"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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Experts

Democrats and Republicans are both well entrenched in education "reform" (Note, however, the recent formation of Democrats for Public Education...perhaps a counter to DFER?). Democrats like Obama (through Duncan), Emanuel , Booker and Polis (among others) rival Republicans G. W. Bush (through Spellings), J. Bush, and Christie (among others) in their attack on public schools and public school teachers. Both political parties seem to agree that public education needs to be privatized and public educators need to be de-unionized and silenced.

This bipartisan effort to privatize public education and silence public educators is supported by major cable media outlets (this is not to say that other major media outlets are much different). Media Matters looked at the number of educators who were included in discussions about American education on cable news shows from January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2014.
On segments in which there was a substantial discussion of domestic education policy between January 1, 2014, and October 31, 2014, there were 185 guests total on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, only 16 of whom were educators, or 9 percent...
Rather than rely on classroom experts when discussing education policy, the media spotlights people who have no experience in the classroom, no training in child development or the art and practice of teaching, and no clue what it means to spend a career helping children learn. Perhaps one of the comments on the Media Matters page is true...
Well, most of us teachers are too swamped with grading, planning, paperwork, parent-teacher conferences, observations, and way too understaffed to take time off to appear on some show just to get tongue lashed by some pundit who thinks they know how to do the job.

More likely is the fact that teachers, as a group, are politically disrespected (the main exceptions being themselves and their students' parents) in the U.S.


Fifty years ago, Richard Hofstadter won the pulitzer prize for his exploration of America's anti-intellectualism in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Hofstadter said that the U.S. was unique among Western nations in that its citizens' resented and mistrusted those who follow "the life of the mind" - i.e. academia and education. The 50's were, according to Hofstadter, a peak in the cyclical anti-intellectual trend in the U.S. McCarthy's attacks were in large part directed against intellectuals and universities. Words like, "Ivory Tower" and "Egghead" were part of the campaign to defeat Adlai Stevenson and the "work of the mind" was held in a lower esteem than was business, industry and physical labor.

Anti-intellectualism is not unique to the 50's, though. The trend runs through American history sometimes boldly, sometimes hidden below the surface. Hofstadter discussed the cyclical nature of the trend and claimed that peaks in the cycle were due to the rise in importance of the very intellectuals who were resented...
...the resentment from which the intellectual has suffered in our time is a manifestation not of the decline in his position but of his increasing prominence.
In other words, as intellectuals become more noticeable and visible in our society, resentment and anti-intellectualism will grow.

This is one of the reasons why educators in general, and public school teachers in particular, have never had high status in the U.S. (as opposed to other western nations). Furthermore, the fact that, in the U.S., education is, by some, considered "women's work," adds to the low status. Women have yet to be fully respected in our society. While individuals may vary in their opinion of "women's work" it's clear that there is a large segment of the population who believe that women don't deserve the respect, status, and/or wages, that men do.

Low status is self-perpetuating. O. Alan Weltzien, a professor at the University of Montana, reviewed Hofstadter's book in 2008. He wrote...
The low status of schoolteachers and low opinion of teacher education programs [which Hofstadter] describes needs no additional comment. He unflinchingly states the consequences for his overall subject: "In so far as the teacher stands before his pupils as a surrogate of the intellectual life and its rewards, he unwittingly makes this life appear altogether unattractive."


An indication of this distrust of "experts" is the anti-science attitude of many Americans and their political representatives...in this case, most specifically, on the Republican side. A quarter of all Americans refuse to accept the science of climate change...and more than 40% of Americans believe the creationist view of human origins. [Evolution is just a "theory" after all, they say. One wonders, then, whether they deny the Germ Theory of disease or the Theory of Gravity!].

Most recently, House Republicans passed a bill (which, even if it passes the Senate, is likely to be vetoed) which forbids scientists from "influencing" the EPA with their research. Instead, "industry experts" will be allowed to advise the EPA...the proverbial fox guarding the chicken house.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., summed up what was going on: “I get it, you don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.” [emphasis added]
It's true that some of the motivation behind the bill isn't anti-science, but rather pro corporate profits. The point is, however, that it passed because the house is filled with a new crop of science deniers. [For an entertaining look at how John Stewart responds to science deniers in the house see HERE. This was done before the midterm elections in 2014, however, the congressmen he targets for his humor are still there.]

The dislike of public education by the political and religious right wing has never been a secret. There was a time, though, when Republicans used "improved education" and "saving tax dollars" as arguments for "choice," charters, and vouchers. Now, however, with charters and voucher accepting private schools showing no tax savings and no academic improvement over traditional public schools, the argument has become "choice for the sake of choice."

