, opened to blacks the national pastime and forever changed his sport and this nation.


On September 25, 1965, at the age of 59, he pitched 3 scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics in a game against the Boston Red Sox. In those three innings he gave up one hit, to future Hall of Famer Carl Yastremski, and struck out one.

Fifty-nine-year-old Satchel Paige pitches three innings
...On September 25, 1965, Paige’s three innings for the Kansas City Athletics made him, at 59 years, 2 months and 18 days, the oldest pitcher ever to play a game in the major leagues. Before the game, Paige sat in the bullpen in a rocking chair while a nurse rubbed liniment into his pitching arm for the entire crowd to see. Any doubts about Paige’s ability were put to rest when he set down each of the Red Sox batters he faced except for Carl Yastremski, who hit a double.


Known as much for his personality as his pitching ability, Paige is given credit for a variety of sayings, most notably...
"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
As well as...
"Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."
"Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common."
"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines."
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?"
"Money and women. They're two of the strongest things in the world. The things you do for a woman you wouldn't do for anything else. Same with money."
"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."
"You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them."

Maybe I'll Pitch Forever by Leroy Paige as told to David Lipman, 1993
Satchel Paige by Larry Tye
"If You Were Only White": The Life of Leroy "Satchel" Paige by Donald Spivey, 2013
Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye, 2010
Satchel Paige


Negro Leagues
Major Leagues
Minor Leagues
Dominican League, Mexican League, Cuban League, North Dakota, California Winter League, Puerto Rican Winter League

Thursday, July 3, 2014

2014 Medley #17

Corporate Religions, Teachers,
Gifted Education, Vouchers, Reading Wars,
Reformers Vs. Anti-Reformers


Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision has opened the dam...
The day after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, a group of religious leaders sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he exempt them from a forthcoming executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people.
What's next? A religious owned corporation refusing to hire Muslims or Jews based on their "theology?"

Citizens United proclaimed that corporations are people. Hobby Lobby proclaimed that corporations have religions. Is the next step giving corporations seats in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress? Oh...wait...never mind.


The Cost Of Leaving Educators Off The Education Agenda

Imagine a medical convention without medical professionals. Imagine Spring Training without ball players...a fire safety symposium without fire-fighters...

Why is it so easy to discuss education in the U.S. without including educators? Is it any wonder that American teachers feel like their profession is not valued?
The latest such example came from the Center for American Progress who staged a panel recently on “A Roadmap for a Successful Transition to the Common Core in States and Districts.” Typical of these sorts of affairs, the panel consisted of two Beltway think tank execs and two former pols now firmly ensconced in the private sector. There wasn’t an actual practicing educator in sight.

The report bears out the superficial substance of the PR event, a view from 30,000 feet up with seemingly no input from practicing teachers and principals on the ground.

Keep in mind this is an effort to promote implementation – where the rubber really meets the road – with, supposedly, examples of teachers and administrators doing it more successfully. And it’s a “roadmap.” Yet there’s little if any evidence of input from the people actually driving on the road.

U.S. teachers have harder job than counterparts in industrialized world — survey

American teachers work in a national atmosphere of disrespect.
...the survey shows that American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement.

Teachers’ Union President Fired Following Opposition to High-Stakes Testing
...Holyoke teachers elected Gus Morales as their union president in May on a platform that opposed education privatization. But on June 17, Morales, a middle school teacher, received a letter from his principal, Amy Fitzgerald, informing him that his employment had not been renewed.

“As I started speaking out, I was targeted with negative observations. One can infer that the negative observation was meant to quiet me. As long as I kept my mouth shut, everything was good, and then when I started speaking about what was happening to my students, I was let go,” says Morales, one of only a handful of Puerto Rican teachers in a school district that is nearly 80 percent Hispanic. [emphasis added]


The Reading Wars Continue: Scientific Literacy vs. Balanced Literacy
Real teachers don't teach programs; they teach children. When you actually teach children, observe their learning, sit beside them and shape their development, you can see clearly that learning to read and write is a combination of developing skill and fostering the will to read and write.

Skill and will are complementary aspects of literacy learning. Children begin with the will to learn, develop the skills as they receive instruction, and improve as they practice in real reading and writing situations under the guidance of the teacher. No program can achieve this for children. Only good teachers can.


New data shows just how much school districts lost due to Private School Vouchers

Voucher supporters still claim that vouchers don't hurt public schools...
New data obtained from the Indiana Department of Education reveals exactly how much funding local public school districts have lost to private school vouchers in their districts.
Three of the largest school systems in the state...coincidentally three school systems with high levels of poverty, lost the most.

