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

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

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, January 16, 2017

Religious Freedom Day, 2017

This year, Martin Luther King Day is also Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the realization of Thomas Jefferson's vision of an end to the state-established church in Virginia.

[This is an edited version of a post originally published on January 16, 2015]

THE VIRGINIA STATUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

In 1993 President George H. W. Bush declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day. January 16 was the date in 1786 when the Virginia House of Delegates passed Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. In 1992, on that date, Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder signed the first proclamation to that effect for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom was a revolutionary document. It ended the state-established church in Virginia and guaranteed religious liberty for all.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
In his proclamation, the first President Bush wrote:
"...we do well to acknowledge our debt to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These two men were instrumental in establishing the American tradition of religious liberty and tolerance. Thomas Jefferson articulated the idea of religious liberty in his 1777 draft Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia...

James Madison later introduced and championed this bill in the Virginia House of Delegates, where it passed in 1786. Following the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison led the way in drafting our Bill of Rights.
THE FIRST AMENDMENT

The Virginia Statute became the basis for the First Amendment protection of religious liberty.

Jefferson understood the impact of his Virginia Statute. He understood that many people were against acknowledging religious liberty for everyone. In a column about Religious Freedom Day, Frederick Clarkson wrote:
Thomas Jefferson was well aware that many did not like the Statute, just as they did not like the Constitution and the First Amendment, both of which sought to expand the rights of citizens and deflect claims of churches seeking special consideration.

So before his death, Jefferson sought to get the last word on what it meant. The Statute, he wrote, contained "within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
Freedom of belief was for everyone -- religious and non-religious alike -- and, with the passage of the Virginia Statute, and later the First Amendment, it was guaranteed.

Thomas Jefferson considered the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to be one of the three great accomplishments of his life. He didn't choose to be remembered as Minister to France for the fledgling nation, or as its first Secretary of State, or as it's third President. Instead he chose as his life's three great accomplishments, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia and it was those three things that he wished to be inscribed on his tombstone.


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY

Religious Freedom Day is a mostly unheralded event in the United States. It was begun through the urging of the First Freedom Center, whose mission is:
The mission of the First Freedom Center is to commemorate and educate about freedom of religion and conscience as proclaimed in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Each President, since the first President Bush in 1993, has issued a proclamation on the occasion of the day.

The quest for freedom of belief is as old as humankind, and it's still ongoing. Recent events have shown us that while human life might be fragile, the conviction of those who would protect the right to free belief is strong.

Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Jefferson, Madison, and to all local, state, and national leaders who have worked diligently to uphold the rights protected under the First Amendment.

President Obama's 2017 Religious Freedom Day Proclamation includes the following...
If we are to defend religious freedom, we must remember that when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. At times when some try to divide us along religious lines, it is imperative that we recall the common humanity we share -- and reject a politics that seeks to manipulate, prejudice, or bias, and that targets people because of religion. Part of being American means guarding against bigotry and speaking out on behalf of others, no matter their background or belief -- whether they are wearing a hijab or a baseball cap, a yarmulke or a cowboy hat.
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 Medley #2

Retention in Grade, Poverty, Lead Poisoning, Testing, DeVos, Read Aloud, Musical Interlude


END RETENTION IN GRADE LAWS

Time to Eliminate 3rd Grade Retention

States continue to adopt third grade retention laws. They do it based on the erroneous reasoning that since kids who don't learn to read by third grade have the most trouble in school, it makes sense to retain the ones who can't read by third grade. This is another case of confusing correlation with causation. Promoting third graders with reading problems to fourth grade is not the cause of poor reading skills. The problem begins much earlier than third grade.

The answer to the "reading problem" is twofold First, we need to spend enough money to catch children with problems early in their school career, pre-school, if possible. Intensive intervention, when started early enough, can help most children. Second, many school failures are caused by the conditions of poverty...emotional or physical trauma, lead poisoning (see Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores, below), etc. Dealing with the high rate of childhood poverty in the U.S. will go a long way to solving our low achievement problems.

