"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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

2015 Medley #6: Privatization

Privatization, Accountability,
Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Chicago

Dave Johnson has an accurate description of the privatization of America...
The conservative/Wall Street/1-percent/Republican anti-government strategy is to set government up to fail (usually by starving it of funding). Then they point to the resulting "crisis" they created and say that it proves that government doesn't work and that we should therefore "privatize" it -- in other words, rig the system against the majority by handing our common wealth over to a few wealthy people to harvest for personal profit.
When applied to public education, it's a simple three step recipe.
  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools "failures" because they couldn't do more with less.
  3. Use "failure" as the reason to increase funding for privatization.
That is exactly what's happening to American public education. School crises have been manufactured and blame has been placed on the victims for its "failures." Privatizers swoop in and declare that everything is better privatized.

So, here in Indiana, more money is being directed towards charter and private/parochial schools. Schools in high poverty districts get less while low poverty districts get more.

The problem is not unique to Indiana.



SKIMMING THE TOP

I refuse to call charter schools, "public schools." They are private schools run with public funds. Charter schools can manipulate their population so only well motivated and higher achieving students remain. This is, according to Michael Petrilli, a feature of charter schools, not a problem.

True public schools serve the public...not shareholders. True public schools aren't interested in profit. True public schools accept every child in their district and don't council children out when the "school is not the right fit."

Separating fact from fiction in 21 claims about charter schools
There are a number of actions charter schools take to help ensure that they can end up with a more homogeneous set of higher-performing students. In some cases charter schools use admission tests to determine “academic interest.” In other cases, charter schools such as KIPP use “admission” or “placement” tests to make decisions on student grade levels assignments. Rather than be held back one to three grade levels, struggling students often simply return to the district school so they can stay with their peer group.

Many of the so-called “no excuses” charter schools use grade repetition as a means of weeding out weaker students. (Empirical research shows that the most prominent predictor of a student dropping out of school is requiring them to repeat one or more grade levels). Harsh or push-out school discipline practices can also drive away more difficult students or drive them out once enrolled.

The Trouble with Belief
Where charters succeed (or do at least as well as their public counterparts) it is because they believe only in certain students who meet certain qualifications and behave in certain ways and produce certain results. [emphasis added]
Peter Greene's article about belief includes an accurate articulation of what a public school ought to be...
There are very few charters out there using a sales pitch of, "We believe that all students can succeed and we will accept any and all students and keep them till the bitter end, no matter what, because we will find a way to help them succeed." [emphasis added]
[It must be stated that Greene is correct when he states, "There are very few charters..." This means that there are some charters which do a good job and place students before profits. You know who you are.]



ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL?

Why Don’t We Have Real Data on Charter Schools?

Public education systems are run by publicly elected school boards (or ought to be). They hold public meetings, are required to have annual audits, and are accountable to the voters in their district.
The problem here is that charter schools are frequently not accountable. Indeed, they are stunningly opaque, more black boxes than transparent laboratories for education. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, only 29 percent of charter schools outperformed public schools with similar students in math, while 31 percent performed worse. Most charter schools, in fact, obtained results that were no better than traditional public schools. So what was that 29 percent doing right? And what went so wrong with the failing 31 percent? There are a few reasons why it’s nearly impossible to find out.


PRIVATIZATION IN THE MIDWEST

Ohio

Recipe for privatization of public education:
  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools "failures" because they couldn't do more with less.
  3. Use "failure" as the reason to increase funding for privatization.
Kasich budget plan increases funding to all charter schools
About half of traditional public schools would see funding cuts over the next two years under Kasich’s education funding plan, though it spends $459 million more. The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission calculated that charter-school funding will rise 5.4 percent over two years, with no schools facing a cut.

Wisconsin

Recipe for privatization of public education:
  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools "failures" because they couldn't do more with less.
  3. Use "failure" as the reason to increase funding for privatization.
Ed Hughes: Scott Walker’s plan for charter schools outdoes ALEC in privatizing education
These new, private charter school authorizers “would have no disclosure obligations, would not be subject to the open records law, and would not be bound by conflict of interest restrictions,” he wrote. And they could pay their officers whatever they choose to.

Funding for the new charter schools — $8,075 per student — would come right off the top of the state’s appropriation for general state aid to the state’s school districts. Hughes said.

So, Walker’s “unprecedented scheme” to establish new charter schools all over the state would tap the funding of local public schools to fund private schools approved by private organizations with little accountability.

Indiana

An important step in the privatization of public education (and other public services) is to buy legislators who will then be beholden to their donors.

Charter Schools USA, H4QED, and the Indiana State Board of Ed
Red Apple Development, the real estate branch of CS USA, has also given big money: $17,000 since 2012. This year they contributed $5,000 to the Hoosiers for Quality Education PAC, which funds David Long, Brian Bosma, and a whole slew of Republicans now attacking Glenda Ritz and teachers.

In total, Jeb Bush friend Jon Hage’s CS USA and Red Development have dropped $40,000 into Indiana campaign funds since 2012.