The American tendency towards anti-intellectualism is, unsurprisingly, being exploited for corporate and political advantage. Like the recent political attack on scientists within the EPA, the corporate attack on public school teachers is intended to rally anti-intellectual feelings of resentment and jealousy against teachers and the institution they represent. The pervasiveness of public school teachers in America...more than 3 million nationwide spread over every political district...means that the corporate privatizers are up against a possible huge backlash of activism and political clout. Weakening educators is necessary if privatizers want to get their hands on the billions of dollars in tax money going to public education.


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, November 19, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - November, 2014

...with some added words. Click on any image to see the full sized version.


It's the teacher's fault.

...from Linda Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.

Teachers in the U.S. are overworked with little time for professional collaboration and professional development, yet this is one of the most important aspects of professional life needed to improve the teaching profession.


What else isn't being taught because of "the test?"


Trying to fix the nation's educational system without paying attention to the economic problems facing the U.S. is doomed to failure.

There is a direct relationship between family income and test scores. Causality? Poverty has an impact.
Many studies confirm that poverty has a devastating effect on school performance: The dream team, "the world’s most inspiring, transformational teachers" will have little effect when students are poorly fed, ill because of lack of health care, and read poorly because of lack of access to books.

The Democrats of today won't save public education. People like Barack Obama (through his mouthpiece, Arne Duncan), Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker, and Rahm Emanuel have sold out to the Gates-Broad-Walton Megabillionaire's Club whose goal is the privatization of American education.

Republicans aren't much better. Remember the 2012 Presidential campaign and Mitt Romney's disgusting comment about getting "as much education as they can afford". The only education issue discussed was how people were going to pay for college. And we know how that turned out...students now finish college buried in life-long debt.

The danger to public education is greatest at the state level. Legislatures around the country are gutting public education funding and transferring money to private run charters and, in Indiana, Louisiana, and other places with destructive voucher plans, private schools.

America's child poverty problem is an indication of the disdain we have for our children...and our future.


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!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Medley #24

On Teaching, Testing, Vouchers,
Privatization, The Daily Show


The process of deprofessionalizing public education continues. The number of teacher candidates at colleges and universities continues to decline. Secretary Arne Duncan is now getting ready to blame colleges of education for students' low test scores.

Why are college students choosing not to enter teacher training programs? Could it have anything to do with how teachers are portrayed in the media? Could it have anything to do with how Duncan and those like him blame teachers and their unions for everything?

Even the privatizers and "reformers" are going to need teachers for their children and grandchildren. "Reformers" constantly call for more "great teachers" in the classroom. Where will they come from?

School reform pushing potential teachers away from profession
Over the last decade, teacher salaries in constant dollars in Indiana have decreased by more than 10 percent. Outpaced only by North Carolina, which experienced teacher salary decreases of 14 percent, Indiana had the second largest decrease in the country.

...The only clear winners so far are the test companies making billions of dollars in profit from the standardized test accountability craze in an experiment never before tried anywhere in the world, especially not in countries that have attained the highest levels of achievement in international comparisons of student performance.

...In Indiana, enrollment in teacher education programs has decreased by more than 30 percent over the last decade, and the rate of decrease recently has accelerated. Indiana is not unique in experiencing a drop in teacher education enrollment fueled by disinvestment in public education and contentious public policies that discourage talented students from going into teaching as well as encourage experienced teachers to leave the field. It is happening nationwide.

...If Indiana continues down the "education reform" path, Hoosiers will soon face the same problems bigger states are already experiencing. The research is incontrovertible that regardless of the type of institution a student attends, the single most important school-based factor for improving student achievement is the quality of the classroom teachers and school leaders.

[Ball State University] Teachers College enrollment declines
“I think kids in schools nowadays they say, ‘Why would I be a teacher? This is not an exciting thing,’” Jacobson said. “There’s a lot of challenges to classroom management, to authority, so the respect is not there. And of course young people want to choose a profession that they feel is respected.”

He said the respect for teachers has diminished over time.

Across all races, teacher education losing students
Illinois teaching institutions aren’t the only ones losing students. According to a national survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the number of full-time undergraduates enrolled in education degree programs fell by 6 percent between 2006 and 2011 – even though overall enrollment at the 581 institutions surveyed grew by more than 7 percent during that time period.

