"Don't label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test...You didn't devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do." -- Candidate Barack Obama, Summer 2007

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 Medley #12

Limiting Teachers' Free Speech, Hillary Clinton, Poverty, Sagan, Teacher Crisis, Reading


Politicians tell educators, "Shut up! You have no freedom of speech."

In Indiana, teachers and other government employees are prohibited from using their work emails for political messaging (See Indiana Code 3-14-1-17), but free speech for educators in Arizona and New Mexico is limited even more. The amendment referred to below effectively prohibits Arizona teachers from saying anything about any legislation...
In the 2015 legislative session, the AZ House passed an amendment to Senate Bill 1172 that places a gag order on any school employee who publicly protests legislative action. The bill "prohibits an employee of a school district or charter school, acting on the district's or charter school's behalf, from distributing electronic materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation."
And the New Mexico Administrative Code prohibits school staff members from saying anything which disparages standardized tests! STAFF RESPONSIBILITY:
C. It shall be a prohibitive practice for anyone to:
(8) disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of the standardized tests.


Am I Ready for Hillary?

Blogger Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) remembers how we were fooled into thinking that Democrats support public education...and how Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama have proven that assumption completely wrong.

Is there any reason to expect Hillary Clinton to denounce the Gates/Broad plan for public education? Probably not, since the Gates Foundation is a major supporter of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Eli Broad was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and probably will be again.

Is there any candidate or political party who will speak out against the privatization and corporatization of public education?
I have never been a single-issue voter, but my profession has never been so attacked, besieged and crushed under policymakers' boots. So I will not, not under any circumstances, vote for any candidate who gives me the slightest inkling that she (or he) is planning to give me four more years like the last fifteen. I don't care if you're promising me a pony and your opponent is threatening to send locusts to my home town-- if you aren't going to change the destructive, educationally abusive, mandatory malpractice policies of the previous two administrations, I will not vote for you, period, full stop.
See also: Hillary Clinton Feels Common Core Pain


What Can We Agree On, After Atlanta?

Those who claim "poverty isn't destiny" and "poverty is no excuse" are often those who have failed in their responsibility to reduce societal poverty. John Merrow calls out the hypocrisy of deflecting all the responsibility to teachers and schools.
To me, the biggest hypocrites are those who preach, “Poverty can never be offered as an excuse” (for poor student performance) but then do nothing to alleviate poverty and its attendant conditions. What they are saying, bottom line, is “It’s the teachers’ fault” when kids in poverty-ridden schools do poorly on tests or fail to graduate.

These preachers disguise their mendacity with words of praise for teachers, calling them ‘heroes whose brave work changes the lives of their fortunate students blah blah blah.’ Sounds great, but when it comes from those who discount all the other factors that affect outcomes, it’s hypocrisy. They’re setting up teachers and schools to be blamed.

How satisfying and convenient to have a simple, easy-to-grasp analysis. And how hypocritical.

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

Just in case there are any doubts...poverty matters.
"Just as you would expect, there's a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children," says MIT's John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study's authors. "To me, it's a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn't come easily in their environment."



Fewer education majors, and worries about where tomorrow’s teachers will come from

The current hatred that the media, policy makers, and pundits have for professional educators is going to backfire on Americans. The real teacher crisis isn't "bad teachers." It's the deprofessionalizing of the teaching profession by "reformers."

In Indiana, for example, rather than create an incentive for high achieving students to go into education using competitive wages, professional autonomy (i.e. self-direction, which legislators nationwide seem to be actively discouraging), and self-directed, meaningful professional development, we have lowered the standards for becoming a teacher.

Why would legislators, members of state boards of education, and even the most devout "reformers" want to lower the qualifications for teaching when "bad teachers" is one of the main rallying cries of GERM, the Global Education "Reform" Movement? Why are untrained teachers such as those now allowed by Indiana, or new recruits coming from Teach for America preferred when we know that training and experience matter for student achievement?

Perhaps it's because privately run schools such as charter schools don't pay teachers as much as public schools. Since those schools are receiving more and more taxpayer dollars they find themselves in a quandary; Follow the rules for public schools or lose the money. Legislatures, state boards of education, and governors, all of whom want to support school privatization, are lowering the requirements for teachers so private corporations can lower personnel costs and maximize profits.

Rather than increasing the quality of America's educators, we're diluting it. The "reformers" demonize teachers and by doing so chase good teachers out of the profession and disincentivize prospective teachers from seeking careers in education. We're doing the exact opposite of what we should be doing.
Nor have the full effects of the enrollment slowdown been realized. The real struggle is expected to crest in several years when school districts search for new teachers from a shrinking pool of qualified educators.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” says Alisa Chapman, a UNC system vice-president for academic and university programs who is closely tracking the enrollment declines in UNC system education programs. “It’s going to be more challenging for our public schools to find teachers that they need for their classrooms.”

American teachers, more demoralized than ever, are quitting in droves
...there is little evidence to show that any of this has worked, even by the reformers' criteria for success in testing and evaluation methods such as, “valued added measures” and standardized tests scores. In fact, years of these “disruptive innovations” have resulted in a situation today of poor job satisfaction for teachers....

...the turnover rate in the teaching profession is on the rise. The report for the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that “over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years.”


Don’t read because you should

If you want students to learn that reading is a rewarding experience then you ought to let them read whatever they want to read. P.Z. Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota (Morris), writes about learning to enjoy reading by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and comic books.

If you're only interested in students learning to read because they have to pass a test, then ignore this...
...beware the attitude that you should tell people what they should read: what you’re doing isn’t ennobling their mind, it’s teaching them that reading is a chore and an obligation, and that it isn’t fun at all...

My philosophy is always to encourage a passion — if you are devoted enough to start devouring books on any topic, eventually you’ll find enjoyable and educational stuff on your own. But the key step is to foster pleasure in reading anything.


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!