Chicago

Recipe for privatization of public education:
  1. Create a crisis for public schools by cutting funding.
  2. Declare public schools "failures" because they couldn't do more with less.
  3. Use "failure" as the reason to increase funding for privatization.
The School Closure Playbook
This video explores how Chicago’s education “reformers” manufactured a budget crisis through a combination of creative accounting, secretive tax schemes, and media cooperation. It then looks at the dramatic consequences of school closures, the corruption endemic to privatization, and the community organizing that developed to regain control of schools and fight for public education.



~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Picture Walk - March 2015

[I had a series of posts called A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, till I realized that most of the pictures I included were filled with words. I've renamed the series Picture Walk.]

Here are some graphic images from around the net -- plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

PRIVATIZATION

Here in Indiana the governor and legislature are doing what they can to give more benefits to private schools and charters and less and less to public schools.



A group of privatizers calling themselves "Stand for Children" are asking for an investigation into a classroom of Indiana students who wrote pro-public education letters to Governor Pence. They denounce using children as pawns in state politics. I agree with them -- if the classroom teacher manipulated students into writing the letters.

I disagree with the governor, however.
Governor Pence believe [sic] there's no place for politics in the classroom.
An age-appropriate, balanced view of politics, the political process, and how propaganda works, have a definite place in Indiana's classrooms.

The image below is of a "choice rally" in Indianapolis where the governor and state school board members met with private and charter school students. This rally took place the day after a rally supporting public schools which neither the governor nor members of the state board of education attended.

One wonders whether "Stand for Children" will also investigate "choice" supporters taking their students out of school to attend a "rally for choice" at the state house.


TESTING

The Indiana ISTEP debacle is just one example of how the U.S. has become so obsessed with tests that even when the tests don't do what they're intended to do, they still must be administered.

The U.S. Congress is now debating the policies contained in No Child Left Behind, including yearly testing at every grade from 3 through 8. In New York legislators are considering the governor's desire to increase the power of student test scores in teacher evaluations - to 50%. The federal Department of Education requires states to use student test scores in evaluations in order to receive federal dollars. Is this appropriate?

Some incorrect assumptions are common.
  • standardized testing is an accurate and valid measure of what students learn in school
  • standardized testing is necessary for parents to know how students are doing
  • standardized testing is necessary for teachers to know how students are doing
  • standardized testing is useful to grade schools and evaluate teachers
This blog is filled with links and posts which show those assumptions to be untrue. Until we can educate the public, however, the obsessive reliance on standardized tests for "accountability" will continue.


Unfortunately, for many students, classroom instruction takes the form of test prep.


Students are -- or should be -- more important than tests. We must stop the overuse, misuse, and obsession with standardized testing in the U.S.













TEACHING

The conservative trend in the U.S. is away from valuing experience and education. Those who are charged with making education policy have no experience in education other than having been former students. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, has never taught in, and never attended, a public school.

His ignorance, and the ignorance of others who make education policy, is what's damaging public education in the U.S. today. There are those who are in it for the money...tapping into the billions of tax dollars spent each year to support public education. There are those who are in it for ideological reasons and believe that public education is, by definition, wrong.

And then there are teachers, who actually do the work of education, and who know what education is from the inside out.


State and federal education policies are not based on good pedagogy, but rather, focus on tests, and so-called "accountability." Teachers are then forced to participate in poor quality education, focus on tests, and deny that poverty makes a difference in their classroom.

When that doesn't work...and students still don't score well on poorly designed and poorly graded standardized tests, then the teachers get the blame.
  • Not the policy makers who designed and required the poor educational practices and inadequate and/or inappropriate tests
  • Not the policy makers who ignore the effects of poverty in classrooms.
  • Not the test companies who profit from the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.
Teachers are the ones who get blamed.


GERM

"Reformers" no longer talk about how Finland has improved their school achievement. The Finnish plan for making public education work is completely the opposite of what we do in the U.S. Arne Duncan still denounces U.S. test scores on international tests as proof that America's public schools are failing, but he won't ever talk about how the Finns have improved because we would have to give up the cash incentive of privatization, the overuse and misuse of testing, and the denial of poverty as a factor in achievement.


POLITICS AND MONEY

In his book, Republic, Lost, Lawrence Lessig explains how money is more important than votes in U.S. politics. A chart of the path of money in relation to public education in Indiana makes it clear why even 1.3 million votes for Glenda Ritz (the most of any candidate for statewide office in 2012) wasn't enough to ensure that her campaign platform would be allowed to proceed. Nor were the votes enough to prevent the governor and the legislature from stripping Ritz of some of her duties. ALEC, the Koch brothers, and "reformers" control the money flowing to politicians. Votes don't matter.



















READ ALOUD

March is National Read Aloud Month.

Jim Trelease quoted the National Commission on Reading in his book, the Read Aloud Handbook.
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
It's up to all parents, teachers, and caregivers to boost children's reading through read aloud.

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

If you've followed this blog you have undoubtedly noticed that the title, Live Long and Prosper, is a quote from the Star Trek series of television shows. There are also links to Star Trek blogs in the right column of this blog.

I'm not the sort of trekkie who gets dressed up and goes to conventions. I enjoy the TV shows and movies, and that's it.

This past week (Feb 27th), Leonard Nimoy, who played the character of Spock in the original TV series, movies, and elsewhere, died at age 83. He invented the "Vulcan Salute," adapting it from a sign made by rabbis during a blessing.