... “Amongst people of color, becoming a teacher has zoomed down to [no] more than 8th place in their interest level,” says Dominic Belmonte, president and CEO of Golden Apple, a non-profit organization dedicated to recruiting and developing good teachers in Illinois. “There is a sense out there that teaching is a difficult task that has a limited payoff as far as salary, as far as prestige, as far as challenge. Trying to make teaching cool again with all of these obstacles is a tad difficult.”

Fewer NC college students aspire to teach
...since 2010, fewer young people seem to be interested in the teaching profession in North Carolina. Even as overall enrollment at UNC schools has grown, enrollment in teacher education programs has declined, according to figures provided by the UNC system.

..."I think people are saying I don't want that job because it has a reputation of being a job that doesn't pay well and doesn't pay well enough to be able to support you for just an average living," said Dawn Rookey, an Owen High School teacher. "I think also there's been a lot of low teacher morale over the past three years with a lot of the legislative changes that have impacted the profession."

Young people may not see enough incentives to go into education, she said.


NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing

Arne Duncan finally admits that there's too much testing. Since 2001 and the passage of No Child Left Behind, the U.S. public education system has been wasting billions of dollars on excessive testing. Everyone has known it. Candidate Barack Obama knew it when he spoke to teachers in 2007. President Obama knew it when he talked to HS students in 2011 and when he spoke to the Congress in 2014. But the money flowing into, around, and through the test creation industry is too much for a politician to ignore.

Teachers and their students are the "innocent bystanders" in this corporate feeding frenzy. The misuse and overuse of testing is excessive, inappropriate, and educational malpractice, but the voices crying out against it don't have the billions of dollars that the Gates, Broad or Walton Family Foundations have. Teachers don't have anything to match the economic volume of Pearson's corporate voice.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently conceded that too much standardized testing was “sucking the oxygen out of the room” and causing “undue stress.” Although the nation’s educators may have been encouraged by Duncan’s words, they have been calling for an end to the high stakes testing culture for more than a decade. “As experts in educational practice, we know that the current system of standardized tests does not provide educators or students with the feedback or accountability any of us need to promote the success and learning of students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a.


True cost of school vouchers 

Dumping millions of dollars of state tax money into parochial education is just wrong. Public tax money should go to public schools. American's United for Separation of Church and State says, "Ninety percent of American children attend public schools. Our focus should be on fully funding and improving this system, not siphoning money into private systems."
With voucher numbers escalating, an accounting of their effectiveness and their effect on public schools should be required.

Figures released recently by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, show the number of voucher students this fall increased more than 47 percent, from 19,809 to 29,146.

“If we continue to see this kind of explosive growth in vouchers over the next few years, how is that going to help make our public schools whole again?” asked Porter, ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee. “If more funding is provided for education, how much will have to be siphoned off to pay for vouchers?”

...Parents of public school students know the increased funding claims are bogus. With new attention to public school funding, taxpayers statewide might finally have a say in where their dollars are directed. Those discussions should begin with a detailed report on voucher funding and accountability. What is the real cost to students and Indiana schools?


There's a Big Problem With Time's Teacher-Bashing Cover Story

I don't miss Michelle Rhee's pontifications about public education, her complaints about how terrible unions are, or how "bad teachers" are destroying the country. On the other hand, others have stepped up in her absence and have focused their educationally-inexperienced attention on teachers. It seems every legislator, retired news caster, frustrated basketball player, and corporate billionaire knows how to evaluate teachers. You do it by looking at their students' test scores. If students don't have test scores in the teacher's subject (music for example) you make something up.

Time magazine has glorified California's Vergara case through it's November 4 cover. It seems that the editors of Time, whose covers have bashed teachers for decades, also know all about evaluating teachers...

Except that they don't.
So the whole foundation of this approach to "fixing" American public schools could very well be bogus? If that's the argument–which, it should be stressed, is not new (Extra!, 4/11)–then why is this at the end of the piece? And why doesn't the cover advertise the fact that the millionaires "saving" public education could very well be relying on a highly flawed method of sorting out the "bad apples"?

When you're profiling millionaires who prefer "concrete facts" to "taking sides" in their drive to "repair" public schools, it seems like you might want to do more to emphasize what the facts are.


Pence at Lighthouse Christian Academy on Veterans Day (behind pay wall)

Indiana Governor Mike Pence doesn't even try to hide his preference for private education over public education.
“I find it very telling that Gov. Pence would come to our area and only choose to stop at the private religious school. It is in keeping with his policies that benefit private schools over public schools,” said Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, chairwoman of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County and South Central Indiana.

“Gov. Pence should have come to our MCCSC public schools and seen the magic that goes on in each of the buildings, regardless of his stigmatizing letter grade labels,” she said.