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Enemy is Us


Yesterday, April 14, 2025, the Indiana House of Representatives passed SB1, a bill designed to change the makeup of the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE). [UPDATE: The bill now goes to conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and the Senate version.]
SB1: State board of education governance. Makes changes to the composition of the state board of education (state board). Provides that the state board may hire staff and administrative support. Provides that the state board shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson annually from the members of the state board. Provides that at least six of the members of the state board appointed by the governor must be actively employed in the schools in Indiana and hold a valid teaching license. Provides that a state board member serves a four year term.
This effectively changes the job of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), the only elected official on the SBOE. Unless the SBOE elects the SPI as the chair of the SBOE the job the superintendent was elected to do has been changed midstream by the legislature.

When she defeated Tony Bennett and won election as SPI in 2012, Glenda Ritz was, as were all previous SPI's for the last hundred years, the designated chairperson of the SBOE. Unfortunately the Republican leadership in the state -- the governor and the members of the General Assembly -- were not happy that a Democrat defeated their "reformer" hero, Bennett. Since then, the 10 Republican appointed members of the SBOE (some claiming to be Democrats), have blocked Superintendent Ritz at every turn.

An excellent example of this is the behavior of Board Member Hendry (a self-proclaimed Democrat). At a recent SBOE meeting, Superintendent Ritz wanted to introduce a proposal to postpone the accountability requirements because of problems with the implementation of the state standardized test, ISTEP. When the meeting was called to order Hendry instantly demanded that the proposal be taken off of the agenda. He didn't want to hear any discussion. He didn't want to listen to any rationale behind the proposal. The other Republican appointed members of the board went along with him and the proposal was removed from the agenda. Hendry did, of course, have the right to do what he did, but the fact that he, and all the other members of the board wouldn't even consider discussing the proposal is an indication of the petty bickering coming from the 10 Republican appointed board members. (See the video of the meeting HERE)


The Governor and his friends on the SBOE have been blaming Superintendent Ritz for the dysfunction on the board since the election. For her part, Superintendent Ritz has put up with rudeness, eye rolling, petty comments, and outright antagonism from members of the SBOE...and remember that, even as chairperson, the Superintendent does not have the ability to overrule the votes of other members. So, while working with a fairly consistent 10-1 majority against her, the Superintendent has been blamed for the dysfunction by the other members who have been able to change policy at will.

The Republicans in the state deny that SB1 is a politically motivated bill. They claim that the SBOE ought to elect its own chair, just like local school boards. The problem with this argument is that local school boards are elected rather than appointed. It would be a different situation if all members of the SBOE were elected rather than being appointed by the Governor.

Consider, on the other hand, that Glenda Ritz is the only state-wide elected Democrat in Indiana...and that the Republicans are not going to wait until her term is over, but change her job description immediately upon passage of SB1 (see below).

Note also that other state-wide office holders have automatic chairmanships which are not being challenged by legislation. The State Treasurer is the chair of the Public Deposit Insurance Fund. The Lieutenant Governor is the chair of the state's agriculture commission. These chairmanships are part of the job, just like the chairmanship of the SBOE is the job of the SPI. The positions of State Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor are currently held by Republicans.


During the second reading of SB1 Rep. V. Smith (D-14) presented an amendment (among others) which also indicates that the intent of the bill is political.

Amendment #8 changed only one item on the bill -- it moved the effective date to the beginning of the next election cycle. That would mean that in order to remain SPI, Ritz would have to run again, and even if she lost, her opponent would also be guided by the same rules.

By rejecting the amendment, the Republican super-majority plainly stated that the bill was aimed at Superintendent Ritz...and they wanted the SBOE to have the ability to remove her from her position of SBOE chair immediately.

In one of my several attempts to engage my local state representative in a discussion of this bill, I wrote,
...giving the members of the SBOE the right to choose their own chairperson is tantamount to giving them the right to overturn the 2012 election for SPI. The voters of Indiana elected Glenda Ritz to the job of SPI which, at election time, included the position of chair of the SBOE.
Why should ten appointed members of the SBOE have the authority to strip an elected official of her duties?
...the "something needs to be done to relieve the problems on the SBOE" argument doesn't mean that the wishes of Hoosier voters should be ignored.


Unfortunately, Indiana voters also elected Governor Pence and the members of the Republican super-majority who have pursued the plan to strip Glenda Ritz of her role as SBOE chair. The conflicts surrounding the SBOE, Glenda Ritz, and public education in general are the direct result of Indiana voters telling the state government two different things.
  • We elected Glenda Ritz because we were unhappy with the direction that Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett were taking Indiana's public education system.
  • Yet we re-elected the legislators who were instrumental in putting the Daniels/Bennett school "reform" platform into place.
  • And we elected Governor Pence who, during his campaign, promised to provide more support for the Daniels/Bennett "reforms."
We, the voters, built this dysfunction. We voted for Glenda Ritz and the "Ritz plan" to end the Daniels/Bennett "reforms." And we also voted for the "Pence/Legislature plan" to continue the Daniels/Bennett "reforms." The conflict will continue unless we change our voting pattern in the next election.

In the meantime, for the most vulnerable citizens of our state, it's unfortunate that the "Pence/Legislature plan" supporters currently hold the power to make the greatest impact on public education in Indiana.


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!





Sunday, April 12, 2015

Revisiting '06

I spent a week in the hospital during Spring Vacation. Now that I'm home I'm trying to catch up on what's happening in GERM (Global Education Reform Movement), as well as the annual damage to Indiana's public education by Governor Pence, the State Board of Education, and the Indiana General Assembly.

In the meantime here are some comments of mine from 2006, the year I started this blog. Notice how little has changed since then; Privatization of public education, obsessive focus on standards and testing, and blaming public education for the economic ills of society has been a constant...


State standardized test time

One size fits all. The test is all that matters...consistently for decades.

September 16, 2006
Is it possible that you might have a student who works hard, does all of his or her assignments, completes homework, passes classroom assessments, yet fails the standardized test for whatever reason? It doesn't matter. Everyone has to pass the test...and if they don't, no amount of make up work, or daily achievement will matter. Everyone has to be the same.