1 Indianapolis Public Schools -$5,635,851.14
2 Fort Wayne Community Schools -$4,536,366.51
3 South Bend Community Schools -$3,035,150.49

My local school system, which continues to close schools due to budget cuts, lost more than half a million dollars.

East Allen County Schools -$553,958.57


This morning's tweets from John Kuhn, ‏@johnkuhntx

John Kuhn defined "reformers" and "anti-reformers" on his twitter feed this morning.


Jay Mathews is an education writer for the Washington Post. Diane Ravitch says of him that,
...he changes his mind when the evidence changes. He gets enthusiastic about big ideas, but is willing to step back if he thinks he was wrong.
Last month he wrote an article on gifted education.

Four gifted writers share doubts about gifted education

Mathews' thesis is that "gifted education" is a waste of time.
I am among those people who think gifted education classes are usually a waste of time and money. It’s better to give super-bright kids a library card or a computer with a Web connection and get out of their way.
He has nothing with which to back this up so he qualifies his thesis with words like "usually" just in case someone has actual facts to dispute him.
Unfortunately, there is no research proving me wrong or right. So I have gone the unscientific route. I asked four original thinkers how much their schooling contributed to their success.
Here Mathews claims that, since he hasn't looked for any research, there must not be any...and again qualifies his thesis, this time admitting that it's "unscientific."

Now that he has protected himself from any reasonable rebuttal because he was 1) speaking of the "usual" gifted/talented education classes and 2) speaking "unscientifically," he can continue.

He interviews four fellow journalists who were "original" though only one of the four was ever in any "gifted" program. The other three were products of elite and expensive private schools.

[Two attended Mitt Romney's alma mater, the Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The other went to the Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Both have student teacher ratios of about 6:1]

While I have no doubt that the four people Mathews interviewed were very bright, I don't think that they represent and "average cross-section" of America's gifted children.

In order to give Mathews the opportunity to admit he's wrong based on evidence, here are some resources which I would recommend to him.

Meta-Analyses and Review of Research on Pull-Out Programs in Gifted Education

The authors investigated nine pull-out programs dealing with gifted students and determined that pull-out models...
...in gifted education have significant positive effects for the variables of achievement, critical thinking, and creativity.

Myths about Gifted Students

Mathews' article is essentially a rehash of the old myth that gifted students don't need any extra help...that they'll do fine on their own. We know, however, that this is not the case. In fact, for many students, gifted and otherwise, good schools are essential.
Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Gifted students need guidance from well-trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know more than half of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits. The role of the teacher is crucial for spotting and nurturing talents in school.
Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students: Differentiating Mathematics and Science Instruction

Just like other areas of education, one size does not fit all. Perhaps some gifted and talented students would benefit from a childhood of self-directed learning, however, that's not true for most.
When students are not presented with learning experiences that are appropriate for their abilities, they lose motivation and sometimes even their interest in learning and school. Brain research suggests that the brain will not maintain its level of development if students are not challenged.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Random Quotes - June 2014


It would be nice if our leaders had this same philosophy.

Queen makes forceful and personal speech after day of emotion and frantic diplomacy at 70th anniversary of D-Day
Noting ‘the joy of becoming a great-grandmother’, the 88-year-old Queen added a telling sentiment that will, no doubt, be much quoted by future historians: ‘Everything we do, we do for the young.’


Author and Nerdfighter John Green talks about reading and being read to...
...imagine possibilities...


Holding Kids Back Doesn't Help Them - Deborah Stipek and Michael Lombardo

State after state is now holding back third graders based on the results of one test. There is no research that shows that flunking kids helps them. Indiana, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio...the process is being repeated in state after state. Iowa, New Mexico, Tennessee, Colorado...

Remember that Glenda Ritz defeated Tony Bennett in part because she was against Indiana's law requiring students who fail IREAD-3 to repeat grade 3? The people agreed...but as Superintendent of Public Instruction she's not able to change the law...she can only speak out against it. It's up to the voters to elect the right legislators.
...retention does not help most children who have fallen behind, primarily because they are exposed to the same material in the same way that didn't work for them the first time around. When a strategy fails to work, the solution is not to do it again; it is to change the strategy.

“The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy” -Abraham Lincoln, 1864


From former Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Fred Harris
Strange but true, in a country that professes to believe in the value of work, we tax money earned from work a lot harder than we tax money earned from money.