The phrase, "Live Long and Prosper," became his catchphrase.

Nimoy was an actor, director, producer, recording artist, photographer, and poet. Below is his last tweet before he died...


~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rocky Killion is Right

INDIANA'S ISTEP DEBACLE, 2015

Two weeks ago, Rocky Killion, Superintendent of West Lafayette Community School District suggested that parents withdraw their students, homeschool them during the ISTEP test "season" and then re-enroll them when the test was over. His actual words, quoted by WTHR.com
I would prefer all of my students' parents withdraw and become home-schooled during ISTEP, and then we can re-enroll them.
Dave Bangert of the Lafayette Journal and Courier, came out against that suggestions saying it would be a "logistical nightmare."

But Heather Harvey, a board member of the New Community School public charter school, agreed with Killion, saying it was time for action.
This is the time to take action. It's one thing to complain about too much testing. It's another, much more powerful statement to refuse to let our children take the test.
I agree with Ms. Harvey. Logistical nightmare or not, our children shouldn't have to put up with the results of childish arguments of adults by taking what has become an exam so politically charged as to become meaningless...or more meaningless than it already was.



MISGUIDED ASSUMPTIONS

The entire mess surrounding this year's ISTEP test, the State of Indiana's "accountability" test for schools, teachers, and lest we forget them, students, is an indication of the misguided importance we, as a society, place on the standardized tests we give our children.

The assumptions by test-makers, politicians, the media, and much of the general public, are that
  • standardized tests are valid and complete measures of student learning and can therefore be used for high stakes decisions about students' futures
  • standardized tests are valid measures of a school's effectiveness and can therefore be used to reward or punish schools
  • standardized tests are valid measures of a teacher's (or teachers') competence and effectiveness and can therefore be used to judge and retain or fire teachers
These assumptions are incorrect.


TESTS DON'T MEASURE WHAT YOU THINK THEY MEASURE

We rank students, fire teachers, and damage communities with school letter grades using standardized tests, but what is it that the tests actually measure?

There is substantial evidence that standardized test scores measure the family income of students. In study after study there is a direct correlation between the level of achievement of students and their family income. This is no secret...we've known it for years. At the end of this post are 10 links to articles and studies discussing the direct link between poverty and school achievement...there are dozens...likely hundreds more.

One could argue that the appropriate use of standardized tests, if there is one, is that of measuring student learning. But standardized tests only measure a small subset of what children learn in school and an even smaller subset of what teachers teach in school.

In The Case Against Standardized Testing, Alfie Kohn wrote that standardized tests measure what matters least in school.
...as a rule, good standardized test results are more likely to go hand in hand with a shallow approach to learning than with deep understanding..."most tests punish the thinking test-taker"...
In their explanation of What's Wrong With Standardized Tests? Fairtest.org wrote
These kinds of tests are very poor yardsticks of student learning. They are weak measures of the ability to comprehend complex material, write, apply math, understand scientific methods or reasoning, or grasp social science concepts. Nor do they adequately measure thinking skills or assess what people can do on real-world tasks.
And Professor Dan Koretz, of Harvard's Graduate School of Education, discussed testing and his book, Measuring Up. An interview of Professor Koretz, Measuring Up: A Q and A with Professor Dan Koretz reveals his position on the use of tests.
Don't take test scores to mean more than they do. Tests measure only some of the important goals of schooling, and even in measuring those, they are only approximate indicators. They are subject to measurement error; different tests of the same subject often provide a somewhat different picture; and indicators other than tests often tell quite a different story. Therefore, a single score, taken alone, cannot provide a comprehensive measure of the achievement of a student, and it certainly is not sufficient to judge the quality of a school or an educational system.
The high stakes consequences of these tests are inappropriate. If we use them at all, we should use them for reflecting on how the curriculum is taught, and how teachers might more effectively present material, not to determine which teachers are fired, which students are promoted, or which schools are closed.



OUGHTS

The roll out of this year's ISTEP has been a fiasco...a "casualty" in the war among politicians in Indiana's government. Rocky Killion is right...we ought to just cancel ISTEP and use the time set aside for instruction.

Instead of wasting money on ISTEP we ought to spend it on professional development to improve instruction for all students.

The legislature, instead of arguing and passing laws about achievement tests ought to be working on legislation geared towards higher employment, higher wages and the reduction of poverty.

In fact, we ought to cancel ISTEP every year...from now on.



The Link Between Poverty and Academic Achievement.