From her point of view, Pence’s choice emphasized his support of schools like Lighthouse Christian that accept students with school-of-choice scholarships or vouchers.

“Voucher schools get to choose which kids come through their doors or stay,” she said. “Public education is dedicated to all children.”


This is from a while ago, but still worth watching...


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!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

For Sagan Day: The Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan's birthday was Sunday. Last year, for Sagan Day, I posted the following. If anything, humankind needs to heed his words more than ever...


Carl Sagan's timeless ode to Earth: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

"…to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we've ever known -- the pale blue dot."

Quote from Cosmos (1980)
Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.
Carl Sagan 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!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Electorate Speaks

Democrats and Democratic leaders everywhere are trying to downplay the nation-wide Republican win on Tuesday. "It's not as bad as it seems," "They can't really cause any damage," "It's not really a mandate for anything because they didn't run on a nation-wide agenda."

I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican -- and its a toss up over who I like less right now. Yet I think, for public education, last Tuesday's election results are awful.

My pro-Democratic friends know that I don't particularly like Democrats, but I understand that many the Democrats who were running in our local elections were "friends of public education." Perhaps if a half dozen (or even a dozen) or so of them had gone to Indianapolis to challenge the Daniels-Bennett-Pence-Behning-Elsener education plan they would have made some noise and disrupted the easy flow of tax money to the "reformers." But they wouldn't have been able to stop it. So now someone else is going to have to make the noise and try to disrupt the easy flow of tax money to privatization efforts. That someone is us.


I think that it's always good if the majority party -- no matter who they are -- gets its nose at least slightly bloodied in an election, and in Indiana, the majority party is the Republicans (now with more than 70% of representatives in the House and 80% of the Senators). The Democrats in Indiana are saying everything we public school advocates want to hear and I have no doubt that most of them believe what they are saying especially because many of them are current or former educators.

But Indiana Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma wasn't completely wrong in his analysis of the election. His point was essentially that "the people" re-elected them (and elected more of them) because they like what the Republicans stood for and what the Republicans told them. It is unfortunate for our public schools, students and teachers, but it is absolutely true.

Bosma's belief isn't negated by the fact that only around 28% of eligible voters went to the polls. Those who didn't vote made that decision, and in that respect, they voted with the majority. If they didn't care enough (or didn't know enough) to go to the polls then that was their choice. Call it foolish, irresponsible, or whatever. In a Democracy "the people" sometimes make poor choices. The electorate speaks -- even those who don't vote. (NOTE: I'm not talking about voters whose votes were suppressed in any of a variety of ways...just those who could, with a minimal amount of effort, vote, but chose not to)

It doesn't matter if billions of dollars from outside forces -- reformy billionaires and such -- came in to buy advertising and votes. An uninformed electorate is no better than a bribed electorate is no better than an apathetic electorate. The Democrats say that the Republicans lie and the people who vote for them are dupes and are voting against their own interests. The Republicans say the same thing. And both sides say, "well, yeah, but we're right."

What needs to change? Citizens United? Absolutely. Make it easier for people to vote instead of harder? Definitely! Gerrymandering? That's done by both major parties and the Democrats are only against it now because the power rests with the Republicans. Corruption and greed? That's also embedded in both major parties. Frankly, this is what American politics is. One party complains bitterly about something until they get into power and then they do the same thing as the other party did.

The bottom line is that Indiana public schools have been hurting under the Daniels-Bennett-Pence-Behning-Elsener plan of privatization. Money has been sucked out of the public school system and given away to charlatans, titans of industry and preachers. The "two-tiered" system of education is well under way to becoming a reality in Indiana. Glenda Ritz, the only public school advocate among high ranking state officials, is fighting a lonely battle to save public schools. We asked the voters to send her help, but they refused.

"The people" will now get what they want...what they voted for. The attacks on public schools, their students and teachers, will continue and will likely be more damaging than ever. The weakest members of our society, the 22% of Hoosier children living in poverty, will undoubtedly be hurt the most.


That doesn't mean we give up. It doesn't mean that we let privatizers continue to destroy America's public education system without doing everything we can to stop them. What it does mean is that we don't just assume that we'll get any help.

We need to change the minds of the electorate...reach out to those who are willing to listen and explain how vouchers hurt public education, how charters aren't doing what they promised to do, and how underfunding and over testing is damaging the learning experiences of our children. We need to learn and understand the issues and then teach others.