Education Reform: A National Delusion - Steve Nelson
In the cacophony of reform chatter -- online programs, charter schools, vouchers, testing, more testing, accountability, Common Core, value-added assessments, blaming teachers, blaming tenure, blaming unions, blaming parents -- one can barely hear the children crying out: "Pay attention to us!"


House Speaker John Boehner is self-aware enough to admit that he's not an expert on climate change...
"I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change."
or an economist...
"‘I'm not an economist, I don't know what impact it's going to have on the economy,’ he said in response to a question from NBC News at his weekly press conference."
Former Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont) admitted that he was no expert on China (after he was nominated to be the next ambassador to China).
"I’m no real expert on China."
When is Arne Duncan going to admit he knows nothing about education?


What's Good for Rich Kids Is Good for Poor Ones, Too - Deborah Meier
...every child in America should have access to the wealth of talent and experience offered in elite private schools, PLUS ... for after school, weekend, and summer enrichment.


Speech of Benjamin Franklin on the Occasion of the Acceptance of the Constitution - Ben Franklin, 1787
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 Medley #16

Teachers, Students, 
U.S. DOE, Money


Orange math teacher who decried 'toxic culture of education' running for school board

After going viral with his TED talk, Toxic Culture of Education, Joshua Katz has decided to enter the race for Orange County, Florida (Orlando) school board. When announcing his candidacy, Katz said,
When it comes to all the barrage of end of year tests, testing this, even teacher evaluations, school grades...is that the proper filter from the question "is this what's best for our students?"

...we need a voice that's going to speak up and say, "when are we going to involve the actual stakeholders [the students]?

As a teacher I've been impassioned about education for my entire career. I believe that someone with that passion for teaching and education needs to be making these education policies.

Rethinking Rookies: Why Are More New Teachers Quitting Early?

I spent my career in public education classrooms...and still work with public education students. I have heard more than one teacher comment that they wish they could get out of education...but for them, mid-career professionals with young children, homeowner and auto debt, it's too late to go back to college and plot another career path. These are not "bad" teachers...quite the contrary, some are among the best teachers I have ever worked with. They're frustrated, discouraged, and disillusioned by 1) a state government (legislature, governor and state school board) which seems to hate public schools and public school educators, 2) national, state and local media outlets which promote the false narrative of the "reformsters," and 3) a local school district strapped for cash, forced by the state and federal departments of education into a test-and-punish mentality. The phrase "I wish I could just teach" is heard often.

Teachers are not against being evaluated...or being held accountable. What they we are against is unfair evaluations...and sole accountability for that which they we are not responsible. Until that changes the number of high achieving students going into and staying in teaching will dwindle. We have to stop punishing teachers for taking on the hard task of working with difficult to educate students.

If we purposely wanted to discourage the "best and the brightest" from joining (or remaining a part of) the teaching profession we couldn't have devised a better plan.
Susan Headden of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said because teachers don’t have the support they need to be effective educators. (Read Headden’s new report on beginning teachers in the classroom here.)

Headden said a teacher in the first few years of his or her career is facing more pressure than previous generations of teachers because of higher stakes testing that have real consequences if students don’t perform well.

But Headden said the support to comfort a teacher through that stressful first year and provide effective teaching techniques and strategies doesn’t exist in most school districts.
For a more entertaining look at this topic see Edushyster's article, Have Elevator, Will Elevate (the Teaching Profession).

Higher Calling: To improve our schools, we need to make it harder to become a teacher.

High achieving nations do the exact opposite of what the USA does when it comes to teacher training and careers. The Indiana State School Board is not alone in considering plans to lower the qualifications for educators -- from teachers to superintendents. School systems are divesting themselves of older, experienced teachers for TFA-like temps with little training and experience, and even littler paychecks.
By accepting so few applicants, Finnish teacher colleges accomplish two goals—one practical, one spiritual: First, the policy ensures that teachers-to-be like Stenfors are more likely to have the education, experience, and drive to do their jobs well. Second (and this part matters even more), this selectivity sends a message to everyone in the country that education is important—and that teaching is damn hard to do. Instead of just repeating these claims over and over like Americans, the Finns act like they mean it.

Like All Americans, Teachers Deserve Tenure

Instead of saying, "In the real world workers don't have tenure. Why should teachers have it?" We ought to be saying, "Everyone deserves due process."
One way to ensure the economic security and independence of Americans is to afford them the simple workplace protection of due process.

Due process itself is as American as Apple Pie. It is enshrined in the US Constitution as a basic political right. FDR made the observation that “As our nation has grown in size and stature … political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness”. In other words, he said political rights were no longer enough.