~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~


~~~


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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Random Quotes - February 2015 (2)

HE IS A CHILD

Parents Want Accountability from Legislators- Speech at Statehouse Rally

We're focusing on the wrong thing...instead of focusing on "rigorous" (aka inappropriate) "college and career ready" standards for preschoolers and kindergarteners (and first graders...second graders...etc) we ought to be focusing on appropriate curriculum for children.

The more I watch the following video, the more I'm convinced that it describes the sort of public education system we need...for all children.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer said,
My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD...No six year old should be on the losing end of equal educational opportunity..




SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL

Governor Pence Has Not Fixed the ISTEP Problem: a mother's rant

Every child deserves the same high quality education that Bill Gates had at Lakeside School or Arne Duncan had at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. They attended schools which were well resourced, had music, and the arts, and a full academic curriculum. They were taught by highly qualified, well-trained teachers, not temps drilled in 5 week cram sessions.

Do we care enough about the future of our nation to ensure that all our children are well educated?

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer wrote,
Every child should have a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym teachers, art teachers, music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, band. Every child.
Also see
www.alfiekohn.org/schools-children-deserve/
www.ctunet.com/blog/text/SCSD_Report-02-16-2012-1.pdf
www.ctunet.com/quest-center/research/position-papers/text/A_Just_Chicago.pdf


POVERTY MATTERS, STILL

While the rich men and women in congress argue about how high the minimum wage ought to be...virtually no one says anything about how poverty impacts achievement. That's because, as charter and vouchers schools are discovering, the school has only a small impact on a child's achievement compared to outside factors mostly having to do with poverty.

If politicians acknowledged the role poverty played in student achievement they'd have to do something about it...

my response to john merrow

A Teacher Anon wrote,
The problem, in terms of academic achievement as measured by invalid tests, is poverty. Period. Why that elephant continues to be ignored is obvious. If not ignored, then that would mean politicians would have to do something about it.
Let's not worry about "turning around" school districts. Let's work on protecting children from the effects of poverty.

Krashen sounds the alarm as he has done over and over...and over and over...again for years. The problem is poverty.

Stephen Krashen wrote,
When researchers control for the effect of poverty, our performance on international tests is at the top of the world. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books: All of these have devastating effects on school performance. The best teaching and strongest exhortations to work hard have little effect when students are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.


WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH INDIANA?

What's The Matter With Indiana

In Indiana the "reform" is so blatantly pro-privatization that, aside from forgiving loans to failed charter schools and expanding the most expansive voucher program in the country, Indiana Republicans now want to let voucher schools off the hook on the state test.

The Indiana Senate Education Committee passed a bill (which still needs to be voted on by the entire legislature) which would allow private schools who accept state vouchers (aka tax money) which would allow them to ignore ISTEP and to take instead “another nationally recognized and norm referenced assessment” of their own choice.

Now, I agree that the state test, ISTEP, is inadequate, under-validated, and in general a total waste of time. Still, if schools get tax money shouldn't they be held to the same "standard?" Apparently not...

Peter Greene wrote,
On February 11, the Senate Education Committee gave the okay to a bill that would exempt voucher schools from taking the same assessment as public schools. In fact, the voucher schools can just go ahead and create a test of their own. It is remarkable that the State of Indiana has not just closed all public schools, dumped all the education money in a giant Scrooge McDuck sized vault, and sold tickets to just go in a dive around in it...This is a state that really hates its public schools.
NOTE: As of this printing SB470 has been pulled. State Senator Scott Schneider killed his own bill. The comments above, however, still reflect the preference that the Governor and the majority in the General Assembly have for private and privately owned charter schools.

ISTEP+: 243% more wasted instructional time thanks to Common Core Opponents

Masson's Blog wrote,
So, because people had an emotional opposition to Common Core and we have a slavish devotion to standardized tests that don’t do much to educate our kids, the State of Indiana is going to use my kids and their instructional time to vet its new test questions. Super...These tests don’t do a thing to educate my kids, and now they will spend more time doing them. I suspect their time would be better spent playing Minecraft.

THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY HIGH STAKES TESTS

High-Stakes End of Course Exams Harm Students in Washington State

James Boutin wrote,
I remember proctoring a test a few years ago during which students who’d recently arrived from the Dominican Republic could not explain why the main character in a reading passage would live in someone’s yard, and subsequently answered most of the questions associated with the passage incorrectly. It was because they didn’t know that, in the United States, Rover is nearly always a dog’s name. However, the test didn’t consider that that might be an issue.

...AND MISUSE OF TESTS

Rule of thumb on standardized tests – early: help the student / late: test the teacher

Masson's Blog wrote,
If the test is early in the year, it can be used as a tool for the teacher to help the teacher understand a student’s strengths and weaknesses. If the test is late in the year, the state is basically just using my kid as a tool to measure the teacher — based, I might add, on sketchy metrics. (“Don’t worry about what you’re measuring, just give me a number!”)
When A School Gets A Bad Report Card

Lynn Shoemaker said,
The only thing these grades tell us is where the poor children go to school and where the rich children go to school,..It doesn't reflect the fewer classroom teacher assistants or the enormous class sizes that lack basic resources like textbooks and desks...

AT PUBLIC EXPENSE

In the Movie Annie, Miss Hannigan said,
Why any kid would want to be an orphan is beyond me.
It wouldn't surprise me to hear a politician someday say something similar about "why any kid would want to grow up in poverty..."

Remember Mitt Romney's comment...
I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity where everyone has a fair shot...they get a...they get as much education as they can afford...
Having people get "as much education as they can afford" isn't enough. We need a fully funded, publicly accountable, system of public schools serving every child. John Adams wrote,
"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."



~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~


