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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Random Quotes – August 2016

POVERTY

Teachers are not the problem, poverty is

Stephen Krashen reminds America to quit scapegoating teachers and public schools for low achievement due to poverty. We have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the industrialized world – nearly one-fourth of our children. Where are the policy makers who take their share of the responsibility for our failure as a nation to take care of our children?

by Stephen Krashen
Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases, and the other Gates ideas that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries.



PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

John Oliver on Charter Schools

John Oliver takes on the abuse and corruption in the charter school industry. (NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by John Oliver
The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market. And by the time it's obvious a school is failing, futures may have been ruined.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Select Group is Served by Vouchers

Terry Springer is a former high school English teacher from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She's one of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, a public education advocacy group (Full disclosure: I'm a member of the same group).

In the linked article she discusses Indiana's voucher program.

by Terry Springer
...[Executive director of Indiana Non-Public Education Association, John] Elcesser’s argument that voucher parents are taxpayers and their tax dollars should go to the school of their choice is rather like the argument that my tax dollar should only go to repair the roads and bridges I travel on or to pave my driveway. Public education benefits the whole community; private education does not. The arguments for the money following the child fly in the face of that perspective...

TEACHERS

Out with the old. In with the new.

Here's a cartoon by Fred Klonsky. Earlier this month Chicago Public Schools laid off 1000 employees, half of whom were teachers. Two weeks later they announced they were hiring 1000 new teachers.


A teacher: Why I am not going to keep my bonus

Are teachers "in it for the money?" Are teachers holding back, instead of teaching well in order to get more money?

by Stuart Egan
I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

Reasons for mass resignations: 28 Dodgeville teachers leave over money and student behavioral issues

This article discusses the teacher shortage facing Dodgeville, Wisconsin. In the comments below the article, Tim Slekar, Dean at nearby Edgewood College, explains why there's a teacher shortage.

by Tim Slekar, Dean at Edgewood College's School of Education, Madison, WI
Dodgeville is just ONE example of the exodus. Teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves all across the state and enrollment in teacher education programs is plumetting. We have a teacher exodus problem.

Our elected officials will use this as evidence of a "teacher shortage" and then bitch to lower standards to let any jackass teach.

There is no "shortage." Those that have been waging the war on teachers are winning.

FIX PUBLIC EDUCATION

Who profits from a “broken public school” narrative?

Shouldn't the goal of public education be to have good public schools for all children, in all areas? Why do we have cities where children have to "apply" to public schools instead of just having excellent public schools in every neighborhood? Why aren't we working towards a system where every public school is excellent?

by Ali Collins
If you want to help a district function effectively, you work with leaders to fix underlying problems, you don’t create workarounds or do the work. In this way, non-profits enable failure. They become complicit in creating and maintaining problems they then profit by fixing. [emphasis added]



READING

Making Joy a Reading Standard

Wouldn't it be nice if at least one reading "standard" focused on creating readers who loved to read?

by Mary Anne Buckley
Joy is in listening to and being moved by words and joy is in crafting words that move others. Joy is in recognizing ourselves in characters as well as challenging ourselves to see things from a different perspective. Joy is connecting and reflecting with one another.  I wrote that I answered the last question from the interview panel without thinking but in all actuality I’ve been thinking about that answer for years. When we remember our own personal joy of reading and infuse that into our instruction the lessons themselves become joyful.

DEMONS

AMERICA, DAMMIT! - Thoughts from Glacier National Park (starting at about 2:00)

(NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by Hank Green
...We work so hard to demonize each other that everyone comes out looking like demons...

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 Medley #21

Labels, Charters, Reform, Testing, Grades, Teacher Quality, Chalkbeat

LABELING STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND SCHOOLS

This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.

I should begin the introduction to this article by saying that I have never seen the data walls described. I retired in 2010 and the school I worked at, and the schools I have volunteered in since then, do not list student names and test scores in public. I would agree with the author of this piece that listing students' names and test scores publicly violates the privacy of the students.

Apparently, however, this disgusting practice of humiliation and shaming is "a thing" and does happen. Those who use this practice should not be allowed in a classroom or public school.

Similarly, politicians and policy makers frequently shame public schools with letter grades and labels. "Failure" is slapped on public schools filled with students who live in poverty while there is no label "for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods." Teachers who work with the neediest students are labeled "bad teachers" while those who divert funds from public schools to corporate tax breaks, vouchers, and charter operators, receive no such condemnation.