Rob Miller discusses the issue on his blog...
Please don’t tell me that “third grade retention is working” because state reading scores in 3rd or 4th grade have increased slightly. One or two years of data based on a multiple choice test with constantly changing standards is not convincing.

As I’ve shared before, recent short-term increases in fourth grade state or national reading scores are thoroughly predictable, given the fact that most of the lower scoring readers have been removed from the sample, or are tested a full year later than normal.

Who will be around eight to ten years from now to talk with these same students about the long-term effects of grade retention? Will they come back to share with us the number of dropouts in the class of 2025 who were subjected to retention in third grade?
Long term studies show that short term gains drop away after three or four years, and by the time a child is four years past his "retention year" he is just as far behind – or further – than before.

Miller says that he has misgivings about social promotion, but in my experience, there are very few cases where retaining a child is the best option. The best option is usually intensive intervention.
Retaining students is a shortcut answer to a problem that actually works against our goals as educators. We would do better to attend to struggling students with programmatic changes than with this mean-spirited “hold them back” approach.

Don’t misread what I am saying. I also have misgivings relative to blanket practices of social promotion. There are children for whom grade retention is the best option to address the unique social and academic needs of a child.

This issue simply illustrates the problems associated with bureaucrats at the state and national level establishing mandates that strip local teachers and administrators from making the best decisions for individual children.


POVERTY MATTERS

The Long Shadow of Poverty and School Segregation by Income

Teachers struggle daily to help children learn. We could help them by focusing on the high level of child poverty in America.
Family background is of great importance for school achievement; the influence of the family does not appear to diminish over the child’s school years. Neither the impact of one school or another nor the impact of facilities nor the impact of curriculum is as great as the impact of the student’s family background. Of in-school factors that matter to children, the teacher is the most important. Finally, “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student’s own social background, than is any school factor.”

Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores

If we were serious about helping our children learn, we would be dealing with the causes of low achievement, child poverty and its concomitant problems.

One major issue facing children who live in poverty is environmental toxins in general, and lead poisoning in particular. It's expensive to clean up, but which of our children aren't worth some expense to ensure healthy brain development?
We find that since 1997, when the state of RI instituted measures to reduce lead hazards in the homes of RI families, lead levels fell across the state, but significantly more so for African American children. This is likely because their lead levels were considerably higher than other children in the state in 1997, including other low income children, and African American families were disproportionately located in high concentration poverty areas where outreach efforts were focused. We find that this translated into reductions in the black-white test score gap in RI witnessed over this period.


"REFORM"

7 Educational Reforms Needed in 2017

"Standardized tests shold only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability." Exactly.
1. Decrease the Number of Standardized Tests
Notice I suggest fewer standardized tests as opposed to no standardized tests. Standardized tests do have their place in education, but like with anything else, too much is overkill. Perhaps student progress can be tracked every 3 years as opposed to every year. This would save many states a great deal of money and students a great deal of stress. Furthermore, standardized tests should only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability. There are other, more effective means to measure a teacher’s worth, such as observations, lesson plan reviews, and student surveys.

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt
“Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality,” Deming wrote. “Routine inspection becomes unreliable through boredom and fatigue.” That recommendation should be applied to the annual testing of students in reading and math mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Instead of “routine inspection,” Deming urged detailed analysis of small samples. Bucking widespread practice, the Finns do exactly that, with high-quality exams administered to small groups of students. Teachers consequently feel no pressure to “teach to the test,” students get a well-rounded education and administrators gain superior understanding of student progress. Finnish teens score at or near the top of international educational assessments.


MORE ON DEVOS

The Red Queen

One of the most complete exposés of the oligarchy in Michigan led by the DeVos's. This is a long article...worth spending the time it takes to read!
By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.


More Baloney in Support of DeVos

The Finnish philosophy of education is that you may choose whatever public school you want for your child, but because they are all excellent you can be assured that choosing your local school will be a good choice.