~~~


~~~

Thursday, February 19, 2015

2015 Medley #5: Hating Public Education, Indiana Style

"This is a state that really hates its public schools." -- Peter Greene

[NOTE: This blog entry discusses bills which have been introduced in the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly. As of this posting (2/19/2015) none of the bills have become law. The purpose of including them in this entry is to describe the attitudes and agenda of the anti-public education forces in Indiana.]

HOW DARE SHE!

The Indiana General Assembly is conducting it's annual "let's-see-how-much-we-can-damage-public-education" campaign. This year they started with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. So much has been written about the problems that Superintendent Ritz has with the State Board of Education (SBOE) that it would be impossible for me to attempt to summarize it here. The following, however, expresses the gist of the conflict...

What's The Matter With Indiana
The Indiana GOP has been trying to separate Ritz from any power. They cite any number of complaints about her work style and competence (the GOP president of the Senate famously commented "In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?") and most of the complaints smell like nothing but political posturing. [emphasis and link added]
...and the most perceptive quote from the entire article...
...This is a state that really hates its public schools.
All three branches of the state government have been working together to privatize public education well before Ritz took office in 2012. She was elected -- the lone Democrat winning a state-wide office in a blood-red state -- because voters, Republicans and Democrats alike, were tired of the "reformist" education policies of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett.

This was too much for the Republicans in the governor's office and the legislature to take...so Ritz became the target. How dare she defeat well-funded, "reform"-backed, Tony Bennett. How dare she disagree with the governor and all the "reformist" legislators (and lest I be called partisan, Pence's opponent in the race for governor was John Gregg...a Democratic "reformer." I know that the Democrats in the legislature are fighting against the Republican-led "reforms" now, but is it because they really support public education or is it simply that they don't like Republican-led anything?).



REVERSING THE 2012 ELECTION

Republicans: 2012 election doesn't matter

The Republicans in the governor's office and the legislature have finally gotten their way -- or at least they will after Governor Pence signs the bill stripping Superintendent Ritz of her chairmanship of the SBOE. Here's a report about the vote in the House.
If you’re one of the 1.3 million Hoosiers who voted for Glenda Ritz, congratulations — you’ve potentially been disenfranchised by 58 members of the Indiana General Assembly.

You elected Ritz as superintendent of public instruction and chairwoman of the State Board of Education.

They — 58 Republicans — decided to throw out your vote. After a single hour of debate, they approved a bill Monday removing Ritz as board chairwoman.

You elected a Democrat as a counterbalance to Republican educationpolicies. They said your vote doesn’t matter.

Indiana Senate votes to remove Ritz from chair; here's how your senator voted

The Senate followed suit...
The Republican-dominated Indiana Senate has advanced a bill that would remove Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz from automatically chairing the State Board of Education.

Senate members voted 33-17 Tuesday to advance the proposal that would allow board members to elect their own chairman, most likely removing Ritz from the position.
So the precedent has been made and the legislature can now change the job description of a member of the executive department, elected by the people, in the middle of a term of office. Would a Republican legislature dare to change the job description of a Democratic governor (or secretary of state or auditor, or any other state-wide elected office) in the middle of a term? This sets that precedent. Checks and Balances anyone?

The truth is that Glenda Ritz will be stripped of her chairmanship of the SBOE for two simple reasons. First, she defeated Tony Bennett and the Republicans in the state have, from day one, sought to overturn that election. Even Senator Long admitted (in this video starting at about minute 11:00) that some of the moves against the superintendent appear
...like the Republicans are trying to take away her job. And I think it does appear that way right now.
He was talking specifically about the move to make the job of Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position. The fact is, however, that the appearance of partisanship is pervasive.

The second and more immediate reason, is because Glenda Ritz ran against the Republican-led "reform" movement in Indiana -- and won. The establishment of CECI, the conflict with the SBOE, the successful move to end her chairmanship over the SBOE, and other bills now before the legislature, are simply the governor and his followers on the SBOE and in the legislature doing everything they can to stifle any dissent over their move to privatize education in Indiana.


EQUALITY IS NOT EQUITY

IPS would lose out in education funding overhaul

Not satisfied with taking power away from the superintendent and effectively disenfranchising 1.3 million voters, the legislators then turned their attention to the fact that schools with higher needs received higher levels of support. We certainly can't have that, so the next step was to introduce a bill which would make everything "equal."

Do they realize that it takes more resources to educate students who live in poverty than wealthy students? Probably...but poor and even middle class constituents don't donate as much money to political campaigns as do the wealthy and, in Indiana, as in the rest of the nation, money talks.
The shift pushed by conservatives is intended to move toward a "money following the student" plan that helps growing suburban districts but hits urban districts like Indianapolis Public Schools [IPS] hardest. As a result:

•IPS would lose roughly $18 million over the next two years as it continues to lose students.

•Hamilton Southeastern, one of the state's largest suburban districts, will receive $24 million more.

•Northwest Hendricks Schools Corp, a more rural district, will see an overall increase of close to $1.3 million.

Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said the changes would reduce the gap in per pupil funding among the highest and lowest funded school districts from $2,934 to $1,618 by 2017.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools
Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, would see a 6 percent reduction in total state tuition aid by 2017 despite being one of the state’s poorest districts, with more than 75 percent of children coming from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Some of the state’s other poorest cities also would face basic tuition aid cuts: 19 percent for Gary, 10.5 percent for East Chicago and 3 percent for Hammond by 2017.