Some of us have been told to make sure our "bubble-kids" get more attention so that they'll pass "the test" and raise our schools' passing rates. While that is an ethically questionable tactic, it's not an ethical problem for us to target the "bubble-voters." Focus on those whose minds you can change -- public school parents and grandparents, neighbors, relatives, friends and yes, even some of our colleagues working in public schools.

Let's start now. Our children are depending on us.


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, November 2, 2014

Minneapolis Blames Teachers


Today's news...Minneapolis has followed the lead of Los Angeles and New York, and has released the evaluation data of their public school teachers (did they release the same data for charter and private school teachers? Just asking...).

And, like LA and NY, it turns out that -- surprise!! -- the "worst" teachers are in the schools with the highest poverty.

Minneapolis' worst teachers are in the poorest schools, data show
New teacher evaluation data show that Minneapolis schools with the largest number of low-income students have the highest concentration of poor-performing instructors.
When New York released their data, the news media went crazy listing the "worst teachers in New York." Guess who the students taught by the city's "worst teachers" were? Answer: Poor children and English language learners. The "worst teacher" in the city turned out to be a teacher of English language learners whose students, once they reached a certain level, left her class.

The same was true in Los Angeles. It turns out that the "worst" teachers are in schools with high numbers of poor students and English language learners.

White students get better teachers in L.A., researcher testifies
Black and Latino students are more likely to get ineffective teachers in Los Angeles schools than white and Asian students, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher.
We blame teachers nationally, too...

Obama administration wants better teachers for nation’s poor schools
The Obama administration is ordering states to devise strategies to get better teachers into high-poverty classrooms, correcting a national imbalance in which students who need the most help are often taught by the weakest educators.


So, why does this happen and is there anything we can do about it?

First, it's important to know that poor students and English language learners (ELL) do not have the "worst" teachers. Teacher ratings in these cities, and most places these days, are based on the test scores of their students. Poor students and students learning English have lower test scores than students from higher incomes. That's a fact based on NAEP scores, SAT scores and virtually all the state achievement test scores in the nation.

The reason poor and ELL students score lower is due to a variety of reasons, most of which are non-school related.

Researcher Stephen Krashen lists Food insecurity, lack of health care, higher exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of access to books, as reasons poor students achieve at a lower level. David C. Berliner includes those and adds, low birth weight, higher levels of drug and alcohol abuse, higher rates of family violence, lack of mental health care, poor housing conditions, mobility, and lack of affordable preschools and summer activities for students.

Students in poverty and ELL students come to school already behind their higher income peers. This makes it harder for them to catch up to their peers and achieve at the same level and harder for their teachers to receive high marks when their evaluations are based on student test scores.

Second, the federal government, states, and school systems incentivize the flight of teachers from high poverty schools as do social issues and student behavior. Federal and state methods for teacher evaluation punish teachers whose students are low performers on standardized tests. Students in poverty come to school with unmet social needs which often results in more difficult behavior issues in the classroom. High achieving and more experienced teachers are encouraged by these factors to move to schools serving students of higher income. In many cases, teachers of high poverty students are less experienced and are evaluated at lower levels. Economic and racial segregation at all levels of our society only exacerbates the differences between the schools.

Tenure Is Not the Problem
...a California court struck down state teacher tenure and seniority protections as a violation of the rights of poor and minority students to an equal education. The decision, which will make it easier to fire bad teachers, who are disproportionately found in high-poverty schools, is being hailed as a great triumph for civil rights...

So why do high-poverty schools have a hard time attracting strong teachers? Because they often provide poor working conditions. When you pack poor kids into environments separate from more affluent students, the schools generally have high rates of discipline problems. Low-income students, who often don’t see much first-hand evidence of the payoff of education, act out more often on average than middle-class students. Low-income parents, who are stressed and may work several jobs, are not in a position to help teachers out by volunteering in class, as middle-class parents often do. And in high poverty schools, students often have inadequate health care and nutrition, which hinders their performance on academic tests. [emphasis added]
Finally, the federal government and the states don't necessarily support schools with high needs students. When budgets are cut and resources are lost, higher income neighborhoods can often provide replacements from local sources. This is not so in high poverty areas. The economic structure of school funding shortchanges schools with high poverty students.

Race to the Top, unlike previous federal education programs, has not focused funding on areas of high need. Instead, money was provided to states and districts who followed certain expectations including using test scores for evaluating teachers and increasing charter school enrollments.


It's not surprising then, that teachers of lower achieving students would be rated as lower achieving themselves. (We could also discuss why the tests used to rate students, teachers, schools and school systems are inadequate, inappropriate, invalid and/or inaccurate, but that's been done before. See Ohanian, Kohn, Darling-Hammond and Ravitch, among others).