Those who use this practice should not be allowed to make laws governing public education. We can fire them in November.

By Launa Hall, a third grade teacher in northern Virginia.
When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. They see populations and sweeping strategies. From up there, it seems reasonable enough to write a list of 32 discrete standards and mandate that every 8-year-old in the state meet them. How else will we know for sure that teaching and learning are happening down there?

But if we zoom in, we see that education actually happens every weekday, amid pencils and notebooks, between an adult and a small group of youngsters she personally knows and is deeply motivated to teach. Public education has always been — and needs to be still — a patchwork of ordinary human relationships. Data walls, and the high-stakes tests that engender them, aren’t merely ineffective, they break the system at its most fundamental level. They break the connection between a teacher who cares and a kid who really needs her to care.


PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS


Op Ed: There’s No Such Thing as a “Public Charter School”

Public education advocate Ann Berlak explains why charters are really just private schools taking public tax dollars. They are not public schools.
If public schools have not always lived up to their promise then it is necessary to redouble our efforts to have them do so, not to abandon them.
An extra in this article is found in the comments.

The comments are filled with the usual ignorance claiming that American schools are failing, teachers unions are the problem, and a variety of comments reflecting sour grapes. Among the trolls, however, there are some good, thoughtful comments (on both sides), including one by Robert D. Skeels, who blogs at Schools Matter. He wrote an informative comment presenting "the legal arguments on how privately managed charter schools are not at all 'public.'"

THE FAILURE OF "REFORM"

“Eat Your Dinner…Or Else”
The data are staring them in the face: low attendance rates among students and teachers; higher percentages of students “opting out” of state-mandated standardized tests; more teachers leaving the profession; and more parents saying they’d like the option of sending their children to charter schools.

Instead, educators from Secretary John King on down seem to be doubling down, searching for ways to penalize students who choose not to take standardized tests, their schools, and their school districts.

The ‘meal’ that School Reformers have been serving up for the past nearly 12 years of the Bush and Obama Administrations is neither delicious nor nutritious.

TEST AND PUNISH

I call it "Learn or be punished." It's the mistaken plan by state after state to make eight and nine year olds who have difficulty meeting arbitrary reading standards repeat the third grade...as if repeating a grade helps students learn. HINT: It doesn't.

Indiana makes third graders take IREAD-3. If they don't pass they don't go to fourth grade. Florida also punishes third graders who have difficulty learning to read. So does Ohio. So does Michigan. And Iowa...and Arizona...

And in Oklahoma it's called the Reading Sufficiency Act.
Claudia Swisher is a retired teacher who lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Her article, Unfinished Business, from which this excerpt is taken, appeared in the August 2016 print edition of the The Oklahoma Observer. Claudia blogs at Fourth Generation Teacher.

Unfinished Business
This is my pet project. I’m a reading specialist. I know how students learn as youngsters, and how they learn as adolescents. Reading Sufficiency Act, or “Test and Flunk Third Graders” is a monumentally bad idea.

It seems to have been born in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Education Excellence. His state school superintendents, Chiefs for Change, unquestioningly accepted his theories and hunches. Our former superintendent was a Chief for Change, and enthusiastically promoted test-and-flunk.

I have been active with this issue for years. I have two granddaughters who are living through this policy. I exchanged emails with the original author, Rep. Sally Kern; and I advocated for Rep. Katie Henke’s bill that allowed teachers and parents some say-so in the promotion or retention decision. The test being used was awed, not a reading test at all, and scores do not give a reading level.

There is no research to support retaining nine-year- olds because they don’t reach an arbitrary score one day in April. Fans of RSA say all kids must read by third grade.

IF they ever walked into a third grade class, they would see every child DOES read ... at his or her level. They’ve only been reading for, perhaps, four years. There are vast differences in their abilities. But they all read.

RSA must be changed: no high stakes, tests that measure reading levels, funding for remediation, support for students and families and classrooms. I am all in.

FL: Test Fetish on Trial

Parents in Florida have joined together to fight the law requiring the third grade test. Peter Greene reports.
Because that's where we are now, folks-- parent groups have to take up a collection to go to court so that third graders who passed all their classes can be promoted to fourth grade.