Meanwhile, the two wealthiest school districts in the state for family income — Zionsville and Carmel — would see large increases in total state basic tuition aid: 10.6 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively, over the two-year budget period. Neither district has more than 10 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

At the same time, the proposed budget also would provide more money for public charter schools and private schools receiving publicly funded tuition vouchers.
Notice where the big increase in school funding is going, then...to the wealthy, to charter schools, and to vouchers for private and parochial schools.

The U.S. is one of the three "advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students." So much for our dedication to eliminating the achievement gap.



SBOE VS. IDOE

House moves to shorten ISTEP, broaden state board’s testing role

Members of the SBOE have, since Ritz was elected, argued that the SBOE is the education policy making body and the job of the Department of Education is to carry out that policy. That's about to change...

Here's a bill which would give the SBOE more power to micromanage education and the state's Department of Education and lessen local control of education.
But a series of changes the amendment lays out would address state board concerns over recent months. It requires the department to share data with the state board and consult with its members on testing contracts. House Bill 1072 also would let the board set minimum requirements for student test score gains. That’s a decision local schools get to make under current law.

Thompson and other Republicans on the committee said the bill would not shift any authority from Ritz to the state board. Democrats weren’t buying that the changes would have no influence.

Walker said she found the new rules in House Bill 1072 baffling. The department already consults with the state board, she said, and the bill would only require a duplication of efforts.

“It’s that they don’t trust you,” Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, suggested.

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #203 – February 16, 2015: House Bill 1639

Need more? If passed House Bill 1639 would give the SBOE more micromanaging access...this time to student data, and they'll spend more tax dollars in the process.
There is, however, no let up in the Statehouse battles over public education...

...House Bill 1639...would put control of a new system to expand access to student records in the hands of the State Board, not the Indiana Department of Education. For the first time, it would make the State Board an administrative agency, handling student data functions that have always been controlled by the Indiana Department of Education. The expanded data access through this data warehouse will cost $4.1 million as projected by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, requiring an independent computer staff for the State Board with a new stand alone computer system. The duplication of services is obvious.

The $4.1 million price tag is more than the current entire annual budget for the State Board of $3 million and of course far more than the annual budget for professional development, which stands at zero.

This is a major salvo in the battle to move functions out of the Indiana Department of Education under the control of State Superintendent Ritz and into the domain of the State Board controlled by Governor Pence.

EXTRA PERKS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Indiana: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Exempt Voucher Schools from State Testing

How much worse can it get?

If you're not yet convinced that the Republican leaders in Indiana hate public schools...how about a bill which would allow private and parochial schools, most of which, receive state money in the form of vouchers, to forego the state mandated testing program. The bill would allow them to "choose their own test." The budget proposed by the governor gives a higher increase to charter and voucher accepting private schools than to public schools. This is just another plus for private schools...the obvious "choice" of the governor. Public schools don't get this "choice."
Today, February 12, the Senate Education Committee voted to exempt voucher schools receiving public money from ISTEP, the state testing program. It was a straight party-line vote, 7-3. The voucher schools may take a test of their own choosing.

ANYONE CAN TEACH

House Bill 1639

Ok, one more just for show...

Among the many bills before the legislature there are those which would further the demoralization, and deprofessionalization of teachers by stripping them of what little employee rights they have left, lower qualifications to let Joe Nobody from off the street step into a classroom and teach, and other insane and educationally unsound ideas.

It's bad enough that teachers' evaluations are based on student test scores, a practice which is invalid at worse and unreliable at best. The idea behind this bill is to have a popularity contest included in a teacher's evaluation.

Someone came up with the bright idea of having parents and students share in the evaluation of teachers...because we know that students are mature and experienced enough to recognize excellence in teaching.
Provides that, before July 1, 2016, the state board shall develop a survey to be used by a school corporation to allow parents and grade appropriate students to evaluate certificated employees.



REAL PROBLEMS EXIST

Hunger, poverty, substance abuse, suicide impact Indiana kids at high rates

The governor thinks that Indiana is doing just swell...and it's true we had a $2 billion at the end of the last fiscal year. Maybe it's time to spend that money...maybe it's time to remind the leaders of the state that the reason we collect taxes is so that we can use it to help improve the lot of our citizens.

Instead of wasting time and money fighting against public schools perhaps they could work on some more pressing problems...
While the economy has shown a rebound, it doesn't seemed to be changing the trajectory of several indicators related to poverty. About 22.3 percent of Indiana children live in poverty, but Lake County has a higher percentage than the state — 27.7 percent in 2013. The poverty rate for children is lower in Porter County — 15 percent — but it has seen a steady increase from 9.9 percent in 2004.

...Suicide...According to a nationwide survey, Indiana has the highest rate in the nation of teens who have considered suicide in the past 12 months — 19 percent — and the second highest rate in the nation of teens who have attempted suicide — 11 percent.

...Stress and Violence...Nineteen percent of Indiana children living in poverty have witnessed domestic violence.

...Substance abuse...Abuse of prescription drugs among teens has increased by more than 95 percent from 2003 to 2014.

...Infant Mortality...In 2012, the state saw 6.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, but the number was much higher in Lake County at 9.9, among minority groups, rural residents and those who are low-income.