Instead of closing schools, wasting money on vouchers and charters, and disrupting children's education, we need to invest in all our public schools. If children are struggling to achieve, then we need to give their school more resources, not strip it of funding.
All children should NOT have "access" to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had "access" to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, "We think this school si failing, and that's unfair to the students in it, so we're going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we're leaving them in." How is that a solution??!!

READING ALOUD


MUSICAL INTERLUDE

For your encouragement.

Bob Dylan wrote "The Times They Are a Changin'" in 1963.  I think that after fifty-three years we need it again...
"This song was written at a moment in our country's history when people's yearning for a more open and just society exploded. Bob Dylan had the courage to stand in that fire and he caught the sound of that explosion. This song remains as a beautiful call to arms..." – Bruce Springsteen, 1997



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Monday, January 9, 2017

Random Quotes - January 2017

ON THE US SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

The American Teacher vs. Betsy DeVos

DeVos is a danger to America's public education...if only because she is honest about her desire to destroy it. President-elect Trump has chosen someone for whom public education is anathema. He has chosen someone who has devoted her life to damaging public schools...on purpose. With DeVos, there is no pretense.

From Nancy Bailey
The appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary will offend every teacher in this country who has studied and committed their professional careers and lives to children.


The War on Public Schools

And just in case you couldn't tell what the President-elect's opinion of public schools was by his nominee for Secretary of Education, Rudi Giuliani makes it clear.

From Rudi Giuliani quoted in American Prospect
President-elect Trump is going to be the best thing that ever happened for school choice and the charter school movement...Donald is going to create incentives that promote and open more charter schools. It’s a priority.


PRIVATIZATION: WHOSE CHOICE?

Private Schools: 3 Reasons Public Schools Are Better!

Not all private schools want your child...especially if he or she is expensive to educate.

From Nancy Bailey
Charters and religious schools might want vouchers, but most elite private schools don’t.

They don’t want to accept everyone. And they don’t want to follow rules and take directions from the government.

They often don’t want students with learning problems.

PRIVATIZATION: THE "MARKET"

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt

From Samuel E. Abrams in the LA Times
The fundamental problem with the free-market model for education is that schools are not groceries.


TESTING MEASURES FAMILY INCOME

What Do The Tests Measure?

The answer to the question is, of course, an economic one. Tests measure family income. That's why the largest Indiana teacher bonuses, which are based mostly on student test scores, went to teachers who taught wealthy students and the smallest bonuses were reserved for teachers of the poor.

From Chris Tienken via Peter Greene
Tienken and his team used just three pieces of demographic data--

1) percentage of families in the community with income over $200K
2) percentage of people in the community in poverty
3) percentage of people in community with bachelor's degrees

Using that data alone, Tienken was able to predict school district test results accurately in most cases. In New Jersey 300 or so middle schools, the team could predict middle school math and language arts test scores for well over two thirds of the schools.
Here's a still relevant 14 minute video by Chris Tienken.

Where's the evidence?



WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

What do we do? We don't remain quiet.

The 2017 Dozen: What Can I Do?

From Peter Greene
2) Do not wait for someone else to stand up. Do not count on someone else to advocate for what I care about. Do not leave it to someone else to call a Congressperson or a state official about the issues that matter. Especially don't say, "That's what I pay union dues for. They can handle it." Call. Write. Speak up. Stand up.

MAKE A RESOLUTION

Resolutions

Acknowledging reality does not mean giving up without a fight.

From Jim Wright
Let us make a resolution.

Let us resolve, in the coming year, to be the people we believe ourselves to be.

...either we are the people we say we are, or we're not.
See also


POLITICS

Here are a couple of non-education related quotes...

Will John McCain protect America from Trump’s strange affinity for Putin?

From David Horsey
There is no question that if a Democratic president-elect were to show such a kinship with a Russian dictator while making so many disparaging remarks about the CIA and other American intelligence agencies, Republicans in Congress would be preparing articles of impeachment and the right wing media would be screaming “treason!” Odd how that is not happening now.