What is surprising is that the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools doesn't seem to be aware of all this. She said,
“It’s alarming that it took this to understand where teachers are,” Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said Friday. “We probably knew that, but now have the hard evidence. It made me think about how we need to change our staffing and retention.”
The fact that the test scores identify teachers of high poverty students shouldn't be either new information or alarming. Anyone who understands the current test and punish system our schools now function under should be aware of this.

Why do New York’s poor schools have lower-rated teachers?
“While [the test score calculations] claim to be able to measure the quality of teachers, regardless of the students that they have, in fact, in study after study, it’s shown that that’s not true," he said. "When you’re teaching students that are struggling themselves, your ... score is going to be lower.”
Peter Greene has an excellent post about the lack of understanding present in Minneapolis, and specifically, the Minneapolis Public Schools administration.

So Sorry, Minneapolis Teachers
It is absolutely mind-boggling that a group of presumably educated allegedly intelligent adults can look at data and get the interpretation of it exactly completely backwards. Minneapolis school leaders are looking at data that tells them exactly where they need to focus resources, support, funding, and build a roof. Instead, they are going to blame the whole complex of information on teachers.


It is mind boggling. I checked the resume of the Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent, Bernadeia H. Johnson. She has an education degree, B.S. Communication Disorders. She has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and an Ed.D. in Administration and Educational Policy. She actually taught elementary school for 8 years...and then worked her way up through the ranks of the administration to her current position.

How is it possible that someone with as much experience and education as she has could be surprised by lower test scores from schools filled with poor students?

How is it possible that she doesn't seem to understand that evaluations based on those test scores wouldn't yield lower levels of success? Yet she said it was "alarming" and implied that she didn't realize this before.

Did she not know how her schools were performing before the results were published? Or is she feigning surprise in order to divert the "blame" away from her administration and on to the teachers?

I don't know what the public school administration is like in Minneapolis. I don't know what state laws might be interfering with public education. But I do know that a superintendent who doesn't know that teachers in high poverty schools will have students who score lower than teachers in low poverty schools isn't paying attention.

A superintendent shouldn't allow her teachers to take the blame. She shouldn't allow the implication that the teachers of students with lower test scores are somehow not as good as other teachers (based on that alone).

Instead she could have said, "Yes, we know that our teachers who spend their careers working in the schools with students who live in poverty will not bring their students' test scores up to those of their more privileged peers. However, we understand that it is not only the responsibility of the schools to help our children learn and achieve. They need more resources, more support from their parents, the city, the state legislature and the federal government. They need wraparound services to help them overcome the effects of poverty. They need less testing and more education."

She could have quoted from The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools
Our students deserve smaller class sizes, a robust, well-rounded curriculum, and in-school services that address their social, emotional, intellectual and health needs. All students deserve culturally-sensitive, non-biased, and equitable education, especially students with IEPs, emergent bilingual students, and early childhood students. They deserve professional teachers who are treated as such, fully resourced school buildings, and a school system that partners with parents.


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!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Random Quotes - November 2014


Public Education Advocates Rally For Change

Competition doesn't work in education. We're not manufacturing ice cream, or playing professional baseball. We're trying to educate students and all students come to school with different needs. You can't call for competition when some students take 2 years to learn what other students come to school already knowing. You can't call for competition and still depend on teaching practices to improve through collaboration. You can't call for competition where some schools have fewer resources than others.

A high quality public education system is fully funded through a progressive tax system and is open to all students. It must provide the services each individual student needs.
“What’s at stake here is whether or not we’re going to have a robust, well-funded, high-quality system where people can just cross the threshold and receive the service for free and have the schools deploy whatever resources are necessary to meet the needs of that student as opposed to a selective, competitive system which will inevitably reproduce dramatic inequality we’re already seeing in our system.” -- Brian Jones


The learning atmosphere in our public schools has deteriorated into one of constant drill, test, and punish. Developmentally inappropriate curricula, abusive testing regimes, and a lack of balance in education has taken over our schools. The people who do the work are blamed and blasted as incompetent and even more unbelievably, uncaring...as if people become professional teachers in order to hurt children. In Indiana, due process (often mislabeled "tenure") has been taken away from teachers. Depending on the actual contract language, teachers can be fired at the whim of an administrator. Is it any wonder that there are teachers who are afraid to speak out? And if teachers don't speak up for the abuses that the legislature and policy makers are foisting upon our schools, who will?