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


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

2015 Medley #4: Politics of Education

The Politics of Education in America: The Privatization Party, The Schools All Children Deserve, Legislative Bias in Favor of Privatization

THE POLITICS OF EDUCATION

Public Education: Political Orphan

There's only one political party in the US when it comes to public education...and that's the Democrapublican Privatization Party. It's controlled by billionaires, hedge fund managers, "free"-market fanatics, and religious exclusionists. They're not interested in the public good of "public education." They're not interested in what is best for the nation's children (only their own). They're not concerned with anything other than their own economic or idealogical interest.
In terms of policy, the biggest difference between the parties may be that Democrats still occasionally feel the need to hide their druthers behind language designed to keep teachers and other public school advocates from deserting them, whereas Republicans don't try to pretend that teachers, their work, and their union matter factor in GOP political calculations.

Somehow US public education in just one short decade has transformed from the baby that every politician was ready to kiss into the ugly kid that nobody wants to go to Prom with. In this environment, I'm honestly not sure who there is to speak up for public education in the political world, but I hope we can figure it out soon, because the hearings last week were one more reminder that there is no cavalry coming any time soon.



Public schools aren’t failing

...at least not yet. The lack of a strong public school system in the U.S. is becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Starve schools for money...push out career teachers...create mistrust of schools and teachers among the general public...and deny the influence of poverty.

The problem is our nation's failure to address the real issues facing our children and our future.
If policy makers were to listen to educators – and to students and parents – they would hear that the real crisis in public education is the loss of our collective commitment to the common good. If we continue to make the kinds of choices that steer resources away from our neediest students, the false narrative of failing public schools will become a sad reality.

Education Reformers Engineer a Teacher Brain Drain

Trash teachers, steal public funds, destroy public education.
For the last ten years now, a steady drumbeat of trash talk about teachers has made its way into the public comments about education. Experienced teachers are portrayed as lazy and incompetent, incapable of teaching students in any kind of adequate way.

...those who call themselves “education reformers” usually are not [true reformers]. Instead they are those who want only to raid public funds taken by force as taxes and then converted to the wealth of investors who do not care about your children, only their own.

Tully: Teachers shouldn’t have to beg
We ask a lot of our teachers. Too much. The least we can do is make sure they have what they know they need to teach and inspire the students who fill their classrooms every day.


What Republicans Don’t Want Us To Know About America’s ‘Failing’ Schools (VIDEO)

Democrats need to learn this, too. For too long Democrats have assumed that teachers and their unions will give them unconditional support. It's up to us to make sure they know that's not true -- at least not for education issues.
“Maybe it’s not the parents, the teachers, or the unions. Maybe we’re not doing the right things.”



THE SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE

"One, Two, Three What Are We Fighting For" by Anonymous

Here's an excellent list of characteristics for schools all children deserve.
  • Classrooms where children’s potential and aptitudes guide instruction, not the profits of test makers or the needs of future employers
  • Schools where recess and physical education periods are sacred, times when young people get needed exercise and a release for tension, not another period of test prep.
  • Classes which, at all levels, leave room for play and imagination, where children are allowed to be children, and all young people are allowed to dream
  • Schools where the arts, and science and school trips are never sacrificed to prepare for tests, and where joy has equal weight as academic achievement
  • Schools where testing, when it occurs, is used to help students improve their skills, not sort them out or rate their teachers. No test should ever be given which is not returned to students, teachers and families to assess individual students progress
  • Schools where no child, because of their race, or class economic background, is viewed as a potential criminal, and is subject to “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies designed to whip them into line
  • Schools where teachers are treated with respect, and encouraged to stay in schools for a long time and develop long term relationships with students and families
  • School communities where parent,student and teachers voices are welcomed and shape development of curriculum and school policies, and where the local community is welcome to come in after normal school hours end
  • School Governing bodies at the city, state, and national dominated by professional educators, not business leaders, who respect local control of schools and solicit teacher parent and student input.
  • A National Education Policy which stops using threats of school closings and privatization to improve student performance and uses cooperative, and not coercive measures to help schools improve
  • A Commitment, from all levels of government, to make public schools places where children are nurtured, and loved and inspired in all their diversity and individuality. Where profit isn't in the equation and where critical thinking is prized and enlightened citizenship is the goal;

LEGISLATIVE MOVE TO PUNISH PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR BEING PUBLIC

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #201 – February 12, 2015

More benefits for parochial and private schools instead of public schools.

If the state test isn't important enough for every child who goes to school using public money needs to take it, then perhaps it's not a good test...or it's not needed...

This is just one more way to punish public schools for not supporting privatization.
If anyone doubts that Governor Pence and the leaders of the General Assembly and State Board are favoring private schools over public schools in Indiana’s intense competitive marketplace of school choice, [Senate Bill 470] should remove all doubts. The voucher program was sold in 2011 by promising that private schools would take ISTEP and would be measured like all public schools using the A-F system. Now just four years later the voucher schools want to change the rules but keep the money.


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


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cancel the Chaos

What a mess.