GOP Continues Its Obsession with Defunding Planned Parenthood

From Ed Brayton
Let’s be clear about what [Congressional Republicans] mean by defunding Planned Parenthood. They don’t give funds directly to the group and there is a longstanding ban on PP receiving any money for abortion services. The money that Planned Parenthood does get from the federal government comes mostly through Title IX programs that provide health services for poor women, things like pap smears, cancer screening, birth control and pregnancy tests. The last two of those actually help prevent abortion, for crying out loud.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Medley #1: More Reasons to Reject DoVos

Do You Still Need Reasons to contact your Senators to vote against Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education?

The Senate HELP Committee hearings begin on Wednesday, January 11.

When you're ready to contact your Senators click on the image below for Network for Public Education Action.


REASONS

1) Indiana Freshman Senator Todd Young is on the HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) committee which will hold the confirmation hearing on Ms. DeVos on January 11.

Consider this...

Demand that Senators Who Have Received DeVos Money Recuse Themselves
Between 1997 and 2016 the DeVos family contributed at least $283,000 to the Alticor PAC. Alticor is the parent company of Amway, and as we all know...Amway is a DeVos family company.

...Alticor PAC Totals:

Todd Young - $2,000

...The Senate Leadership Fund describes itself as an "independent Super PAC" and claims that its sole goal is "to protect and expand the Republican Senate Majority...This goal seems to have resonated with the DeVos family - they contributed $2,225,000 between 9/27/16 to 11/1/16

...Senate Leadership Fund Totals:

Todd Young - $12,325,017

...Between 2014 and 2016 the DeVos family has contributed over $500,000 to the ESAFund...Todd Young's 2016 campaign received $134,086.68 from ESAFund.

...DeVos Family's Direct Contributions...Todd Young - $48,600 ($5,400 from Betsy DeVos)


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Do you think Todd Young can give an unbiased hearing to Betsy DeVos's qualifications for Secretary of Education?
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2) Listen to a discussion about Betsy DeVos with
  • Diane Ravitch, President of NPE, former Assistant Secretary of Education under Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander (George H.W. Bush)
  • Lisa Graves, Exec Dir. Center for Media and Democracy
  • Tawanna Simpson, Detroit Board of Education

Important quotes from the video, above.
"[She has] devoted her wealth to...attacking the very idea of having universal public education for all students that's truly public." – Lisa Graves
"...she's the most unqualified person ever to be nominated for this..." – Diane Ravitch
"[She] and her family provide lots of money to legislators to make sure...laws go the way they want to have unmandated, unaccountable and corrupt charter schools in our city..." – Tawanna Simpson
"...charter schools come to our traditional public schools and cherry pick the best students. They don't take the students who need the most help because it makes no economic sense...it costs more money to educate students that have...additional educational needs." – Towanna Simpson
"Wall Street is one of the biggest backers of charter schools...there's something called the "New Markets Tax Credit"...they're able to make a tremendous return on their investment in charters because of write-offs on federal taxes..." – Diane Ravitch
"School privatization has been tried in Chile and in Sweden and the results have been very clear. The first and most important product is hyper-segregation, because everybody goes off to be with people just like themselves." – Diane Ravitch

~~~
Do you think that Betsy DeVos represents the interests of the vast majority of America's school children who attend public schools?
~~~

3) Consider this discussion ...

Will Trump and DeVos cripple education?



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Do you think that Betsy DeVos, as the Secretary of Education, would work to improve the education of all American children?
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4) Read How Bad Is DeVos? So Bad..., by Peter Greene
Betsy DeVos has...never been a public school student and never worked as a teacher, administrator or state level education bureaucrat. Betsy DeVos is less qualified than John King [, the current Secretary of Education].

...Betsy DeVos has never run an organization as sprawling and varied as an urban school district, and has no experience with any such educational system. Betsy DeVos is less qualified than Arne Duncan.

...Bottom line-- even if you think that Betsy DeVos is bang-on correct in her education ideas* there is no reason at all to believe that she has any of the tools necessary to succeed as head of the US Department of Education.