Legislators and policy makers are telling teachers how to teach, what to teach, and when to teach it and then blaming teachers when it doesn't work.

Where will the "great teachers" come from when the teaching profession is made less desirable? If teachers are punished based on the achievement of their students who is going to want to work with the hard-to-teach students? Who is going to want to work with students who come to school hungry, traumatized, or with untreated health problems if their livelihood depends on their students' achievement?

Cindi Pastore of The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) wrote,
[Educators'] hands are tied by administrators whose hands are tied by legislators whose hands are filling up with money from special interest and profit driven groups. Time to stop this chain with your votes!!!

Moral Distress in Teachers by Walt Gardner
When teachers know that something is ethically wrong but don't speak out because of fear of retaliation by their principal, they suffer from the condition [of moral distress].

Although teachers don't take the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath, they nonetheless are professionally responsible for acting ethically at all times. If it were not for the existence of tenure, teachers might be intimidated in remaining silent about anything they deemed inimical to the students.

Tenure Is a Civil Rights Issue by Peter Greene
...the types of due process derailing being promoted will (by design or not) directly attack the quality of the teaching staffs in the schools that can least withstand these attacks. Linking teacher job security and pay to student test scores makes it harder to recruit and retain teachers for the urban schools already socked in by poverty and suffering from the instability that comes from steady staff churn.

Massachusetts Proposes Plan to Chase Teachers Out by Diane Ravitch
How is it possible to improve education by ruining the lives of teachers? How is it possible to improve education by making test scores the measure of everything? Good business for Pearson, not so good for the children.
See the follow up...The Massachusetts Teachers Association Blasts State Plan re Evaluations


"Reformers" continue to point to test scores as the only way to prove that students are achieving as well as the only way to evaluate (blame) teachers, administrators, and school systems. Yet, when it comes to blaming teachers unions for all the problems in America's schools they calmly ignore test scores which show that states with high test scores have high union membership and states with low test scores have low union membership.

Likewise, "reformers" love to label schools as "failing" and ignore the well documented relationship between poverty and low achievement.

The labels and teacher bashing are important to "reformers." By continuing to label schools, teachers, and students as "failing" and blaming unions and teachers for that "failure" they deflect attention away from the corporate takeover of America and the inability of policy makers to eliminate or even reduce poverty.

Instead, "reformers" continue to erode the public confidence in public education in order to press for increased privatization.

Where is the accountability of the politicians and the policy makers for the high level of poverty in America? Where is the accountability of corporate America for the inequity running rampant through the nation?
"When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Health Care and No Child Left Homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind." -- Susan Ohanian

Blame It All on Teachers' Unions By Walt Gardner
In what has become a mantra, corporate reformers argue that powerful teachers' unions are the primary cause of the failure of students to perform ("Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools, The Wall Street Journal," Nov. 20, 2013). But the reality is quite different....

Lest I be accused of selective perception, I pose the following question: If teachers' unions are the villains, as charged, why do states, such as Arkansas and Mississippi, where they are weakest, persist in posting appalling results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress? Conversely, why do states, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, where they are strongest, continue to post the highest scores? Clearly something else explains the disparity, but it is given short shrift by the media.

"Stop using the word "failing schools" -- no longer. The word is "abandoned schools," or come up with something else, but stop labeling our children. Stop labeling the buildings, and stop labeling the people who do the work." -- Karen Lewis


On Education, Barack Obama is the President of Privatization. Can We Stop Him? Will We? by Bruce A. Dixon

Charter schools are private schools as long as they are not accountable to publicly elected school boards. They take public money, but they claim to be private entities when pressed to be accountable.
On every level, the advocates of educational privatization strive to avoid using the p-word [privatization]. They deliberately mislabel charter schools, just as unaccountable as every other private business in the land as “public charter schools,” because after all, they use public money. So do Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, but nobody calls these “public aerospace companies,” “public military contractors,” or “public banks.” For the same reason, corporate media refuse to cover the extent of the school closing epidemic, or local opposition to it, for fear of feeding the development of a popular movement against privatization, and Race To The Top, the Obama administration's signature public education initiative, and the sharp edge of the privatizers, literally driving the wave of school closings, teacher firings, and the adoption of “run-the-school-like-a-business” methods everywhere.