The new slogan in American education...One size fits all. Everyone is - or has to be - identical. There's no room for an Edison, an Einstein, or a Mozart. Pass the test...pass the test...don't worry about anything else...


A Must Read - Jonathan Kozol

Shame of the Nation is not Jonathan Kozol's most recent book, but it's one of his most important contributions. The extended title, The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, correctly identifies what the nation's high child poverty levels, the expanding economic gap, and the re-segregation of schools caused by the charter school movement, are doing to public education.

October 9, 2006
When you read [Jonathan Kozol's book, Shame of the Nation] he'll show you how the Civil Rights movement of the 60's led to integrated schools in various places around the country. He'll also show you how those schools were successful in closing the black/white achievement gap. Finally, he'll show you how we have lost nearly all of that to re-segregated school systems...worse than before in many places.


Sick of NCLB

We can freely interchange the names of the Presidents...Clinton, Bush, Obama...as well as the name of the name of the federal program...NCLB or RttT.

October 22, 2006
No child left behind is the logical outgrowth of the now discredited report "A Nation at Risk." It is no mistake that the errors in that report were quashed by the Reagan administration.* Yet the myths of that era were embraced by the nation by Democrats as well. Bill Clinton was just as eager to develop a "national curruculum" as the Republicans. His administration was just as quick to call for the grade retention of students who didn't pass "the test" as the Republicans. He was just as willing to use standardized testing as the benchmark from which all school results are gathered and compared as are the Republicans.

We don't have the luxury of being sick of complaining about NCLB. The students who are under our care are being damaged right now. If we sit back and wait for things to change who will be the voice of the students who are being pushed to drop out so their low test scores won't effect AYP? Who will be the voice of the 5 year olds who are being drilled and killed so they can improve their DIBELS scores?

* See Gerald Bracey's "The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education" (PDK membership required for access)


The Zen of Public Schools

The last sentence is the most important one in this passage and it's one I've repeated over and over again. No one in the nation is taking responsibility for our economic gap and high child poverty. The public schools are being blamed for the failure of our nation to solve its social and economic problems...

October 31, 2006
...the state wants public schools to be, as Bill Moyers put it, "the permanent emergency rooms of our country's dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do."

Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there's a "crisis" in education - especially in the public schools. I don't think that's true. I think the crisis is in society and since no one wants to take responsibility for the enormous inequities in our society, it is blamed on the public schools.


Time to Teach

Education researcher Richard Allington reminded us that one size does not fit all because children are different people and learn in different ways. The obsessive focus on a single test or set of standards defining what a "child ought to know" shortchanges the education of all children.

November 17, 2006
“Our current ‘scientific’ method focuses almost exclusively on identifying what works best generally, [but] children differ. Therein lies what worries me about ‘evidence-based’ policy making in education. Good teaching, effective teaching, is not just about using whatever science says ‘usually’ works best. It is all about finding out what works best for the individual child and the group of children in front of you.” -- Richard Allington

Edison, Einstein, and Everyone else

Edison and Einstein were highly intelligent, yet were branded as failures at school. They were, however, able to persevere and eventually their lives were marked by great achievement. The damage done to students by our current test-crazed culture is that low achievers who have high ability are labeled failures and not all of them will be able to overcome the emotional and social impact of that label.

If we don't recognize students of ability no matter what their achievement, then the Einsteins and Edisons in our classrooms today may be silent in the future.


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, April 9, 2015

2015 Medley #11

Atlanta Cheating Scandal, Tomorrow's Teachers, Opt-Out, Priorities for America's Future


Jail for Black Educators, Millions for Bankers

The Biggest Outrage in Atlanta’s Crazy Teacher Cheating Case

No one should condone the cheating done by teachers and educators in Atlanta (or Las Vegas, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Chicago, NYC, Texas, Los Angeles, and elsewhere), but what punishment is appropriate to fit the crime?

The first thing I always think about when I hear about cheating on standardized tests is that there is an assumption that standardized tests measure student achievement, teacher competency, school effectiveness, and real learning. They don't. Standardized tests most accurately measure student/family economic status and neighborhood income. Tests are being overused and misused and therein lies the real crime.

That being said, it's still unethical for educators to manipulate tests in order to protect their jobs, increase their bonuses, or any other reason. Teachers who do so should be removed from the classroom immediately with a loss of their credentials.

Yet it's important to remember that many teachers around the nation now find themselves in no-win situations. They are required to raise test scores (most often made impossible by legislatures) or risk losing their jobs. Backed into a corner it's not a surprise that many otherwise honest, hardworking teachers cheat in order to keep feeding their families. It's easy for outsiders to say they shouldn't do it, but when faced with loss of job in a difficult market, people often make poor choices. Definitely they should be punished for those poor choices.

What would the appropriate punishment be? 20 years and a racketeering charge like drug dealers and mobsters? A slap on the wrist like the bankers who brought the world economy crashing down? 10 years like the average for first time armed robbery? The threats of harsh sentences for the Atlanta teachers is just another point of proof that American Justice, while she may be wearing a blindfold, can see money very clearly.
You don’t have to consider the Atlanta teachers innocent to know something has gone terribly awry in the country when filling in bubbles on Scan-Tron sheets can get you 20 years, but stealing people’s homes and defrauding pension funds can’t get you indicted. The only way you could see what the justice system has granted bankers as in any way commensurate with what it does to ordinary people is if you grade on a curve.

Atlanta Cheating Scandals and Eva Moskowitz Success Academies 2 Sides of the same Coin
You decide which is worse- Cheating or Child Abuse.

That we have come to this is telling testimony of the absurdity of annointing raising test scores as the nation's primary anti-poverty strategy and its path to restoring Global Economic Competitiveness

The Atlanta Cheaters

Peter Greene understands that the educators who cheated in Atlanta are just a few more in a long line of cheaters starting with the main cheat which is No Child Left Behind. The law was based on the so-called "Texas Miracle" -- which never actually happened. Greene doesn't discuss it here, but we can also include the cheat of "Renaissance 2010" from Chicago which gave rise to Race to the Top.