Betsy DeVos is supremely unqualified, the most terrible of the terrible choices for Secretary of Education.

~~~
Do you think that the Secretary of Education needs some experience in the field of education before taking office?
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5) Consider these questions written by Russ Walsh for Betsy DeVos to answer before she takes her seat in the office of the Secretary of Education. I've reproduced only one, but they are all important...

Ten Questions for Betsy DeVos
10. In the end, Ms. DeVos, as the person designated to lead the federal Department of Education, overseeing the programs and resources for the 90% of American school children who attend traditional public schools, does a viable system of public education matter to you at all?

~~~
Based on her history, do you think that America's public schools matter to Betsy DeVos?
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6) Read any of the hundreds of articles and blog posts describing how Betsy DeVos has no professional qualifications to do the job for which she has been nominated and has spend her millions tying to damage public schools around the country. Click the link below.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Where Toxins Meet Testing

ISTEP

Indiana's state test, the ISTEP, is misused in the same way many states misuse standardized tests. It's used to grade schools on an A to F scale and it's used to determine which teachers get bonuses, which are deemed unsatisfactory, and which are to be fired. (I suppose that it's also possible that in some places it's used to see how well students have learned the state standards, but I doubt the state really cares about that.) In addition, another test, the IREAD-3, is misused to retain third grade students who are struggling with reading.

Currently the state is struggling over the ISTEP. A committee looked into problems with the test and made recommendations. Last year's tests were so screwed up that the legislature agreed to not hold schools and teachers accountable for the results. For the results to be so bad that even Indiana's "reformist" legislature "pauses accountability," you know it must be bad.

The committee was charged with coming up with something that didn't have as many problems as the ISTEP. That task was not accomplished.

‘ISTEP’ Name May Change, But Test Itself May Not For 2 More Years
“We need about two-and-a-half to three years to get a new test that is sound, based on our standards, thought out and vetted clearly through the education system,” says Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate committee on education. “That’ll [be] a better test at the end of that time.”

...Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House committee on education, wants the board to extend that contract. If extended, it would leave ISTEP+ in place through the 2018-19 school year.
The test is a failure, yet it has high stakes consequences for schools, teachers, and students. So, according to the chairs of both the Senate (Kruse) and House (Behning) education committees, we should keep using it.


TEACHER BONUS PAY BASED ON SCHOOL'S FAMILY INCOME

In the area of teacher bonus pay, the results of the state testing shows exactly what one would expect. Those teachers who work in wealthy districts have students who score higher on the ISTEP, and therefore get larger bonuses. In an earlier post, I wrote that
...standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher "bonus" plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.
And that's just what happened here.

Indiana's wealthiest districts get most teacher bonus pay
Data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education shows Carmel Clay Schools leading the state in the most performance money per teacher at more than $2,400. Zionsville Community Schools came in second at more than $2,200, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Comparatively, Indianapolis Public Schools will receive nearly $130 per teacher. Wayne Township Schools will see among the lowest payments, at just more than $40 per teacher.
The amount of the "bonus" doesn't prove that teachers in high-poverty schools aren't as good as teachers in low-poverty schools. It is just more proof that family income determines school success.*


TOXIC ENVIRONMENTS

One (of many) out-of-school factors which contributes to lowered academic achievement of children in poverty is an environment filled with toxins. Pollutants such as mercury, PCBs, toxic pesticides, and air pollution are all factors contributing to the health and brain function of children living in high-poverty areas. The most prevalent problem is, of course, lead.

In 2009, David C. Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, wrote in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success
It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ.
The Centers for Disease Control sets the "safe lead exposure" levels and recently has suggested that the "safe" level should be lowered.

CDC considers lowering threshold level for lead exposure
The CDC adjusts its threshold periodically as nationwide average levels drop. The threshold value is meant to identify children whose blood lead levels put them among the 2.5 percent of those with the heaviest exposure.

"Lead has no biological function in the body, and so the less there is of it in the body the better," Bernard M Y Cheung, a University of Hong Kong professor who studies lead data, told Reuters. "The revision in the blood lead reference level is to push local governments to tighten the regulations on lead in the environment."

The federal agency is talking with state health officials, laboratory operators, medical device makers and public housing authorities about how and when to implement a new threshold.