GRADES

Do Away with Grades for Reading

Russ Walsh has a great idea. Instead of punishing children for not learning to read why don't we remove reading from the report card altogether. Instead, he suggests a better way of reporting on a student's progress in reading.
That better way would report to the parent on what the child knows and is able to do in reading. Simple brief answers to a few questions on a report card would do it.
  • Is the student below, at, or above expected reading level for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate fluency for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate comprehension for grade/age?
  • Does the student choose to read independently?
  • What are the student's reading goals for the next marking period?
Notice the item on "choosing to read." I think that it is important to communicate to parents that successful readers have both the skill and the will to read.

TEACHER QUALITY

Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers

So, it turns out that strong teachers unions actually encourage better teachers!
I find that higher teacher pay gives school districts a strong incentive to be more selective in granting tenure to teachers. Districts paying high teacher salaries utilize the tenure system more efficiently as they dismiss more low-quality teachers, raising average teacher quality by setting higher standards.

Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year

Teacher evaluations in Indiana are required by law to reflect student test scores, yet we know that out of school factors have a much larger impact on student achievement than teachers. Nevertheless, legislators can't understand why the percentage of teachers who get poor evaluations doesn't equal the number of students who get low test scores.

One reason there are so many "good" teachers is because many beginning teachers don't stay long in the classroom. A large number of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (and many don't even start their careers). The ones who leave are usually the ones who discover that they don't like to teach, the ones who are fired early in their career, and the ones who are asked to resign because they can't make it in the classroom.

This means that the teachers who are left are either skilled in the classroom, or are strong enough to improve when they struggle.

Unfortunately, legislators don't understand, or don't care, that evaluating teachers, just like evaluating student achievement, cannot be limited to a number on a standardized exam. Numbers make judgments about people so much easier – even when their inadequate or inappropriate.
For the third year in a row, barely any Indiana teachers, principals and superintendents were rated “ineffective” under the state’s fledgling evaluation system.


"REFORMIST" SUPPORTERS

Chalkbeat: Our Supporters

I was struck by the disrespectful tone of the title of the article above..."Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year." I did some exploring on the Chalkbeat website and found that, among their supporters (funders) are the "reformers" listed below. Most of the time the articles are fairly unbiased, but I've noticed a "reformist" bent now and then, such as in the above title.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Inc....
Gates Family Foundation...
The Anschutz Foundation...
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice...
The Joyce Foundation...
The Walton Family Foundation...

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Put Professionals In Classrooms

RIO OLYMPICS 2016

Oklahoma Educator Rob Miller who writes the blog, A View From the Edge, caught my attention with his post, The Olympic Celebration of Diversity. What would happen, Miller pondered in his thought experiment, if the stars we have seen in the Olympics, were placed in different events?
What if Bolt and Phelps changed places in the next Olympics? Imagine Michael on the same track as the other top sprinters competing in the 200-meter race? Can you see Bolt swimming next to the world’s best in the 100-meter butterfly?
His point is, of course, that nearly no one is good at everything. He then moves the analogy over to education...
We have told skilled young artists and musicians that they are not as valuable as other students because they scored lower on a math test. We have elevated certain teachers because they teach “important” subjects like math, science, and reading while devaluing the contribution of teachers of “less important” electives like the arts, music, drama, physical education, history, or computers.
...this,
The true mission of education is to help each child identify and nurture their natural strengths, interests and passions and then work to hone those attributes into marketable skills.
...and also this,
To say a student is not college- and career-ready because he or she cannot pass an Algebra test is like saying Michael Phelps is not an athlete because he cannot complete a gymnastics floor routine.


UTAH

Both Diane Ravitch and Peter Greene commented on Utah's new rules for teaching...which don't require any training in pedagogy.

Here's Ravitch...
In a bold move to address the state’s teacher shortage (caused by low salaries), the state board of education removed all requirements for new teachers other than a college degree and passing a test in subject matter.
In other words, if you have a bachelors degree in English, and can pass the English test that Pearson Utah develops, then the state will award you a teachers license.

Peter Greene, with his usual biting wit, wrote,
I keep waiting to hear something from one of the proponents of free market for education.

After all-- no other part of the trained labor market works like this. If a hospital can't find enough doctors to fill its staff, nobody says, "Well, okay-- let's just let anyone with a college degree work in the operating room."
We do something like this in Indiana, too. Due to the Republican induced teacher shortage (see here, here, and here), the State Board of Education (all appointed by Republicans except for the popularly elected State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz), decided that anyone with a college degree can teach their subject at the high school level. Elementary school would have been included if the Board hadn't succumbed to pressure from "the people" and the "evil" teachers union.