Indiana's elementary and middle school testing program, ISTEP, is at the center of a chaotic mess and no one seems to be looking at the real problem...

ISTEP

The tests this year average more than 19 hours for grades 3 through 8...Does it make sense for kids ages 8 through 14 to take exams taking longer than the SAT and ACT put together, and longer than the Indiana Bar Exam? No, not at all, but that's where we've come in our national testing insanity.

This year's ISTEP debacle can be explained simply...

Indiana and Governor Pence jumped on the Common Core Standards bandwagon (along with most other states), but when a backlash arose against inappropriate standards among educators, and federal intervention among conservatives, the state reversed directions. Here, then, is a quick summary of how we got to where we are today...
  • Indiana backed out of the Common Core Standards.
  • The US Education Department insisted that Indiana still needed "college and career ready standards and a test to measure them."
  • Indiana rushed to create standards (instead of returning to the pre-CCSS standards which were among the best in the nation) and an assessment program to test them.
  • The State Board of Education refused to run a pilot of the test in the Fall.
  • McGraw Hill said that the state needed pilot questions for the test to be valid.
  • The pilot questions, instead of being given in the Fall have been added to the Spring test.
  • Result: hours and hours of testing for Indiana's public school children.


MISSING DISCUSSION

The big problem, however, is one which hardly anyone is talking about.

Yes, the test is too long...yes, the basis for the problem stems from a combination of things, most important being the CCSS, Federal Requirements, and conflict in Indiana between Republicans and the lone elected Democrat. But the most important part of this problem which is being almost universally ignored is this...

Testing in Indiana and the US is out of control.

As Linda Darling-Hammond said in an interview for Rise Above the Mark,
The problem we have with testing in this country today is that...we're using the wrong kinds of tests, and...we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

MISUSE

Achievement tests ought to be used to measure that which they were designed to measure -- the achievement of students.

We're misusing tests by using them to rank schools, evaluate educators, and make high stakes decisions for students.

Using achievement tests to rank schools helps schools in wealthy areas and harms schools in high poverty areas. It doesn't improve instruction...and only leads to inappropriate state intervention. Indiana's A-F school grading system is unnecessarily complicated and measures neighborhood income rather than the instructional success of a school. See here and here.

Even Superintendent Ritz fell into the trap of calling low graded schools "low-acheiving." No public schools are "low achieving." Rather, there are schools with many low achieving students and they need more resources, more support, and yes, better teachers, which brings us to...

Using achievement tests to evaluate teachers is unreliable and invalid. Doctors don't give blood tests to determine if a bone is broken. We don't use teaspoons to measure temperature. Achievement tests are developed to measure student achievement and good testing practice means that we don't use them for anything else -- like evaluating teachers. See here and here.

Using achievement tests to make high stakes decisions for students is also inappropriate. FairTest makes the case against using tests for graduation, grade promotion, or any other high stakes purpose. See The Case Against High Stakes Testing.

Misusing standardized tests does not improve student achievement.


OVERUSE

We give too many tests in the US. We don't have to test every student every year. Most high achieving nations in the world use standardized testing sparingly if at all. Our use borders on the Obsessive-Compulsive and it's based on the fact that Americans believe that our schools are failing and that there is an epidemic of bad teachers -- two beliefs which are incorrect.

We spend about $1.7 billion a year on state testing in the US, which is actually a fairly small percentage of the nation's education spending. However, that $1.7 billion does not include
  • the cost of time spent at the state and local level to manage test distribution, organization, sorting, packaging, and shipping.
  • the cost of time spent in classrooms preparing and taking tests
  • the cost of other assessments given to students either by states or local school systems
  • the loss of instructional time
  • the cost in emotional stress on students pressured by 1) inappropriate high stakes assessments, 2) less instructional time, and 3) less time for childhood
  • the cost in emotional stress on school staff pressured by 1) inappropriate high stakes assessments affecting their job security, and 2) lack of time to do the tasks they were hired to do
We're wasting time, money, and doing real damage to the mental health of people (children and adults) who work in our public schools. Overusing standardized tests does not improve student achievement.


MISDIRECTED ATTENTION

The overuse, misuse, and obsession with testing in the US has misdirected our attention from the single greatest problem affecting public education today: Child poverty.

The US has the highest child poverty among the "wealthy" nations of the world. Poverty, not "low achieving schools," or "bad teachers," is the most important factor in low student achievement. See here and here.

We could raise our national achievement level -- and secure our nation's future in the process -- if we could find a way to counter the effects on poverty among our children. Politicians and policy makers don't know how to do this...so they redirect our attention to a result of poverty -- low school achievement --  rather than admitting that they don't know what to do.


BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA

While the politicians fight over a long decided election...and blame each other for the mess surrounding the state's standardized testing program...and jockey for positions of power by legislating new rules...

Indiana's public school teachers and students are waiting to be bludgeoned once again by an inappropriate, unreliable, and invalid measuring stick.

If Indiana needs a standardized test at all, we should use one which will
  • reflect what students learn
  • cost less in money and time
  • provide information that teachers can use rather than information with which to label winners and losers
  • have no impact on school funding
  • not be the basis for high stakes decisions for students or teachers
Indiana should use tests in a way which helps us see how we're doing. We should focus on what we can do to become better at educating our youth.

In short, we don't need to change the length of the ISTEP tests. We need to change them into something we can use for the benefit of students, or cancel them, forever.

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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