“At will” employment laws create the potential for Americans to have that equality taken from them simply because another person feels like doing it. The laws expose people to capricious, even ‘grossly ineffective’ supervisors and place employees on a less even playing field with employers than they already are. The US is the only wealthy nation on Earth that still subscribes to the “Employment At Will Doctrine (here)” (here) and many nations, like Germany (cited only because it is the richest nation in Europe (here)), have laws that specifically spell out the type of due process every employee should have when faced with possible termination (here).

That’s why, instead of taking due process rights away from teachers, the better thing to do is to just give them to everyone else. Let’s not make judge Treu and his colleagues, nor me and my colleagues, the exception. Instead, let’s work to make that standard -that no person can have their job taken from him or her simply because another person “wills” it- the rule. Let’s not make this a rule just for teachers or just for judges, but for every person in California and beyond.

Seniority, Tenure and the Vergara Decision
There is no doubt that both the lawsuit and the decision are anti-public education, anti-union and fit entirely within the narrative of all that is wrong in public education can be understood by blaming the people who actually do the work within school: teachers, paraprofessionals, counselor, librarians, school nurses and psychologists. Secondly, it seeks to deflect the blame away from systematic underfunding of public education and the shredding of the social safety net in California that has led to losses in services to the most needy students and families across the state.

But the ruling isn’t ‘misguided’. On the contrary, it is entirely in line with Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s wholesale attack on public education, which emphasizes merit pay for ‘good’ teachers and a streamlined dismissal process for ‘poor’ ones, which supports standardized testing and ‘value-added’ assessment for teachers to measure performance, and which seeks to replace public education with privately run (though publicly funded) charter schools that opens the estimated $1 trillion education industry to corporate control, profit, and plunder.

Henry: Tying high-stakes tests to teachers is harmful
Let's quit trying to "teacher-proof" education and stop the overreliance on data from one high-stakes test. The answers for improvement are recruiting, training and supporting our teaching professionals. Attention to these will deepen the effectiveness of what we do in the classroom and the biggest winners will be our children.

Henry is superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.


Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, study shows

Soccer, softball, dancing, gymnastics...do kids just get to "play outside" anymore? They should.
Children who spend more time in less structured activities -- from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo -- are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gonzalez: Students of much-touted Success Academy charter school score too low on entrance exam for top city high schools

Speaks for itself...
The founding class of Harlem Success Academy 1 graduated on Friday. The class started with 73 enrolled first-grade students in August 2006, but 32 students were at graduation. And none of the students, who are either black or Latino, got high enough scores test for top high schools.


U.S. Warning New York State on Teacher Evaluations

Arne Duncan threatens yet another state with loss of funds if they don't use an invalid method of teacher evaluation.
A federal education official warned Tuesday that if New York delays using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations this year, the state risks losing up to $292 million of a grant tied to making these reviews more rigorous.


Dirty Secret In The Education Wars: Money Matters

Let's quit wasting our funds on inappropriate, overused and misused standardized tests.
The dirty, little secret in America’s education wars is that spending more money on schools is what most people really want – and for good reason, because it really tends to help...

Equity, it must be understood, does not mean “every kid gets the same amount.” Rather, Baker explained, real equity is providing all children, regardless of their educational settings or personal backgrounds, the resources and opportunity they need to achieve similar outcome goals. In other words, if we want kids who come from low-income households or from families who don’t speak English – two demographic characteristics strongly correlated with lower achievement – to achieve the same common outcome goals as their better-off, fluent English peers, that requires funding adjustments to support the additional costs of achieving those outcome goals – whether those costs are for additional staff specialists, smaller class sizes, or more experienced, higher paid teachers. That’s what an approach to fairly funding schools would insist on.

What Baker found, however, was, “The recent recession yielded an unprecedented decline in public school funding fairness. 36 states had a three year average reduction in current spending fairness between 2008-09 and 2010-11 and 32 states had a three year average reduction in state and local revenue fairness over that same time period.”

Another finding in Baker’s analysis: Two factors, cuts in state aid to schools and “a shifting role for federal aid,” were chief reasons for the declining funding fairness during the downturn. [emphasis added]


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children


I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I've referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because I'm convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” [Emphasis added]

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their children become better readers.


In the newest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What's the score?
In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.
  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.
(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads....Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America's "male" culture has been dominated by sports and television -- ESPN (and ESPN2, ESPN Classic, etc.), Monday Night Football, and others -- and boys watch their role models carefully.
The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.
"Is there a connection," he asks, between the "decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?"
Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.
The question is...do they? Do fathers take part in their children's, and specifically their sons', intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.
Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?
Make a Father's Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!