When you nationalize something that only worked because of cheating and tell educators to duplicate it (or else!), you'll get more cheating.
The fate of the Atlanta cheaters stands in stark contrast to the fate of teachers and administrators cheating across the US. Can I pull up a list and name them? No, nor would I. But I don't doubt for a fraction of a second that hundreds upon hundreds of schools in this country survived the insanely unattainable politically-set requirements of federal reform by cheating in ways big and small. This can't be a surprise-- school reform's first big exemplar was the Texas Miracle, which turned out to be nothing more than creative accounting and magic tracking. The federal government literally paraded a big fat lie in front of schools as if it were a model and then said, "Okay, now YOU do that, too!"


The Rewards of Teaching

"Reformers" don't get it. They don't understand the motivation to teach. If they did they wouldn't be foisting a "business model" on public education. Teachers don't walk into a classroom like a salesclerk walks into a retail store, or an hourly assembly line worker walks into a factory. Those folks may love their jobs, but being an educator is more like a novelist struggling with the development of a character...more like an artist mixing colors on a canvas...more like a doctor trying to diagnose a particularly puzzling illness.

Increased pay for educators is great...but so is administrative support, materials, and the opportunity to teach and analyze one's work.

When "reformers" think they can motivate teachers with more money, or threats...when "reformers" remove all the subtle, personal rewards of teaching and replace them with an obsessive focus on test scores, the incentive to teach is lost...and no amount of money or so-called merit pay will make up for it.
A great school to work in is one where there are the fewest possible obstacles between the teachers and the intrinsic rewards of teaching. And the intrinsic rewards of teaching are, most simply stated, using your skills, knowledge, judgment and efforts to help your students learn and grow, and getting to see the real life results of that growth.

The more obstacles stand between a teacher and the use of those personal skills, knowledge, judgment and effort, the less rewarding it is to work there.

Does Anyone in Education Reform Care if Teaching Is a Profession?
I find it hard to believe that today's education "reformers" really believe that teaching is a profession at all. If they did, the pressure to make certain only top students enter university-based teacher preparation and then to make sure those students have rigorous preparation would be coupled with similar efforts to raise the attractiveness of teaching as a lifelong career. Instead, reformers act as if they believe that teaching is something you do in your twenties when you are idealistic and want to "give something back" -- and then you move on to a "real career" in some other sector. If your charter school bosses like you, perhaps they will make you a school principal before you are 30, or they will set you on a path to become Commission of Education for the state of New York when you are only 36 years old. But mostly, they will thank you for a few years of service and see you off to your grown up life outside of education. After all, reformers' favorite schools -- "no excuses" charters -- manage to train their students into "little test taking machines" without very many career teachers, so why should reformers really value teachers who dedicate their entire adult lives to teaching? That people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are dedicated and developing professionals who wish to remain in the classroom must seem like an amusing and quaint anachronism to them.


Here is the New York State Teacher Evaluation Bill

Here's a perfect example...politics hurts children. The teachers union in New York didn't support the re-election of Governor Cuomo, so his response is to do as much damage to teachers' careers as he can. Does he understand that teachers' working conditions have an impact on students?
This is a bill that is written to oust teachers. It reeks of disrespect. It shows Governor Cuomo’s rage against the people who work with children in public schools every day. This bill is his payback to the teachers’ unions for not endorsing his re-election after he declared himself the lobbyist for charter students (3% of the state’s enrollment)...Enrollments in teacher education programs are collapsing, in New York and across the nation. Those who enter teaching today are either woefully uninformed of the politicians’ hostility towards them or are prepared to fight a long battle for their children and their profession. What kind of society makes war on its teachers?


Principal: ‘There comes a time when rules must be broken…. That time is now.’

Republicans on the right and Democrats on the left have all bought into the privatization of public education. It's up to parents and educators to protect, support and rebuild America's public schools.
It has become increasingly clear that Congress does not have the will to move away from annual high-stakes testing. The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. Conservatives no longer believe in the local, democratic control of our schools. Progressives refuse to address the effects of poverty, segregation and the destruction of the middle class on student learning. The unimaginative strategy to improve achievement is to make standardized tests longer and harder.


What If Education Reform Got It All Wrong in the First Place?

We are a selfish, short-sighted, nation. Our priority is "mine, mine, mine" and our plan for the future is non-existent. Politicians talk about not leaving future generations in debt, and use that as an excuse to justify cutting programs which squander the hopes of those very future citizens. If we actually cared about the future of our nation, about the children who will be leading us in a few short years, we would change our priorities.
"...if money doesn’t matter, then why is it that people who have money send their kids to schools that have many, many more resources?” Gandara adds. “I think fundamentally the problem is that other developed nations have social systems that support families and children in a variety of ways: with childcare, with good health care, with recreational opportunities—with lots of things that support healthy development. We have dumped it all on the schools and said, ‘We’re really not going to provide any of these services. You deal with it, schools.’”

Times aren’t tough; why the hit to schools? by Connie Boesen, a member of the Des Moines, Iowa School Board

Fewer opportunities, larger classes, fewer teachers, ever larger student debt, higher child poverty...is this our plan for the future? Is this how we plan to compete in a global economy?
If Iowa continues down this path of low funding for our schools, this is what we know: We will have fewer teachers, coaches and other adults that can connect with students. We will have fewer course offerings. We will have larger class sizes with less personal attention for each student. We will have fewer opportunities for students to connect with extracurricular activities and the fine arts that excite them to succeed in school.

We are elected to the school board just as the Legislature is elected with responsibilities, rules and timelines to follow. It is disappointing that we are now over a year late in establishing the school funding for the upcoming school year of 2015-2016. Education should not be a political issue but a moral issue of providing all children with great educational opportunities.

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!





Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 Medley #10

Defies Measurement, Teacher Shortages, Substitute Shortages, Sharing Responsibility, Spellings, PARCC, Common Core 


See "Defies Measurement"

Peter Greene at Curmudgucation dominates today's medley. First he reviews a movie which you should watch. It's online...it's free...and it's excellent. You can download it and share it with colleagues and friends.
Let me cut to the chase-- I cannot recommend enough that you watch Defies Measurement, a new film by Shannon Puckett...

...Alan Stoskopf, Alfie Kohn, Anthony Cody, David Berliner, David Kirp, Diane Ravitch, Fred Abrams, Howard Gardner, Jason France, Joan Duvall-Flynn, Jordyn Schwartz, Julian Vasquez-Heilig, Karen Klein, Karran Harper-Royal, Ken Wesson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Mark Naison, Martin Malstron, Mercedes Scneider, Robert Crease, Susan Kovalik, and Tony Wagner.


With Fewer New Teachers, Why Do Some Stick Around?

NPR did an article about the looming teacher shortage. Then they did a follow up with quotes from teachers who were not at all surprised. I think they may have been surprised actually...

Finally, they posted a third installment -- a piece about how there are still teachers who love to teach...
In 2012, The Gates Foundation (which supports NPR's coverage of education) surveyed more than 10,000 public school teachers—to find out what factors were important in retaining good teachers. 68 percent said that supportive leadership was "absolutely essential." Only 34 percent said the same about higher salaries.
Complete with quotes from teachers who love their jobs...
I stay because I love the kids. When I close the classroom door, and it's just the kids and me, I see in them so much potential. They need people who believe in them, people who help them become the best person they can be.


Schools Nationwide Struggle with Substitute Teacher Shortage

Fewer and fewer college students are going into education. In addition, the shortage of substitutes will complicate the problem even more.

Not every "reformer" is out to kill the teaching profession, but the "reform" movement is playing into the hands of those who are. Fewer teachers means states will lower the qualifications to be a teacher in order to fill teaching positions.

In Indiana, for example, you can become a high school teacher if you have a degree, a B average and work experience in a field. You can start teaching with no "instructional expertise" and no training in "effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student data, recognition of exceptional learners and modification of curriculum and instruction."

This is a way to deprofessionalize the teaching profession...no more career teachers spending their lives at one school where they teach generations of students. No more messy worries about a teachers union as teacher-temps shuffle in and out every few years.
A frequent source of substitutes has been education majors looking for experience. But officials say fewer college students are choosing teaching as a career path, in part because of recent layoffs and concerns about new education standards, including efforts in some states to link teacher evaluations with student test scores.

"There have been so many stories about the quality of public education that many of us have conjectured that really impacted both students and their parents to say, `Why would I go into education and face all of that?'" said Jill Shedd, assistant dean for teacher education at Indiana University.


The Big Error of School Accountability

When will policy makers accept their share of responsibility for public education?
The authors have shifted totally from an inconvenient conversation about fair and equitable investment in children and communities—investment that is adequate and comparable regardless of a student’s zip code or skin color—to one about holding children and communities responsible for their own outcomes. Accountability is constructed on the principle of blame and consequences as leverage to move schools and kids forward (blame and consequences, it should be noted, entirely directed at the teachers and students, with no consequence whatsoever reserved for citizens outside the schoolhouse who may or may not provide adequate fiscal supports for schools and children). At the urging of testing advocates like the authors of this essay, educational improvement via punitive test-based policies has eclipsed humane concepts of shared assistance and support for hurting American children (particularly anything resembling the investment of tax receipts) as the “civil rights issue of our time.” Educational accountability is designed as a low-cost replacement for social responsibility.


Don't Dilute the Progress That's Been Made

Margaret Spellings, who was the George W. Bush's second Secretary of Education (after Rod Paige), doubles down on No Child Left Behind. Her bio, when she was in office, suggested that she was qualified to lead the nation's education system because she was "a mom." Parents, of course, must have a voice in America's education policy, but policy ought to be developed by those who understand the field. You wouldn't hire a baker to run a legal firm simply because the baker had used legal services in the past. Education professionals ought to be in the front lines of determining education policy, but educators are rarely consulted or involved in state and federal policies.

Had Spellings ever been a K-12 public school teacher she would understand that standardized testing isn't the be-all and end-all of keeping parents informed about their students' progress.
As someone who was on the front lines of the deliberations on No Child Left Behind when it became law in 2002, I know that annual assessment data, required under the law, is critical to informing parents, teachers and the public about how all students are performing.
Spellings Remains Steadfastly Wrong

Peter Greene has a nice comeback. Just because you want something to be true doesn't make it so.
...the standardized test does not become an accurate measure of a student's entire life prospects just because you say so...


Pearson Proves PARCC Stinks

One last link to Peter Greene...

Testing has lost all meaning. We don't use tests for informing instruction or helping parents understand how their children are progressing. They are simply a tool to label children, teachers, schools, and states. Once the label is secure, jockeying for profit can begin through legislation, "increased rigor," and the buying and selling of schools. Test security protects investment. The true purpose of assessment has been lost.
The fact that product security trumps use of the product just raises this all to a super-kafka-esque level. It is more important that test security be maintained than it is that teachers and parents get any detailed and useful information from it.


Common Core does not work because it was never designed to work.
Simply shifting demands down by 1-2 years, with no regard for age/grade appropriateness, is producing the exact failure rates those in charge predicted. Of course in cases where the results do not meet predictions, cut scores are adjusted to guarantee the predicted rate of failure...

We are being told Common Core works from those outside the classroom walls. When do we start to listen to those that actually have to work with the lackluster standards and flawed state tests?


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!





Friday, March 20, 2015

Random Quotes - March 2015


Vouchers - The Defunding of a Public Trust

Why should you pay taxes to support public schools when you have no students who attend the public schools?

Our founders understood that an educated populace was a benefit to everyone. Thomas Jefferson called for federal support of public education in his 1806 State of the Union message. John Adams declared that the public should support public education at the public expense. James Madison called for the federal government to "take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the union..."