...Any change in the threshold level carries financial implications. The CDC budget for assisting states with lead safety programs this year was just $17 million, and many state or local health departments are understaffed to treat children who test high.
In other words, according to the CDC, the "safe" level is whatever level the bottom 2.5% of American children exhibit. The actual "safe" level is much lower (in fact, the only "safe" level of lead in a child's system is 0.00), but the cost of reducing lead levels in every child in America is too high.

Children attending schools in high poverty areas are exposed to lead at a much higher rate than in low poverty areas.

Children suffer from lead poisoning in 3,000 U.S. neighborhoods
A new study of public health records has discovered 3,000 neighborhoods in America where children suffer from lead poisoning. The study, by the Reuters news agency, found lead poisoning twice and even four times higher than what was seen in the recent contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
That exposure has an impact on school success. Again, Berliner...
The neurological damage caused by lead pollution has been common knowledge for about a century, but even over recent decades, tragic effects such as this have been documented in families and communities around the world. Even after some obvious sources of lead in the environment were finally banned, reducing the numbers of children showing effects, too many children in the United States are still affected.


MAKING A CONNECTION

Our overuse and misuse of testing during the last few decades has led to over identifying schools in high poverty areas as "failing" without any regard for environmental toxins. Take the case of East Chicago schools...

Turnaround Meetings for Gary and East Chicago Schools
“If the school does receive a sixth F, and we expect those grades to come out this winter, then the board can begin looking at what options it wants to if any, take,” said [State Board of Education chief of staff, Brian] Murphy.
At the same time, the schools being labeled as "failing" exist in an area where lead poisoning is ubiquitous.

East Chicago Lead Contamination Forces Nearly 1,200 from Homes
Both the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are trying to deal with the contamination and moving residents, but the two agencies aren’t exactly working together well. The mayor of East Chicago and the residents are also concerned about how the EPA handled the situation and worried about the long-term ramifications of lead exposure as well as the costs of moving.
Do legislators read newspapers? Are they aware that 1) lead poisoning causes learning problems and 2) the so called "failing" schools are in areas with a high lead exposure? Why hasn't there been an outcry blaming the low test scores on the lead poisoning of East Chicago children? Can you guess how big a "bonus" teachers in East Chicago schools got this year?*

A Strange Ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in failing schools
"The education community has not really understood the dimensions of this because we don't see kids falling over and dying of lead poisoning in the classroom. But there's a very large number of kids who find it difficult to do analytical work or [even] line up in the cafeteria because their brains are laden with lead."
As a consequence, teachers and school systems get blamed for what is beyond their control. The legislature can't (or won't) see the connection between the two situations, and children's futures, and their future contributions to the state, are damaged by their environment.

Legislators and "reformers" should quit placing the blame on schools, teachers, and children through punitive legislation aimed at "fixing" low achievement. It's the state's responsibility to provide a safe environment for all citizens...including those who don't have enough money to buy lobbyists.

When the legislature assumes its share of responsibility for "failing" to provide safe environmental conditions in our communities, and for "failing" to address the state's child poverty rate, then...maybe...we can start to talk about "failing" schools.


~~~

East Chicago ANOTHER Race-Based Lead Poisoning

...with lead pipes it's like a recall on a product, but nobody wants to go back to the manufacturer and say, "Hey, you've made a mistake. You're poisoning people." We'll recall a vehicle, but we won't recall a pipe that is lead...a lead pipe that people are consuming water through. It's part of their daily consumption.

...We'll also recall leaded paint. But we're not recalling leaded pipes.
~~~

*Data on the Teacher Performance Grants can be found on the Indiana Department of Education site. Click here to download a spreadsheet for each school district in Indiana. Pay special attention to the number of special education districts at the $0 end of the spreadsheet.

For demographic data on each school district see Indiana School District Demographic Characteristics. Note the family poverty rates for the school districts mentioned above: Carmel Clay=3.5%, Zionsville=3.1%, Indianapolis Public Schools=26.8%, and Wayne Township=14.7%.

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