Does Arne Duncan think ‘suburban moms’ are a gullible bunch? by Carol Burris (in Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet)
And that really sums up the thinking of Duncan and his cheerleading Chiefs. Their distrust of public schools and the democratic control of schooling run deep. It colors every solution that they propose. They have no idea how to effect school improvement other than by making tests harder and making sticks bigger. When punishing the school did not work, it morphed into punish the teacher through evaluations based on test scores. The reality that no country has ever improved student learning using test and punish strategies is lost on those who refuse to address the greater social issues that we who do the work confront 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!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Latest in Teacher Bashing


The big news of the week is the Time Magazine cover which states the falsehood that it's (nearly) impossible to fire teachers who have "tenure" and the saviors of America's children, rich tech entrepreneurs, have solved the problem.

I haven't read the article...I don't subscribe to Time and haven't for decades. I remember an argument my father and I had over Time. I said that Time was a tool of the dreaded Military Industrial Complex (this was the 60s, after all). His response was that they were an opinion magazine and if I didn't agree with them, I should express my own opinion. Unfortunately, even back then Time had a lot more readers that I did.

Time itself classifies itself as a "news" magazine and in that way disputes my father's description of it as an opinion magazine. Dad was right, of course, and I would maintain that nearly all "news" sources are "opinion" sources, after all (see Fox News), but the fact remains that the magazine is ubiquitous for any American who sits in a dentist's or doctor's waiting room.

Some of those who have read the recent Time article claim that the cover doesn't accurately reflect the content of the article. In America, however, the soundbite, or in this case,  the imagebite, rules. For most people, Time's cover is all the content that will be seen.


Time publishes different editions for different parts of the world. In the other editions for November 4 the lead story is "Stopping Ebola." For some reason the editors thought that, in the U.S. at least, hating on teachers is a stronger sell than concern about the health threat of ebola (See other editions of Time -- Europe, Asia and South Pacific).


Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is pushing her apology-or-boycott of Time (they apologize or we boycott). This is an effective way to rally the masses, but I doubt that it will effect the editors of Time. Chances are that they are wetting themselves with joy over the additional publicity, which, of course, was their goal to begin with.

I did sign on to the apology-or-boycott, but Time Inc includes quite a few other magazines...People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money, to name just a few. Do we boycott them all?


My hunch is that, hidden among the print and electronic media corporations of Time Inc are some vested interests in school privatization. At the very least though, Time Inc has shown itself to be a consistent source of public school teacher bashing. They've been promoters of the myth of failing schools, and dealers in "reform" -- starting as far back as 1980.

The June 16, 1980 issue had a cover which shouted, Help! Teacher Can't Teach. The article began by quoting Milton Friedman, the guru of privatization and vouchers. "Parents know their kids are getting a bad education" he said. Time's cover placed the blame on teachers. Even in 1980, Time Magazine was playing the "bad teachers" card.

Fast forward nearly 30 years to Feb 25, 2008 and not much has changed. The cover read, How to Make Better Teachers. Their answer? Performance pay...the idea that Diane Ravitch says, "never works and never dies."

Less than a year later we were treated to the December 8, 2008 issue with Michelle Rhee on the cover and a gushing article inside. [Note to self: Find the issue where they wrote about how the D.C. schools are still low achieving despite Rhee and her cheating scandal cover up.]

We learned What Makes a School Great from the September 20, 2010 issue. Again, it's "good teachers." The lead article is a four page advertisement for Waiting for Superman.

Where are the magazine covers and articles about the increase in the economic achievement gap, the increase in segregation, and the failure of the almighty charters to do any better than neighborhood public schools? Where are the covers and articles about charters skimming students from regular public schools and vouchers transferring public money into church coffers? Where are the covers and articles about the test and punish plans of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which have cost us billions of tax dollars while failing to improve student achievement?

Time Magazine is, quite simply, a voice for corporate reform...the November 4, 2014 issue is not an outlier. Teachers and supporters of public education should have been speaking out against this rag all along. Now is as good a time as any to start.

[An earlier version of this blog entry incorrectly connected Time Inc to Time Warner Inc, to Time Warner Cable, and, by association, to ALEC. Those corporations are all independent from one another. Time Warner Cable is a member of ALEC. The others are not. I apologize for the error.]


Enjoy the following "Davids" fighting the innuendo, misrepresentation, and outright lies from the "Goliath" -- Time Magazine...

TIME Magazine Criticized for 'Malicious' Anti-Teacher Cover
A Reality Check for Time Magazine- And A Wake Up Call for America's Teachers
A Time magazine cover enrages teachers — again
Time Magazine Attacks Teachers
Time's Tenure Story
Teacher Hate
Letter to the Editor of TIME Magazine: Teacher Tenure
The Big Problem With Time's Teacher-Bashing Cover Story

And one final article about ALEC and public education...
ALEC and Battle Over Public vs. Private Education


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!