We all benefit when our fellow citizens are educated. Just as we all support police departments, public parks, roads, libraries, and fire departments, for the public good, we must all support public education for everyone. Part of the responsibilities of a government is to provide essential services to the people. It is the people's responsibility to support that effort through their taxes.

If you choose to send your children to private school you should not expect to be relieved of the responsibility to support the public schools which benefit everyone.

...from Lead Your School
There are parents in our community that are also school tax paying homeowners that elect to not send their children to the local public school. This is their choice, and there is no negative consequence for exercising it. They simply pay tuition to a private provider to educate their children. If at anytime they change their mind, the local public school will accept their children.

From a taxpayer perspective, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE between the private schooling parent and myself. We both pay into a public trust that neither of us uses.

Except, there are now people who advocate the breaking of this public trust. They argue that if a parent chooses to send their child to a non-public school, they should be allowed to remove money from the public trust and spend it to subsidize their choice. If my private schooling neighbor were allowed to take his tax dollars and use them as he chooses, this would mean that he IS NOW DIFFERENT than me. Effectively, his tax bill has been reduced.

Crisp: Ideology must not trump education

Here's a not so subtle comment about the selfishness, and the lack of foresight we Americans have. We're not against stepping all over our fellow citizens if it means more for us. Give me mine...I don't care what you get...just get your hands off mine.

We have lost the concept of working together for the common good (if we ever actually had it) and sacrificing for the good of the community or nation as a whole. If we did, then we would understand that a fully supported, free, universal, public education system benefits us all, and that a 25% child poverty rate is unacceptable, unsustainable...and threatens our future as a people.

...from John M. Crisp
..the first and most obvious beneficiaries of a school voucher program would be the parents of children who are already enrolled in private schools and the schools, themselves, which would have an incentive to raise their prices. These are the people who want voucher programs most of all.

We already know how to produce excellent public schools. I went to one, and if you’re reading this paper, you probably did, too. The problem is that we’ve never been willing to produce them for everyone, regardless of race or economic status.


Arne's Dumb Expectations

Blogger Peter Greene has some advice for Arne Duncan, who, like other test-and-punish privatization advocates, is all about accountability -- for everyone else.

...from Peter Greene
Imagine how different education would reform would play out if we just changed half of the following sentence. Instead of
Where we find failing schools and students, we must hold teachers and school districts responsible for their failure to properly teach those students 
we could instead say
Where we find failing schools and students, we must hold politicians responsible for their failure to properly support those schools with needed resources.


Why Do So Few College Students Want to Be Teachers?

The kindergartners who entered school in the first years of No Child Left Behind, in 2002, are graduating high school now. Is it any wonder that those children, whose academic lives have been focused on gaming the system and testing, testing, testing, should reject the idea of becoming a test-and-punish practitioner? The privatizers and testepreneurs have soured the taste of learning for an entire generation of children. Our nation will live under the deleterious effects of NCLB for many years.

...from Jan Resseger
...why would we be surprised when fewer young people seek careers as school teachers? They are getting the message. Our society now conceptualizes teaching merely as adding value by pouring into each child’s head the big publishers’ canned curriculum that is coordinated with the standardized tests they also publish. Our law makers adopt policies that ignore what teachers do and describe teachers’ work in business-school terms. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invests $45 million to develop teacher evaluation systems based on econometric formulas that are blind to the human part of teachers’ work with children. We pay teachers less, and state governments seek to destroy their unions and thereby undermine due process and career protections. Our lexicon seems even to be losing the words that would value the time and energy and expertise school teachers expend day after day to help our children realize their promise.

Losing Good Teachers? Hooray!

We've invested in the "education sector" and have seen a proliferation of privatization schemes -- charter schools, vouchers, test-and-punish practices. The money flows from board room to political campaign accounts...and law-makers then return the money to the board room via tax payments supporting privatization. The "education economy" is booming, but the most important investment opportunity, the investment in our children, is being squandered.

...from Richard Sindall
I doubt that the money saved by destroying the teaching profession will, in the main, go back to taxpayers. It will go to the investors in “the education sector.” It will go to the test makers and test-related curriculum peddlers. It will go to those who invest in charter schools and for-profit universities. It will go to the software and hardware developers who will deliver the standardized lessons and standardized tests coordinated to give the illusion of successful learning. And then it will go to the re-election campaigns of politicians who enable corporate reform for the investors in the education sector.


DIBELS Raises Common Core Cut Scores to Show More Students Below Grade Level

If enough students aren't failing simply raise the "cut scores" and the crisis will continue.

...from Lace to the Top
There is no money to be made in labeling children as successful, but labeling them failures has continued to fuel the perceived crisis in education and increases profits.


To Stop the Opt-Out Movement, Start the Opt-In Movement

...from John Kuhn
Parents aren’t just opting out of tests. They are opting out of an entire fouled ecosystem of which tests are an integral part. They’re opting out of a punitive game of Mousetrap with their kids’ scores as the snap-off pieces, wherein political shakers (who may have something to gain or who may sincerely believe in the “failing schools” gospel) have set a trap not just for some bad teachers, not just for this or that neighborhood school, but for the entire constitutional vision of a publicly-funded, publicly-accountable, democratically-operated, free and open-to-all-students system of schools.


The failure of Renaissance 2010 in Chicago has been replicated throughout the nation with a similar lack-of success, unless you consider profits for Pearson, K-12, Charter USA, etc. as success.

...from Bob Herbert, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America
"In 2004, Gates was one of the prime movers and the lead funder of a citywide initiative called Renaissance 2010, a program that was supposed to transform Chicago's public schools in just six years. Lousy teachers would be fired, failing schools would be closed, and charter schools would blossom. . . . And the school system's CEO, Arne Duncan was responsible for designing and implementing the initiative, which was popularly known as Ren 10.

The enthusiasm was misplaced. Like Gates's 'transformative' small high schools initiative, Ren 10 was a flop. . .The architect of Renaissance 2010, former schools CEO Arne Duncan, is now the US Secretary of Education--and he's taking the Daley-Duncan model national as part of his Race to the Top reform plan.