...because you don't need to know anything about brain development, human learning patterns, or pedagogy to explain how to do a Physics problem, expound on Julius Caesar, or teach spoken French, right? You surely don't need any training in class management or child psychology to get a class of thirty-five 16 and 17 year olds to discuss the history of the Peloponnesian War.

This is the level of stupidity making the laws and rules for our public education systems. We're all about blaming teachers for all our "failing" public schools, yet legislatures starve public education and divert tax revenue into the pockets of Pearson, KIPP, various churches, and Gulen. Our poorest schools have scarce resources to overcome the effects of poverty while legislators who have created the misalignment of funds blame "bad teachers" for "failing schools."

Now Utah has followed suit, doubling down on the "create-a-teacher-shortage-then-hire-unqualified-people" plan.

Would policy makers in Utah, Indiana, or any state allow their own children to attend a school filled with untrained teachers? I doubt it.


EXTENDING THE THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

Let's extend Rob Miller's thought experiment to professionals. Training is important when we expect people to perform certain tasks. Because of that training certain people are better able to do certain tasks...just as Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, and all other olympians have trained. What would happen if the trained professionals we rely on were asked to perform the tasks of other professionals?

Would you want a plumber to rewire your house?

Would you let an electrical engineer perform your emergency appendectomy?

Legislators and state board of education members would likely agree that it would be nonsensical to ask an airline pilot to perform brain surgery...an accountant to defend you in court...or a chemist to do your taxes.

Why, then, is it ok to allow untrained amateurs to direct the learning and development of the nation's most important resource...its children?

These folks are not friends of public education. Click to read about them.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Best Schools in the World

THE BEST SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD DO THIS.

In a recent article, The Best Schools in the World Do This. Why Don't We?, the editors at NPR questioned why we aren't doing what high-achieving countries are doing in education. They reported on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) study titled No Time to Lose which gave suggestions for improving our nation's education. The three "takeaways" which NPR thought were most important were
1: More Help For The Youngest Learners...
2: Teachers Need To Be Better...
3: Fix Career And Technical Education (CTE)...
To be sure all three of those areas of American education could use improvement. Universal Pre-K is important, as are having the best people in the classroom and providing for career education. But NPR, heavily influenced by their corporate donors who favor privatization (see here and here), is solidly in the "reform" camp and doesn't mention that NCSL left out the number one problem facing American public education.


Poverty

NCSL claimed that there's an education crisis in the US in part because of our low scores on international tests.

No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State
U.S. RANKING ON PISA...

When the fifth survey was administered in 2012, the number of countries in the survey had grown to 65, and included less-developed countries. The news was worse for the U.S., which placed 24th in reading, 36th in mathematics and 28th in science. Again, our standing was in the middle of the countries surveyed. After all of the national, state and district reform efforts during the decade following NCLB, the U.S. was outperformed not only by a majority of the advanced industrial nations, but by a growing number of less-developed nations as well.
Stephen Krashen, however, frequently reminds us that our national average is skewed by the much higher level of child poverty in the US (emphasis added).
The media has learned nothing from the extensive research done on international test scores in the last decade ("U.S. Students Get Stuck in Middle of the Pack on OECD Test," December 3). Study after study shows that the strongest predictor of high scores on these tests is poverty, a conclusion that is backed by a number of other studies showing that students who live in poverty have poor diets, insufficent health care, and lack access to books, all of which contribute to low academic performance. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world.
Carnoy and Rothstein agree with Krashen. Poverty affects student performance and, given the high level of child poverty in the US, it's understandable that our average would be lower than those nations with lower levels of poverty.
Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared...
What did No Time to Lose have to say about the failure of state legislatures to reduce child poverty in their states, the failure of charter and voucher experiments encouraged by states, and the failure of legislatively enforced test and punish schemes?

Not much.

Instead we're told that state legislators, the same people who, in Indiana for example, gave us the loss of collective bargaining for teachers as well as public education resources diverted to charter and voucher schools, are the ones who need to decide how to fix the schools. The Feds, with their NCLB, RttT, and Common Core, need to be kept out of it.
State legislators must be at the center of this discussion. Education is first and foremost a state responsibility. State legislators represent and can bring together the diverse viewpoints at the state and local levels that must be included in setting a vision and priorities for reforms. States must work together with local entities to design efforts that are practical and appropriate for each individual state. We will not be successful by allowing the federal government to set agendas and priorities.


On the Plus Side

Legislators should ask actual teachers for help in developing public policy which will benefit the majority of students. The report suggests bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders including "state and local policymakers, teachers, principals, superintendents, unions, business, parents and students" in order to set a vision for reform and identify priorities.

And, according to NCSL, we do one thing right – standards.
The only policy approach developed by both U.S. states and top-performing countries is high academic standards. But all of the top performing countries have coupled developing such standards with a curriculum framework, specific curriculum and well-aligned, high quality, essay-based assessments in seamless instructional systems. Most states have yet to move in this direction, and implementation of rigorous standards has been haphazard at best.
There is no mention of the fact that in some of the high performing nations, the assessments are all teacher developed. Finland, for example, uses no standardized tests until it's time for students to go to the university. There's nothing in the report about consequences for low achievement, such as retention in grade. There's nothing about "accountability." There's nothing indicating the high stakes nature of our tests as opposed to those in other nations.

On the other hand, the report did say that states needed to provide adequate resources, and that teachers needed "rigorous preparation and licensure." They also mentioned that successful nations do not allow alternative routes to the classroom.

TFA anyone?

What Should We Do?

The NCSL lists four elements they claim helped high achieving nations improve their international test scores.

Element #1: Children come to school ready to learn, and extra support is given to struggling students so that all have the opportunity to achieve high standards.

Universal Pre-K. We need that. We also need the safety net provided by other nations for their children...health care, food and shelter safety, a lower rate of child poverty, and effective programs to increase jobs for their parents.

Element #2: A world-class teaching profession supports a world-class instructional system, where every student has access to highly effective teachers and is expected to succeed.

We need incentives for our best and brightest to enter the classroom. We need fully trained teachers, not TFA temps, or plans like Indiana's REPA III which allow untrained college graduates to "teach" just because they have content knowledge.

A "world-class instructional system" is more than just highly trained teachers. We need support for maintaining buildings, resources, and continuing professional development. How many schools are there in Chicago (and around the nation) with no school library? no classes in the arts or physical education?

In many of the higher achieving nations students who need the most help, children in poverty, or with special needs, receive the most help. Their schools receive the most resources. Unlike in the US, one of only three advanced nations who spend more money on the wealthy than on the poor.

Element #3: A highly effective, intellectually rigorous system of career and technical education is available to those preferring an applied education.

This would be great, once our crumbling urban educational infrastructure is repaired.

Element #4: Individual reforms are connected and aligned as parts of a clearly planned and carefully designed comprehensive system.

The only planning our state legislature has been doing in Indiana is how to transfer more tax funds from public education to private and privately run schools.


WHY DON'T WE?

NCSL ends their report with
If we assemble the best minds in policy and practice, implement what we know works, and commit ourselves to the time, effort and resources needed to make monumental changes, we can once again be among the best education systems in the world. If they can do it, so can we. But there’s no time to lose.
It would be wonderful if state legislatures around the nation took those words to heart, but those are very big "ifs."

  • assemble the best minds in policy and practice
Teachers, those who actually practice education, have been left out of conversations and decision-making in public education for decades.

Are legislators and other policy makers willing to give up their control and let actual, practicing educators have a voice?

  • implement what we know works
Research has shown that retaining children in third grade based on one standardized achievement test doesn't improve achievement. Neither does diverting public funds to voucher and charter schools...or freezing pay for teachers...or closing schools and replacing them with charters...or replacing career teachers with Teach For America temps...or any of the other so-called "reforms" that have been hatched by vulture capitalists aiming to profit off the backs of our children.

Will politicians reject campaign donations meant to skew their votes towards privatization?

  • commit ourselves to the time, effort, and resources
We have continually ignored the weakest and most needy members of our society. Our child poverty rate is shamefully high. The US Congress has yet to fulfill its promise to fully fund special education.

Education costs money. Are the wealthy in America willing to pay their fair share to help all children? Are state legislatures ready to increase taxes on those making more than $400,000 (the top 1%) in order to fully fund public education?

Will politicians and policy makers take responsibility for the damage done to public schools through test and punish, privatization, and anti-teacher policies?

The NCSL wants to fix the mess that state legislatures have helped create.

Why don't we do what the best schools in the world do?

Ask your legislator.


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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Devalued and Disrespected

A TRIP TO THE DENTIST

I went to the dentist this morning for my semiannual cleaning and check up. The dental hygienist cleaned my teeth and took x-rays. I reported to her that one of my teeth was giving me some trouble. It was extremely sensitive to both hot and cold.