Renaissance 2010 never delivered the promised goods, but Duncan was not hurt by its failure, and neither was Gates."


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!





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Linda Darling-Hammond: On Testing

I was thinking about the recent upheaval with PARCC testing, Pearson spying on students and reporting it to school districts, and the general misplaced confidence (or is it just economic investment) that American policy makers have with testing in this country. The renewed focus on testing reminded me of Linda Darling-Hammond's words during an interview in the film, Rise Above the Mark.

Darling-Hammond is an educator and researcher. She's not a politician like Andrew Cuomo who must to satisfy donors by throwing public money their way. She's not a pundit like Michael Petrilli who is ideologically focused on privatization. She's not an untrained mouthpiece like Arne Duncan who shills for testing companies and privatizers. She's an academic who has spent her career learning and teaching about students, schools,  teachers, and learning.


What does this education professional say about what we are doing compared to countries in the world whose students are high achieving?
Compare that [what high achieving countries are doing for education] to reforms that are going on in the United States which largely are reinforcing inequality, deepening poverty, homelessness...and pretending to fix that with more standardized tests.

We have been testing without investing.

We have been testing way too much and with low quality multiple choice instruments that drive the curriculum in very narrow directions.

We've been deprofessionalizing teaching...allowing people to come in without adequate preparation, not supporting them in their learning and then trying to manage that with both systems of high stakes accountability and privatization, trying to put more and more funds into sectors that essentially increasingly are reducing the support for public education.

We cannot become internationally competitive from here, doing what we're currently doing...
We're making things worse by ignoring the effects of poverty, denying that it has an impact on education so that policy makers are relieved of their responsibility in the education of our children. Instead we blame children and teachers. Then, after making those mistakes, we are trying to fix the problem by calling for more testing under the mistaken belief that if only teachers and students would try harder, things will get better.


And what about that testing? Has the test and punish plan worked? Are the tests even valid? Has the amount that we have invested in testing been helpful?
The problem we have with testing in this country today is that, number 1, we're using the wrong kinds of tests, and number 2, we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways. We are the only country that tests every child, every year with these kinds of measures and then attaches all of these stakes to them -- whether a kid gets promoted to the next grade, whether they graduate, whether a teacher gets a merit pay bonus, whether they even keep their job, whether schools get rewarded or sanctioned or even closed down. The tests were never designed to support these kinds of decisions. They don't even measure the things you would need to measure to be valid for those purposes, in ways that would inform you.

...having those kinds of stakes attached to the wrong kinds of tests produces three very unfortunate outcomes.

The first of them is that we are narrowing the curriculum and dumbing down the curriculum to the subjects that are tested. We're narrowing and reducing the capacity of our teachers to teach what's important and our kids to learn what's important.

The second problem with high stakes testing is that it creates incentives to prevent high need students who struggle in school from coming into your school district or your school. And in a marketplace of schools, those who have the ability to fend those students off keep them out and it creates incentives to push them out...we've created a situation in which it doesn't benefit any school to keep the kids who struggle to learn because it will negatively impact their test scores...that doesn't serve the society well.

The third thing that happens with high stakes accountability is that all of the blame is now being put on individual teachers and educators particularly in high need schools where kids are coming from more poverty, homelessness, dysfunctional community settings, getting less resources in school. If the scores don't go up we blame the teachers or the principals and say, well, let's fire them, and it is deflecting attention from solving those other problems which are becoming more and more acute in American Society.
We're making things worse by 1) narrowing our curriculum, ignoring things like social studies, science, physical education and the arts, by 2) pushing out the very students who need the most help staying in school and are thereby taking away the opportunity to benefit from their contributions to our society and by 3) punishing poverty and the schools which deal with poverty.

Darling-Hammond understands the damage that our education policy is doing to our future. Policy makers, politicians, and pundits would do well to listen to her.


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!





Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 Medley #9

Testing, Pearson, Privatization,
The Public Good, Research

TESTING: Pearson, Monitoring/Spying on Social Media

California Monitors Students’ Social Media to Protect Test Security

Here's an important post regarding the Pearson spy-scandal. Diane Ravitch reminds us that what we put on the internet and social media is public...and subject to monitoring/spying by people like Pearson, as well as, in the case of Bob Braun's blog, DoS attacks by hackers known, suspected and unknown. Use caution when posting on social media and blogs.

An important additional point to remember is that, apparently, Pearson has done nothing illegal.
What’s the lesson? I think we must teach our children (and remember ourselves) that anything online is public information. There is no privacy on the Internet. If you have a secret, whisper it in someone’s ear. Don’t write it in an email or on social media; don’t say it on the telephone. Save it for personal conversations. Or consider it public.

TESTING: Pearson, Monitoring/Spying on Social Media

By now everyone should be aware of the student-social-media-monitoring-spying mess that Pearson is trying to weasel its way out of...Here are a few places to go for good information.

Mercedes Schneider explains what happens and has a link to a copy of the original post by Bob Braun.

Hey, Kids: If You Tweet About Your PARCC Testing Experience, Pearson Will Call You Out
Pearson officials have even had the gall to contact the New Jersey department of education three times and push for corrective action for the students’ actions on social media.
Save our Schools NZ has links to information about the situation.

Just how shady can this Pearson story get? Very, apparently.
Pearson put out a press release saying they behaved perfectly responsibly….
Here's a link to the original story by Bob Braun. It is apparently up again, though running very slowly.

BREAKING: Pearson, NJ, spying on social media of students taking PARCC tests
”Pearson, the multinational testing and publishing company, is spying on the social media posts of students–including those from New Jersey–while the children are taking their PARCC, statewide tests, this site has learned exclusively. The state education department is cooperating with this spying and has asked at least one school district to discipline students who may have said something inappropriate about the tests.
If Braun's site is still down or unavailable, here's a pdf of his blog post.