The dentist, when he came in, was unable to find the cause of my sensitive tooth. He looked at the x-rays, but they were "inconclusive." He tested it, but was unable to determine the cause of the sensitivity. So, unfortunately, I'll have to wait to see what happens. Apparently there is nothing that can be done right now.

He also said that I had a tooth that needed to be repaired and that I would have to come back next week to have it fixed.

As I left the office it occurred to me that the reason I was willing to come back to have my tooth repaired, and the reason I was willing to wait and see what happened to my sensitive tooth, was that I trusted my dentist.

WHY TRUST A PROFESSIONAL?

I know that my dentist has had the training needed to practice dentistry. On the wall in his office he has framed and hanging a bachelors degree from Purdue University and a degree in dentistry from the Indiana University School of Dentistry. I know those two universities well since I have attended both and earned a certification from the former, and two degrees from the latter. They are well established state-supported universities and I trust them to provide a good education to the professionals I seek for my own care.

Even though he was unable to find the cause of my sensitive tooth, I trusted his professional judgement.

WE TRUST OTHER PROFESSIONALS

When we're sick we trust doctors to help us heal. When our cars break down, we trust mechanics to repair them. When our pipes break, we trust plumbers to fix them. We trust attorneys with our legal problems. We trust accountants to do our taxes. We trust architects and engineers to plan and build our homes and offices.

And we trust dentists with our teeth.

Specialized training and government licensing is necessary and appropriate in many professions. We have given our leaders the right to evaluate the preparation of our society's professionals and then let us know, through licensing, that they have completed the training needed to do the job. Once that's done, we trust them to do the job they are paid to do.

THE DIFFERENCE WITH TEACHERS

Most teachers are trained in University-level Schools of Education. I received my education training from the same two universities (albeit in different locations) as my dentist attended. My degree in education is from Indiana University and my certification in Reading Recovery is from Purdue University.

Why, then, is my profession not afforded the same respect and trust as others?

[Of course, individual teachers are valued and respected by individual students and parents, but as a whole, teachers in America's public schools are not given the recognition they deserve. Policy makers rarely listen to teachers even when making educational decisions. Instead, policy makers listen to billionaires with no education experience.]

Here are two reasons (among many).

THE FALSE NARRATIVE OF FAILING SCHOOLS

Reason 1: "Reformers" have perpetuated the myth that America's public schools are failing

The general consensus promoted by the media, "reformers," and politicians from both of the main political parties is that America's public education system is failing.

This is demonstrably untrue.

What is true is that some schools struggle to help their students achieve. The main problem in the US is our high child poverty rate. Research is clear that poverty negatively affects student achievement. Stephen Krashen explains that our public schools are excellent [emphasis added],
In "Test scores may move, learning doesn't" (July 12), Jo Craven McGinty says that there is "compelling evidence" that the US education system is inadequate, because American students "score below average in math and average in reading and science" when compared to other countries on international tests.

Not mentioned is the finding that when researchers control for the effect of poverty, American scores on international tests are at the top of the world.

Our overall scores are unspectacular because of our high rate of child poverty: The US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%). In some big city public school districts, the poverty rate is over 80%.

Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these profoundly impact school performance.
The best instruction in the world cannot overcome the effects of poverty, and our high rate of child poverty brings down the average.

Politicians and policy makers are hesitant to promote this idea for several reasons. First, it's unpleasant to admit that one's policies have allowed the high rate of child poverty present in America. Second, some policy makers are convinced that schools can solve the problems of poverty. To do that, however, requires a much higher investment in our public schools than we, as a nation, seem willing to make.

In societies where education is more successful the child poverty rate is lower.



TEACHING AS "WOMEN'S WORK"

Reason 2: Teaching is still viewed as "Women's Work" and still devalued and disrespected.

For the last hundred years public school teaching in the United States has been dominated by women. Even today, when fields traditionally dominated by men are open to women, more than 3/4 of all public school teachers in America are women. This is especially true in the primary grades where I suspect that the percentage of men teachers is even smaller.

In a field so dominated by women, it's not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.

Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators, tends to lower the status of other teaching when compared to other professions.

In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.

THE FUTURE

Until our leaders and policy makers accept responsibility for the level of child poverty in the United States our average national academic achievement will remain low. We continue to squander nearly 1/4 of our most important national resource. Until the devaluing and disrespecting of women ends, teaching will continue to be devalued and disrespected.


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