TESTING: Hiding the Inadequate

Stealth over ISTEP comes at a steep cost

With privatization comes lack of public oversight. Not only are privatized charters running schools without public accountability, the legislature, school board, and policy makers in general have turned the test-and-punish hen house over to the foxes. Testing companies cry "security" as a way to hide the fact that their products are inadequate, invalid, and unreliable.

Caveat emptor. Indiana has dumped CTB/McGraw-Hill and is now going to go with Pearson.

It doesn't matter which company we use...it's a waste of money either way. Our assumption that so-called accountability testing is the answer to the problems of social and economic inequity is wrong.
In their attempt at imposing “rigor” on sixth-grade students, the Indiana legislature has imposed science standards too deep for the test-makers at CTB/McGraw-Hill to comprehend. There were two practice questions, and the test-makers got both wrong.

How many questions will the test-makers have incorrect answers for in this year’s ISTEP exam? We will never know. Both the questions and the answers are kept secret. So even as students’ futures are made dependent on their performance on standardized tests, even as the Indiana legislature aims to tie teachers’ salaries to how well their students perform on ISTEP, the CTB/McGraw-Hill test-makers remain free to botch and bungle as many test questions and answers as they like, knowing the public will never know.

They will remain free as ever to feed at the public trough on Indiana taxpayer money, and as far as CTB/McGraw-Hill executives and shareholders are concerned, that’s the only thing that matters.


Library supporters concerned about privatization talk

The privatizers are at work in all areas of the public good. Here we learn about a move to privatize libraries. Socialists, like Ben Franklin, don't understand that everything private is better.

Keep track of the push for privatization at Privatization Watch.
"It has come to my attention that there is a forthcoming proposal to place the Kern County library system under private nonprofit management," Ann Wiederrecht wrote in an email to supervisors. "Such an idea is outrageous. The Kern County Library is truly a public service open to people of all ages and backgrounds."

"In order for a for-profit group to make a profit, it will be necessary to cut services even more than they have been and/or in some way start charging for services," wrote Bakersfield College luminary Jerry Ludeke in another email. "Free public libraries are an American treasure and a 'hand-up' for many in the culture."


Walmart lobbyists push bill privatizing Arkansas’ public schools

Billionaires try to take away public control of public education.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will back legislation from lobbyists connected to Walmart that would open the door for private contractors to take over management of local school districts, the Arkansas Times reported.

The bill, HB 1733, was introduced by state Rep. Bruce Cozart (R), and was written by Walton Family Foundation lobbyists. Cozart is also chair of the state House Education Committee. The bill was sent to the committee for review on Friday, and needs 11 votes to advance to a vote on the floor.

According to the Times, the bill would establish an “achievement school district” that could include any school district found to be under “academic distress.”

The state education commissioner would then have the ability to “directly operate or contract with one or more not-for-profit entities” to run the district for a 3-5 year period. Individual schools would also be eligible for transitioning to a privatized system, with the rest of that school’s former district potentially responsible for paying for busing and food costs.

The Times also reported that the bill would turn teachers in any “achievement district” into “at-will” workers. Districts run under this model would not be required to have a school board or field licensed teachers.
Why are you still shopping at Walmart?


Charter schools struggling to meet academic growth

How is the privatization of public education working out? Charter operators are learning that, unless they screen out low performing students (aka students with learning challenges or students living in poverty), their test scores will not be any better than true public schools.

The political preference for privatization from both Democrats and Republicans is just a cover to suck up the billions of dollars of tax money which should be going to help students learn.
We hear, as we should, about the highfliers and the schools that are beating the odds, but I think we need to pay even more attention to the schools that are persistently failing to meet expectations,” said Charlene Briner, the Minnesota Department of Education’s chief of staff. Charter school advocates strongly defend their performance. They say the vast majority of schools that aren’t showing enough improvement serve at-risk populations, students who are poor, homeless, with limited English proficiency, or are in danger of dropping out.


Sustainable community schools: An alternative to privatization

School boards elected by the public, while not perfect, are at least required to be transparent. Too much is being hidden by charter and private school operators who are using public funds.
The reality of understaffed, poorly resourced public schools destabilized by punitive and largely ineffective school transformation policies has driven many families to seek refuge in charters, few of which perform better than the schools they left. The charter lobby ignores the fact that charter school expansion, given the present charter school law and the absence of additional funding in the form of a charter school reimbursement line in the state budget, can only come at the expense of children in traditional public schools.

They ignore the well-documented evidence of pervasive corruption and the lack of regulation that makes it possible. They ignore the existence of policies that allow many charters to cherry-pick when it comes to admission and retention, thus creating an uneven field with traditional public schools. They ignore the lack of due process for employees, the high rates of teacher turnover, and the efforts at some charters to deny workers their right to organize.

They ignore the lack of transparency and real voice for parents at many charters. And, perhaps most important, they ignore the evidence that a large sector of charter schools has not moved the needle in terms of the overall performance of the School District, particularly in communities of color characterized by deep poverty.

The most fundamental question is not charter schools vs. traditional public schools. The debate should be about equity – should children in Philadelphia and other poor communities in the state be entitled to a quality education with the elements that affluent communities take for granted? Indeed, children in the poorest neighborhoods disproportionately need lower class size and services like health care and counseling that can address the deficits created by poverty.


Fountas and Pinnell Create More Rigorous Common Core Guided Reading Guidelines

Money corrupts pedagogy. The drive for higher test scores and "more rigor" has driven non-tested subjects out of public education. Here, Fountas and Pinnell, who taught me much of what I know about reading instruction and learning, have caved to the power of Pearson, the Common Core, and "rigor."
...take the Fountas and Pinnell research based guiding reading levels that have stood the test of time. They spent years creating a system that matched students with just right books. They even warned, “…through detailed coding of thousands of readings, showed that when a text is too difficult for the child the process breaks down and the child does not develop inner control of effective actions for processing texts.”

When Common Core was introduced, Fountas and Pinnell decided it was time to put research aside and go against their own advice in order create more rigorous thresholds for their guided reading levels.


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!